THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT.
INSCRIBED TO R. A****, Esq;
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear, with a disdainful smile,
The short and simple annals of the Poor.
1 MY lov'd, my honor'd, much respected friend,
2 No mercenary Bard his homage pays;
3 With honest pride, I scorn each selfish end,
4 My dearest meed, a friend's esteem and praise:[Page 125]
5 To you I sing, in simple Scottish lays,
6 The lowly train in life's sequester'd scene;
7 The native feelings strong, the guileless ways,
8 What A**** in a Cottage would have been;
9 Ah! tho' his worth unknown, far happier there I ween!
10 November chill blaws loud wi' angry sugh;
11 The short'ning winter-day is near a close;
12 The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh;
13 The black'ning trains o' craws to their repose:
14 The toil-worn COTTER frae his labor goes,
15 This night his weekly moil is at an end,
16 Collects his spades, his mattocks and his hoes,
17 Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend,
18 And weary, o'er the moor, his course does hameward bend.
19 At length his lonely Cot appears in view,
20 Beneath the shelter of an aged tree;[Page 126]
21 The expectant wee-things, toddlan, stacher through
22 To meet their Dad, wi' flichterin noise and glee.
23 His wee-bit ingle, blinkan bonilie,
24 His clean hearth-stane, his thrifty Wifie's smile,
25 The lisping infant, prattling on his knee,
26 Does a' his weary kiaugh and care beguile,
27 And makes him quite forget his labor and his toil.
28 Belyve, the elder bairns come drapping in,
29 At Service out, amang the Farmers roun';
30 Some ca' the pleugh, some herd, some tentie rin
31 A cannie errand to a neebor town:
32 Their eldest hope, their Jenny, worman-grown,
33 In youthfu' bloom, Love sparkling in her e'e,
34 Comes hame, perhaps, to shew a braw new gown,[Page 127]
35 Or deposite her sair-won penny-fee,
36 To help her Parents dear, if they in hardship be.
37 With joy unfeign'd, brothers and sisters meet,
38 And each for other's weelfare kindly spiers:
39 The social hours, swift-wing'd, unnotic'd fleet;
40 Each tells the uncos that he sees or hears.
41 The Parents partial eye their hopeful years;
42 Anticipation forward points the view;
43 The Mother, wi' her needle and her sheers,
44 Gars auld claes look amaist as weel's the new;
45 The Father mixes a' wi' admonition due.
46 Their Master's and their Mistress's command,
47 The youngkers a' are warned to obey;
48 And mind their labors wi' an eydent hand,
49 And ne'er, tho' out o' sight, to jauk or play:[Page 128]
50 'And O! be sure to fear the LORD alway!
51 ' And mind your duty, duely, morn and night!
52 Lest in temptation's path ye gang astray,
53 'Implore his counsel and assisting might:
54 ' They never sought in vain that sought the LORD aright. '
55 But hark! a rap comes gently to the door;
56 Jenny, wha kens the meaning o' the same,
57 Tells how a neebor lad came o'er the moor,
58 To do some errands, and convoy her hame.
59 The wily Mother sees the conscious flame
60 Sparkle in Jenny's e'e, and flush her cheek,
61 With heart-struck, anxious care enquires his name,
62 While Jenny hafflins is afraid to speak;
63 Weel-pleas'd the Mother hears, it's nae wild, worthless Rake.
64 With kindly welcome, Jenny brings him ben;
65 A strappan youth; he takes the Mother's eye;
66 Blythe Jenny sees the visit's no ill taen;
67 The Father cracks of horses, pleughs and kye.
68 The Youngster's artless heart o'erflows wi' joy,
69 But blate and laithfu', scarce can weel behave;
70 The Mother, wi' a woman's wiles, can spy
71 What makes the youth sae bashfu' and sae grave;
72 Weel-pleas'd to think her bairn's respected like the lave.
73 O happy love! where love like this is found!
74 O heart-felt raptures! bliss beyond compare!
75 I've paced much this weary, mortal round,
76 And sage EXPERIENCE bids me this declare —[Page 130]
77 'If Heaven a draught of heavenly pleasure spare,
78 ' One cordial in this melancholy Vale,
79 ''Tis when a youthful, loving, modest Pair,
80 ' In other's arms, breathe out the tender tale,
81 'Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the ev'ning gale.'
82 Is there, in human form, that bears a heart —
83 A Wretch! a Villain! lost to love and truth!
84 That can, with studied, sly, ensnaring art,
85 Betray sweet Jenny's unsuspecting youth?
86 Curse on his perjur'd arts! dissembling smooth!
87 Are Honer, Virtue, Conscience, all exil'd?
88 Is there no Pity, no relenting Ruth,
89 Points to the Parents fondling o'er their Child?
90 Then paints the ruin'd Maid, and their distraction wild!
91 But now the Supper crowns their simple board,
92 The healsome Porritch, chief of SCOTIA'S food:
93 The soupe their only Hawkie does afford,
94 That 'yont the hallan snugly chows her cood:
95 The Dame brings forth, in complimental mood,
96 To grace the lad, her weel-hain'd kebbuck, fell,
97 And aft he's prest, and aft he ca's it guid;
98 The frugal Wifie, garrulous, will tell,
99 How 'twas a towmond auld, sin' Lint was i' the bell.
100 The chearfu' Supper done, wi' serious face,
101 They, round the ingle, form a circle wide;
102 The Sire turns o'er, with patriarchal grace,
103 The big ha'-Bible, ance his Father's pride:[Page 132]
104 His bonnet rev'rentlv is laid aside,
105 His lyart haffets wearing thin and bare;
106 Those strains that once did sweet in ZION glide,
107 He wales a portion with judicious care;
108 ' And let us worship GOD! 'he says with solemn air.
109 They chant their artless notes in simple guise;
110 They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim:
111 Perhaps Dundee's wild warbling measures rise,
112 Or plaintive Martyrs, worthy of the name;
113 Or noble Elgin beets the heaven-ward flame,
114 The sweetest far of SCOTIA'S holy lays:
115 Compar'd with these, Italian trills are tame;
116 The tickl'd ears no heart-felt raptures raise;
117 Nae unison hae they, with our CREATOR'S praise.
118 The priest-like Father reads the sacred page,
119 How Abram was the Friend of GOD on high;
120 Or, Moses bade eternal warfare wage,
121 With. Amalek's ungracious progeny;
122 Or how the royal Bard did groaning lye,
123 Beneath the stroke of Heaven's avenging ire;
124 Or Job's pathetic plaint, and wailing cry;
125 Or rapt Isaiah's wild, seraphic fire;
126 Or other Holy Seers that tune the sacred lyre.
127 Perhaps the Christian Volume is the theme,
128 How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed;
129 How HE, who bore in heaven the second name,
130 Had not on Earth whereon to lay His head:
131 How His first followers and servants sped;
132 The Precepts sage they wrote to many a land:[Page 134]
133 How he, who lone in Patmos banished,
134 Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand;
135 And heard great Bab'lon's doom pronounc'd by Heaven's command.
136 Then kneeling down to HEAVEN'S ETERNAL KING,
137 The Saint, the Father, and the Husband prays:
138 Hope 'springs exulting on triumphant wing,' *
* Pope's Windsor Forest.
139 That thus they all shall meet in future days:
140 There, ever bask in uncreated rays,
141 No more to sigh, or shed the bitter tear,
142 Together hymning their CREATOR'S praise,
143 In such society, yet still more dear;
144 While circling Time moves round in an eternal sphere.
145 Compar'd with this, how poor Religion's pride,
146 In all the pomp of method, and of art,[Page 135]
147 When men display to congregations wide,
148 Devotion's ev'ry grace, except the heart!
149 The POWER, incens'd, the Pageant will desert,
150 The pompous strain, the sacredotal stole;
151 But haply, in some Cottage far apart,
152 May hear, well pleas'd, the language of the Soul;
153 And in His Book of Life the Inmates poor enroll.
154 Then homeward all take off their sev'ral way;
155 The youngling Cottagers retire to rest:
156 The Parent-pair their secret homage pay,
157 And proffer up to Heaven the warm request,
158 That HE who stills the raven's clam'rous nest,
159 And decks the lily fair in flow'ry pride,[Page 136]
160 Would, in the way His Wisdom sees the best,
161 For them and for their little ones provide;
162 But chiefly, in their hearts with Grace divine preside.
163 From scenes like these, old SCOTIA'S grandeur springs,
164 That makes her lov'd at home, rever'd abroad:
165 Princes and lords are but the breath of kings,
166 'An honest man's the noble work of GOD;'
167 And certes, in fair Virtue's heavenly road,
168 The Cottage leaves the Palace far behind:
169 What is a lordling's pomp? a cumbrous load,
170 Disguising oft the wretch of human kind,
171 Studied in arts of Hell, in wickedness refin'd!
172 O SCOTIA! my dear, my native soil!
173 For whom my warmest wish to heaven is sent! [Page 137]
174 Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil,
175 Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content!
176 And O may Heaven their simple lives prevent
177 From Luxury's contagion, weak and vile!
178 Then howe'er crowns and coronets be rent,
179 A virtuous Populace may rise the while,
180 And stand a wall of fire around their much-lov'd ISLE.
181 O THOU! who pour'd the patriotic tide,
182 That stream'd thro' great, unhappy WALLACE' heart;
183 Who dar'd to, nobly, stem tyrannic pride,
184 Or nobly die, the second glorious part:
185 (The Patriot's GOD, peculiarly thou art,
186 His friend, inspirer, guardian and reward!)
187 O never, never SCOTIA'S realm desert,
188 But still the Patriot, and the Patriot-Bard,
189 In bright succession raise, her Ornament and Guard!