The Brigs Of Ayr (Full version)

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For works with similar titles, see The Brigs Of Ayr.
The Brigs Of Ayr (Full version)
by Robert Burns
See also: The Brigs Of Ayr (Shorter version).

       The Brigs Of Ayr       


Inscribed to John Ballantine, Esq., Ayr.


Sir, think not with a mercenary view
Some servile Sycophant approaches you.
To you my Muse would sing these simple lays,
To you my heart its grateful homage pays,
5I feel the weight of all your kindness past,
But thank you not as wishing it to last;
Scorn'd be the wretch whose earth-born grov'lling soul
Would in his ledger-hopes his Friends enroll.
Tho' I, a lowly, nameless, rustic Bard,
10Who ne'er must hope your goodness to reward,
Yet man to man, Sir, let us fairly meet,
And like masonic Level, equal greet.
How poor the balance! ev'n what Monarch's plan,
Between two noble creatures such as Man.
15That to your Friendship I am strongly tied
I still shall own it, Sir, with grateful pride,
When haply roaring seas between us tumble wide.

Or if among so many cent'ries waste,
Thro' the long vista of dark ages past,
20Some much-lov'd honor'd name a radiance cast,
Perhaps some Patriot of distinguish'd worth,
I'll match him if My Lord will please step forth.
Or Gentleman and Citizen combine,
And I shall shew his peer in Ballantine:
25Tho' honest men were parcell'd out for sale,
He might be shown a sample for the hale.

 * * *

The simple Bard, rough at the rustic plough,
Learning his tuneful trade from ev'ry bough;
The chanting linnet, or the mellow thrush,
30Hailing the setting sun, sweet, in the green thorn bush;
The soaring lark, the perching red-breast shrill,
Or deep-ton'd plovers grey, wild-whistling o'er the hill;
Shall he-nurst in the peasant's lowly shed,
To hardy independence bravely bred,
35By early poverty to hardship steel'd.
And train'd to arms in stern Misfortune's field —
Shall he be guilty of their hireling crimes,
The servile, mercenary Swiss of rhymes?
Or labour hard the panegyric close,
40With all the venal soul of dedicating prose?
No! though his artless strains he rudely sings,
And throws his hand uncouthly o'er the strings,
He glows with all the spirit of the Bard,
Fame, honest fame, his great, his dear reward.
45Still, if some patron's gen'rous care he trace,
Skill'd in the secret, to bestow with grace;
When Ballantine befriends his humble name,
And hands the rustic stranger up to fame,
With heartfelt throes his grateful bosom swells,
50The godlike bliss, to give, alone excels.

'Twas when the stacks get on their winter hap,
And thack and rape secure the toil-won crap;
Potatoe-bings are snugged up frae skaith
O' coming Winter's biting, frosty breath;
55The bees, rejoicing o'er their summer toils,
Unnumber'd buds an' flow'rs' delicious spoils,
Seal'd up with frugal care in massive waxen piles,
Are doom'd by Man, that tyrant o'er the weak,
The death o' devils, smoor'd wi' brimstone reek:
60The thundering guns are heard on ev'ry side,
The wounded coveys, reeling, scatter wide;
The feather'd field-mates, bound by Nature's tie,
Sires, mothers, children, in one carnage lie:
(What warm, poetic heart but inly bleeds,
65And execrates man's savage, ruthless deeds!)
Nae mair the flow'r in field or meadow springs,
Nae mair the grove with airy concert rings,
Except perhaps the Robin's whistling glee,
Proud o' the height o' some bit half-lang tree:
70The hoary morns precede the sunny days,
Mild, calm, serene, wide spreads the noontide blaze,
While thick the gosamour waves wanton in the rays.

'Twas in that season, when a simple Bard,
Unknown and poor-simplicity's reward! —
75Ae night, within the ancient brugh of Ayr,
By whim inspir'd, or haply prest wi' care,
He left his bed, and took his wayward route,
And down by Simpson's[1] wheel'd the left about:
(Whether impell'd by all-directing Fate,
80To witness what I after shall narrate;
Or whether, rapt in meditation high,
He wander'd out, he knew not where or why:)
The drowsy Dungeon-clock[2] had number'd two,
And Wallace Tower[3] had sworn the fact was true:
85The tide-swoln firth, with sullen-sounding roar,
Through the still night dash'd hoarse along the shore.
All else was hush'd as Nature's closed e'e:
The silent moon shone high o'er tower and tree;
The chilly frost, beneath the silver beam,
90Crept, gently-crusting, o'er the glittering stream—
 
When, lo! on either hand the list'ning Bard,
The clanging sugh of whistling wings is heard;
Two dusky forms dart through the midnight air;
Swift as the gos[4] drives on the wheeling hare;
95Ane on th' Auld Brig his airy shape uprears,
The other flutters o'er the rising piers:
Our warlock Rhymer instantly dexcried
The Sprites that owre the Brigs of Ayr preside.
(That Bards are second-sighted is nae joke,
100And ken the lingo of the sp'ritual folk;
Fays, Spunkies, Kelpies, a', they can explain them,
And even the very deils they brawly ken them).
Auld Brig appear'd of ancient Pictish race,
The very wrinkles Gothic in his face;
105He seem'd as he wi' Time had warstl'd lang,
Yet, teughly doure, he bade an unco bang.

New Brig was buskit in a braw new coat,
That he, at Lon'on, frae ane Adams got;
In 's hand five taper staves as smooth 's a bead,
110Wi' virls and whirlygigums at the head.
The Goth was stalking round with anxious search,
Spying the time-worn flaws in every arch;
It chanc'd his new-come neibor took his e'e,
And e'en a vexed and angry heart had he!
115Wi' thieveless sneer to see his modish mien,
He, down the water, gies him this guid-e'en: —

Auld Brig

"I doubt na, frien', ye'll think ye're nae sheepshank,
Ance ye were streekit owre frae bank to bank!
But gin ye be a brig as auld as me —
120Tho' faith, that date, I doubt, ye'll never see —
There'll be, if that day come, I'll wad a boddle,
Some fewer whigmaleeries in your noddle."

New Brig

"Auld Vandal! ye but show your little mense,
Just much about it wi' your scanty sense:
125Will your poor, narrow foot-path of a street,
Where twa wheel-barrows tremble when they meet,
Your ruin'd, formless bulk o' stane and lime,
Compare wi' bonie brigs o' modern time?
There's men of taste wou'd tak the Ducat stream,[5]
130Tho' they should cast the very sark and swim,
E'er they would grate their feelings wi' the view
O' sic an ugly, Gothic hulk as you."

Auld Brig

"Conceited gowk! puff'd up wi' windy pride!
This mony a year I've stood the flood an' tide;
135And tho' wi' crazy eild I'm sair forfairn,
I'll be a brig when ye're a shapeless cairn!
As yet ye little ken about the matter,
But twa-three winters will inform ye better.
When heavy, dark, continued, a'-day rains,
140Wi' deepening deluges o'erflow the plains;
When from the hills where springs the brawling Coil,[6]
Or stately Lugar's mossy fountains boil;[7]
Or where the Greenock winds his moorland course. [8]
Or haunted Garpal[9] draws his feeble source,
145Aroused by blustering winds an' spotting thowes[10],
In mony a torrent down the snaw-broo[11] rowes;
While crashing ice, borne on the rolling spate,
Sweeps dams, an' mills, an' brigs, a' to the gate;
And from Glenbuck,[12] down to the Ratton-key,[13]
150Auld Ayr is just one lengthen'd, tumbling sea —
Then down ye'll hurl, (deil nor ye never rise!)
And dash the gumlie jaups up to the pouring skies!
A lesson sadly teaching, to your cost,
That Architecture's noble art is lost!"

New Brig

155"Fine architecture, trowth, I needs must say't o't,
The Lord be thankit that we've tint the gate o't!
Gaunt, ghastly, ghaist-alluring edifices,
Hanging with threat'ning jut, like precipices;
O'er-arching, mouldy, gloom-inspiring coves,
160Supporting roofs, fantastic, stony groves;
Windows and doors in nameless sculptures drest
With order, symmetry, or taste unblest;
Forms like some bedlam Statuary's dream,
The craz'd creations of misguided whim;
165Forms might be worshipp'd on the bended knee,
And still the second dread command be free;
Their likeness is not found on earth, in air, or sea!
Mansions that would disgrace the building taste
Of any mason reptile, bird or beast:
170Fit only for a doited monkish race,
Or frosty maids forsworn the dear embrace,
Or cuifs of later times, wha held the notion,
That sullen gloom was sterling, true devotion:
Fancies that our guid Brugh denies protection,
175And soon may they expire, unblest wi' resurrection!"

Auld Brig

"O ye, my dear-remember'd, ancient yealings,
Were ye but here to share my wounded feelings!
Ye worthy Proveses, an' mony a Bailie,
Wha in the paths o' righteousness did toil aye;
180Ye dainty Deacons, and ye douce Conveners,
To whom our moderns are but causey-cleaners
Ye godly Councils, wha hae blest this town;
ye godly Brethren o' the sacred gown,
Wha meekly gie your hurdies to the smiters;
185And (what would now be strange), ye godly Writers;
A' ye douce folk I've borne aboon the broo,
Were ye but here, what would ye say or do?
How would your spirits groan in deep vexation,
To see each melancholy alteration;
190And, agonising, curse the time and place
When ye begat the base degen'rate race!
Nae langer rev'rend men, their country's glory,
In plain braid Scots hold forth a plain braid story;
Nae langer thrifty citizens, an' douce,
195Meet owre a pint, or in the Council-house;
But staumrel, corky-headed, graceless Gentry,
The herryment and ruin of the country;
Men, three-parts made by tailors and by barbers,
Wha waste your weel-hain'd gear on damn'd new brigs and harbours!"

New Brig

200"Now haud you there! for faith ye've said enough,
And muckle mair than ye can mak to through.[14]
As for your Priesthood, I shall say but little,
Corbies and Clergy are a shot right kittle:
But, under favour o' your langer beard,
205Abuse o' Magistrates might weel be spar'd;
To liken them to your auld-warld squad,
I must needs say, comparisons are odd.
In Ayr, wag-wits nae mair can hae a handle
To mouth 'a Citizen,' a term o' scandal;
210Nae mair the Council waddles down the street,
In all the pomp of ignorant conceit;
Men wha grew wise priggin owre hops and raisins,
Or gather'd lib'ral views in Bonds and Seisins:
If haply Knowledge, on a random tramp,
215Had shor'd them with a glimmer of his lamp,
And would to Common-sense for once betray'd them,
Plain, dull Stupidity stept kindly in to aid them."

What farther clish-ma-claver aight been said,
What bloody wars, if Sprites had blood to shed,
220No man can tell; but, all before their sight,
A fairy train appear'd in order bright;
Adown the glittering stream they featly danc'd;
Bright to the moon their various dresses glanc'd:
They footed o'er the wat'ry glass so neat,
225The infant ice scarce bent beneath their feet:
While arts of Minstrelsy among them rung,
And soul-ennobling Bards heroic ditties sung.
O had M'Lauchlan,[15] thairm-inspiring sage,
Been there to hear this heavenly band engage,
230When thro' his dear strathspeys they bore with Highland rage;
Or when they struck old Scotia's melting airs,
The lover's raptured joys or bleeding cares;
How would his Highland lug been nobler fir'd,
And ev'n his matchless hand with finer touch inspir'd!
235No guess could tell what instrument appear'd,
But all the soul of Music's self was heard;
Harmonious concert rung in every part,
While simple melody pour'd moving on the heart.

The Genius of the Stream in front appears,
240A venerable Chief advanc'd in years;
His hoary head with water-lilies crown'd,
His manly leg with garter-tangle bound.
Next came the loveliest pair in all the ring,
Sweet female Beauty hand in hand with Spring;
245Then, crown'd with flow'ry hay, came Rural Joy,
And Summer, with his fervid-beaming eye;

All-cheering Plenty, with her flowing horn,
Led yellow Autumn wreath'd with nodding corn;
Then Winter's time-bleach'd locks did hoary show,
250By Hospitality with cloudless brow:
Next followed Courage with his martial stride,
From where the Feal wild-woody coverts hide;[16]
Benevolence, with mild, benignant air,
A female form, came from the tow'rs of Stair;[17]
255Learning and Worth in equal measures trode,
From simple Catrine, their long-lov'd abode:[18]
Last, white-rob'd Peace, crown'd with a hazel wreath,
To rustic Agriculture did bequeath
The broken, iron instruments of death:
260At sight of whom our Sprites forgat their kindling wrath.


1786


Sources

Notes

  1. 78. A noted tavern at the Auld Brig end. — R. B.
  2. 83. [One of] The two steeples. — R. B.
  3. 84. [One of] The two steeples. — R. B.
  4. 94. The Gos-hawk, or Falcon. — R. B.
  5. 129. A noted ford, just above the Auld Brig. — R. B.
  6. 141. Coil or Water of Coyle — a tributary of the River Ayr.
  7. 142. Lugar or Lugar Water — a tributary of the River Ayr.
  8. 143. Greenock — a town and port in Schotland the north of Ayr.
  9. 144. The banks of Garpal Water is one of the few places in the West of Scotland, where those fancy-scaring beings, known by the name of Ghaists, still continue pertinaciously to inhabit. — R. B. (?)
  10. 145. Thowes = thawing snow
  11. 146. Snaw-broo = snow-brew (melted snow)
  12. 149. The source of the River Ayr. — R. B.
  13. 149. A small landing place above the large quay. — R. B.
  14. 201. Мak to through = pass current.
  15. 228. A well-known performer of Scottish music on the violin. — R. B.
  16. 252. A compliment to the Montgomeries of Coilsfield, on the Feal or Faile, a tributary of the Ayr.
  17. 254. Mrs. Stewart of Stair, an early patroness of the poet.
  18. 256. The house of Professor Dugald Stewart.


This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.