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Address to the Deil


"O Prince! O Chief of many throned Pow'rs,
That led th' embattled Seraphim to war."--Milton


[The beautiful and relenting spirit in which this fine poem finishes
moved the heart on one of the coldest of our critics. "It was, I
think," says Gilbert Burns, "in the winter of 1784, as we were going
with carts for coals to the family fire, and I could yet point out the
particular spot, that Robert first repeated to me the 'Address to the
Deil.' The idea of the address was suggested to him by running over in
his mind the many ludicrous accounts we have of that august
personage."]


O thou! whatever title suit thee,
Auld Hornie, Satan, Kick, or Clootie,
Wha in yon cavern grim an' sootie,
Closed under hatches,
Spairges about the brunstane cootie,
To scaud poor wretches!

Hear me, auld Hangie, for a wee,
An' let poor damned bodies be;
I'm sure sma' pleasure it can gie,
E'en to a deil,
To skelp an' scaud poor dogs like me,
An' hear us squeel!

Great is thy pow'r, an' great thy fame;
Far kend an' noted is thy name;
An' tho' yon lowin heugh's thy hame,
Thou travels far;
An', faith! thou's neither lag nor lame,
Nor blate nor scaur.

Whyles, ranging like a roaring lion,
For prey, a' holes an' corners tryin;
Whyles, on the strong-winged tempest flyin,
Tirlin the kirks;
Whiles, in the human bosom pryin,
Unseen thou lurks.

I've heard my reverend Graunie say,
In lanely glens ye like to stray;
Or where auld-ruin'd castles, gray,
Nod to the moon,
Ye fright the nightly wand'rer's way
Wi' eldricht croon.

When twilight did my Graunie summon,
To say her prayers, douce, honest woman!
Aft yont the dyke she's heard you bummin,
Wi' eerie drone;
Or, rustlin, thro' the boortries comin,
Wi' heavy groan.

Ae dreary, windy, winter night,
The stars shot down wi' sklentin light,
Wi' you, mysel, I gat a fright
Ayont the lough;
Ye, like a rash-buss, stood in sight,
Wi' waving sough.

The cudgel in my nieve did shake.
Each bristl'd hair stood like a stake,
When wi' an eldritch, stoor quaick--quaick--
Amang the springs,
Awa ye squatter'd, like a drake,
On whistling wings.

Let warlocks grim, an' wither'd hags,
Tell how wi' you, on rag weed nags,
They skim the muirs an' dizzy crags
Wi' wicked speed;
And in kirk-yards renew their leagues
Owre howkit dead.

Thence countra wives, wi' toil an' pain,
May plunge an' plunge the kirn in vain:
For, oh! the yellow treasure's taen
By witching skill;
An' dawtit, twal-pint hawkie's gaen
As yell's the bill.

Thence mystic knots mak great abuse
On young guidmen, fond, keen, an' crouse;
When the best wark-lume i' the house
By cantrip wit,
Is instant made no worth a louse,
Just at the bit,

When thowes dissolve the snawy hoord,
An' float the jinglin icy-boord,
Then water-kelpies haunt the foord,
By your direction;
An' nighted trav'llers are allur'd
To their destruction.

An' aft your moss-traversing spunkies
Decoy the wight that late an' drunk is,
The bleezin, curst, mischievous monkeys
Delude his eyes,
Till in some miry slough he sunk is,
Ne'er mair to rise.

When masons' mystic word an' grip
In storms an' tempests raise you up,
Some cock or cat your rage maun stop,
Or, strange to tell!
The youngest brother ye wad whip
Aff straught to hell!

Lang syne, in Eden's bonie yard,
When youthfu' lovers first were pair'd,
An' all the soul of love they shar'd,
The raptur'd hour,
Sweet on the fragrant, flow'ry sward,
In shady bow'r:

Then you, ye auld, snick-drawing dog!
Ye came to Paradise incog.
An' play'd on man a cursed brogue,
(Black be your fa'!)
An' gied the infant world a shog,
'Maist ruin'd a'.

D'ye mind that day, when in a bizz,
Wi' reekit duds, an' reestit gizz,
Ye did present your smoutie phiz
'Mang better folk,
An' sklented on the man of Uzz
Your spitefu' joke?

An' how ye gat him i' your thrall,
An' brak him out o' house an' hall,
While scabs an' botches did him gall,
Wi' bitter claw,
An' lows'd his ill tongu'd, wicked scawl,
Was warst ava?

But a' your doings to rehearse,
Your wily snares an' fechtin fierce,
Sin' that day Michael did you pierce,
Down to this time,
Wad ding a' Lallan tongue, or Erse,
In prose or rhyme.

An' now, auld Cloots, I ken ye're thinkin,
A certain Bardie's rantin, drinkin,
Some luckless hour will send him linkin
To your black pit;
But, faith! he'll turn a corner jinkin,
An' cheat you yet.

But fare ye well, auld Nickie-ben!
O wad ye tak a thought an' men'!
Ye aiblins might--I dinna ken--
Still hae a stake--
I'm wae to think upo' yon den
Ev'n for your sake!

Robert Burns


Poetry