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The Inventory

THE INVENTORY;

IN ANSWER TO A MANDATE BY THE SURVEYOR

OF THE TAXES.

[We have heard of a poor play-actor who, by a humorous inventory of
his effects, so moved the commissioners of the income tax, that they
remitted all claim on him then and forever; we know not that this very
humorous inventory of Burns had any such effect on Mr. Aiken, the
surveyor of the taxes. It is dated "Mossgiel, February 22d, 1786," and
is remarkable for wit and sprightliness, and for the information which
it gives us of the poet's habits, household, and agricultural
implements.]


Sir, as your mandate did request,
I send you here a faithfu' list,
O' gudes, an' gear, an' a' my graith,
To which I'm clear to gi'e my aith.

_Imprimis_, then, for carriage cattle,
I have four brutes o' gallant mettle,
As ever drew afore a pettle.
My lan' afore's[8] a gude auld has been,
An' wight, an' wilfu' a' his days been.
My lan ahin's[9] a weel gaun fillie,
That aft has borne me hame frae Killie,[10]
An' your auld burro' mony a time,
In days when riding was nae crime--
But ance, whan in my wooing pride,
I like a blockhead boost to ride,
The wilfu' creature sae I pat to,
(L--d pardon a' my sins an' that too!)
I play'd my fillie sic a shavie,
She's a' bedevil'd with the spavie.
My fur ahin's[11] a wordy beast,
As e'er in tug or tow was trac'd.
The fourth's a Highland Donald hastie,
A d--n'd red wud Kilburnie blastie!
Forbye a cowt o' cowt's the wale,
As ever ran afore a tail.
If he be spar'd to be a beast,
He'll draw me fifteen pun' at least.--
Wheel carriages I ha'e but few,
Three carts, an' twa are feckly new;
Ae auld wheelbarrow, mair for token,
Ae leg an' baith the trams are broken;
I made a poker o' the spin'le,
An' my auld mither brunt the trin'le.

For men I've three mischievous boys,
Run de'ils for rantin' an' for noise;
A gaudsman ane, a thrasher t'other.
Wee Davock hauds the nowt in fother.
I rule them as I ought, discreetly,
An' aften labour them completely;
An' ay on Sundays, duly, nightly,
I on the Questions targe them tightly;
Till, faith, wee Davock's turn'd sae gleg,
Tho' scarcely langer than your leg,
He'll screed you aff Effectual calling,
As fast as ony in the dwalling.
I've nane in female servan' station,
(Lord keep me ay frae a' temptation!)
I ha'e nae wife--and that my bliss is,
An' ye have laid nae tax on misses;
An' then, if kirk folks dinna clutch me,
I ken the devils darena touch me.
Wi' weans I'm mair than weel contented,
Heav'n sent me ane mae than I wanted.
My sonsie smirking dear-bought Bess,
She stares the daddy in her face,
Enough of ought ye like but grace;
But her, my bonnie sweet wee lady,
I've paid enough for her already,
An' gin ye tax her or her mither,
B' the L--d! ye'se get them a'thegither.

And now, remember, Mr. Aiken,
Nae kind of license out I'm takin';
Frae this time forth, I do declare
I'se ne'er ride horse nor hizzie mair;
Thro' dirt and dub for life I'll paidle,
Ere I sae dear pay for a saddle;
My travel a' on foot I'll shank it,
I've sturdy bearers, Gude be thankit.
The kirk and you may tak' you that,
It puts but little in your pat;
Sae dinna put me in your buke.
Nor for my ten white shillings luke.

This list wi' my ain hand I wrote it,
the day and date as under noted;
Then know all ye whom it concerns,

_Subscripsi huic_ ROBERT BURNS.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 8: The fore-horse on the left-hand in the plough.]

[Footnote 9: The hindmost on the left-hand in the plough.]

[Footnote 10: Kilmarnock.]

[Footnote 11: The hindmost horse on the right-hand in the plough.]

Robert Burns


Poetry