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To A Louse

ON SEEING ONE IN A LADY'S BONNET, AT CHURCH

[A Mauchline incident of a Mauchline lady is related in this poem,
which to many of the softer friends of the bard was anything but
welcome: it appeared in the Kilmarnock copy of his Poems, and
remonstrance and persuasion were alike tried in vain to keep it out of
the Edinburgh edition. Instead of regarding it as a seasonable rebuke
to pride and vanity, some of his learned commentators called it course
and vulgar--those classic persons might have remembered that Julian,
no vulgar person, but an emperor and a scholar, wore a populous beard,
and was proud of it.]

Ha! whare ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie!
Your impudence protects you sairly:
I canna say by ye strunt rarely,
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho' faith, I fear, ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin', blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn'd, by saunt an' sinner,
How dare you set your fit upon her,
Sae fine a lady!
Gae somewhere else, and seek your dinner
On some poor body.

Swith, in some beggar's haffet squattle;
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle
Wi' ither kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Whare horn nor bane ne'er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.

Now haud you there, ye're out o' sight,
Below the fatt'rells, snug an' tight;
Na, faith ye yet! ye'll no be right
'Till ye've got on it,
The vera topmost, tow'ring height
O' Miss's bonnet.

My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an' gray as onie grozet;
O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I'd gie you sic a hearty doze o't,
Wad dross your droddum!

I wad na been surpris'd to spy
You on an auld wife's flainen toy;
Or aiblins some bit duddie boy,
On's wyliecoat;
But Miss's fine Lunardi! fie!
How daur ye do't?

O, Jenny, dinna toss your head,
An' set your beauties a' abread!
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie's makin'!
Thae winks and finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin'!

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An' foolish notion;
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
And ev'n devotion!


Robert Burns


Poetry