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A Dedication to Gavin Hamilton Esq.


[The gentleman to whom these manly lines are addressed, was of good
birth, and of an open and generous nature: he was one of the first of
the gentry of the west to encourage the muse of Coila to stretch her
wings at full length. His free life, and free speech, exposed him to
the censures of that stern divine, Daddie Auld, who charged him with
the sin of absenting himself from church for three successive days;
for having, without the fear of God's servant before him, profanely
said damn it, in his presence, and far having gallopped on Sunday.
These charges were contemptuously dismissed by the presbyterial court.
Hamilton was the brother of the Charlotte to whose charms, on the
banks of Devon, Burns, it is said, paid the homage of a lover, as well
as of a poet. The poem had a place in the Kilmarnock edition, but not
as an express dedication.]


Expect na, Sir, in this narration,
A fleechin', fleth'rin dedication,
To roose you up, an' ca' you guid,
An' sprung o' great an' noble bluid,
Because ye're surnam'd like his Grace;
Perhaps related to the race;
Then when I'm tir'd--and sae are ye,
Wi' monie a fulsome, sinfu' lie,
Set up a face, how I stop short,
For fear your modesty be hurt.

This may do--maun do, Sir, wi' them wha
Maun please the great folk for a wamefou;
For me! sae laigh I needna bow,
For, Lord be thankit, I can plough;
And when I downa yoke a naig,
Then, Lord be thankit, I can beg;
Sae I shall say, an' that's nae flatt'rin',
It's just sic poet, an' sic patron.

The Poet, some guid angel help him,
Or else, I fear some ill ane skelp him,
He may do weel for a' he's done yet,
But only--he's no just begun yet.

The Patron, (Sir, ye maun forgie me,
I winna lie, come what will o' me,)
On ev'ry hand it will allow'd be,
He's just--nae better than he should be.

I readily and freely grant,
He downa see a poor man want;
What's no his ain, he winna tak it;
What ance he says, he winna break it;
Ought he can lend he'll no refus't,
'Till aft his guidness is abus'd;
And rascals whyles that do him wrang,
E'en that, he does na mind it lang:
As master, landlord, husband, father,
He does na fail his part in either.

But then, nae thanks to him for a' that;
Nae godly symptom ye can ca' that;
It's naething but a milder feature,
Of our poor sinfu', corrupt nature:
Ye'll get the best o' moral works,
'Mang black Gentoos and pagan Turks,
Or hunters wild on Ponotaxi,
Wha never heard of orthodoxy.

That he's the poor man's friend in need,
The gentleman in word and deed,
It's no thro' terror of damnation;
It's just a carnal inclination.

Morality, thou deadly bane,
Thy tens o' thousands thou hast slain!
Vain is his hope, whose stay and trust is
In moral mercy, truth and justice!

No--stretch a point to catch a plack;
Abuse a brother to his back;
Steal thro' a winnock frae a whore,
But point the rake that taks the door;
Be to the poor like onie whunstane,
And haud their noses to the grunstane,
Ply ev'ry art o' legal thieving;
No matter--stick to sound believing.

Learn three-mile pray'rs an' half-mile graces,
Wi' weel-spread looves, and lang wry faces;
Grunt up a solemn, lengthen'd groan,
And damn a' parties but your own;
I'll warrant then, ye're nae deceiver,
A steady, sturdy, staunch believer.

O ye wha leave the springs o' Calvin,
For gumlie dubs of your ain delvin'!
Ye sons of heresy and error,
Ye'll some day squeal in quaking terror!
When Vengeance draws the sword in wrath,
And in the fire throws the sheath;
When Ruin, with his sweeping besom,
Just frets 'till Heav'n commission gies him:
While o'er the harp pale Mis'ry moans,
And strikes the ever-deep'ning tones,
Still louder shrieks, and heavier groans!

Your pardon, Sir, for this digression.
I maist forgat my dedication;
But when divinity comes cross me
My readers still are sure to lose me.

So, Sir, ye see 'twas nae daft vapour,
But I maturely thought it proper,
When a' my works I did review,
To dedicate them, Sir, to you:
Because (ye need na tak it ill)
I thought them something like yoursel'.

Then patronize them wi' your favour,
And your petitioner shall ever--
I had amaist said, ever pray,
But that's a word I need na say:
For prayin' I hae little skill o't;
I'm baith dead sweer, an' wretched ill o't;
But I'se repeat each poor man's pray'r,
That kens or hears about you, Sir--

"May ne'er misfortune's gowling bark,
Howl thro' the dwelling o' the Clerk!
May ne'er his gen'rous, honest heart,
For that same gen'rous spirit smart!
May Kennedy's far-honour'd name
Lang beet his hymeneal flame,
Till Hamiltons, at least a dizen,
Are frae their nuptial labours risen:
Five bonnie lasses round their table,
And seven braw fellows, stout an' able
To serve their king and country weel,
By word, or pen, or pointed steel!
May health and peace, with mutual rays,
Shine on the ev'ning o' his days;
'Till his wee curlie John's-ier-oe,
When ebbing life nae mair shall flow,
The last, sad, mournful rites bestow."

I will not wind a lang conclusion,
With complimentary effusion:
But whilst your wishes and endeavours
Are blest with Fortune's smiles and favours,
I am, dear Sir, with zeal most fervent,
Your much indebted, humble servant.

But if (which pow'rs above prevent)
That iron-hearted carl, Want,
Attended in his grim advances
By sad mistakes and black mischances,
While hopes, and joys, and pleasures fly him,
Make you as poor a dog as I am,
Your humble servant then no more;
For who would humbly serve the poor!
But by a poor man's hope in Heav'n!
While recollection's pow'r is given,
If, in the vale of humble life,
The victim sad of fortune's strife,
I, thro' the tender gushing tear,
Should recognise my Master dear,
If friendless, low, we meet together,
Then Sir, your hand--my friend and brother.


Robert Burns


Poetry