[The lady to whom this epistle is addressed was a painter and a
poetess: her pencil sketches are said to have been beautiful; and she
had a ready skill in rhyme, as the verses addressed to Burns fully
testify. Taste and poetry belonged to her family; she was the niece of
Mrs. Cockburn, authoress of a beautiful variation of The Flowers of
I mind it weel in early date,
When I was beardless, young and blate,
An' first could thresh the barn;
Or hand a yokin at the pleugh;
An' tho' forfoughten sair enough,
Yet unco proud to learn:
When first amang the yellow corn
A man I reckon'd was,
An' wi' the lave ilk merry morn
Could rank my rig and lass,
Still shearing, and clearing,
The tither stooked raw,
Wi' claivers, an' haivers,
Wearing the day awa.
E'en then, a wish, I mind its pow'r,
A wish that to my latest hour
Shall strongly heave my breast,
That I for poor auld Scotland's sake
Some usefu' plan or beuk could make,
Or sing a sang at least.
The rough burr-thistle, spreading wide
Amang the bearded bear,
I turn'd the weeder-clips aside,
An' spar'd the symbol dear:
No nation, no station,
My envy e'er could raise,
A Scot still, but blot still,
I knew nae higher praise.
But still the elements o' sang
In formless jumble, right an' wrang,
Wild floated in my brain;
'Till on that har'st I said before,
My partner in the merry core,
She rous'd the forming strain:
I see her yet, the sonsie quean,
That lighted up her jingle,
Her witching smile, her pauky een
That gart my heart-strings tingle:
I fired, inspired,
At every kindling keek,
But bashing and dashing
I feared aye to speak.
Health to the sex, ilk guid chiel says,
Wi' merry dance in winter days,
An' we to share in common:
The gust o' joy, the balm of woe,
The saul o' life, the heaven below,
Is rapture-giving woman.
Ye surly sumphs, who hate the name,
Be mindfu' o' your mither:
She, honest woman, may think shame
That ye're connected with her.
Ye're wae men, ye're nae men
That slight the lovely dears;
To shame ye, disclaim ye,
Ilk honest birkie swears.
For you, no bred to barn and byre,
Wha sweetly tune the Scottish lyre,
Thanks to you for your line:
The marled plaid ye kindly spare,
By me should gratefully be ware;
'Twad please me to the nine.
I'd be mair vauntie o' my hap,
Douce hingin' owre my curple
Than ony ermine ever lap,
Or proud imperial purple.
Fareweel then, lang heel then,
An' plenty be your fa';
May losses and crosses
Ne'er at your hallan ca'.