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Epistle to Hugh Parker


This little lively, biting epistle was addressed to one of the poet's
Kilmarnock companions. Hugh Parker was the brother of William Parker,
one of the subscribers to the Edinburgh edition of Burns's Poems: he
has been dead many years: the Epistle was recovered, luckily, from his
papers, and printed for the first time in 1834.]


In this strange land, this uncouth clime,
A land unknown to prose or rhyme;
Where words ne'er crost the muse's heckles,
Nor limpet in poetic shackles:
A land that prose did never view it,
Except when drunk he stacher't thro' it,
Here, ambush'd by the chimla cheek,
Hid in an atmosphere of reek,
I hear a wheel thrum i' the neuk,
I hear it--for in vain I leuk.--
The red peat gleams, a fiery kernel,
Enhusked by a fog infernal:
Here, for my wonted rhyming raptures,
I sit and count my sins by chapters;
For life and spunk like ither Christians,
I'm dwindled down to mere existence,
Wi' nae converse but Gallowa' bodies,
Wi' nae kend face but Jenny Geddes.[75]
Jenny, my Pegasean pride!
Dowie she saunters down Nithside,
And ay a westlin leuk she throws,
While tears hap o'er her auld brown nose!
Was it for this, wi' canny care,
Thou bure the bard through many a shire?
At howes or hillocks never stumbled,
And late or early never grumbled?--
O had I power like inclination,
I'd heeze thee up a constellation,
To canter with the Sagitarre,
Or loup the ecliptic like a bar;
Or turn the pole like any arrow;
Or, when auld Phoebus bids good-morrow,
Down the zodiac urge the race,
And cast dirt on his godship's face;
For I could lay my bread and kail
He'd ne'er cast saut upo' thy tail.--
Wi' a' this care and a' this grief,
And sma,' sma' prospect of relief,
And nought but peat reek i' my head,
How can I write what ye can read?--
Tarbolton, twenty-fourth o' June,
Ye'll find me in a better tune;
But till we meet and weet our whistle,
Tak this excuse for nae epistle.

ROBERT BURNS.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 75: His mare.]

Robert Burns


Poetry