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Prayer for Adam Armour

[The origin of this prayer is curious. In 1785, the maid-servant of an innkeeper at Mauchline, having been caught in what old ballad-makers delicately call "the deed of shame," Adam Armour, the brother of the poet's bonnie Jean, with one or two more of his comrades, executed a rustic act of justice upon her, by parading her perforce through the village, placed on a rough, unpruned piece of wood: an unpleasant ceremony, vulgarly called "Riding the Stang." This was resented by Geordie and Nanse, the girl's master and mistress; law was restored to, and as Adam had to hide till the matter was settled, he durst not venture home till late on the Saturday nights. In one of these home-comings he met Burns who laughed when he heard the story, and said, "You have need of some one to pray for you." "No one can do that better than yourself," was the reply, and this humorous intercession was made on the instant, and, as it is said, "clean off loof." From Adam Armour I obtained the verses, and when he wrote them out, he told the story in which the prayer originated.]


    Lord, pity me, for I am little,
    An elf of mischief and of mettle,
    That can like ony wabster's shuttle,
                      Jink there or here,
    Though scarce as lang's a gude kale-whittle,
                      I'm unco queer.

    Lord pity now our waefu' case,
    For Geordie's Jurr we're in disgrace,
    Because we stang'd her through the place,
                      'Mang hundreds laughin',
    For which we daurna show our face
                      Within the clachan.

    And now we're dern'd in glens and hallows,
    And hunted as was William Wallace,
    By constables, those blackguard fellows,
                      And bailies baith,
    O Lord, preserve us frae the gallows!
                      That cursed death.

    Auld, grim, black-bearded Geordie's sel',
    O shake him ewre the mouth o' hell,
    And let him hing and roar and yell,
                      Wi' hideous din,
    And if he offers to rebel
                      Just heave him in.

    When Death comes in wi' glimmering blink,
    And tips auld drunken Nanse the wink'
    Gaur Satan gie her a--e a clink
                      Behint his yett,
    And fill her up wi' brimstone drink,
                      Red reeking het!

    There's Jockie and the hav'rel Jenny,
    Some devil seize them in a hurry,
    And waft them in th' infernal wherry,
                      Straught through the lake,
    And gie their hides a noble curry,
                      Wi' oil of aik.

    As for the lass, lascivious body,
    She's had mischief enough already,
    Weel stang'd by market, mill, and smiddie,
                      She's suffer'd sair;
    But may she wintle in a widdie,
                      If she wh--re mair.

Robert Burns


Poetry