The Best Laid Schemes: Selected Poetry and Prose of Robert Burns

The Best Laid Schemes: Selected Poetry and Prose of Robert Burns



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691142951
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 07/26/2009
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Robert Crawford is professor of modern Scottish literature at the University of St. Andrews. His many books include The Bard: Robert Burns, A Biography (Princeton). Christopher MacLachlan is senior lecturer in English at St. Andrews and the editor of Before Burns: Eighteenth-Century Scottish Poetry.

Read an Excerpt

The Best Laid Schemes


Princeton University Press

Copyright © 2009 Robert Crawford and Christopher MacLachlan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-14295-1

Chapter One

My Father was a Farmer

My father was a farmer upon the Carrick border O And carefully he bred me, in decency & order O He bade me act a manly part, though I had ne'er a farthing O For without an honest manly heart, no man was worth regarding O Chorus Row de dow &c.

Then out into the world my course I did determine. O Tho' to be rich was not my wish, yet to be great was charming. O My talents they were not the worst, nor yet my education: O Resolv'd was I, at least to try, to mend my situation. O In many a way, & vain essay, I courted fortune's favor; O Some cause unseen, still stept between, & frustrate each endeavor; O Some times by foes I was o'erpower'd, sometimes by friends forsaken; O And when my hope was at the top, I still was worst mistaken. O Then sore harass'd, & tir'd at last, with fortune's vain delusion; O I dropt my schemes, like idle dreams and came to this conclusion; O The past wast bad, & the future hid; its good or ill untryed; O But the present hour was in my pow'r, & so I would enjoy it, O No help, nor hope, nor view had I; nor person to befriend me; O So I must toil, & sweat & moil, & labor to sustain me, O To plough & sow, to reap & mow, my father bred me early, O For one, he said, to labor bred, was a match for fortune fairly, O Thus all obscure, unknown, & poor, thro' life I'm doom'd to wander, O Till down my weary bones I lay in everlasting slumber: O No view nor care, but shun whate'er might breed me pain or sorrow; O I live today as well's I may, regardless of tomorrow, O But chearful still, I am as well as a Monarch in a palace; O Tho' fortune's frown still hunts me down with all her wonted malice: O I make indeed, my daily bread, but ne'er can make it farther; O But as daily bread is all I heed, I do not much regard her. O When sometimes by my labor I earn a little money, O Some unforseen misfortune comes generally upon me; O Mischance, mistake, or by neglect, or my good natur'd folly; O But come what will I've sworn it still, I'll ne'er be melancholy, O All you who follow wealth & power with unremitting ardor, O The more in this you look for bliss, you leave your view the farther; O Had you the wealth Potosi boasts, or nations to adore you, O A chearful honest-hearted clown I will prefer before you. O

To Ruin.

All hail! inexorable lord! At whose destruction-breathing word, The mightiest empires fall! Thy cruel, woe-delighted train, The ministers of Grief and Pain, A sullen welcome, all! With stern-resolv'd, despairing eye, I see each aimed dart; For one has cut my dearest tye, And quivers in my heart. Then low'ring, and pouring, The Storm no more I dread; Tho' thick'ning, and black'ning, Round my devoted head.

And thou grim Pow'r, by Life abhorr'd, While Life a pleasure can afford, Oh! hear a wretch's pray'r! No more I shrink appall'd, afraid; I court, I beg thy friendly aid, To close this scene of care! When shall my soul, in silent peace, Resign Life's joyless day? My weary heart it's throbbings cease, Cold-mould'ring in the clay? No fear more, no tear more, To stain my lifeless face, Enclasped, and grasped, Within thy cold embrace!

The Death and Dying Words of Poor Mailie, The Author's Only Pet Yowe, ewe An Unco Mournfu' Tale extraordinarily

As Mailie, an' her lambs thegither, and; together Was ae day nibbling on the tether, one Upon her cloot she coost a hitch, hoof; cast An' owre she warsl'd in the ditch: over; wriggled There, groaning, dying, she did ly, lie When Hughoc he cam doytan by. came stumbling

Wi' glowrin een, an' lifted han's with glowering eyes; hands Poor Hughoc like a statue stan's; stands He saw her days were near hand ended, But, waes my heart! he could na mend it! woe is; not He gaped wide, but naething spak, nothing spoke At length poor Mailie silence brak. broke

'O thou, whase lamentable face whose Appears to mourn my woefu' case! woeful My dying words attentive hear, An' bear them to my Master dear. and

Tell him, if e'er again he keep As muckle gear as buy a sheep, much wealth O, bid him never tye them mair, tie; more Wi' wicked strings o' hemp or hair! with; of But ca them out to park or hill, drive An' let them wander at their will: and So, may his flock increase an' grow To scores o' lambs, an' packs of woo'! wool

Tell him, he was a Master kin', kind An' ay was guid to me an' mine; and always; good An' now my dying charge I gie him, give My helpless lambs, I trust them wi' him. with

O, bid him save their harmless lives, Frae dogs an' tods, an' butchers' knives! from; foxes But gie them guid cow-milk their fill, give; good Till they be fit to fend themsel; themselves An' tent them duely, e'en an' morn, tend; duly; evening Wi' taets o' hay an' ripps o' corn. tufts of; handfuls of

An' may they never learn the gaets, ways Of ither vile, wanrestfu' Pets! other; restless To slink thro' slaps, an' reave an' steal, through gaps; rob At stacks o' pease, or stocks o' kail. cole, cabbage So may they, like their great forbears, For monie a year come thro' the sheers: many; shears So wives will gie them bits o' bread, give An' bairns greet for them when they're dead. children weep

My poor toop-lamb, my son an' heir, ram- O, bid him breed him up wi' care! with An' if he live to be a beast, and To pit some havins in his breast! put; manners An' warn him ay at ridin time, always; breeding To stay content wi' yowes at hame; with ewes; home An' no to rin an' wear his cloots, not; run; hooves Like ither menseless, graceless brutes. other ill-bred

An' niest my yowie, silly thing, next; ewe-lamb Gude keep thee frae a tether string! go[o]d; from O, may thou ne'er forgather up, never meet Wi' onie blastet, moorlan toop; any cursed moorland ram But aye keep mind to moop an' mell, always; munch and mingle Wi' sheep o' credit like thysel! yourself

And now, my bairns, wi' my last breath, children I lea'e my blessin wi' you baith: leave; both An' when ye think upo' your Mither, upon; mother Mind to be kind to ane anither. remember; one another

Now, honest Hughoc, dinna fail, do not To tell my Master a' my tale; all An' bid him burn this cursed tether, An' for thy pains thou'se get my blather. you will; bladder

This said, poor Mailie turn'd her head, An' clos'd her een amang the dead! eyes; among

Poor Mailie's Elegy.

Lament in rhyme, lament in prose, Wi' saut tears trickling down your nose; with salt Our Bardie's fate is at a close, [minor] poet's Past a' remead! all remedy The last, sad cape-stane of his woes; cope-stone Poor Mailie's dead!

It's no the loss o' warl's gear, not; of worldly wealth That could sae bitter draw the tear, so Or make our Bardie, dowie, wear dismal The mourning weed: garment He's lost a friend and neebor dear, neighbour In Mailie dead.

Thro' a' the town she trotted by him; through all A lang half-mile she could descry him; long; spot Wi' kindly bleat, when she did spy him, with She ran wi' speed: A friend mair faithfu' ne'er came nigh him, more faithful never Than Mailie dead.

I wat she was a sheep o' sense, know An' could behave hersel wi' mense: with decorum I'll say't, she never brak a fence, broke Thro' thievish greed. Our Bardie, lanely, keeps the spence lonely, sits in the best room Sin' Mailie's dead. since

Or, if he wanders up the howe, valley Her living image in her yowe, ewe Comes bleating till him, owre the knowe, to; over the knoll For bits o' bread; An' down the briny pearls rowe roll For Mailie dead.

She was nae get o' moorlan tips, no offspring; rams Wi' tauted ket, an' hairy hips; tangled fleece For her forbears were brought in ships, Frae 'yont the TWEED. from beyond A bonier fleesh ne'er cross'd the clips prettier fleece never; clippers Than Mailie's dead.

Wae worth that man wha first did shape woe; who That vile, wanchancie thing-a raep! unlucky; rope It maks guid fellows girn an' gape, makes good; grimace Wi' chokin dread; choking An' Robin's bonnet wave wi' crape black mourning ribbons For Mailie dead.

O, a' ye Bards on bonie DOON! all An' wha on AIRE your chanters tune! who; pipes Come, join the melancholious croon moan O' Robin's reed! reed-pipe His heart will never get aboon! recover, get over it His Mailie's dead!


Excerpted from The Best Laid Schemes Copyright © 2009 by Robert Crawford and Christopher MacLachlan . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix
Textual Note xi
Introduction xiii
Further Reading xxxvii


My Father was a Farmer 3
To Ruin. 5
The Death and Dying Words of Poor Mailie, The Author's Only Pet Yowe, An Unco Mournfu' Tale 6
Poor Mailie's Elegy. 9
Mary Morison 11
On a Noisy Polemic. 12
For the Author's Father. 12
A Fragment. [When Guilford Good our Pilot Stood] 13
Address to the Unco Guid, or the Rigidly Righteous. 16
O Leave Novels 19
Green Grow the Rashes. A Fragment. 20
Epistle to Davie, A Brother Poet. 21
Holy Willie's Prayer 26
Death and Doctor Hornbook. A True Story. 30
Epistle to J. L[aprai]k, An Old Scotch Bard. 36
The Vision. 40
To a Mouse 47
The Holy Fair. 49

The Twa Dogs, A Tale. 57
The Cotter's Saturday Night. 65
Address to the Deil. 71
Brose and Butter. 75
To a Louse 76
A Cantata. [Love and Liberty or The Jolly Beggars] 78
On a Scotch Bard Gone to the West Indies. 89
To the Author. [Second Epistle to Davie] 91
[Lines Written on a Bank of Scotland One Guinea Note] 93
[Address of Beelzebub] 94
A Dream. 97
The Brigs of Ayr. A Poem. 102
The Northern Lass. 110
Address to Edinburgh. 111
To a Haggis. 113
A Fragment. [There was a Lad] 115
[Inscribed around Fergusson's Portrait] 116
[Lines on Fergusson] 116
Written by Somebody on the Window of an Inn at Stirling
on Seeing the Royal Palace in Ruins. 117

Ca' the Ewes to the Knowes [First Version] 118
I Love My Jean. 120
O, Were I on Parnassus Hill 121
Tam Glen. 122
Auld Lang Syne. 124
Louis What Reck I by Thee. 125
Robin Shure in Hairst. 126
Nine Inch Will Please a Lady. 127
Afton Water. 128
[Epistle to Dr Blacklock] 129
On Captn. Grose's present peregrinations through Scotland collecting the antiquities of that kingdom 131
My Love She's but a Lassie Yet. 133
My Heart's in the Highlands. 134
John Anderson my Jo. 135
Tam o' Shanter. A Tale. 136
The Banks o' Doon. 143
Ae Fond Kiss. 144
Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation. 145
The De'il's Awa wi' th' Exciseman. 146
Highland Mary 147

The Rights of Woman 148
Why Should Na Poor People Mow 150
Whistle & I'll Come to You My Lad. 151
Ode [for General Washington's Birthday] 152
Bruce to his Troops on the Eve of the Battle of Bannock-burn. 154
Act Sederunt o' the Court o' Session. 155
A Red Red Rose. 156
Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes [Second Version] 157
For a' that & a' that. 158
The Dumfries Volunteers. 160
The Heron Ballads I 162
To the Tooth-Ach. 164
[Oh Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast] 166
The Solemn League and Covenant 167
The Selkirk Grace. 167
Tam Lin. 168
Comin thro' the Rye. 174
Charlie He's my Darling. 175
The Trogger. 176
The Tree of Liberty. 177


The Rediscovered Poems in this Book 183
Logie o' Buchan 187
I Courted a Lassie 188
My Steps Fate on a Mad Conjuncture Thrust 189
Here is to the king, Sir 191
Tho' Life's Gay Scenes Delight No More 192


Five Extracts from Burns's First Commonplace Book, 1783-85 195
Preface [To Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, 1786] 198
Dedication [To Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, 1787] 200
Extract from Burns's Journal of his Border Tour 201
Letter to Dr John Moore, 2 August 1787 202
Letter to Agnes McLehose, 19 January 1788 213
Letter to Agnes McLehose, 25 January 1788 215
Letter to Robert Ainslie, 3 March 1788 216
Extract from a Letter to Burns from Agnes McLehose 217
Letter to Dr John Moore, 4 January 1789 219
Extract from a Letter to Mrs Frances Dunlop of Dunlop, 12 January 1795 221
Letter to James Armour, 10 July 1796 222

Notes 223
Index of Titles 265
Index of First Lines of Poems 269

What People are Saying About This

Ian Duncan

This is an excellent, comprehensive, and authoritative selection of the writings of one of the world's major poets, and it is likely to become the standard edition for general readers and students.
Ian Duncan, University of California, Berkeley

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