There are more statues of Robert Burns in the United States than there are of any American poet. Scotland's favorite poet has been loved by generations of Americans--from Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman to Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, and Bob Dylan. Now this book makes Burns's greatest poetry more accessible to American readers than ever before. This is the only comprehensive selection of his work that has discreet line-by-line marginal glossing of the Scots, archaic, and obscure words, allowing readers to understand and enjoy the poems without constantly having to turn to footnotes or a glossary. Newly edited from manuscripts and early printed texts, this definitive, wide-ranging collection also introduces some recently discovered verses--and it is the only edition to present a substantial selection of Burns's important prose writings, including letters and key statements about his art. Edited and annotated by acclaimed Burns biographer Robert Crawford and textual expert Christopher MacLachlan, the book also includes a substantial introduction that puts the poet in biographical, historical, and cultural context.
The Best Laid Schemes demonstrates like no other collection why Burns is considered one of the world's greatest poets of love and democracy--and why he continues to entertain, move, and intrigue readers two and a half centuries after his birth.
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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.
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The Best Laid SchemesSELECTED POETRY AND PROSE OF ROBERT BURNS
Princeton University PressCopyright © 2009 Robert Crawford and Christopher MacLachlan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy 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
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.
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Table of Contents
Acknowledgements ixTextual Note xiIntroduction xiiiFurther Reading xxxvii
My Father was a Farmer 3To Ruin. 5The Death and Dying Words of Poor Mailie, The Author's Only Pet Yowe, An Unco Mournfu' Tale 6Poor Mailie's Elegy. 9Mary Morison 11On a Noisy Polemic. 12For the Author's Father. 12A Fragment. [When Guilford Good our Pilot Stood] 13Address to the Unco Guid, or the Rigidly Righteous. 16O Leave Novels 19Green Grow the Rashes. A Fragment. 20Epistle to Davie, A Brother Poet. 21Holy Willie's Prayer 26Death and Doctor Hornbook. A True Story. 30Epistle to J. L[aprai]k, An Old Scotch Bard. 36The Vision. 40To a Mouse 47The Holy Fair. 49
The Twa Dogs, A Tale. 57The Cotter's Saturday Night. 65Address to the Deil. 71Brose and Butter. 75To a Louse 76A Cantata. [Love and Liberty or The Jolly Beggars] 78On a Scotch Bard Gone to the West Indies. 89To the Author. [Second Epistle to Davie] 91[Lines Written on a Bank of Scotland One Guinea Note] 93[Address of Beelzebub] 94A Dream. 97The Brigs of Ayr. A Poem. 102The Northern Lass. 110Address to Edinburgh. 111To a Haggis. 113A Fragment. [There was a Lad] 115[Inscribed around Fergusson's Portrait] 116[Lines on Fergusson] 116Written by Somebody on the Window of an Inn at Stirlingon Seeing the Royal Palace in Ruins. 117
Ca' the Ewes to the Knowes [First Version] 118I Love My Jean. 120O, Were I on Parnassus Hill 121Tam Glen. 122Auld Lang Syne. 124Louis What Reck I by Thee. 125Robin Shure in Hairst. 126Nine Inch Will Please a Lady. 127Afton Water. 128[Epistle to Dr Blacklock] 129On Captn. Grose's present peregrinations through Scotland collecting the antiquities of that kingdom 131My Love She's but a Lassie Yet. 133My Heart's in the Highlands. 134John Anderson my Jo. 135Tam o' Shanter. A Tale. 136The Banks o' Doon. 143Ae Fond Kiss. 144Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation. 145The De'il's Awa wi' th' Exciseman. 146Highland Mary 147
The Rights of Woman 148Why Should Na Poor People Mow 150Whistle & I'll Come to You My Lad. 151Ode [for General Washington's Birthday] 152Bruce to his Troops on the Eve of the Battle of Bannock-burn. 154Act Sederunt o' the Court o' Session. 155A Red Red Rose. 156Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes [Second Version] 157For a' that & a' that. 158The Dumfries Volunteers. 160The Heron Ballads I 162To the Tooth-Ach. 164[Oh Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast] 166The Solemn League and Covenant 167The Selkirk Grace. 167Tam Lin. 168Comin thro' the Rye. 174Charlie He's my Darling. 175The Trogger. 176The Tree of Liberty. 177
The Rediscovered Poems in this Book 183Logie o' Buchan 187I Courted a Lassie 188My Steps Fate on a Mad Conjuncture Thrust 189Here is to the king, Sir 191Tho' Life's Gay Scenes Delight No More 192
Five Extracts from Burns's First Commonplace Book, 1783-85 195Preface [To Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, 1786] 198Dedication [To Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, 1787] 200Extract from Burns's Journal of his Border Tour 201Letter to Dr John Moore, 2 August 1787 202Letter to Agnes McLehose, 19 January 1788 213Letter to Agnes McLehose, 25 January 1788 215Letter to Robert Ainslie, 3 March 1788 216Extract from a Letter to Burns from Agnes McLehose 217Letter to Dr John Moore, 4 January 1789 219Extract from a Letter to Mrs Frances Dunlop of Dunlop, 12 January 1795 221Letter to James Armour, 10 July 1796 222
Notes 223Index of Titles 265Index of First Lines of Poems 269
What People are Saying About This
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