Robert Burns

poems:

36

the holy fair

Upon a simmer Sunday morn, When Nature’s face is fair, I walked forth to view the corn An’ snuff the caller air. The risin’ sun owre Galston muirs Wi’ glorious light was glintin, The hares were hirplin down the furrs, The lav’rocks they were chantin Fu’ sweet that day. As lightsomely I glowr’d abroad To see a scene sae gay, Three hizzies, early at the road, Cam skelpin up the way. Twa had manteeles o’ dolefu’ black, But ane wi’ lyart linin; The third, that gaed a wee a-back, Was in the fashion shining Fu’ gay that day. The twa appear’d like sisters twin In feature, form, an’ claes; Their visage wither’d, lang an’ thin, An’ sour as ony slaes. The third cam up, hap-step-an’-lowp, As light as ony lambie, An’ wi’ a curchie low did stoop, As soon as e’er she saw me, Fu’ kind that day. Wi’ bonnet aff, quoth I, “Sweet lass, I think ye seem to ken me; I’m sure I’ve seen that bonie face, But yet I canna name ye.” Quo’ she, an’ laughin as she spak, An’ taks me by the han’s, “Ye, for my sake, hae gien the feck Of a’ the ten comman’s A screed some day. “My name is Fun—your cronie dear, The nearest friend ye hae; An’ this is Superstition here, An’ that’s Hypocrisy. I’m gaun to Mauchline Holy Fair, To spend an hour in daffin: Gin ye’ll go there, you runkl’d pair, We will get famous laughin At them this day.” Quoth I, “With a’ my heart, I’ll do’t: I’ll get my Sunday’s sark on, An’ meet you on the holy spot; Faith, we’se hae fine remarkin!” Then I gaed hame at crowdie-time An’ soon I made me ready; For roads were clad frae side to side Wi’ monie a wearie body In droves that day. Here, farmers gash, in ridin graith, Gaed hoddin by their cotters, There swankies young, in braw braidclaith Are springin owre the gutters. The lasses, skelpin barefit, thrang, In silks an’ scarlets glitter, Wi’ sweet-milk cheese in mony a whang, An’ farls, bak’d wi’ butter, Fu’ crump that day. When by the plate we set our nose, Weel heaped up wi’ ha’pence, A greedy glowr Black Bonnet throws, An’ we maun draw our tippence. Then in we go to see the show: On ev’ry side they’re gath’rin, Some carryin dails, some chairs an’ stools, An’ some are busy bleth’rin Right loud that day. … Here some are thinkin on their sins, An’ some upo’ their claes; Ane curses feet that fyl’d his shins, Anither sighs an’ prays: On this hand sits a chosen swatch, Wi’ screw’d-up grace-proud faces; On that a set o’ chaps at watch, Thrang winkin on the lasses To chairs that day. O happy is that man and blest! Nae wonder that it pride him! Whase ain dear lass that he likes best, Comes clinkin down beside him! Wi’ arm repos’d on the chair back, He sweetly does compose him; Which by degrees slips round her neck, An’s loof upon her bosom, Unken’d that day. Now a’ the congregation o’er Is silent expectation; For Moodie speels the holy door, Wi’ tidings o’ salvation. Should Hornie, as in ancient days, ‘Mang sons o’ God present him, The vera sight o’ Moodie’s face To’s ain het hame had sent him Wi’ fright that day. Hear how he clears the points o’ faith Wi’ rattlin an’ wi’ thumpin! Now meekly calm, now wild in wrath He’s stampin, an’ he’s jumpin! His lengthen’d chin, his turn’d-up snout, His eldritch squeal and gestures, Oh, how they fire the heart devout Like cantharidian plaisters, On sic a day! But hark! the tent has chang’d its voice: There’s peace and rest nae langer; For a’ the real judges rise, They canna sit for anger. Smith opens out his cauld harangues, On practice and on morals; An’ aff the godly pour in thrangs, To gie the jars an’ barrels A lift that day. What signifies his barren shine Of moral pow’rs and reason? His English style an’ gesture fine Are a’ clean out o’ season. Like Socrates or Antonine Or some auld pagan heathen, The moral man he does define, But ne’er a word o’ faith in That’s right that day. In guid time comes an antidote Against sic poison’d nostrum; For Peebles, frae the water-fit, Ascends the holy rostrum: See, up he’s got the word o’ God An’ meek an’ mim has view’d it, While Common Sense has ta’en the road, An’s aff, an’ up the Cowgate Fast, fast that day. Wee Miller niest the Guard relieves, An’ Orthodoxy raibles, Tho’ in his heart he weel believes An’ thinks it auld wives’ fables: But faith! the birkie wants a Manse, So cannilie he hums them; Altho’ his carnal wit an’ sense Like hafflins-wise o’ercomes him At times that day. Now butt an’ ben the change-house fills Wi’ yill-caup commentators: Here’s cryin out for bakes an gills, An’ there the pint-stowp clatters; While thick an’ thrang, an’ loud an’ lang, Wi’ logic an’ wi’ Scripture, They raise a din, that in the end Is like to breed a rupture O’ wrath that day. Leeze me on drink! it gies us mair Than either school or college It kindles wit, it waukens lear, It pangs us fou o’ knowledge. Be’t whisky-gill or penny-wheep, Or ony stronger potion, It never fails, on drinkin deep, To kittle up our notion By night or day. The lads an’ lasses, blythely bent To mind baith saul an’ body, Sit round the table weel content, An’ steer about the toddy, On this ane’s dress an’ that ane’s leuk They’re makin observations; While some are cozie i’ the neuk, An’ forming assignations To meet some day. But now the Lord’s ain trumpet touts, Till a’ the hills rae rairin, An’ echoes back return the shouts— Black Russell is na sparin. His piercing words, like highlan’ swords, Divide the joints an’ marrow; His talk o’ hell, whare devils dwell, Our vera “sauls does harrow” Wi’ fright that day. A vast, unbottom’d, boundless pit, Fill’d fou o’ lowin brunstane, Whase ragin flame, an’ scorching heat Wad melt the hardest whun-stane! The half-asleep start up wi’ fear An’ think they hear it roarin, When presently it does appear ’Twas but some neibor snorin, Asleep that day. ‘Twad be owre lang a tale to tell, How mony stories past, An’ how they crouded to the yill, When they were a’ dismist: How drink gaed round in cogs an’ caups Amang the furms an’ benches: An’ cheese and bred frae women’s laps Was dealt about in lunches An’ dauds that day. In comes a gausie, gash guidwife An’ sits down by the fire, Syne draws her kebbuck an’ her knife; The lasses they are shyer: The auld guidmen, about the grace Frae side to side they bother, Till some ane by his bonnet lays, And gi’es them’t like a tether Fu’ lang that day. Waesucks! for him that gets nae lass, Or lasses that hae naething! Sma’ need has he to say a grace, Or melvie his braw clathing! O wives, be mindfu’ ance yoursel How bonie lads ye wanted, An’ dinna for a kebbuck-heel Let lasses be affronted On sic a day! Now Clinkumbell, wi’ rattlin tow, Begins to jow an’ croon; Some swagger hame the best they dow, Some wait the afternoon. At slaps the billies halt a blink, Till lasses strip their shoon: Wi’ faith an’ hope, an’ love an’ drink, They’re a’ in famous tune For crack that day. How monie hearts this day converts O’ sinners and o’ lasses Their hearts o’ stane, gin night, are gane As saft as ony flesh is. There’s some are fou o’ love divine, There’s some are fou o’ brandy; An’ monie jobs that day begin, May end in houghmagandie Some ither day.

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