Robert Burns

Elegy on Captain Matthew Henderson

written in 1788

O Death! thou tyrant fell and bloody! The meikle Devil wi' a woodie Haurl thee hame to his black smiddie, O'er hurcheon hides, And like stock-fish come o'er his studdie Wi' thy auld sides! He's gane! he's gane! he's frae us torn, The ae best fellow e'er was born! Thee, Matthew, Nature's sel shall mourn, By wood and wild, Where, haply, Pity strays forlorn, Frae man exil'd. Ye hills, near neebors o' the starns, That proudly cock your cresting cairns; Ye cliffs, the haunts of sailing yearns, Where Echo slumbers; Come join ye, Nature's sturdiest bairns, My wailing numbers. Mourn, ilka grove the cushat kens; Ye hazly shaws and briery dens; Ye burnies, wimplin down the glens, Wi' toddlin din, Or foaming, strang, wi' hasty stens, Frae lin to lin. Mourn, little harebells o'er the lee; Ye stately foxgloves, fair to see; Ye woodbines, hanging bonnilie, In scented bowers; Ye roses on your thorny tree, The first o' flowers! At dawn, when every grassy blade Droops with a diamond at his head, At even, when beans their fragrance shed, I' th' rustling gale, Ye maukins whiddin thro' the glade, Come join my wail. Mourn, ye wee songsters o' the wood; Ye grouss that crap the heather bud; Ye curlews calling thro' a clud; Ye whistling plover; And mourn, ye whirring paitrick brood; He's gane for ever! Mourn, sooty coots, and speckled teals; Ye fisher herons, watching eels; Ye duck and drake, wi' airy wheels Circling the lake: Ye bitterns, till the quagmire reels, Rair for his sake! Mourn, clamouring craiks at close o' day, 'Mang fields o' flow'ring claver gay! And when ye wing your annual way Frae our cauld shore, Tell thae far warlds, wha lies in clay, Wham we deplore. Ye houlets, frae your ivy bower, In some auld tree, or eldritch tower, What time the moon, wi' silent glowr, Sets up her horn, Wail thro' the dreary midnight hour Till waukrife morn. O, rivers, forests, hills, and plains! Oft have ye heard my canty strains: But now, what else for me remains But tales of woe; And frae my een the drapping rains Maun ever flow. Mourn, Spring, thou darling of the year; Ilk cowslip cup shall kep a tear: Thou, Simmer, while each corny spear Shoots up its head, Thy gay, green, flowery tresses shear, For him that's dead. Thou, Autumn, wi' thy yellow hair, In grief thy sallow mantle tear; Thou, Winter, hurling thro' the air The roaring blast, Wide o'er the naked world declare The worth we've lost. Mourn him thou Sun, great source of light; Mourn, Empress of the silent night: And you, ye twinkling starnies bright, My Matthew mourn; For through your orbs he' taen his flight, Ne'er to return. O Henderson! the man! the brother! And art thou gone, and gone for ever! And hast thou crost that unknown river, Life's dreary bound! Like thee, where shall I find another, The world around! Go to your sculptur'd tombs, ye Great, In a' the tinsel trash o' state! But by thy honest turf I'll wait, Thou man of worth! And weep the ae best fellow's fate E'er lay in earth. The Epitaph Stop, passenger! my story's brief, And truth I shall relate, man; I tell nae common tale o' grief, For Matthew was a great man. If thou uncommon merit hast, Yet spurn'd at Fortune's door, man; A look of pity hither cast, For Matthew was a poor man. If thou a noble sodger art, That passest by this grave, man; There moulders here a gallant heart, For Matthew was a brave man. If thou on men, their works and ways, Canst throw uncommon light, man; Here lies wha weel had won thy praise, For Matthew was a bright man. If thou, at Friendship's sacred ca' Wad life itself resign, man; Thy sympathetic tear maun fa', For Matthew was a kind man. If thou art staunch, without a stain, Like the unchanging blue, man; This was a kinsman o' thy ain, For Matthew was a true man. If thou hast wit, and fun, and fire, And ne'er gude wine did fear, man; This was thy billie, dam, and sire, For Matthew was a queer man. If ony whiggish, whingin sot, To blame poor Matthew dare, man; May dool and sorrow be his lot, For Matthew was a rare man.

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