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A Burns celebration of tartan

On the day before a yearly celebration of Scottish heritage (Tartan Day), Robert Burns brings us the first Duan (division) of his poem The Vision, an extract from Selected Poems and Songs.


Duan First

THE sun had clos’d the winter-day ,
The Curlers quat their roaring play,
And hunger’d Maukin taen her way
To kail-yards green,
While faithless snaws ilk step betray
Whare she has been.

The Thresher’s weary flingin-tree ,
The lee-lang day had tir’d me;
And when the Day had clos’d his e’e,
Far i’ the West, 10
Ben i’ the Spence , right pensivelie,
I gaed to rest.

There, lanely, by the ingle-cheek,
I sat and ey’d the spewing reek,
That fi ll’d, wi’ hoast-provoking smeek,
The auld, clay biggin;
And heard the restless rattons squeak
About the riggin.

All in this mottie, misty clime,
I backward mus’d on wasted time,
How I had spent my youthfu’ prime ,
An’ done nae-thing,
But stringing blethers up in rhyme
For fools to sing.

Had I to guid advice but harket,
I might, by this, hae led a market,
Or strutted in a Bank and clarket
My Cash-Account ;
While here, half-mad, half-fed, half-sarket,
Is a’ th’ amount.

I started, mutt’ring blockhead! coof!
And heav’d on high my wauket loof,
To swear by a’ yon starry roof,
Or some rash aith,
That I, henceforth, would be rhyme-proof
Till my last breath —

When click! the string the snick did draw;
And jee! the door gaed to the wa’;
And by my ingle-lowe I saw,
Now bleezan bright, 40
A tight, outlandish Hizzie , braw,
Come full in sight.

Ye need na doubt, I held my whisht;
The infant aith, half-form’d, was crusht;
I glowr’d as eerie’s I’d been dusht,
In some wild glen;
When sweet, like modest Worth , she blusht,
And stepped ben.

Green, slender, leaf-clad Holly-boughs
Were twisted, gracefu’, round her brows,
I took her for some SCOTTISH MUSE,
By that same token;
And come to stop those reckless vows,
Would soon been broken.

A ‘hare-brain’d, sentimental trace’
Was strongly marked in her face;
A wildly-witty, rustic grace
Shone full upon her;
Her eye , ev’n turn’d on empty space,
Beam’d keen with Honor .

Down fl ow’d her robe, a tartan sheen,
Till half a leg was scrimply seen;
And such a leg! my BESS, I ween,
Could only peer it;
Sae straught, sae taper, tight and clean,
Nane else came near it.

Her Mantle large, of greenish hue,
My gazing wonder chiefl y drew;
Deep lights and shades , bold-mingling, threw
A lustre grand;
And seem’d, to my astonish’d view,
A well-known Land.

Here, rivers in the sea were lost;
There, mountains to the skies were tost:
Here, tumbling billows mark’d the coast,
With surging foam;
There, distant shone, Art’s lofty boast,
The lordly dome.

Here, DOON pour’d down his far-fetch’d floods;
There, well-fed IRWINE stately thuds:
Auld, hermit AIRE staw thro’ his woods,
On to the shore;
And many a lesser torrent scuds,
With seeming roar.

Low, in a sandy valley spread,
An ancient BOROUGH rear’d her head;
Still, as in Scottish Story read,
She boasts a Race,
To ev’ry nobler virtue bred,
And polish’d grace.

Robert Burns was an eighteenth century Scottish poet and songwriter. Selected Poems and Songs offers Burns’s work as it was first encountered by contemporary readers, presenting the texts as they were originally published. It reproduces in its entirety the volume which made Burns famous–Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, published at Kilmarnock in 1786–and it showcases a generous selection of songs from The Scots Musical Museum and A Select Collection of Scottish Airs, complete with their full scores.

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