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September 29, 2017

Click to listen: https://soundcloud.com/words-of-burns/third-epistle-to-j-lapraik


Today (28th September) is National Poets’ Day so I thought I should record something written by Robert Burns to a fellow poet. As the name suggests this is the third poem that Burns sent to John Lapraik in Muirkirk and it was penned by him in September 1785 on a day when harvesting was interrupted by bad weather. Burns takes advantage of the available free time by getting out his quill and ink.

My own time constraints mean I have just recorded an extract of the epistle but given the full version in the text.


"Guid speed and furder to you, Johnie, 
Guid health, hale han's, an' weather bonie; 
Now, when ye're nickin down fu' cannie 
The staff o' bread, 
May ye ne'er want a stoup o' bran'y 
To clear your head. 

May Boreas never thresh your rigs, 
Nor kick your rickles aff their legs, 
Sendin the stuff o'er muirs an' haggs 
Like drivin wrack; 
But may the tapmost grain that wags 
Come to the sack. 

I'm bizzie, too, an' skelpin at it, 
But bitter, daudin showers hae wat it; 
Sae my auld stumpie pen I gat it 
Wi' muckle wark, 
An' took my jocteleg an whatt it, 
Like ony clark. 

It's now twa month that I'm your debtor, 
For your braw, nameless, dateless letter, 
Abusin me for harsh ill-nature 
On holy men, 
While deil a hair yoursel' ye're better, 
But mair profane. 

But let the kirk-folk ring their bells, 
Let's sing about our noble sel's: 
We'll cry nae jads frae heathen hills 
To help, or roose us; 
But browster wives an' whisky stills, 
They are the muses. 

Your friendship, Sir, I winna quat it, 
An' if ye mak' objections at it, 
Then hand in neive some day we'll knot it, 
An' witness take, 
An' when wi' usquabae we've wat it 
It winna break. 

But if the beast an' branks be spar'd 
Till kye be gaun without the herd, 
And a' the vittel in the yard, 
An' theekit right, 
I mean your ingle-side to guard 
Ae winter night. 

Then muse-inspirin' aqua-vitae 
Shall make us baith sae blythe and witty, 
Till ye forget ye're auld an' gatty, 
An' be as canty 
As ye were nine years less than thretty- 
Sweet ane an' twenty! 

But stooks are cowpit wi' the blast, 
And now the sinn keeks in the west, 
Then I maun rin amang the rest, 
An' quat my chanter; 
Sae I subscribe myself' in haste, 
Yours, Rab the Ranter."



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© 2014 Neil Macgillivray