Burns was extremely critical of the ‘Auld Lichts’ - strict Calvinists who kept a restrictive grip on society. He was delighted when two leading ministers of that persuasion had a bitter dispute over parish boundaries and he wrote this wonderful satirical piece to mark it. It is a lengthy poem so I have just recorded the opening verses but the full text is given below.
"Blockheads with reason wicked wits abhor,
But fool with fool is barbarous civil war,"
"O a' ye pious godly flocks, Weel fed on pastures orthodox,
Wha now will keep you frae the fox, Or worrying tykes?
Or wha will tent the waifs an' crocks, About the dykes?
The twa best herds in a' the wast, That e'er ga'e gospel horn a blast
These five an' twenty simmers past - Oh, dool to tell!
Hae had a bitter black out-cast Atween themsel'.
O, Moodie, man, an' wordy Russell, How could you raise so vile a bustle;
Ye'll see how New-Light herds will whistle, An' think it fine!
The Lord's cause ne'er gat sic a twistle, Sin' I hae min'.
O, sirs! whae'er wad hae expeckit Your duty ye wad sae negleckit,
Ye wha were ne'er by lairds respeckit To wear the plaid;
But by the brutes themselves eleckit, To be their guide.
What flock wi' Moodie's flock could rank?- Sae hale and hearty every shank!
Nae poison'd soor Arminian stank He let them taste;
Frae Calvin's well, aye clear, drank, - O, sic a feast!
The thummart, willcat, brock, an' tod, Weel kend his voice thro' a' the wood,
He smell'd their ilka hole an' road, Baith out an in;
An' weel he lik'd to shed their bluid, An' sell their skin.
What herd like Russell tell'd his tale; His voice was heard thro' muir and dale,
He kenn'd the Lord's sheep, ilka tail, Owre a' the height;
An' saw gin they were sick or hale, At the first sight.
He fine a mangy sheep could scrub, Or nobly fling the gospel club,
And New-Light herds could nicely drub Or pay their skin;
Could shake them o'er the burning dub, Or heave them in.
Sic twa-O! do I live to see't?- Sic famous twa should disagree't,
And names, like "villain," "hypocrite," Ilk ither gi'en,
While New-Light herds, wi' laughin spite, Say neither's liein!
A' ye wha tent the gospel fauld, Thee Duncan deep, an' Peebles shaul,
But chiefly thou, apostle Auld, We trust in thee,
That thou wilt work them, het an' cauld, Till they agree.
Consider, sirs, how we're beset; There's scarce a new herd that we get,
But comes frae 'mang that cursed set, I winna name;
I hope frae heav'n to see them yet In fiery flame.
Dalrymple has been lang our fae, M'Gill has wrought us meikle wae,
An' that curs'd rascal ca'd M'Quhae, And baith the Shaws,
That aft hae made us black an' blae, Wi' vengefu' paws.
Auld Wodrow lang has hatch'd mischief; We thought aye death wad bring relief;
But he has gotten, to our grief, Ane to succeed him,
A chield wha'll soundly buff our beef; I meikle dread him.
And mony mae that I could tell, Wha fain wad openly rebel,
Forby turn-coats amang oursel', There's Smith for ane;
I doubt he's but a grey nick quill, An' that ye'll fin'.
O! a' ye flocks o'er a, the hills, By mosses, meadows, moors, and fells,
Come, join your counsel and your skills To cowe the lairds,
An' get the brutes the power themsel's To choose their herds.
Then Orthodoxy yet may prance, An' Learning in a woody dance,
An' that fell cur ca'd Common Sense, That bites sae sair,
Be banished o'er the sea to France: Let him bark there.
Then Shaw's an' D'rymple's eloquence, M'Gill's close nervous excellence