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THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT
In this poem Burns gives a true and beautiful picture of the life of a God-fearing Scotch family.
My lov'd, my honor'd, much respected friend!
My dearest meed a friend's esteem and praise:
The native feelings strong, the guileless ways;
10 November chill blaws loud wi' angry sugh; 2 The short'ning winter-day is near a close; The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh; 4 The black'ning trains o' craws to their repose: The toil-worn Cotter frae his labor goes, 15. This night his weekly moil is at an end,
Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes, Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend,
And weary, o'er the moor, his course does hameward bend.
1 Friend, William Aiken, a poet, named in the eighth line.
3 Miry, dirty.
Pleugh, pronounced "plooch," plow.
At length his lonely cot appears in view,
Beneath the shelter of an aged tree;
Th' expectant wee-things, toddlin', stacher 1 through
To meet their Dad, wi' flichterin' 2 noise and glee.
His clean hearth-stane, his thrifty wifie's smile,
Belyve, the elder bairns came drapping in,
Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman-grown, In youthful bloom, love sparkling in her e'e, Comes hame, perhaps to show a braw new gown, Or deposit her sair-worn penny-fee,
To help her parents deal if they in hardship be.
With joy unfeign'd brothers and sisters meet,
An' each for other's weelfare kindly spiers: The social hours, swift-wing'd, unnoticed fleet;
Each tells the uncos 1 that he sees or hears;
The mother, wi' her needle an' her sheers, Gars 2 auld claes look amaist as weel's the new; The father mixes a' wi' admonition due.
Their master's an' their mistress's command,
Lest in temptation's path ye gang astray,
But hark! a rap comes gently to the door;
To do some errands, and convoy her hame.
Wi' heart-struck anxious care, inquires his name.
1 Uncos, news.
4 Hafflins, half.
Wi' kindly welcome, Jenny brings him ben;
The father cracks 2 of horses, pleughs, and kye. The youngster's artless heart o'erflows wi' joy, But blate 3 and laithfu', scarce can weel behave; The mother, wi' a woman's wiles, can spy What makes the youth sae bashfu' an' sae grave; Well pleased to think her bairn's respected like the lave.5
O happy love! where love like this is found;
And sage experience makes me this declare - 75 "If Heaven a draught of heavenly pleasure
One cordial in this melancholy vale,
'Tis when a youthful, loving, modest pair
In other's arms breathe out the tender tale, Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the evening gale."
But now the supper crowns their simple board,
1 Ben, into the room.
That 'yont the hallan1 snugly chows her cood;
How 'twas a towmond 5 auld sin' lint was i' the bell."
The cheerful supper done, wi' serious face
His lyart haffets 10 wearing thin an' bare;
Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide
He wales 11 a portion with judicious care,
And "Let us worship God!" he says with solemn air.
They chant their artless notes in simple guise;
Perhaps Dundee's wild warbling measures rise,
1 Hallan, wall.
2 Weel-hained, carefully saved.
3 Kebbuck, cheese.
4 Fell, sharp, strong.
5 Towmond, twelvemonth.
• Lint, flax.
7 Bell, flower.
8 Ha', hall.
9 Lyart, gray.
10 Haffets, temples.
11 Wales, chooses.