To the Rev (Poem by Robert Burns)

the Old Poems

To the Rev
By Robert Burns

John M’Math
(Sept. 17th, 1785)

While at the stook the shearers cow’r
To shun the bitter blaudin’ show’r,
Or in gulravage rinnin’ scow’r
                To pass the time,
To you I dedicate the hour
                In idle rhyme.

My musie, tir’d wi’ mony a sonnet
On gown, an’ ban’, and douse black bonnet,
Is grown right eerie now she’s done it,
                Lest they should blame her,
An’ rouse their holy thunder on it
                And anathem her.

I own ’twas rash, an’ rather hardy,
That I, a simple countra bardie,
Shou’d meddle wi’ a pack sae sturdy,
                Wha, if they ken me,
Can easy, wi’ a single wordie,
                Lowse hell upon me.

But I gae mad at their grimaces,
Their sighin’ cantin’ grace-proud faces,
Their three-mile prayers, and hauf-mile graces,
                Their raxin’ conscience,
Whase greed, revenge, an’ pride disgraces,
                Waur nor their nonsense.

There’s Gaun,* miska’t waur than a beast,
Wha has mair honour in his breast
Than mony scores as guid’s the priest
                Wha sae abus’t him.
An’ may a bard no crack his jest
                What way they’ve use’t him.

See him, the poor man’s friend in need,
The gentleman in word an’ deed,
An’ shall his fame an’ honour bleed
                By worthless skellums,
An’ not a muse erect her head
                To cowe the blellums?

O Pope, had I thy satire’s darts
To gie the rascals their deserts,
I’d rip their rotten, hollow hearts,
                An’ tell aloud
Their jugglin’ hocus-pocus arts
                To cheat the crowd.

God knows, I’m no the thing I shou’d be,
Nor am I even the thing I cou’d be,
But twenty times, I rather wou’d be
                An atheist clean,
Than under gospel colours hid be
                Just for a screen.

An honest man may like a glass,
An honest man may like a lass,
But mean revenge, an’ malice fause
                He’ll still disdain,
An’ then cry zeal for gospel laws,
                Like some we ken.

They take religion in their mouth;
They talk o’ mercy, grace, an’ truth,
For what? — to gie their malice skouth
                On some puir wight,
An’ hunt him down, o’er right, an’ ruth,
                To ruin straight.

All hail, Religion! maid divine!
Pardon a muse sae mean as mine,
Who in her rough imperfect line,
                Thus daurs to name thee;
To stigmatize false friends of thine
                Can ne’er defame thee.

Tho’ blotch’d an’ foul wi’ mony a stain,
An’ far unworthy of thy train,
With trembling voice I tune my strain
                To join with those,
Who boldly daur thy cause maintain
                In spite o’ foes:

In spite o’ crowds, in spite o’ mobs,
In spite of undermining jobs,
In spite o’ dark banditti stabs
                At worth an’ merit,
By scoundrels, even wi’ holy robes,
                But hellish spirit.

O Ayr! my dear, my native ground,
Within thy presbyterial bound
A candid lib’ral band is found
                Of public teachers,
As men, as Christians too, renown’d,
                An’ manly preachers.

Sir, in that circle you are nam’d;
Sir, in that circle you are fam’d;
An’ some, by whom your doctrine’s blam’d,
                (Which gies you honour,)
Even Sir, by them your heart’s esteem’d,
                An’ winning manner.

Pardon this freedom I have ta’en,
An’ if impertinent I’ve been,
Impute it not, good Sir, in ane
                Whase heart ne’er wrang’d ye,
But to his utmost would befriend

                Ought that belang’d ye.


* Gavin Hamilton, Esq.

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