The Five Carlins (Poem by Robert Burns)

 Old Poem




The Five Carlins
A Scots Ballad
By Robert Burns


There were five carlins in the south,
    They fell upon a scheme,
To send a lad to London town,
    To bring them tidings hame.

Not only bring them tidings hame,
    But do their errands there;
And aiblins gowd and honour baith
    Might be that laddie’s share.

There was Maggy by the banks o’ Nith,
    A dame wi’ pride eneugh;
And Marjory o’ the mony lochs,
    A carlin auld and teugh.

And blinkin’ Bess of Annandale,
    That dwelt near Solway-side;
And whiskey Jean, that took her gill
    In Galloway sae wide.

And black Joan, frae Crighton-peel,
    O’ gipsey kith an’ kin; — 
Five wighter carlins were na found
    The south countrie within.

To send a lad to London town,
    They met upon a day;
And mony a knight, and mony a laird,
    This errand fain wad gae.

O mony a knight, and mony a laird,
    This errand fain wad gae;
But nae ane could their fancy please,
    O ne’er a ane but twae.

The first ane was a belted knight,
    Bred of a border band;
And he wad gae to London town,
    Might nae man him withstand.

And he wad do their errands weel,
    And meikle he wad say;
And ilka ane about the court
    Wad bid to him gude-day.

The neist cam in a sodger youth,
    And spak wi’ modest grace,
And he wad gae to London town,
    If sae their pleasure was.

He wad na hecht them courtly gifts,
    Nor meikle speech pretend;
But he wad hecht an honest heart,
    Wad ne’er desert his friend.

Then wham to chuse, and wham refuse,
    At strife thir carlins fell;
For some had gentlefolks to please,
    And some wad please themsel’.

Then out spak mim-mou’d Meg o’ Nith,
    And she spak up wi’ pride,
And she wad send the sodger youth,
    Whatever might betide.

For the auld gudeman o’ London court
    She didna care a pin;
But she wad send the sodger youth
    To greet his eldest son.

Then slow raise Marjory o’ the Lochs
    And wrinkled was her brow;
Her ancient weed was russet gray,
    Her auld Scotch heart was true.

“The London court set light by me — 
    I set as light by them;
And I wilt send the sodger lad
    To shaw that court the same.”

Then up sprang Bess of Annandale,
    And swore a deadly aith,
Says, “I will send the border-knight
    Spite o’ you carlins baith.

“For far-off fowls hae feathers fair,
    And fools o’ change are fain;
But I hae try’d this border-knight,
    I’ll try him yet again.”

Then whiskey Jean spak o’er her drink,
    “Ye weel ken, kimmersa’,
The auld gudeman o’ London court,
    His back’s been at the wa’.

“And mony a friend that kiss’d his caup,
    Is now a fremit wight;
But it’s ne’er be sae wi’ whiskey Jean, — 
    We’ll send the border-knight.”

Says black Joan o’ Crighton-peel,
    A carlin stoor and grim, — 
“The auld gudeman, or the young gudeman,
    For me may sink or swim.

“For fools will prate o’ right and wrang,
    While knaves laugh in their sleeve;
But wha blaws best the horn shall win,
    I’ll spier nae courtier’s leave.”

So how this mighty plea may end
    There’s naebody can tell:
God grant the king, and ilka man,
    May look weel to himsel’!

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