Auld Reikie -

Auld Reikie, wale o' ilka town

That Scotland kens beneath the moon!

Whare couthy chiels at e'ening meet

Their bizzing craigs and mous to weet;

And blythly gar auld care gae by

Wi' blinkit and wi' bleering eye:

O'er lang frae thee the Muse has been

Sae frisky on the simmer's green,

Whan flowers and gowans wont to glent

In bonny blinks upo' the bent;

But now the leaves o' yellow dye,

Peel'd frae the branches, quickly fly;

And now frae nouther bush nor brier

The spreckl'd mavis greets your ear;

Nor bonny blackbird skims and roves

To seek his love in yonder groves.

Then Reikie, welcome! Thou canst charm

Unfleggit by the year's alarm;

Not Boreas, that sae snelly blows,

Dare here pap in his angry nose:

Thanks to our dads, whase biggin stands

A shelter to surrounding lands.

Now morn, wi' bonny purple smiles,

Kisses the air-cock o' St. Giles;

Rakin their ein, the servant lasses

Early begin their lies and clashes;

Ilk tells her friend o' saddest distress,

That still she brooks frae scawling mistress,

And wi' her joe in turnpike stair

She'd rather snuff the stinking air,

As be subjected to her tongue,

When justly censur'd i' the wrong.

On stair wi' tub, or pat in hand,

The barefoot housemaids loe to stand,

That antrin fock may ken how snell

Auld Reikie will at morning smell:

Then, with an inundation big as

The burn that 'neath the Nor Loch brig is,

They kindly shower Edina's roses,

To quicken and regale our noses.

Now some for this, wi' satire's leesh,

Hae gi'en auld Edinbrough a creesh:

But without souring nocht is sweet;

The morning smells that hail our street,

Prepare and gently lead the way

To simmer canty, braw and gay:

Edina's sons mair eithly share

Her spices and her dainties rare,

Than he that's never yet been call'd

Aff frae his plaidie or his fauld.

Now stair-head critics, senseless fools,

Censure their aim, and pride their rules,

In Luckenbooths wi' glouring eye,

Their neighbours sma'est fauts descry:

If ony loun shou'd dander there,

O' aukward gate, and foreign air:

They trace his steps, till they can tell

His pedigree as weel's himsell.

Whan Phaebus blinks wi' warmer ray,

And schools at noon-day get the play,

Then, bus'ness, weighty bus'ness, comes,

The trader glours; he doubts, he hums:

The lawyers eke to cross repair,

Their wings to shaw, and toss an air:

While busy agent closely plies,

And a' his kittle cases tries.

Now night, that's cunzied chief for fun,

Is wi' her usual rites begun;

Thro' ilka gate the torches blaze,

And globes send out their blinkin rays.

The usefu' cadie plies in street,

To bide the profits o' his feet;

For by thir lads Auld Reikie's fock

Ken but a sample o' the stock

O' thieves, that nightly wad oppress,

And mak baith goods and gear the less.

Near him the lazy chairman stands,

And wats na how to turn his hands;

Till some daft birky, ranting fu',

Has matters somewhare else to do;

The chairman willing gi'es his light

To deeds o' darkness and o' night.

It's never saxpence for a lift

That gars thir lads wi' fu'ness rift;

For they wi' better gear are paid,

And whores and culls support their trade.

Near some lamp-post, wi' dowy face,

Wi' heavy ein, and sour grimace,

Stands she that beauty lang had kend,

Whoredom her trade, and vice her end.

But see whare now she wins her bread

By that which Nature ne'er decreed;

And vicious ditties sings to please

Fell Dissipation's votaries.

Whane'er we reputation lose,

Fair chastity's transparent gloss!

Redemption seenil kens the name,

But a's black misery and shame.

Frae joyous tavern, reeling drunk,

Wi' fiery phiz, and ein half sunk,

Behad the bruiser, fae to a'

That in the reek o' gardies fa'

Close by his side, a feckless race

O' macaronies shaw their face,

And think they're free frae skaith or harm,

While pith befriends their leader's arm:

Yet fearfu' aften o' their maught,

They quit the glory o' the faught

To this same warrior wha led

Thae heroes to bright honour's bed;

And aft the hack o' honour shines

In bruiser's face wi' broken lines:

O' them sad tales he tells anon,

Whan ramble and whan fighting's done;

And, like Hectorian, ne'er impairs

The brag and glory o' his sairs.

Whan feet in dirty gutters plash,

And fock to wale their fitstaps fash;

At night the macaroni drunk,

In pools and gutters aftimes sunk:

Hegh! what a fright he now appears,

Whan he his corpse dejected rears!

Look at that head, and think if there

The pomet slaister'd up his hair!

The cheeks observe, where now cou'd shine

The scansing glories o' carmine!

Ah, legs! in vain the silk-worm there

Display'd to view her eident care;

For stink, instead of perfumes, grow,

And clarty odours fragrant flow.

Now some to porter, some to punch,

Some to their wife, and some their wench,

Retire, while noisy ten-hours' drum

Gars a' your trades gae dand'ring home.

Now mony a club, jocose and free,

Gie a' to merriment and glee:

Wi' sang and glass, they fley the pow'r

O' care that wad harrass the hour:

For wine and Bacchus still bear down

Our thrawart fortune's wildest frown;

It maks you stark, and bauld, and brave,

E'en whan descending to the grave.

Now some, in Pandemonium's shade,

Resume the gormandizing trade;

Whare eager looks, and glancing ein,

Forspeak a heart and stamack keen.

Gang on, my lads; it's lang sin syne

We kent auld Epicurus' line;

Save you the board wad cease to rise,

Bedight with daintiths to the skies;

And salamanders cease to swill

The comforts o' a burning gill.

But chief, O Cape! we crave thy aid,

To get our cares and poortith laid:

Sincerity, and genius true,

O' knights have never been the due:

Mirth, music, porter deepest dy'd,

Are never here to worth deny'd;

And health, o' happiness to the queen,

Blinks bonny, wi' her smile serene.

Tho' joy maist part Auld Reikie owns,

Eftsoons she kens sad sorrow's frowns:

What groupe is yon sae dismal, grim,

Wi' horrid aspect, cleeding dim?

Says Death they're mine, a dowy crew,

To me they'll quickly pay their last adieu.

How come mankind, whan lacking woe,

In Saulie's face their hearts to show,

As if they were a clock to tell

That grief in them had rung her bell?

Then, what is man? why a' this phrase?

Life's spunk decay'd nae mair can blaze.

Let sober grief alane declare

Our fond anxiety and care;

Nor let the undertakers be.

The only waefu' friends we see.

Come on, my Muse, and then rehearse

The gloomiest theme in a' your verse;

In mornings when ane keeks about,

Fu' blythe and free frae ail, nae doubt

He lippens na to be misled

Amang the regions o' the dead:

But straight a painted corp he sees,

Lang streekit neath its canopies.

Soon, soon will this his mirth controul,

And send d — — n to his soul:

Or whan the dead-dale, (awfu' shape!)

Makes frighted mankind girh an' gape,

Reflection than his reason sours,

For the neist dead-dale may be ours.

When Sybil led the Trojan down

To haggard Pluto's dreary town,

Shapes war nor thae, I freely ween,

Cou'd never meet the sogers' cin.

If kail sae green, or herbs, delight,

Edina's street attracts the sight;

Not Covent-garden, clad sae braw,

Mair fouth o' herbs can eithly shaw:

For mony a yard is here sair sought,

That kail and cabbage may be bought,

And healthfu' sallad to regale,

Whan pamper'd wi' a heavy meal.

Glowr up the street at simmer morn,

The birk sae green, and sweet-brier thorn,

Wi' spraingit flow'rs that scent the gale,

Ca' far awa the morning smell,

Wi' which our ladies' flow'r-pats fill'd,

And every noxious vapour kill'd.

O nature! canty, blythe and free,

Whare is there keeking-glass like thee?

Is there on earth that can compare

Wi' Mary's shape and Mary's air,

Save the empurpl'd speck that grows

In the saft faulds o' yonder rose?

How bonny seems the virgin breast,

Whan by the lilies here carest,

And leaves the mind in doubt to tell

Which maist in sweets and hue excel?

Gillespie's snuff shou'd prime the nose

O' her that to the market goes,

If she wad like to shun the smells

That buoy up frae market cells;

Whare wames o' painches sav'ry scent

To nostrils gie great discontent.

Now wha in Albion could expect

O' cleanliness sic great neglect?

Nae Hottentot that daily lairs

'Mang tripe and ither dirty wares,

Hath ever yet conceiv'd, or seen

Beyond the line, sic scenes unclean.

On Sunday here, an alter'd scene

O' men and manners meets our ein;

Ane wad maist trow some people chose

To change their faces wi' their clo'es,

And fain wad gar ilk neighbour think

They thirst for goodness as for drink;

But there's an unco dearth o' grace,

That has nae mansion but the face;

And never can obtain a part

In benmost corner o' the heart.

Why shou'd religion mak us sad,

If good frae Virtue's to be had?

Na, rather gleefu' turn your face;

Forsake hypocrisy, grimace;

And never hae it understood

You fleg mankind frae being good.

In afternoon, a' brawly buskit,

The joes and lasses loe to frisk it:

Some tak a great delight to place

The modest bon-grace o'er the face;

Tho' you may see, if so inclin'd,

The turning o' the leg behind.

Now Comely-garden, and the Park,

Refresh them, after forenoon's wark;

Newhaven, Leith, or Canon-mills,

Supply them in their Sunday's gills:

Whare writers aften spend their pence,

To stock their heads wi' drink an' sense.

While dand'ring cits delight to stray

To Castlehill, or public way,

Whare they nae other purpose mean,

Than that foul cause o' being seen;

Let me to Arthur's Seat pursue,

Whare bonny pastures meet the view;

And mony a wild-lorn scene accrues,

Befitting Willie Shakespeare's muse:

If Fancy there would join the thrang,

The desert rocks and hills amang,

To echoes we should lilt and play,

And gie to Mirth the live-lang day.

Or shou'd some canker'd biting show'r

The day and a' her sweets deflow'r,

To Holyrood-house let me stray,

And gie to musing a' the day;

Lamenting what auld Scotland knew

Bien days for ever frae her view:

O Hamilton, for shame! the Muse

Wad pay to thee her couthy vows

Gin ye wad tent the humble strain,

And gie's our dignity again:

For O, waes me! the thistle springs

In domicile o' ancient kings,

Without a patriot to regret

Our palace and our ancient state,

Blest place whare debtors daily run,

To rid themsels frae jail and dun;

Here, tho' sequester'd frae the din

That rings Auld Reikie's wa's within,

Yet they may tread the sunny braes,

And brook Apollo's cheary rays;

Glowr frae St. Anthon's graffy height,

O'er vales in simmer claise bedight,

Nor ever hing their head, I ween,

Wi' jealous fear o' being seen.

May I, whanever duns come nigh,

And shake my garret wi' their cry,

Scour here wi' haste, protection get,

To screen mysel' frae them and debt;

To breathe the bliss o' open sky,

And Simon Fraser's bolts defy.

Now gin a lown should hae his claise

In thread-bare autumn o' their days,

St. Mary, broker's guardian saint,

Will satisfy ilk ail and want;

For mony a hungry writer there

Dives down at night wi' cleeding bare,

And quickly rises to the view

A gentleman perfyte and new.

Ye rich fock; look na wi' disdain

Upo' this ancient brokage lane!

For naked poets are supply'd

With what you to their wants deny'd.

Peace to thy shade, thou wale o' men,

Drummond! relief to poortith's pain:

To thee the greatest bliss we owe,

And tribute's tear shall grateful flow:

The sick are cur'd, the hungry fed,

And dreams o' comfort tend their bed.

As lang as Forth weets Lothian's shore,

As lang's on Fife her billows roar,

Sae lang shall ilk whase country's dear,

To thy remembrance gie a tear.

By thee Auld Reikie thrave and grew

Delightfu' to her childer's view:

Nae mair shall Glasgow striplins threep

Their city's beauty and its shape,

While our new city spreads around

Her bonny wings on fairy ground.

But Provosts now that ne'er afford

The sma'est dignity to lord,

Ne'er care tho' ev'ry scheme gae wild

That Drummond's sacred hand has cull'd:

The spacious Brig neglected lies,

Tho' plagu'd wi' pamphlets, dunn'd wi' cries,

They heed not tho' destruction come

To gulp us in her gaunting womb.

O shame! that safety canna claim

Protection from a provost's name,

But hidden danger lies behind

To torture and to fleg the mind;

I may as weel bid Arthur's Seat

To Berwick-Law mak gleg retreat,

As think that either will or art

Shall get the gate to win their heart;

For politics are a' their mark,

Bribes latent, and corruption dark;

If they can eithly turn the pence,

Wi' city's good they will dispense;

Nor care tho' a' her sons were lair'd

Ten fathom i' the auld kirk-yard.

To sing yet meikle does remain,

Undecent for a modest strain;

And sin' the poet's daily bread is,

The favour o' the Muse or ladies,

He downa like to gie offence

To delicacy's bonny sense;

Therefore the stews remain unsung,

And bawds in silence drap their tongue.

Reikie, farewel! I ne'er cou'd part

Wi' thee but wi' a dowy heart;

Aft frae the Fifan coast I've seen

Thee tow'ring on thy summit green,

So glowr the saints when first is given

A fav'rite keek o' glore and heaven;

On earth nae mair they bend their ein,

But quick assume angelic mien;

So I on Fife wad glowr no more,

But gallop'd to Edina's shore.

Rate this poem: 

Reviews

No reviews yet.