A Saturday's Expedition



A T that sweet period of revolving time
When Phœbus lingers not in Thetis lap,
When twinkling stars their feeble influence shed,
And scarcely glimmer thro' th' ethereal vault,
Till Sol again his near approach proclaims,
With ray purpureal, and the blushing form
Of fair Aurora, goddess of the dawn,
Leading the wing'd coursers to the pole,
Of Phœbus' car.—'Twas in that season fair,
When jocund Summer did the meads array
In Flora's rip'ning bloom—that we prepar'd
To break the bond of bus'ness, and to roam
Far from Edina's jarring noise a while.
 Fair smil'd the wak'ning morn on our design,
And we with joy elate our march began
For Leith's fair port, where oft Edina's sons
The week conclude, and in carousal quaff
Port, punch, rum, brandy, and Geneva strong,
Liquors too nervous for the feeble purse.
With all convenient speed we there arriv'd,
Nor had we time to touch at house or hall,
Till from the boat a hollow thund'ring voice
Bellow'd vociferous, and our ears assail'd
With “Ho! Kinghorn, oho! come straight aboard.”
We fail'd not to obey the stern command,
Utter'd with voice as dreadful as the roar,
Of Polyphemus, midst rebounding rocks,
When overcome by sage Ulysses' wiles.
“Hoist up your sails,” the angry skipper cries
While fore and aft the busy sailors run,
And loose th' entangled cordage.—O'er the deep
Zephyrus blows, and hugs our lofty sails,
Which, in obedience to the powerful breeze,
Swell o'er the foaming main, and kiss the wave.
 Now o'er the convex surface of the flood
Precipitate we fly—our foaming prow
Divides the saline stream—on either side
Ridges of yesty surge dilate apace;
But from the poop the waters gently flow,
And undulation for the time decays,
In eddies smoothly floating o'er the main.
 Here let the muse in doleful numbers sing
The woful fate of those whose cruel stars
Have doom'd them subject to the languid powers
Of wat'ry sickness.—Tho' with stomach full
Of juicy beef, of mutton in its prime,
Or all the dainties luxury can boast,
They brave the elements,—yet the rocking bark,
Truly regardless of their precious food,
Converts their visage to the ghastly pale,
And makes the sea partaker of the sweets
On which they sumptuous far'd, and this the cause,
Why those of Scotia's sons whose wealthy store
Hath blest them with a splendid coach and six,
Rather incline to linger on the way,
And cross the river Forth by Stirling bridge,
Than be subjected to the ocean's swell,
To dang'rous ferries, and to sickness dire.
 And now at equal distance shews the land;
Gladly the tars the joyful task pursue
Of gathering in the freight—Debates arise
From counterfeited halfpence—In the hold
The seamen scrutinize and eager peep
Thro' ev'ry corner where their watchful eye
Suspect a lurking place, or dark retreat,
To hide the timid corpse of some poor soul,
Whose scanty purse can scarce one groat afford.
At length we chearful land on Fifan shore,
Where sickness vanishes, and all the ills
Attendant on the passage of Kinghorn.
Our pallid cheeks resume their rosy hue,
And empty stomachs keenly crave supply—
With eager step we reach'd the friendly inn,
Nor did we think of beating our retreat,
Till ev'ry gnawing appetite was quell'd.
 Eastward along the Fifan coast we stray;
And here th' unwearied eye may fondly gaze
O'er all the tufted groves and pointed spires
With which the pleasant banks of Forth are crown'd.
Sweet navigable stream! where Commerce reigns,
Where Peace and jocund Plenty smile serene:
On thy green banks sits Liberty enthron'd,
But not that shadow which the English youth
So eagerly pursue; but freedom bought,
When Caledonia's triumphant sword
Taught the proud sons of Anglia to bemoan,
Their fate at Bannockburn, where thousands came
Never to tread their native soil again.
 Far in a hollow den, where Nature's hand
Had careless strew'd the rocks—a dreadful cave,
Whose concave cieling echo'd to the floods
Their hollow murmurs on the trembling shore,
Demanded our approach.—The yawning porch
Its massy sides disclos'd, and o'er the top
The ivy tendrils twin'd th' uncultur'd fearn:
Fearful we pry into the dreary vault,
Hoary with age, and breathing noxious damps:
Here busy owls may unmolested dwell
In solitary gloom—for few there are
Whose inclination leads them to review
A cell where putrid smells infectious reign.
 Then turning westward, we our course pursue
Along the verge of Fortha's briny flood,
Till we o'ertake the gradual rising dale
Where fair Burntisland rears her rev'rend dome;
And here the vulgar sign-post, painted o'er
With imitations vile of man and horse,
Of small beer frothing o'er th' unshapely jug
With courteous invitation, spoke us fair
To enter in, and taste what precious drops
Were there reserv'd to moisten strangers throats,
Too often parch'd upon the tedious way.
 After regaling here with sober can,
Our limbs we plied, and nimbly measur'd o'er
The hills, the vales, and the extensive plains,
Which form the distance from Burntisland's port
To Inverkeithing. Westward still we went,
Till in the ferry-boat we loll'd at ease;
Nor did we long on Neptune's empire float,
For scarce ten posting minutes were elaps'd
Till we again on Terra Firma stood,
And to M‘L AREN 's march'd where roasted lamb,
With cooling lettice, crown'd our social board.
Here, too, the chearing glass, chief foe to cares!
Went briskly round; and many a virgin fair
Receiv'd our homage in a bumper full.
 Thus having sacrific'd a jocund hour,
To smiling mirth, we quit the happy scene,
And move progressive to Edina's walls.
 Now still returning eve creep'd gradual on,
And the bright sun, as weary of the sky,
Beam'd forth a languid occidental ray;
Whose ruby tinctur'd radiance faintly gleam'd
Upon the airy cliffs and distant spires,
That float on the horizon's utmost verge.
So we with festive joints and ling'ring pace,
Mov'd slowly'on, and did not reach the town
Till Phœbus had unyok'd his prancing steeds.
 Ye sons of Caledonia! who delight,
With all the pomp and pageantry of state,
To roll along in gilded affluence,
For one poor moment wean your thoughts from these.
And list this humble strain.—If you, like us,
Could brave the angry waters, be uprous'd
By the first salutation to the morn
Paid by the watchful cock; or be compell'd
On foot to wander o'er the lonely plain
For twenty tedious miles; then should the gout
With all his racking pangs forsake your frame:
For he delights not to traverse the field,
Or rugged steed, but prides him to recline
On the luxuriance of a velvet fold,
Where indolence on purple sopha lolls.
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