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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