‘Tam O’ Shanter’, Vol.1, pp.278-287.

A TALE

Of Brownyis and of Bogillis full is this Buke.
                                                        GAWIN DOUGLAS.

 

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WHEN chapman billies leave the street,                   pedlar fellows 
And drouthy neebors neebors meet;                         thirsty 
As market-days are wearing late, 
An’ folk begin to tak the gate;                                     road 
While we sit bousing at the nappy,                            ale 
An’ getting fou and unco happy,                                full; mighty 
We think na on the lang Scots miles,                         not 
The mosses, waters, slaps, and styles,                        bogs; pools; breaches; stiles 
That lie between us and our hame,  
Whare sits our sulky, sullen dame, 
Gathering her brows like gathering storm, 
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm. 
 
     This truth fand honest Tam o’ Shanter,                found 
As he frae Ayr ae night did canter:                            one 
(Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a town surpasses, 
For honest men and bonie lasses). 
 
     O Tam, had’st thou but been sae wise, 
As taen thy ain wife Kate’s advice!                            to have taken 
She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,                   good for nothing 
A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum;              chattering; babbler 
That frae November till October, 
Ae market-day thou was nae sober; 
That ilka melder wi’ the miller,                                   meal-grinding 
Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;                            money 
That ev’ry naig was ca’d a shoe on,                            called 
The smith and thee gat roarig fou o; 
That at the Lord’s house, even on Sunday, 
Thou drank wi’ Kirkton Jean till Monday. 
She prophesied, that, late or soon, 
Thou would be found deep drown’d in Doon, 
Or catch’d wi’ warlocks in the mirk                          wizards; dark 
By Alloway’s auld, haunted kirk. 
 
     Ah! gentle dames, it gars me greet,                        makes; weep 
To think how monie counsels sweet, 
How monie lengthen’d, sage advices 
The husband frae the wife despises! 
 
     But to our tale:- Ae market-night, 
Tam had got planted unco right,                                uncommonly 
Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely, 
Wi’ reaming swats, that drank divinely;                   foaming new ale 
And at his elbow, Souter Johnie,                               Cobbler 
His ancient, trusty, drouthy cronie: 
Tam lo’ed him like a very brither; 
They had been fou for weeks thegither. 
The night drave on wi’ sangs and clatter; 
And ay the ale was growing better: 
The landlady and Tam grew gracious 
Wi’ secret favours, sweet and precious: 
The Souter tauld his queerest stories; 
The landlord’s laugh was ready chorus: 
The storm without might rair and rustle,                 roar 
Tam did na mind the storm a whistle. 
 
     Care, mad to see a man sae happy, 
E’en drown’d himsel amang the nappy. 
As bees flee hame wi’ lades o’ treasure, 
The minutes wing’d their way wi’ pleasure: 
Kings may be blest but Tam was glorious, 
O’er a’ the ills o’ life victorious! 
 
     But pleasures are like poppies spread: 
You seize the flow’r, its bloom is shed; 
Or like the snow falls in the river,                            [Notes
A moment white – then melts for ever; 
Or like th borealis race, 
That flit ere you can point their place; 
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form 
Evanishing amid the storm. 
Nae man can tether time or tide; 
The hour approaches Tam maun ride:                      must 
That hour, o’ night’s black arch the key-stane, 
That dreary hour Tam mounts his beast in; 
And sic a night he taks the road in, 
As ne’er poor sinner was abroad in. 
 
     The wind blew as ‘twad blawn its last;                would have 
The rattling showers rose on the blast; 
The speedy gleams the darkness swallow’d; 
Loud, deep, and lang the thunder bellow’d: 
That night, a child might understand, 
The Deil had business on his hand. 
 
     Weel mounted on his gray mare Meg, 
A better never lifted leg, 
Tam skelpit on thro’ dub and mire,                           spanked; puddle 
Despising wind, and rain, and fire; 
Whiles holding fast his guid blue bonnet,               Now 
Whiles crooning o’er some auld Scots sonnet,        song 
Whiles glow’ring round wi’ prudent cares,              staring 
Lest bogles catch him unawares:                                bogies 
Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh, 
Whare ghaists and houlets nightly cry.                    owls 
 
    By this time he was cross the ford,                        across 
Whare in the snaw the chapman smoor’d;              smothered 
And past the birks and meikle stane,                        birches; big 
Whare drunken Charlie brak ‘s neck-bane; 
And thro’ the whins, and by the cairn,                    furze; pile of stones 
Whare hunters fand the murder’d bairn; 
And near the thorn, aboon the well,                         above 
Whare Mungo’s mither hang’d hersel. 
Before him Doon pours all his floods; 
The doubling storm roars thro’ the woods; 
The lightnings flash from pole to pole; 
Near and more near the thunders roll: 
When, glimmering thro’ the groaning trees, 
Kirk-Alloway seem’d in a bleeze, 
Thro’ ilka bore the beams were glancing,                   every chink 
And loud resounded mirth and dancing.

 

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     Inspiring bold John Barleycorn, 
What dangers thou canst make us scorn! 
Wi’ tippenny, we fear nae evil;                                   ale 
Wi’ usquabae, we’ll face the Devil!                            whisky                
The swats sae ream’d in Tammie’s noddle, 
Fair play, he car’d na deils a boddle.                          not; farthing 
But Maggie stood, right sair astonish’d, 
Till, by the heel and hand admonish’d, 
She ventur’d forward on the light; 
And, vow! Tam saw an unco sight!                             wondrous 
 
     Warlocks and witches in a dance; 
Nae cotillion, brent new frae France,                         brand [Notes
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels, 
Put life and mettle in their heels. 
A winnock-bunker in the east,                                   window-seat 
there sat Auld Nick, in shape o’ beast; 
A tousie tyke, black, grim, and large,                         shaggy dog 
To gie them music was his charge: 
He screw’d the pipes and gart them skirl,                  squeal 
Till roof and rafters a’ did dirl.                                   ring 
Coffins stood round, like open presses,                    cupboards 
That shaw’d the dead in their last dresses; 
And, by some devilish cantraip sleight,                     magic device 
Each in its cauld hand held a light: 
By which heroic Tam was able 
To note upon the haly table, 
A murderer’s banes, in gibbet-airns;                         -irons 
Twa span-lang, wee, unchristen’d bairns; 
A thief new-cutted frae a rape – 
Wi’ his last gasp his gab did gape;                              mouth 
Five tomahawks wi’ bluid red-rusted; 
Five scymitars wi’ murder crusted; 
A garter which a babe had strangled; 
A knife a father’s throat had mangled – 
Whom his ain son o’ life bereft – 
The grey-hairs yet stuack to the heft; 
Wi’ mair of horrible and awefu’, 
Which even to name wad be unlawfu’. 
 
     As Tammie glowr’d, amaz’d, and curious,            stared 
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious; 
The piper loud and louder blew, 
The dancers quick and quicker flew, 
They reel’d, they set, they cross’d, they cleekit,        took hold 
Till ilka carlin swat and reekit,                                    beldam sweated; steamed 
And coost her duddies to the wark,                           rags 
And linket at it in her sark!                                          tripped 
 
     Now Tam. O Tam! had thae been queans,             these 
A’ plump and strapping in their teens! 
Their sarks, instead o’ creeshie flannen,                     greasy 
Been snaw-white seventeen hunder linen! –              [Notes] 
Thir breeks o’ mine, my only pair,                              These 
That ance were plush, o’ guid blue hair, 
I wad hae gi’en them off my hurdies                          buttocks 
For ae blink o’ the bonie burdies!                               maidens 
 
     But wither’d beldams, auld and droll, 
Rigwoodie hags wad spean a foal,                              [Notes] wean 
Louping and flinging on a crummock,                       leaping; kicking; cudgel 
I wonder did na turn thy stomach!  
 
     But Tam kend what was what fu’ brawlie:             well 
There was ae winsome wench and wawlie,                 comely; choice 
That night enlisted in the core,                                    company 
Lang after jend on Carrick shore 
(For monie a beast to dead she shot,                           death 
An’ perish’d monie a bonie boat, 
And shook baith meikle corn and bear,                      much; barley 
And kept the country-side in fear). 
Her cutty sark, o’ Paisley harn,                                   short shift; coarse cloth 
That while a lassie she had worn, 
In longitude tho’ sorely scanty, 
It was her best, and she was vauntie…                        proud 
Ah! little kend thy reverend grannie, 
That sark she coft for her wee Nannie,                      bought 
Wi’ twa pund Scots (‘twas a’ her riches), 
Wad ever grac’d a dance of witches!                          Would have 
 
     But here my Muse her wing maun cour,               stoop 
Sic flights are far beyond her power: 
To sing how Nannie lap and flang                               leaped; kicked 
(A souple jad she was and strang), 
And how Tam stood like ane bewitch’d, 
And thought his very een enrich’d; 
Even Satan glowr’d, and fidg’d fu’ fain,                     fidgeted; fond 
And hotch’d and blew wi’ might and main;                jerked 
Till first aw caper, syne anither,                                  then 
Tam tint his reason a’ thegither,                                   lost 
And roars out: ‘Weel done, Cutty-sark!’ 
And in an instant all was dark; 
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied, 
When out the hellish legion sallied. 
 
     As bees bizz out wi’ angry fyke,                            fret 
When plundering herds assail their byke;                 [Notes]; hive 
As open pussie’s mortal foes,                                      the hare’s 
When, pop! she starts before their nose; 
As eager runs the market-crowd, 
When ‘Catch the thief!’ resounds aloud: 
So Maggie runs, the witches follow, 
Wi’ monie an eldritch skriech and hollo.                   unearthly 
 
     Ah, Tam! Ah, Tam! thou’ll get thy fairin!               [Notes
In hell they’ll roast thee like a herrin! 
In vain thy Kate awaits thy comin! 
Kate soon will be a woefu’ woman! 
Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg, 
And win the key-stane of the brig;                            [Notes
There, at them thou thy tail may toss, 
A running stream they dare na cross! 
But ere the key-stane she could make, 
The fient a tail she had to shake;                                 devil 
For Nannie, far before the rest, 
Hard upon noble Maggie prest, 
And flew at Tam wi’ furious ettle;                               aim 
But little wist she Maggie’s mettle! 
Ae spring brought off her master hale,                       whole 
But left behind her ain grey tail: 
The carlin claught her by the rump,                            seized 
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump. 
 
     Now, wha this tale o’ truth shall read, 
Ilk man, and mother’s son, take heed: 
Whene’er to drink you are inclin’d, 
Or cutty sarks run in your mind, 
Think! ye may buy the joys o’er dear: 
Remember Tam o’ Shanter’s mare.

 

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