EVEN the wandering poor were to the poet a heavy tax; he allowed no one to go past his door without a halfpenny or a handful of meal. He was kind to such helpless creatures as were weak in mind and saunter harmlessly about. A poor half-mad creature – the Madge Wildfire, it is said, of Scott – always found a mouthful ready for her at the bard’s fireside; nor was he unkind to a crazy and tippling prodigal named Quin.
“Jamie,” said the poet one day as he gave him a penny, “you should pray to be turned from the evil of your ways; you are ready to run now to melt that into whisky.”
“Turn,” said Jamie, who was a wit in his way, “I wish some one would turn me into the worm o’ Will Hyslop’s whisky still, that the drink might run continually through me.”
“Well said, Jamie,” answered the poet, “you shall have a glass of whisky once a week for that if you come sober for it.”
A friend rallied Burns for indulging such creatures.
“You don’t understand,” said he, “they are poets; they have the madness of the muse, and all they want it the inspiration – a mere trifle!”