The Twa Dogs - A Tale

An original manuscript written by Robert Burns.  This poem appeared in Burns' first published book 'The Kilmarnock Edition'.   The Twa Dogs 'Twas in that place o' Scotland's isle, That bears the name o' auld king Coil, Upon a bonie day in June, When wearing thro' the afternoon, Twa Dogs, that were na thrang at hame, Forgather'd ance upon a time. The first I'll name, they ca'd him Caesar, Was keepet for His Honor's pleasure; His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs, Shew'd he was nane o' Scotland's dogs, But whalpet some place far abroad, Where sailors gang to fish for Cod. His locked, letter'd, braw brass-collar Shew'd him the gentleman an' scholar; But tho' he was o' high degree, The fient a pride na pride had he, But wad hae spent an hour caressan, Ev'n wi' a Tinkler-gipsey's messan: At Kirk or Market, Mill or Smiddie, Nae tawted tyke, tho' e'er sae duddie, But he wad stan't as glad to see him, An' stroan't on stanes an' hillocks wi' him. The tither was a ploughman's collie, A rhyming, ranting, raving billie, Wha for his friend an' comrade had him, And in his freaks had Luath ca'd him, After some dog in Highland sang, Was made lang syne, lord knows how lang. He was a gash an' faithfu' tyke, As ever lap a sheugh or dyke, His honest, sonsie, baws'nt face, Ay gat him friends in ilka place; His breast was white, his towzie back, Weel clad wi' coat o' glossy black; His gawsie tail, wi' upward curl, Hung owre his hurdles wi' a swirl. Nae doubt but they were fain o' ither, An ' unco pack an' thick thegither; Wi' social node whyles snuff'd an' snowket; Whyles mice and modewurks they howket; Whyles scour'd awa in lang excursion, An' worry'd ither in diversion; Till tir'd at last wi' mony a farce, They set them down upon their arse, An' there began a lang digression About the lords o' the creation. Caesar I've aften wonder'd, honest Luath, What sort o' life poor dogs like you have; An' when the gentry's life I saw, What way poor bodies liv'd ava. Our Laird gets in his racjed rents, His coals, his kane, an' a' his stents: He rises when he likes himsel; His flunkies answer at the bell; He ca's his coach; he ca's his horse; He draws a bonie, silken purse As lang's my tail, whare thro' the steeks, The yellow letter'd Geordie keeks. Frae morn to een it's nought but toiling, At baking, roasting, frying, boiling; An' tho' the gentry first are steghan, Yet ev'n the ha' folk fill their peghan Wi' sauce, ragouts, an' sic like trashtrie, That's little short o'd downright wastrie. Our Whipper-in, wee, blastet wonner, Poor, worthless elf, it eats a dinner, Better than ony Tenant-man His Honor has in a' the lan'; An' what poor Cot-folk pit their painch in, I own it's past my comprehension. Lauth Trowth, Caesar, whyles their fash't enough; A Cotter howkan in a sheugh, Wi' dirty stanes biggan a dyke, Bairan a quarry, an' sic like, Himsel, a wife, he thus sustains, A smytrie o' wee, duddie weans, An' nought but his han'-daurk, to keep Them right an' tight in thack an' raep. An' when they meet wi' sair disasters, Like loss o' health or want o' masters, Ye maist wad think, a wee touch langer, An' they maun starve o' cauld and hunger; But how it comes, I never kent yet, They're maistly wonderfu' contented; An' buirdly chiels, and clever hizzies, Are bred in sic a way as this is. Caesar But then, to see how ye're negleket, How huff'd, an' cuff'd, an' disrespeket! Lord man, our gentry care as little For delvers, ditchers, an' sic cattle; They gang as saucy by poor folk, As I wad by a stinkan brock. I've notic'd, on our Laird's court-day, An' mony a time my heart's been wae, Poor tenant bodies, scant o' cash, How they maun thole a factor's snash; He'll stamp an' threaten, curse an' swear, He'll apprehend them, poind their gear; While they maun stan', wi' aspect humble, An' hear it a', an' fear an' tremble! I see how folk live that hae riches; But surely poor-folk maun be wretches! Luath They're no sae wretched's ane wad think; Tho's constantly on pootith's brink, They're sae accustom'd wi' the sight, The view o't gies them little fright. Then chance and fortune are sae guided, They're ay in less or mair provided; An' tho' fatigu'd wi' close employment, A blink o' rest's a sweet enjoyment. The dearest comfort o' their lives, Their grushie weans an' faithfu' wives; The prattling things are just their pride, That sweetens a' their fire side. An' whyles twalpennie-worth o' nappy Can mak the bodies unco happy; They lay aside their private cares, To mind the Kirk and State affairs; They'll talk o' patronage an' priests, Wi' kindling fury i' their breasts, Or tell what new taxation's comin, An' ferlie at the folk in LON'ON. As bleak-fac'd Hallowmass returns, They get the jovial, rantan Kirns, When rural life, of ev'ry station, Unite in common recreation; Love blinks, Wit slaps, an' social Mirth Forgets there's care upo' the earth. That merry day the year begins, They bar the door on frosty win's; The nappy reeks wi' mantling ream, A' sheds a heart-inspiring steam; The luntan pip, an' sneeshin mill, Are handed round wi' right guid will; The cantle, auld folks, crackan crouse, The young anes rantan thro' the house- My heart has been sae fain to see them, That I for joy hae barket wi' them. Still it's owre true that ye hae said, Sic game is now owre aften play'd; There's monie a creditable stock, O' decent, honest, fawsont folk, Are riven out baith root an' branch, Some rascal's pridefu' greed to quench, Wha thinks to knit himsel the faster In favor wi' some gentle Master, What aiblins thrang a parliamentin, For Britain's guid his saul indentin- Caesar Haith lad ye little ken about it; For Britain's guid! guid faith! I doubt it. Say rather, gaun as PREMIERS lead him, An' saying aye or no's they bid him: At Operas an' Plays parading, Mortgaging, gambling, nasquerading: Or maybe, in a frolic daft, To HAGUE or CALAIS takes a waft, To make a tour an' tak a whirl, To learn bon ton an' see the worl'. There, at VIENNA or VERSAILLES. He rives his father's auld entails; Or by MADRID he takes the rout, To thrum guittars an' fecht wi' nowt; Or down Italian Vista startles, Whore-hunting amang groves o' myrtles: Then browses drumlie German-water, To mak himsel look fair and fatter, And clear the consequential sorrows, Love-gifts of Carnival signoras. For Britian's gude! for her destrcution! Wi' dissipation, feud, an' faction! Luath Hech man! dear sirs! is that the gate, They waste sae mony a braw estate! Are we sau foughten and harass'd For gear to gang that gate at last! O would they stay aback frae courts, An' please themsels wi' countra' sports, It wad for ev'ry ane be better, The Laird, the Tenant, an' the Cotter! For thae frank, rantan, ramblan billies, Fient haet o' them's ill hearted fellows; Except for breakin o' their timmer, Or speakin lightly o' their Limmer. Or shootin of a hare or moorcock, The na'er-a-bit they're ill to poor folk. But will ye tell me, master Caesar, Sure great folk's life's a life o' pleasure? Nae cauld nor hunger e'er can steer them, The vera thought o't need na fear them. Caesar Lord man, were ye but whyles where I am, The gentles ye wad ne'er envy them! It's true, they need na starve or sweat, Thro' Winter's cauld, or Summer's heat; They've nae sair-wark to craze their banes, An' fill auld-age wi' gripes an' granes; But human-bodies are sic fools, For a' their colledges an' schools, That when nae real ills perplex them, They mak enow themsels to vex them; An' ay the less they hae to sturt them, In like proportion, less will hurt them. A country fellow at the pleugh, His acre's till'd, he's right eneugh; A country girl at her wheel, Her dizzen's done, she's unco weel; But Gentlemen, an' Ladies warst, Wi' ev'n down want o' wark are curst. They loiter, lounging, lank an' lazy; Tho' deil-haet ails them, yet uneasy; Their days, insipid, dull an' tasteless, Their nights, unquiet, lang an' restless. An' ev'n their sports, their balls an' races, Their galloping thro' public places, There's sic parade, sic pomp an' art, The joy can scarcely reach the heart. The Men cast out in party-matches, Tehn sowther a' in deep debaunches. Ae night, they're mad wi' drink an' whoring, Niest day their life is past enduring. The Ladies arm-in-arm in clusters, As great an' gracious a' as sisters; But hear their absent thoughts o' ither They're a' run deils an' jads thegither Whyles, owre the wee bit cup an' platie, They sip the scandal-potion pretty; Or lee-lang nights, wi' crabbet leuks, Pore owre the devil's pictur'd beuks; Stake on a chance a farmer;s stackyard. There's some exceptions, man an' woman; But this is Gentry's life in common. By this, the sun was out o' sight, An' darker gloamin brought the night: The bum-clock humm'd wi' lazy drone, The kye stood rowtan i' the loan; When up they gat an' shook their ligs, Rejoic'd they were na men but dogs; An' each took off his several way, Resolv'd to meet some ither day.   Part of the James McKie Collection
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EADO123a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h
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Robert Burns
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East Ayrshire Council
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