Scots and others who appreciate things tartan, including Robert Burns, will be celebrating the 250th anniversary of the Scottish bard’s birthday on Sunday.
That prompted this choice for Friday’s poem.
It’s To a Louse and the last verse is oft quoted, for very good reason.
I found it in The Illustrated Family Burns, published by William Mackenzie. It’s an old book which my father gave me.
To A Louse
Ha! whaur ye gaun , ye crowlin ferlie ?
Your impudence protects you sairly ;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely,
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho’, faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.
Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner ,
Detested, shunn’d by saunt an’ sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her —
Sae fine a lady?
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body .
Swith ! in some beggar’s haffet squattle ;
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle ,
Wi’ ither kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Whaur horn nor bane ne’er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.
Now haud you there, ye’re out o’ sight,
Below the fatt’rels , snug and tight ;
Na , faith ye yet! ye’ll no be right,
Till ye’ve got on it —
The verra tapmost , tow’rin height
O’ Miss’ bonnet.
My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an’ grey as ony groset:
O for some rank, mercurial rozet ,
Or fell , red smeddum ,
I’d gie you sic a hearty dose o’t ,
Wad dress your droddum .
I wad na been surpris’d to spy
You on an auld wife’s flainen toy ;
Or aiblins some bit dubbie boy,
On’s wyliecoat ;
But Miss’ fine Lunardi ! fye!
How daur ye do’t?
O Jenny, dinna toss your head,
An’ set your beauties a’ abread !
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie’s makin:
Thae winks an’ finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin.
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!
– Robert Burns –