A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle
I amma fou sae muckle as tired deid dune
It's gey and hard wark coupin gless for gless
Wi Cruvie and Gilsanquar and the like,
And I'm no juist as bauld as aince I wes.
The elbuck fankles in the coorse o time,
The sheckle's no sae souple, and the thrapple
Grows deef and dour: nae langer up and doun
Gleg as a squirrel speils the Adam's apple.
Forbye, the stuffie's no the real MacKay.
The sun's sel aince, as sune as ye began it,
Riz in your vera saul: but what keeks in
Noo is in truth the vilest 'saxpenny planet'.
And as the worth's gane doun the cost has
Yin canna thow the cockles o yin's hert
Wi-oot haen cauld feet noo, jalousin what
The wife'll say [I dinna blame her fur't].
It's robbin Peter to pey Paul at least....
And aa that's Scotch aboot it is the name,
Like aa thing else caad Scottish nooadays
- Aa destitute o speerit juist the same.
[To prove my saul is Scots I maun begin
Wi what's still deemed Scots and the folk expect,
And spire up syne by visible degrees
To heichts whereo the fules hae never recked.
But aince I get them there I'll whummle
And souse the craturs in the nether deeps,
- For it's nae choice, and ony man s'ud wish
To dree the goat's wierd tae as weel's the sheep's!]
Heifetz in tartan, and Sir Harry Lauder!
Whaur's Isadora Duncan dancin noo?
Is Mary Garden in Chicago still
And Duncan Grant in Paris - and me fou?
Sic transit gloria Scotiae aa the flooers
O the Forest are wede awaa. [A blin bird's nest
Is aiblins biggin in the thistle tho?...
And better blin if'ts brood is like the rest!]
You canna gang to a Burns supper even
Wi-oot some wizened scrunt o a knock-knee
Chinee turns roon to say, 'Him Haggis - velly goot!'
And ten to wan the piper is a Cockney.
No wan in fifty kens a wurd Burns wrote
But misapplied is aabody's property,
And gin there was his like alive the day
They's be the last a kennin haund to gie -
Croose London Scotties wi their braw shirt
And aa their fancy freens rejoicin
That similah gatherings in Timbuctoo,
Bagdad - and Hell, nae doot - are voicin
Burns' sentiments o universal love,
In pidgin English or in wild-fowl Scots,
And toastin ane wha's nocht to them but an
Excuse for faitherin Genius wi their thochts.
Aa they've to say was aften said
A lad was born in Kyle to blaw aboot.
What unco fate maks him the dumpin-grun
For aa the sloppy rubbish they jaw oot?
Mair nonsense has been uttered in his name
Than in ony's barrin liberty and Christ.
If this keeps spreedin as the drink declines,
Syne turns to tea, wae's me for the Zietgeist!
Rabbie, wad'st thou were here - the warld
And Scotland mair sae, o the likes o thee!
The whisky that aince moved your lyre's become
A laxative for aa loquacity.
O gin they'd stegh their guts and haud
I'd thole it, for 'a man's a man' I ken
But though the feck hae plenty o the 'aa that'.
They're nocht but zoologically men.
I'm haverin, Rabbie, but ye understaun
It gets my dander up to see your star
A bauble in Babel, banged like a saxpence
Twixt Burbank's Baedeker and Bleistein's cigar.
There's nane sae ignorant but think they
Expatiate on you, if on nae ither.
The sumphs hae taen you at your wurd, and fegs!
The foziest o them claims to be a - Brither!
Syne 'Here's the cheenge' - the star of
Smaa cheenge, 'Twinkle, Twinkle.' The memory slips
As G.K. Chsterton heaves up to gie
'The Immortal Memory' in a huge eclipse,
Or somebody else as famous if less fat.
You left the like in Embro in a scunner
To booze wi thieveless cronies sic as me.
I'd warrant you'd shy clear o aa the hunner
Odd Burns Clubs tae, or ninety-nine o them,
And haud your birthday in a different kip
whaur your name isna taen in vain - as Christ
Gied aa Jerusalem's Pharisees the slip
- Christ wha'd hae been Chief Rabbi gin he'd lik't! -
Wi publicans and sinners to forgether,
But losh! the publicans noo are Pharisees,
And I'm no shair o maist the sinners either.
But that's aside the point! I've got fair
It's no that I'm sae fou as juist died dune,
And dinna ken as muckle's whaur I am
Or hoo I've come to sprawl here 'neth the mune.
That's it! It isna me that's fou at aa.
But the fu mune, the doited jade, that's led
Me fer agley, or 'mogrified the warld.
- For aa I ken I'm safe in my ain bed.
Gin she's no here it's no oor bed,
Or else I'm dreemin deep and canna wauken,
But it's a fell queer dream if this is no
A real hillside - and thae things thistles and bracken!
It's hard wark haud'n by a thocht worth
And harder speakin't, and no for ilka man;
Maist Thocht's like whisky - a thoosan under proof,
And a sair price is pitten on't even than.
As Kirks wi Christianity hae dune,
Burns Clubs wi Burns - wi aathing it's the same,
The core o ocht is only for the few,
Scorned by the mony, thrang wi'ts empty name.
And aa the names in History mean nocht
To maist folk but 'ideas o their ain',
The vera opposite o onything
The Deid 'ud awn gin they cam back again.
A greater Christ, a greater Burns, may
The maist they'll dae is to gie bigger pegs
To folly and conceit to hank their rubbish on.
They'll cheenge folks' talk but no their natures, fegs!
I maun feed frae the common trough anaa
Whaur aa the lees o hope are jumbled up;
While centuries like pigs are slorpin owre't
Sall my wee 'oor be cryin: 'Let pass this cup'?
In wi your gruntle then, puir wheengin
Lap up the ugsome aidle wi the lave,
What gin it's your ain vomit that you swill
And frae Life's gantin and unfaddomed grave?
I doot I'm geylies mixed, like Life itsel',
But I was never ane that thocht to pit
An ocean in a mutchkin. As the haill's
Mair than the pairt sae I than reason yet.
I dinna haud the warld's end in my heid
As maist folk think they dae; nor filter truth
In fishy gillls through which its tides may poor
For ony animaculae forsooth.
I lauch to see my crazy little brain
- And ither folks' - tak'n itsel seriously,
And in a sudden lowe o fun my saul
Blinks dozent as the owl I ken't to be.
I'll hae nae hauf-way hoose,
but aye be whaur
Extremes meet - it's the only way I ken
to dodge the curst conceit o bein richt
That damns the vast majority o men.
I'll bury nae heid like
Nor yet beleive my een and naething else.
My senses may advise me, but I'll be
Mysel nae maitter what they tell's...
I hae nae doot some foreign
Has wrocht a system oot to justify
Aa this: but I'm a Scot wha blin'ly follows
Auld Scottish instincts, and I winna try.
For I've nae faith in ocht I can explain,
And stert whaur the philosophers leave aff,
Content to glimpse its loops I dinna ettle
To land the sea serpent's sel wi ony gaff.
Like staundin water in
a pocket o
Impervious clay I pray I'll never be,
Cut aff and self-sufficient, but let reenge
Heichts o the lift and benmaist deeps o sea.
Water! Water! There was
owre muckle o't
In yonder whisky, sae I'm in deep water
[and gin I could wun hame I'd be in het,
For even Jean maun natter, natter, natter]...
And in the toon that I
- What's tho 'ts Montrose or Nazareth? -
Helplessly the folk continue
To lead their livin death!...