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The Brigs Of Ayr
by [?]


Inscribed to John Ballantine, Esq., Ayr.

The simple Bard, rough at the rustic plough,
Learning his tuneful trade from ev’ry bough;
The chanting linnet, or the mellow thrush,
Hailing the setting sun, sweet, in the green thorn bush;
The soaring lark, the perching red-breast shrill,
Or deep-ton’d plovers grey, wild-whistling o’er the hill;
Shall he–nurst in the peasant’s lowly shed,
To hardy independence bravely bred,
By early poverty to hardship steel’d.
And train’d to arms in stern Misfortune’s field–
Shall he be guilty of their hireling crimes,
The servile, mercenary Swiss of rhymes?
Or labour hard the panegyric close,
With all the venal soul of dedicating prose?
No! though his artless strains he rudely sings,
And throws his hand uncouthly o’er the strings,
He glows with all the spirit of the Bard,
Fame, honest fame, his great, his dear reward.
Still, if some patron’s gen’rous care he trace,
Skill’d in the secret, to bestow with grace;
When Ballantine befriends his humble name,
And hands the rustic stranger up to fame,
With heartfelt throes his grateful bosom swells,
The godlike bliss, to give, alone excels.

‘Twas when the stacks get on their winter hap,
And thack and rape secure the toil-won crap;
Potatoe-bings are snugged up frae skaith
O’ coming Winter’s biting, frosty breath;
The bees, rejoicing o’er their summer toils,
Unnumber’d buds an’ flow’rs’ delicious spoils,
Seal’d up with frugal care in massive waxen piles,
Are doom’d by Man, that tyrant o’er the weak,
The death o’ devils, smoor’d wi’ brimstone reek:
The thundering guns are heard on ev’ry side,
The wounded coveys, reeling, scatter wide;
The feather’d field-mates, bound by Nature’s tie,
Sires, mothers, children, in one carnage lie:
(What warm, poetic heart but inly bleeds,
And execrates man’s savage, ruthless deeds!)
Nae mair the flow’r in field or meadow springs,
Nae mair the grove with airy concert rings,
Except perhaps the Robin’s whistling glee,
Proud o’ the height o’ some bit half-lang tree:
The hoary morns precede the sunny days,
Mild, calm, serene, wide spreads the noontide blaze,
While thick the gosamour waves wanton in the rays.

‘Twas in that season, when a simple Bard,
Unknown and poor–simplicity’s reward!–
Ae night, within the ancient brugh of Ayr,
By whim inspir’d, or haply prest wi’ care,
He left his bed, and took his wayward route,
And down by Simpson’s [1] wheel’d the left about:
(Whether impell’d by all-directing Fate,
To witness what I after shall narrate;
Or whether, rapt in meditation high,
He wander’d out, he knew not where or why:)
The drowsy Dungeon-clock[2] had number’d two,
and Wallace Tower[2] had sworn the fact was true:
The tide-swoln firth, with sullen-sounding roar,
Through the still night dash’d hoarse along the shore.
All else was hush’d as Nature’s closed e’e;
The silent moon shone high o’er tower and tree;
The chilly frost, beneath the silver beam,
Crept, gently-crusting, o’er the glittering stream–
When, lo! on either hand the list’ning Bard,
The clanging sugh of whistling wings is heard;
Two dusky forms dart through the midnight air;
Swift as the gos[3] drives on the wheeling hare;
Ane on th’ Auld Brig his airy shape uprears,
The other flutters o’er the rising piers:
Our warlock Rhymer instantly dexcried
The Sprites that owre the Brigs of Ayr preside.
(That Bards are second-sighted is nae joke,
And ken the lingo of the sp’ritual folk;
Fays, Spunkies, Kelpies, a’, they can explain them,
And even the very deils they brawly ken them).
Auld Brig appear’d of ancient Pictish race,
The very wrinkles Gothic in his face;
He seem’d as he wi’ Time had warstl’d lang,
Yet, teughly doure, he bade an unco bang.