Holy Fair, The Poem by Robert Burns

Holy Fair, The

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1 Upon a simmer Sunday morn,
2 When Nature's face is fair,
3 I walked forth to view the corn
4 An' snuff the caller air.
5 The risin' sun owre Galston muirs
6 Wi' glorious light was glintin,
7 The hares were hirplin down the furrs,
8 The lav'rocks they were chantin
9 Fu' sweet that day.

10 As lightsomely I glowr'd abroad
11 To see a scene sae gay,
12 Three hizzies, early at the road,
13 Cam skelpin up the way.
14 Twa had manteeles o' dolefu' black,
15 But ane wi' lyart linin;
16 The third, that gaed a wee a-back,
17 Was in the fashion shining
18 Fu' gay that day.

19 The twa appear'd like sisters twin
20 In feature, form, an' claes;
21 Their visage wither'd, lang an' thin,
22 An' sour as ony slaes.
23 The third cam up, hap-step-an'-lowp,
24 As light as ony lambie,
25 An' wi' a curchie low did stoop,
26 As soon as e'er she saw me,
27 Fu' kind that day.

28 Wi' bonnet aff, quoth I, "Sweet lass,
29 I think ye seem to ken me;
30 I'm sure I've seen that bonie face,
31 But yet I canna name ye."
32 Quo' she, an' laughin as she spak,
33 An' taks me by the han's,
34 "Ye, for my sake, hae gien the feck
35 Of a' the ten comman's
36 A screed some day.

37 "My name is Fun--your cronie dear,
38 The nearest friend ye hae;
39 An' this is Superstition here,
40 An' that's Hypocrisy.
41 I'm gaun to Mauchline Holy Fair,
42 To spend an hour in daffin:
43 Gin ye'll go there, you runkl'd pair,
44 We will get famous laughin
45 At them this day."

46 Quoth I, "With a' my heart, I'll do't:
47 I'll get my Sunday's sark on,
48 An' meet you on the holy spot;
49 Faith, we'se hae fine remarkin!"
50 Then I gaed hame at crowdie-time
51 An' soon I made me ready;
52 For roads were clad frae side to side
53 Wi' monie a wearie body
54 In droves that day.

55 Here, farmers gash, in ridin graith,
56 Gaed hoddin by their cotters,
57 There swankies young, in braw braidclaith
58 Are springin owre the gutters.
59 The lasses, skelpin barefit, thrang,
60 In silks an' scarlets glitter,
61 Wi' sweet-milk cheese in mony a whang,
62 An' farls, bak'd wi' butter,
63 Fu' crump that day.

64 When by the plate we set our nose,
65 Weel heaped up wi' ha'pence,
66 A greedy glowr Black Bonnet throws,
67 An' we maun draw our tippence.
68 Then in we go to see the show:
69 On ev'ry side they're gath'rin,
70 Some carryin dails, some chairs an' stools,
71 An' some are busy bleth'rin
72 Right loud that day.


82 Here some are thinkin on their sins,
83 An' some upo' their claes;
84 Ane curses feet that fyl'd his shins,
85 Anither sighs an' prays:
86 On this hand sits a chosen swatch,
87 Wi' screw'd-up grace-proud faces;
88 On that a set o' chaps at watch,
89 Thrang winkin on the lasses
90 To chairs that day.

91 O happy is that man and blest!
92 Nae wonder that it pride him!
93 Whase ain dear lass that he likes best,
94 Comes clinkin down beside him!
95 Wi' arm repos'd on the chair back,
96 He sweetly does compose him;
97 Which by degrees slips round her neck,
98 An's loof upon her bosom,
99 Unken'd that day.

100 Now a' the congregation o'er
101 Is silent expectation;
102 For Moodie speels the holy door,
103 Wi' tidings o' salvation.
104 Should Hornie, as in ancient days,
105 'Mang sons o' God present him,
106 The vera sight o' Moodie's face
107 To's ain het hame had sent him
108 Wi' fright that day.

109 Hear how he clears the points o' faith
110 Wi' rattlin an' wi' thumpin!
111 Now meekly calm, now wild in wrath
112 He's stampin, an' he's jumpin!
113 His lengthen'd chin, his turn'd-up snout,
114 His eldritch squeal and gestures,
115 Oh, how they fire the heart devout
116 Like cantharidian plaisters,
117 On sic a day!

118 But hark! the tent has chang'd its voice:
119 There's peace and rest nae langer;
120 For a' the real judges rise,
121 They canna sit for anger.
122 Smith opens out his cauld harangues,
123 On practice and on morals;
124 An' aff the godly pour in thrangs,
125 To gie the jars an' barrels
126 A lift that day.

127 What signifies his barren shine
128 Of moral pow'rs and reason?
129 His English style an' gesture fine
130 Are a' clean out o' season.
131 Like Socrates or Antonine
132 Or some auld pagan heathen,
133 The moral man he does define,
134 But ne'er a word o' faith in
135 That's right that day.

136 In guid time comes an antidote
137 Against sic poison'd nostrum;
138 For Peebles, frae the water-fit,
139 Ascends the holy rostrum:
140 See, up he's got the word o' God
141 An' meek an' mim has view'd it,
142 While Common Sense has ta'en the road,
143 An's aff, an' up the Cowgate
144 Fast, fast that day.

145 Wee Miller niest the Guard relieves,
146 An' Orthodoxy raibles,
147 Tho' in his heart he weel believes
148 An' thinks it auld wives' fables:
149 But faith! the birkie wants a Manse,
150 So cannilie he hums them;
151 Altho' his carnal wit an' sense
152 Like hafflins-wise o'ercomes him
153 At times that day.

154 Now butt an' ben the change-house fills
155 Wi' yill-caup commentators:
156 Here's cryin out for bakes an gills,
157 An' there the pint-stowp clatters;
158 While thick an' thrang, an' loud an' lang,
159 Wi' logic an' wi' Scripture,
160 They raise a din, that in the end
161 Is like to breed a rupture
162 O' wrath that day.

163 Leeze me on drink! it gies us mair
164 Than either school or college
165 It kindles wit, it waukens lear,
166 It pangs us fou o' knowledge.
167 Be't whisky-gill or penny-wheep,
168 Or ony stronger potion,
169 It never fails, on drinkin deep,
170 To kittle up our notion
171 By night or day.

172 The lads an' lasses, blythely bent
173 To mind baith saul an' body,
174 Sit round the table weel content,
175 An' steer about the toddy,
176 On this ane's dress an' that ane's leuk
177 They're makin observations;
178 While some are cozie i' the neuk,
179 An' forming assignations
180 To meet some day.

181 But now the Lord's ain trumpet touts,
182 Till a' the hills rae rairin,
183 An' echoes back return the shouts--
184 Black Russell is na sparin.
185 His piercing words, like highlan' swords,
186 Divide the joints an' marrow;
187 His talk o' hell, whare devils dwell,
188 Our vera "sauls does harrow"
189 Wi' fright that day.

190 A vast, unbottom'd, boundless pit,
191 Fill'd fou o' lowin brunstane,
192 Whase ragin flame, an' scorching heat
193 Wad melt the hardest whun-stane!
194 The half-asleep start up wi' fear
195 An' think they hear it roarin,
196 When presently it does appear
197 'Twas but some neibor snorin,
198 Asleep that day.

199 'Twad be owre lang a tale to tell,
200 How mony stories past,
201 An' how they crouded to the yill,
202 When they were a' dismist:
203 How drink gaed round in cogs an' caups
204 Amang the furms an' benches:
205 An' cheese and bred frae women's laps
206 Was dealt about in lunches
207 An' dauds that day.

208 In comes a gausie, gash guidwife
209 An' sits down by the fire,
210 Syne draws her kebbuck an' her knife;
211 The lasses they are shyer:
212 The auld guidmen, about the grace
213 Frae side to side they bother,
214 Till some ane by his bonnet lays,
215 And gi'es them't like a tether
216 Fu' lang that day.

217 Waesucks! for him that gets nae lass,
218 Or lasses that hae naething!
219 Sma' need has he to say a grace,
220 Or melvie his braw clathing!
221 O wives, be mindfu' ance yoursel
222 How bonie lads ye wanted,
223 An' dinna for a kebbuck-heel
224 Let lasses be affronted
225 On sic a day!

226 Now Clinkumbell, wi' rattlin tow,
227 Begins to jow an' croon;
228 Some swagger hame the best they dow,
229 Some wait the afternoon.
230 At slaps the billies halt a blink,
231 Till lasses strip their shoon:
232 Wi' faith an' hope, an' love an' drink,
233 They're a' in famous tune
234 For crack that day.

235 How monie hearts this day converts
236 O' sinners and o' lasses
237 Their hearts o' stane, gin night, are gane
238 As saft as ony flesh is.
239 There's some are fou o' love divine,
240 There's some are fou o' brandy;
241 An' monie jobs that day begin,
242 May end in houghmagandie
243 Some ither day.

Robert Burns

Robert Burns

Ayrshire / Scotland
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