1793 Poem, Samuel Thomson, 'The Country Dance'

Author: Samuel Thomson

Date: 1793

Source: Poem: ‘The Country Dance’, from Poems, on Different Subjects, partly in the Scottish Dialect by Samuel Thomson (Belfast: printed for the author, 1793).

Comments: Samuel Thomson (1766-1816) from Lyles Hill near Templepatrick in South Antrim was the editor of the ‘Poets’ Corner’ in the Belfast United Irishman newspaper Northern Star until the paper was closed down in 1797. He exchanged poems with, and visited, Robert Burns, and published three books containing Ulster-Scots poetry — in 1793, 1799 and 1806. An account of his life and poetry can be found in the ‘Introduction’ to The Country Rhymes of Samuel Thomson, by Philip Robinson (Belfast, 1992).

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Poetry/1700-1799/018


O! ye douce fok, that live by rule,

Grave, tideless-blooded, calm an’ cool,

Compar’d wi’ you — O! fool! fool! fool!

How much unlike!

Your hearts are just a standing pool,

Your lives, a dyke!



Come muse, wha aft in merry tift,

Has ventur’d on the lyre;

Wha aft frae laverocks in the lift,

Has snatch’d poetic fire:

Come ye wha snug in hawthorn shade,

Sworn foe to spleen an’ care,

Enraptur’d e’ed the corny glade,

An’ sung the SIMMER FAIR

Ance on a day.


But Simmer fairs an’ wabster louns[1]

Maun a’ be laid aside:

Or basted ribs an’ broken crowns

Will aiblins us betide —

We’ll drap the silly theme at ance,

The merry maids an’ swains,

For singing quaint o’ Habbie’s dance,

Will thank us for our pains,

An’ stroak our head.


Aurora fair had quat the plain,

And harrowers lous’d their naigs,

And seeds-men set, their supper taen,

To smoak an’ rest their legs:

Whan lads an’ lasses blythe an’ kin’,

To Habbies wad repair,

A few short hours to ease their min’

O warl’y moil an’ care,

An’ dance that night.


To see them scourin’ doun the dykes,

In shauls an’ aprons glancin,

An’ here an’ there the cottage tykes

Ay yelping at a chance ane:

An’ ithers rantin’ o’er the braes,

Their hearts as light as cork-wood,

An’ whistling some o’er bogs an leas,

Ye’d true the fok were stark-wood

On sic a’ night.


There at Hab’s yard the rural group,

In merry mood convene,

Whar some are at hap-step-an’-loup

While ithers put the stane:

But soon the fiddle’s dainty dint,

Recalls the halewar in,

Whar pauky R------ wi’ double squint,

Invites them to begin

The sport this night.


Come muse, we’ll o’er to Habbie’s hie,

The e’ening’s calm an’ fair

At hame what need we snoaring lie —

An sican pastime there:

We’ll aiblins meet wi’ L------ an’ J------

That dainty, social pair,

And get wi’ them a dance an’ crack,

Weel worth our gangin’ there

This bonie night.


Here some are come to crack an’ joke,

An’ toy amang the lasses;

An’ some to blether spit an’ smoak,

An’ bray like highland asses,

An’ some to tauk o’ ky an’ corn,

Potatoes, sheep an’ horses,

An’ some as thrawn wi’ spleen an’ scorn

As they’d been fed on curses

Since their first day.


Now o’er the floor in wanton pairs,

They foot it to the fiddle;

The maidens muster a’ their airs

The young men skip an’ striddle.

Ah! simple young things, ay beware

O’ lurking Inclination!

The clergy say, whan hobblin’ there,

Ye’re wabblin’ temptation

To ane anither. —


At countra’ dances, jigs an’ reels,

Alternately they ranted;

Lads nimbly ply’d their rustic heels,

An’ maidens pegh’d an’ panted —

Here Rabin lap wi’ buxom Jean,

An Liza wi’ her Johney,

While Willy in the neuk unseen,

Kiss’d Meg as sweet as honey

To her that night.


Kings may roll in state, an’ Lords

Enjoy their ill-got treasures;

Compar’d to this their wealth affords

But superficial pleasures.

Such happiness with pomp an’ pride,

Is seldom ever seen,

As here with rural swains abide,

In countra’ barns at e’en,

On sic a night.


O Burns! had I but half thy skill —

Thy bonie, silken stile,

Description here shou’d flow at will,

In numbers smooth as oil: -

But here I’ll ask my reader’s leave,

To make a short digression,

It aiblins may in future prieve

To some a warnin’ lesson

Anither night.


Behind a noest o’ drawn strae,

I’ the end o’ Habbie’s stack-yard:

Poor simple Maggy a’ night lay

Wi’ Dick, that squintin’ black-guard;

Fair maidens oft may sport an’ dance,

Their min’s but little harm in,

But ah! the dolefu’ consequence,

Three quarters did determine

To Maggy strang.


Poor Meg! the scoff o’ ilka chiel,

Forgrutten pale an’ shabby,

Now ca’s about her lonely wheel

An’ rocks asleep her babby!

Frae her, ye maids a lesson glean,

An’ trust yoursels wi’ no man,

’Bout strae or bourtray neuks alane

At dancings i’ the gloamin,

For fear o’ skaith.


Its weel wat I, the lee-lang night,

They neither fash’d nor tired;

A gayer groupe, ’tis true ye might,

But neededna desired. —

Here, far remov’d from city’s strife,

Gay health an’ young content,

With pleasure gilds the shepherd’s life,

While worldlings hearts are rent

Wi’ care an’ fear.


Now rosy morn frae th’ eastern steeps,

The shades o’ night gan tirl,

An’ larks began wi’ tunefu’ cheeps,

Their morning springs to skirl:

The lasses a’ grown brave an’ tame,

Alang the dewy fields,

With kilted coaties hie them hame,

Escorted by the chiels,

In monie a pair.


Thus ilka ane for hame o’erhies,

Some near, an’ some a mile-hence;

Whilst meagre R------b wi’ heavy eyes,

Gies o’er the Barn to silence.

Ill satisfy’d — in’s craving purse,

The Cappers up he clinks!

The haf’ o’t’s raps — he gies a curse!

Then girnin’, grumbling! slinks

O’er next the Miltoun.

[1] The author was threatn’d within an inch of his life, for introducing the weavers of T---p---k, into the Simmer Fair.


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