1793 Poem, Samuel Thomson, ‘Epistle to Mr. R------, Belfast’

Author: Samuel Thomson

Date: 1793

Source: Poem: ‘Epistle to Mr. R------, Belfast; On receiving a flattering Epistle from him’, 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 and Ernest Scott (Belfast, 1992).

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Poetry/1700-1799/022

Mr. R------, BELFAST;
On receiving a flattering Epistle from him.

I Gat your letter, dainty lad,

(The fourteenth ult. I grant receit;)

Which made me fain right blythe an’ glad,

An’ eke a sonnet in your debt.

But man, the bonie lengthen’d day;

The hedges green, an’ flow’ry lee,

With singin’ birds on ilka spray,

Hae sta’ my Muse awa frae me!

In truth, she’s turn’d sae vera’ wild,

She’ll scrimply tent me whan I speak,

An’ scarcely thinks it worth her while

To board wi’ me ance i’ the week —

As down a glen I hap’d to wan’er,

Whar sweet a crystal burnie play’d;

There luckily by chance I fan’ her

Beneath a milk-white hawthorn’s shade.

Quoth I, why sittin’ here alane?

Let’s hie us hame wi’ a’ our speed!

An’ try ance mair in hamely strain,

To kittle up the rural reed.

Shall — the wale o’ norland chiels,

Thus gratefu’ heeze ye up to fame;

Yet ye’ll gay saunterin thro’ these fiel’s

Nor min’ to thank him for the same!

Sae hame we hied, and in a doop,

I gets my paper, pen an’ ink;

There fla’s enow, but yet I hope

Ye’ll at a fellow’s failings wink —

Your bonie poem that you sent me,

O! what a heap o’ flattery’s in’t!

Yet ‘to the nines it did content me!’

Sae smooth auld-farrant, sleek an’ quaint.

O’ wit an’ sense but sma’s my share,

Tho’ whiles I pen a senseless sang:

It helps to frighten carkin’ care,

An’ keeps mysel frae’ thinkin’ lang.

This while I h’ spent in spinnin’ rhyme,

An’ means in time to mak a buke o’t:

An’ if it be na’ thought a crime,

I’ll gie the crazy world a luk’ o’t.

Now criticks, use me as you will,

An’ at my Music sklent your spite:

Your censure can do little ill —

’Twill never hin’er me to write.

Your Grammar chaps may gloom upo’ me

An’ ca’ me craz’d — but — P — hark! —

Gude L----d I’ll try’t come what will o’ me,

Tho’ I shou’d forfeit coat an’ sark!

I’m poet poor as any lark;

I scarce a shilling can command,

Nor house nor garden, bog nor park,

As ye may easily understand.

Since no’ ae’ spot, on earth below,

With justice I can claim as mine;

From place to place I’ll musing go,

And never cast a wish behind.

I’ll aiblins beg yet — what o’ that!

Auld Homer did the same lang-syne:

I’ll soth a tune an’ never fret,

Ye ken it’s nonsense to repine. —

The grassy glen — the blooming thorn!

The purling rill an’ flow’ry lee!

Ilk fairy scene on Simmer’s morn,

All nature thro’ has sweets for me.

Thoughtless I plod life’s giddy maze;

An’ now an’ then attune the reed

To rural strains in nature’s praise,

Till Time shall count me with the dead.

Pipe on gay lad, as thou’st begun,

Henceforth I’ll ca’ thee friend an’ brother:

Glad hand in hand, we’ll hie us on,

An’ speel Parnassus Hill together.

Now least I might my frien’ offend,

An’ wi’ my nonsense wrack his brain;

I’ll tak a snuff, - fling by my pen,

An’ let my Muse t’her glen again.

May 24, 1791.

to the SAME.

Frae verdant braes whar gowans bloom,

While Simmer sleeps on hill an’ howm;

Again my frien’ I thus presume

Anither sang:

Avaunt ye criticks! here I come,

Be’t right or wrang.

Come Muse while ilka sunny scene

Is clad in claes o’ gayest green;

To him wha has sae aff-han’ been,

Soothe up a lilt:

Tho’ right unsnod he’ll no complain —

Haste let us till’t

The fiel’s are co’erd wi’ waving corn;

The whispering breezes chear the thorn;

The mist lies laigh at early morn,

Adown the vales:

Sweet, halsome scents are saftly borne

Alang the dales.

In rhyme, I’m proud ye persevere,

But — P------ my callan have-a-care!

An’ ay o’ flattery unco spare,

’Twere onie matter;

In rhyme ye’re witty, slee an’ quer;

But faith ye flatter!

Ye tell me ye he got a wife

To share the sours an’ sweets o’ life:

May ye in geer an’ bairns brow rife,

An’ Heaven’s bless ye —

A peaceful lot, unknown to strife,

’S the warst I wiss ye.

Pluck up a heart my lad, an’ syne

Your able shou’der lay to mine;

Auld Erin yet we’ll mak to shine

In measur’d pages —

O! had I talents, BURNS like thine,

I’d sing thro’ ages!

Let greedy misers thum’ their gowd,

An’ gaping clergy bawl aloud,

Whas hearts are aften better stow’d

Wi’ greed than grace,

I’ll justle thro’ the busy crowd

Wi’ laughin face.

As lang’s I’hae paper, pen an’ ink,

An’ now an’ then a gill to drink,

I’ll laugh an’ dance an’ sing an’ wink

At fickle Fortune:

She’ll aiblins gie me yet a blink,

Tho’ ’tis uncertain.

Ye Powers! that chauk out each their lot,

Gi’e me (for wealth I value not,)

But health an’ claes to turn the wat,

An’ now an’ then,

A heart-inspiring, moderate pot

Wi’ honest men.

E’en let the busy, justling warl,

O’er hight and howe ’bout riches quarrel,

For my part I shall never snarl,

Nor wite the times,

Gin I get gill an’ girdle farl,

An’ frien’s an’ rhymes.

My spunkie blythe, ay whan at leisure,

Let’s hae your thoughts in hamely measure,

Which I’ll receive wi’ meikle pleasure,

An’ for your sake,

I’ll keep your lines a lasting treasure,

While life’s awake.

For ilka verse, my social swankie,

I’se no forget in rhyme to thank ye;

I’ll up amang the Bardies rank ye,

In Temple Fame:

Set crously down a dapper shanky —

Ye’s hae a Name.

Permit me now, before we part,

To wish the following frae my heart —

May ye ne’er want a foamin’ quart,

An’ pint an’ gill;

A Musie willing, gleg, alert,

An’ pliant quill.

May happiness for lang abide,

An’ ever wait thy fire-side:

May ye lang out o’er the warl stride,

Wi’ healthfu’ birr —

Sae now I think ye’re fairly paid,

Gude evening, Sir.


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