1799 Poem, Samuel Thomson, ‘Allan, Damon, Sylvander, and Edwin, A Pastoral’

Author: Samuel Thomson

Date: 1799

Source: Poem: ‘Allan, Damon, Sylvander, and Edwin, A Pastoral’, from New Poems, on a variety of different subjects by Samuel Thomson (Belfast: Doherty & Simms, 1799).

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/1700-1799/024

Allan,[1] Damon,[2] Sylvander,[3] and Edwin,[4] A Pastoral

’Twas on a shining day in flow’ry June,

When mountains, groves and vales were all in tune,

Sylvander and Edwin, twa delightful swains,

As ever pip’d on Caledonian plains,

Found Damon and Allan on a bonie brae,

Sowsing their sonnets to the season gay.

Unceremonious, each being to the other

Far nearer, dearer than the leelest brother,

They sat them down, while thus the kind salute

Fell frae the mellow throat o’ Edwin’s flute.

Well met my brothers of the pipe and crook,

I’m glad to catch you in this merry mood,

Sith from this height we can our flocks o’erlook;

Say are ye all agreed, as shepherds should,

In tuneful contest on your whistles good,

To try who best the Arcadian strain can hit …

… Allan, you’re prais’d among the shepherd throngs,

Who loud from hill to hill extol your name;

But well I ween the noise of clatt’ring tongues

Is oft mistaken for the voice of Fame:

Now summon all your skill and some soft ditty frame.


Had I ae drap frae Pindus spring,

E’en like Apollo I could sing;

Could lure the Muses frae Parnassus,

And gar them dance like Lothian lasses,

Owre ilka bonie hill and shaw,

The prettiest sport that e’er ye saw.

But now the Gods are grown sae careless,

That I’m turn’d stupid, dull, and prayerless;

Howe’er, as weel as I am able,

I’ll entertain ye wi’ a fable.


Upon a bonie day, a bee

Was rovin wanton owre the lee,

Sucking the rich, nectareous drap,

Frae every gem in Flora’s lap,

An’ bearing wi’ untiring toil,

Hame to his scape the bawmy spoil;

Being hame wi’ ae delicious lade,

An’ back returning thro’ the glade,

He met a wasp upon a thorn,

The which he thus address’d in scorn: —

“Ill luck betide thy poisonous race,

Vile wasp, what brings thee to this place?

Nature these flowers design’d for me;

A dunghill’s food too good for thee.”

The wasp look’d up, and gave a scream,

“Proud, greedy bee, you do but dream;

These flowers you claim, Nature assures

Me, they are mine as much as yours.”

“How can that seem,” replied the bee,

“Vile thrawart creature, e’en to thee?

Can you deny that honey first

Is here within the blossom nurs’d,

Of which, by our instinctive skill,

We all our waxen dishes fill;

Where nicely cur’d, we so improve it,

As makes e’en human palates love it.

But by some hellish kind of art,

Your waspish stomach doth pervert

The bawmy sweet to poison fell,

To every creature but yersel.

Full sure I am that Nature doated,

When first her handywork she bloated,

By making your destructive race,

Of winged tribes the foul disgrace.”

The wasp with wicked venom fum’d,

An’ thus the argument resum’d: —

“Unthinking thing that dares to place

Such odium on my ancient race!

Begone! — and toil wi’ care and pain,

Collecting sweets to prove your bane.

I know men so your gifts regard,

In gratitude for your reward,

They to your petted clan bequeath

That frightful thing, a brimstone death:

But we, as free as the wanton wind,

“E’en from our name protection find; —

“And if the way we cook our dishes,

Is not according to your wishes,

What’s that to you — poor senseless oaf?

It suits ourselves, and that’s enough.”

“Yes,” quoth the bee, “you safety find,

A safety Nature ne’er design’d;

O, how I hate your thieving race!

Your safety is your great disgrace.

‘’Tis true that mankind seldom mind ye,

But when the herd-lads hap’ to find ye

In your obscure, clandestine byke,

Hid i’ the heart o’ some auld dyke,

They to your hatefu’ haunt set fire,

And gar you in the flames expire.

We die, ‘’tis true, but die with honour,

Your end is just a perfect sconnor.”

Thus said, poor wasp as all o’ercome,

While bee, with a triumphant hum,

Forsook the thorn, and gay resumes

His talk among the scented blooms.

[End of Allan’s Song.


Weel chanted, Allie, merry be thy heart,

For sic a sample o’ thy comic skill,

Yet I have heard thee better play thy part,

At Bessy Bell or Lass o’ Patie’s Mill,

And I maun rede thee, dinna tak’ it ill;

Keep free o’ heathenish Gods the coming time,

For well I ween they frae Olympus hill,

Wi’ rustics pair but ill in Scotian clime,

They shudna show their face ava in rural rhyme.

If aerial powers you must still invoke,

O quat the heathenish for your native says!

Here round each ruin grey and hallow’d oak,

That nod romantic on our highland braes,

Unnumber’d genii dance the mystic maze,

And nightly serenade the list’ning moon;

Such will with native fire light up thy lays,

And put thy rural reed in better tune

Than Pallas, Jove, or Mars, or onie heathenish loon.

Arise, my Damon, you’re the next in play,

In song you’re far thro’ Scotian vales renown’d;

For hapless [5] Corrydon your moving lay

Has drawn the tears from rustic een around.

[6] Alexis low lies buried in the ground;

Alexis young, a shepherd dear to fame;

Now melancholious trill the dirge-full found,

In memory of the much revered name,

That long elegiac lays from Scottish herds shall claim.


Ye rural muses, who the live-long day,

Sport on the flow’ry banks of winding Tay,

And ye who by the cataracts of Clyde,

Warbling celestial strains for ay abide:

And ye who thro’ the groves of classic Tweed,

The various dance of inspiration lead,

Waft to your votary here, on Zephyr’s wing,

That heavenly glow that urg’d him first to sing.

So may his flute, else dull, sublime arise,

And from his fellows gain the valued prize.

Yes, you vouchsafe, and now the warmth divine

Illumes my soul and makes Elysium mine.

Hail happy land, whose grove eternal green,

Romantic mountains, silver lakes between,

And fertile vales, extending far and wide,

Rivals Arcadia in all its pride;

And that for shepherds vers’d in all the art,

To charm and captivate the tuneful heart,

And all the finer feelings harmonize,

Yields to no land beneath the vaulted skies.

Behold the power of inspiration comes,

The aerial aid that on the willowy howms

Of silver Leven, strung Alexis’ reed,

To sing of Daphnis, number’d with the dead.

Yes, heavenly powers, I’ll of Alexis sing,

Alexis cut off in his blooming spring;

Whom old and young with sighs and tears deplore

In vain, for now Alexis is no more.

In yonder hamlet[7], where a few ash trees

Break off the cottages the ruder breeze,

The young Alexis liv’d, well known among

Our norland shepherds for his dulcet song; …

… O how I lov’d to waste the summer day,

With kind Alexis on yon purple brae!

How oft by Leven’s cowslip-covered seats,

Her ozier walks and blooming broom retreats,

Have we congenial, together stray’d,

And artless psrings the while alternate play’d.

The bee, the butterfly, or gowdspink gay,

Was subject ample for a roundelay …

… As oft at falling eve my way I take,

To meet with Sylvia at the village wake,

Viewing, attentive, each frequented spot;

The fount, the broom-hedge, and Alexis’ cot

The mossy chair, and honey suckle fine,

Which round his window he had taught to twine …

[End of Damon’s Song.


You mind the tale of the sagacious dogs,

Cæsar and Luath, wha sae aft together,

In merry mood, thro’ Coila’s rushy bogs,

Wad daily sport them in sweet summer weather;

Resolv’d to meet again wi’ ane anither,

Ye ken they parted at the bumclock’s caution,

I heard they met short syne in Huoc’s heather,

And had some vera curious conversation

’Bout simple man again, the lord o’ the creation.

What pass’d, Sylvander, now to us declare it,

We’re all impatience, b’lieve me till we hear it.


The ither week, ae bonie day,

On sinny side o’ Huoc’s brae,

Hard by the wee romantic burn,

That saftly sings thro’ monie a turn

O’ rushy sod and purple tammock,

Where Tamie sleeps in Ruin’s hammock.

Our curs they met, in merry sort,

To worry, howk, and snowk in sport.

But fashing soon at starts and skips,

They serious grew, licking their lips,

And lean’d them down upon their hips.

Syne after trimming baith his shins,

Kind Cæsar thus the crack begins:


Dear Luath, can ye let me ken

What this thing Reason is, that men,

Superior to us, dogs, do boast,

By which they rule creation’s host?


Faith, Cæsar, that’s a crack on which,

We needna fash to bother much.

But as ye’re far the better scholar,

As certify’d upon your collar,

Ye’ll answer this yersel in short,

And I shall be your debtor for’t.


Friend Luath then let this decide,

This boasted reason, human pride.

’Bout which they bluster, bawl and gape,

Is just the difference o’ the shape

’Tween us and them — nought mair ava,

We gang on four feet, they on twa.


L----d man its weel to live like you,

At leisure, easy, het and fou;

Nae care your cranium ever muddys,

Nor vulgar din disturbs your studies.

Nae break-dyke nowt nor naigs to keep,

Nor deaving pigs, nor head-strong sheep:

Naithing to mind but beek and play,

Just whar ye like the live-lang day;

Save now and then, for master’s fun,

When he diverts him wi’ the gun,

Ye scour the bogs and snouk the stibble,

For pastime that repays ye treble;

An’ fin’ at e’en a lodging snug,

Beside a clean swept chimla lug.

While I, a poor, degraded tyke,

Wi’ Cotter snools man feed and fyke!

My breakfast grub, a scanty drap,

Just frae the floor, or paritch caup

Then a’ day herd unruly brutes,

Girn, gabble, bark, and bite their clutes;

While frae their heels, right monie a skelp

My haffits dree, that gars me yelp;

And wear them in at e’ening’s fa’,

Wi’ weary shanks and empty maw;

Syne creep in to a reeky cot,

And sup on scartins o’ the pot: —

Tak’ what I get, but onie gloom,

And streek me down amang the coom,

There, deav’d wi’ din o’ senseless kays,

Start, nod and dream o’ better days.

Wi’ nae sic like to vex or sturt ye,

Your life’s a scene o’ peace and sport ay,

I’d gie my tail, but onie strife,

To niffer hames wi’ you for life.


Duce tak me, Luath, but ye doat,

Thus to girn and wite your lot;

I thought ye had been as content

As onie tyke that trots the bent;

Wi’ little pleas’d, at halesome wark,

As independent as a lark.

But now I vera plainly see

Ye’re happier no ae whit than me.

Ye’d niffer states wi’ me ye say!

And what was that do for you, pray?

’Twad get you ca’d a great man’s dog,

A lick-plate, mean saul, petty rogue,

Idle sheep-thief, and a’ that,

I’d maist as soon be Hornie’s cat.

And than by every auld compeer

Despis’d and hooted, far and near.

In ’twere’na’ that I’m rather auld,

Thro’ Simmer’s heat and Winter’s cauld,

To front the halesome toils attendant

Upon a living independent,

I’d gladly spang my master’s dyke,

And to the moors — a shepherd’s tyke.

This way I think whan gien to grumble,

And yaumering thro’ reflections rumble —

I bann my fate, an’ pray wi’ vigour,

’T had been my lot to lead some beggar.

“But then its nonsense to repine” —

Ye’re made for your place, me for mine:

And Happiness and fair Content,

Are no to onie station pent —

Content an’ Happiness the same,

Just in the bosom hae their hame.

Suppose we somewhat different are,

But a’ the difference hide and hair,

We’re form’d o’ ae congenial mind,

The disinterested, social kind;

Our friendly hearts are ty’d together,

And live in lee o’ ane anither;

So simpathy our sorrows a’

Wi’ kind endeavour cuts in twa;

Thus halv’d our frets are feathers light,

Which gales soon whirl out o’ sight;

While friendless he that’s left alane,

Beneath his lade o’ care maun grane.

This, this dear Luath, is my boast,

In which my carefu’ thoughts are lost.


I canna say but I might do,

An’ ’twerna for a haveral crew

O’ vulgar, glutton, mungrell whelps,

That wi’ their peace-destroying yelps,

At kirk, and market, mill and fair,

Just persecute me every where.

For hue or shape I nane do prize,

Nor did I ever yet despise,

Or mak a fuss the name to blot

O’ beggar’s tyke for tauted coat.

But then to listen thick-skull’d dogs,

That lack e’en sense to lick the cogs,

Yamph out, an’ tauk o’ a’ kind matters,

Affecting ay their gentle betters;

And, void as pigs o’ onie mense,

Would rank abrupt wi’ tykes o’ sense;

Being doom’d, I say, to mix amang

And thole the worthless gabbling gang,

This, this dear Cæsar, is the case

That maks me wish for change o’ place.


Luath, my friend, wi’ sober care,

Court peace of mind just where you are;

And as ye thrive upon the spot,

Where Fate has fix’d your rural lot,

Tak thick and thin as ye can get it,

And never let yoursel turn petit;

Your station’s laigh, but ye can fend in’t,

Simmer and Winter — independent.

Nae doubt wi’ senseless curs ye’re troubled,

Insulted, sham’d, and deav’d and hubbled;

And dogs o’ worth perhaps may shun ye

In fairs, when sic like gather on ye;

But if ye’d follow my advice,

Ye’ll get them banish’d in a trice.

Be ay reserve afore sic kays,

And still evade their filthy ways,

O’ nightly raking thro’ the howes,

Tod-lowrie like, to worry yowes;

Or at dead horse to gorge and bark,

Or after bitches in the dark; —

Keep ye fare a sic fashions clean,

An here’s my lug, just for a prin,

They’ll keep aloof, nor seek near han’ ye,

And in a towmond scarcely ken ye.

’Tis just frae being familiar wi’ them,

In private liberty ye gie them,

In public thus to huff and haunt ye,

Yaumph, bluster, gabble and affront ye.


But are ye, Cæsar, now sincere?

If sae, I think ye’re full severe.

I never shar’d in carrion strife,

Nor kill’d a yowe in a’ my life;

Nor yet held much familiarity,

To pick or dab wi’ low vulgarity.

Howe’er th’ advice I tak’ in kind,

And lay’t up careful in my mind.


’Boon a’ the ills I’m doom’d to bear,

There’s ane that spites me wond’rous fair,

That I’m made accessary to

The bringing death and lonely woe

On thousands o’ the feather’d sort,

For great fok’s game and wicked sport.


Gude faith I’m no surpris’d to find

That this shou’d stang your peace of mind.


’Twas happy time before the fall,

When every creature, great and small,

In purest peace and safety fed

Alang the Simmer’s flow’ry bed,

Or lightly play’d owre ilka hill,

And drank, unaw’d, the crystal rill:

Hares, dogs, and rabbits a’ like brether,

Promiscuous fed and slept together:

But man nae sooner brak’ the paction,

Than ilka creature catch’d th’ infection:

Nae mair they feed or sleep thegither,

But hunt and worry ane anither!

While man, the subtile tyrant, reigns,

And desolates the flow’ry plains,

And, contrary to a’ the rest,

To his ain kind the greatest pest!


This human life is but a farce,

Where honest actors are but scarce.

To see each wealthy blockhead thrive,

And o’er the tap o’ merit drive;

And tho’ the worthy are but scant,

To see them pine in rags and want;

To see that adoration given

To paltry gold, man owes to heaven;

To hear a set o’ wicked fellows

Be prais’d for what deserves the gallows;

Being doom’d I say to see and hear

Sic thrawin perversion far an’ near,

As now is every day practis’d,

We needna be ava surpris’d

To hear that heaven, since mankind fell,

Has left the warld to itsell.


Wi’ this I canna just comply;

There’s sure a ruling Power on high,

That marks the lot o’ dog an man,

Wha out o’ this confusion can,

And will, bring out a perfect plan,

What seems to us a revel’d fray,

To him is order — clear as day.

Howe’er, ’tis curious to observe

How mankind frae their duty swerve,

Perverting nature’s simple rules,

To error tied — headstrong as mules.

The great, in van [?] o’ Folly’s train,

Meek Wisdom courts, but courts in vain;

In them sweet learning drown’d at once is,

And hence these routs o coach drawn dunces.

The Poor who make the multitude,

Untaught and vulgar, squalid, rude:

The poor, who still the piper pay,

Are left, alas! to grope their way,

Instinctive, thro’ the cheerless fog

Of Ignorance, in Slavery’s bog!

Immers’d in darkness, Learning’s sun

Doth never blink their minds upon.

Yet, strange to tell, that heavenly gem,

Sweet Virtue’s oftenest found with them.

Their Clergy too, a greedy crew,

Gold all the God they have in view,

Drone-like consume the ill-earn’d store

Wrung from the bowels of the poor.

There are exceptions still, its true,

But och, alas, they’re owre few.

The picture’s grim, but likeness fair,

’Tis coarsely drawn — but deel ma care.


The picture’s grim, but not o’ercharg’d,

I’m sure it might be much enlarg’d.

Full often have I turn’d the thought,

(Which o’er my nose the salt tears brought)

How poorfok’s weans were fed and taught.

Few, few indeed are fit to preach,

But fewer still are fit to teach

The tender mind to find the way

Where science blazes into day.

Blockheads, just forsook their mothers,[8]

A nuisance to themselves and others,

Without genius — without learning,

Common manners, or discerning,

Prevail upon the simple hinds,

To cultivate their children’s minds: —

Poor hinds by poverty abus’d,

To aught but daily toil unus’d,

With the numskulls soon agree

To teach their sons the A.B.C.

And spell and write forsooth a little,

Suppose they can’t write worth a spittle,

Nor spell one word right out of ten,

Yet dare to prostitute the pen;

Hence Science blushes, in a rage,

And Dullness stupifies the age.

Hence all these feuds and hellish broils,

These conflicts that afflict our isles;

There are exceptions — what the matter,

The cause is — people know no better.


By this the evening ’gan to cuir,

Wi’ shadows brown, the hill and muir,

The green-coat fays were seen to gather

At Tammy’s tomb amang the heather,

Their sild inspiring springs to play,

And dirge to rest the sportsman’s clay,

When mindful o’ their e’ening feed,

The canty curs to part agreed,

So fawn’d gude night and hame wi’ speed.


Sylvander, thy name is entitled to shine,

With the shepherd’s that whilom by Avon was known:

Henceforth the wild duans of Cona be thine,

No wilder, no sweeter than some of thy own …

Full often enraptur’d I’ve danc’d with delight,

At hearing thy Cotter and Hallowe’en sung;

And eke at thy vision and witchified wight,

My spirit with extacy flutter’d and sprung …

Now pocket your whistles, and home we will bend,

See the day is far spent, and our shadows grow long,

And the next time we happen to meet, I intend

To treat you myself to an innocent song.

A sang ’bout young Katty, the lass o’ the town,

That langel’d young Sawney wi’ blin Cupid’s whang;

Wha whan daddy an’ minny were sleeping wad down,

And in o’er the midding to Katty wad spang.

By this the Simmer day was wearing done,

And birds began to greet the setting sun;

The charming mavis from the hazley brae,

The simple cuckoo and the blackbird gay,

All nature’s tenantry around conspir’d

To glad our shepherds, as they home retir’d.

But led by love out owre the flow’ry bent,

To meet his Jean, the kind Sylvander went,

Joyful to breathe again the tender tale,

Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the evening gale.”


[1] Ramsey.

[2] Robert Ferguson.

[3] Mr. Robert Burns.

[4] Dr. James Beattie.

[5] J. Cunningham, the Poet.

[6] Michael Bruce.

[7] Vide Lord Craig’s paper in the Mirror.

[8] This, however, by no means applies to Scotland. — “They order this matter better there.” — ’Tis the miserable way in which our Irish plebean youth are educated, that is here alluded to.


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