1799 Poem, Samuel Thomson, ‘Davie and Sawney, An Ale-House Ecologue’

Author: Samuel Thomson

Date: 1799

Source: Poem: ‘Davie and Sawney, An Ale-House Ecologue’, 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/1700-1799/026



“Learn then the best to take from evil,

As Saints take warning by the Devil.”


‘’Twas on a snell October mornin’,

When contra’ fok had a’ their corn in,

An’ northern hills began to shaw

Their heathy summits white wi’ sna,

By chance or fate, it maksna whether,

Davie an’ Sawney met thegither;

Syne after ithers weelfare speering,

To which the muse gied little hearing;

Each having three’pence he cou’d spare,

Agreed a wee to bother care,

An’ try ae haf hour to be happy,

Out o’er a glass o’ reaming nappy.

So to the change house on the hill,

Kent by the sign o’ auld King Will,

The honest social twasome stepit,

And for a gill o’ whiskey chapit:

Which soon as smell’d the spirits rous’d,

An’ tongues miraculously lous’d;

Reserve, that hatefu’ stumbling block

To the happiness of sober fok,

It kick’d aside, while friendship glow’d,

And ilka bosom kindly shew’d.

Blythe on the stoupie Davie glances,

First priev’st, and thus the crak commences.


My frien’, I’m glad to see ye cythe

Sae hale, contented like, and blythe;

I was hearing that some turns o’ fortune,

The which are at the best uncertain,

Were threat’ning likely to unhorse ye,

An’ what I look upon as worse ay,

Some passionated domestic hubbles,

Had flung you ’neath a lade o’ troubles.

I hope, however, that a wrangs

Are set to rights, when clatterin’ tongues,

That waur than rankest poison kill

Good characters, now rest them still.

Here’s peace and plenty t’ye, boy;

If nae ane wish’d ye waur than I,

Grim Calumny wad never crack

Your character behint your back.



Davie, alas! I’ll tell you now,

What fok reports is o’er true.

I hae a wife o’ Satan’s get,

Frae tophet sent to keep me het;

The heaviest losses I hae shar’d

Are light as naithing, when compar’d

To this unfeeling strumpet’s clamour —

Her girning and eternal yawmour,

When by my fire I’d rest a wee,

Hath made my house nae hame to me.


That’s ae thing in which I am blest;

I hae a wife o’ wives the best;

Averse to idleness and strife,

She’s just the pillar o’ my life.

Tho’ sometimes here and sometimes there,

Abroad at market town or fair,

Yet ne’er the less when she’s at hame,

A’ things are manag’d just the same.

Sae readily as she can rin

About her business, out an’ in;

Gude faith I aften ferlie at her,

An’ bless my fortune that I gat her.


Alas, man! I’ve met the reverse,

An idle waster for a curse;

A noisy torment late and air,

My fortune cast out to my share!

If I’m frae hame, as ye remark,

Instead o’ aiding weel the wark,

She steeks the door, and aff she sets,

Bare leggit, to her sister Bet’s,

The hale day out to lie and clink,

Her neighbours backbite, eat and drink.

The ky at hame may break the dykes,

And eat the corn; the rakin’ tykes

Destroy the lambs and eke the hens,

While Peggy neither cares nor kens.

Right wearied, wi’ an empty wame,

Full monie a time, when I come hame,

The door I’ll get securely locket,

The key’s forsooth in Peggy’s pocket.

Syne I maun thole till ’bout the glomin,

Till this unfeeling, shameless woman,

Adjourn the clatt’rin, idle din,

An’ skelpin come to let me in!

When in, I’ll out the fire see,

An’ nought ava prepar’d for me.

She’ll aiblins say — nae doubt yer hungry,

And frown and stare at me right angry;

So scour out lightly to the byre,

While I, without meat, light or fire,

Wi’ care and hunger sore bestead,

In silence graip the way to bed,

Which aft indeed I get unmade.

Syne streek me down, wi’ sighs an’ tears,

Beseeching Heaven, that never hears,

To order or commission Fate,

To ether end or mend my state.

I oft, in passion, wish the jilt,

Ungot, ay, and her father gelt;

For sure nae man was ever vext

Sae — tortur’d, harrow’d, and perplex’d!

Each day brings unexpected losses,

And every week its fretting crosses;

So that, as ye observ’d at first,

I’ll soon be weel eneugh unhors’d;

And I sall gie, whan doun I fa’

My wicked wife the wyte of a’.


Trouth, nibour Sawney, I am sorry,

But can, alack, do naething for ye.

I vow an’ swear I’d rather lea’ her,

Than be thus vex’d and harrass’d wi’ her.

Had careful Providence ordain’d

That she’d haen children to maintain’d,

I kenna how, aneath the sin,

Ye cou’d a kept a house within;

A’ things are order’d right, and therefore

Nae offspring ye hae got to care for.

But as for me, an’ thanks to heaven,

O’ a rising family I hae seven;

Four charming lads, an’ lasses three,

And better bairns there canna be.

The lasses, I am proud to find,

Possess alike their mither’s mind;

While the other manifest already,

The vera temper o’ their daddy.

While life-blood heats my Lizie’s cheek,

I dinna value fate a leek.

She’s just the centre o’ my system,

The worth on which account I blest am.

At times whan we together share

A nibour’s treat, or simmer fair,

She’s ay in sic a kindly wark,

Setting my cravat an’ my sark;

My coat to brush, my shoen to hae

As black as ink or onie slae;

Unnotic’d till we be awa,

My hoes she’ll able spy a-thra,

She’ll quickly speak an’ hae them straighted,

And every thing about me righted;

As vera nice I ne’er cou’d be,

She’s ay in greater fyke than me;

And says the greatest boast she’ll have ay,

Will be to trig the weans and Davie.


Lang may she bruk baith health and ease,

An’ never tint the way to please!

May bitter canker never stare

You i’ the face, or gie you care!

But friendly, social, and content ay,

Count monie a day in midst o’ plenty!  [Drinks.

While I, wi’ galling din and strife,

Benumb’d bear up the lade o’ life,

Till poverty, in rudest garb,

This tortur’d being quite absorb.

Perhaps kind Providence at length,

When gane are a’ my health and strength,

Will nick the thread and gie me rest,

Where poverty nor wives molest.


Ah! Sawney bear, wi’ patience wait,

Wha kens how soon relenting fate,

May smooth the path o’ comin life,

And to conversion bring your wife?

We read o’ Job of early time,

Wha frae prosperity’s sublime,

To ruin’s vera brink was hurl’d,

And made the bye-word of a world:

Beneath the Devil’s brazen paw,

He thol’d, like you, a woman’s jaw.

Compar’d to his, what troubles thee,

Is like a dew-drap to the sea;

And yet again he wealthy grew,

So what the duce may hinder you?

The darkest hour o’ a’ the night

And black, is that before day-light;

These trials sharp to man are given,

That he may better relish heaven.

Be patient man, hope for the better,

Kind heaven may soon amend the matter.

“Then why shou’d we quarrel for riches,

Or any such glittering toys?

A light heart and thin pair of breeches,

Will go thro’ the world brave boys.”


I ance cou’d sing and rant as weel

As onie ither countra chiel;

To rural glee and social fun,

Cou’d gie my hours frae sun to sun;

At village dance or countra fair,

Was still amang the foremost there;

But now these laughin times are fled,

And troubl’ous days come in their stead;

Henceforth incog. I’ll try to live,

And out o’ sight o’ mankind grieve!

Wi’ heavy heart an’ tear-wet face,

Alone bewail my hapless case.


Come, let us hae anither gill,

An’ ance mair, Sawney, tak our fill;

Let hood-wink’d fortune smile or frown,

Tak’ aff your glass and sorrow drown;

For whether mortals sigh or sing,

Regardless time is on the wing.

Some row in plenty, some in want,

Some sigh and graen, while ithers rant.

Pure happiness, unmix’d wi’ care,

Right sennil visits mankind here.

Be patient, Sawney, silly man

Is but a worm, his days a span.

Thus crack’d the twasome o’er their nappy,

The ane fair griev’d, the ither happy,

Whar nane their converse did o’erhear,

Except the muse, that slyly near

Them sat, hard by, and a’ recorded

And brought it hame to get it worded.

Ay whan she eyes the poor man’s cot,

She calls to mind his bitter lot;

And frae her cheek, with tender han’ ay,

She wipes the tear for luckless Sawney.


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