1804 Poem, James Orr, 'To the Potatoe'

Author: James Orr

Date: 1804

Source: ‘To the Potatoe’, from Poems, on Various Subjects, by James Orr (Belfast: Printed by Smyth & Lyons, 1804).

Comments: James Orr (1770-1816), a weaver from Ballycarry in East Antrim, is sometimes regarded as the best Ulster-Scots ‘rhyming weaver’ of his generation. A close friend and associate of Samuel Thomson, he penned over 150 poems in his lifetime and became firmly established as the Bard of the common people. An account of his life and poetry can be found in the ‘Introduction’ to The Country Rhymes of James Orr by Philip Robinson (Belfast, 1992).

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Poetry/1800-1899/003

To the Potatoe

I ledge we’d fen gif fairly quat o’

The weed we smoke, an’ chow the fat o’;

An’ wadna grudge to want the wat o’

Wealth-wastin’ Tea;

But leeze me on the precious Pratoe,

My country’s stay!

Bright blooms the Bean that scents the valley,

An’ bright the Pea, that speels the salie,

An’ bright the Plumb tree, blossom’t brawly,

An’ blue-bowed lint;

But what wi’ straught rais’t raws can tally,

That sun-beams tint.

Waeworth the proud prelatic pack,

Wha Point an’ Prataoes downa tak!

With them galore, an’ whyles a plack

To mak’ me frisky,

I’ll fen, an’ barley freely lack —

Except in whisky.

What wad poor deels on bogs an’ braes,

Whase dear cot-tacks nae meal can raise;

Wha ne’er tase butter, beef or cheese,

Nor pit new clais on;

While a’ they mak’ can harly please

Some rack-rent messon.

What wad they do without Do-blacks,[1]

Their weans wi’ sarkless wames to rax?

They boost to forage like the fox

That nightly plun’ers,

Or wi’ the ’Squires turn out an’ box,

In hungry hun’ers.

Sweet in the mornin’, after dashlin’,

Thy daigh is, pouther’t owre wi’ mashlin;

Creesh’t scons stan’ pil’t on plates, or brislin’

A’ roun’ the ingle,

While a fand Wifie fast is fislin,

An tea-cups jingle.

Sweet to the boons that blythely enter

At dinner-time, the graise in centre,

Champ’t up wi’ kail, that pey the planter,

Beans, pa’snips, peas!

Gosh! cud a cautious Covenanter

Wait for the grace?

Sweet to the badger, aft a lander

At day-light-gaun, thou’rt on the brander,

Brown skin’t, an’ birslet.  Nane are fander

To hear thee crisp,

Ere in some neuk, wi’ goose and gander

He share the wisp.

The weel-pair’t peasants, kempin’, set ye;

The weak wee boys, sho’el, weed, an’ pat ye;

The auld guid men thy apples get ay

Seedlin’s to raise;

An’ on sow’n-seeves the lasses grate ye,

To starch their claes.

Then, in hin-hairst, when wee an’ big ane,

Tak’ to the fiel’s, an’ fa’ a diggin’,

Spades risp — tubs rumble — cars are jiggin’ —

L—d! what a noise is?

While monie a pit’s prodigious riggin’

High-archin’, rises.

Thou feeds our beasts o’ ilka kin’,

The gen’rous steed, and grov’lin’ swine:

An’ poultry tribes; the doves ay fine,

An’ ducks besmear’d ay:

Dear was the man, an’ half divine,

Wha here first rear’d ye.

How comfortable, an’ how couthy

We’d lieve, gif they wha bake cud brew thee!

Losh! ’twad be fine gif ilka youth ay,

O’ social tempers,

Might steep, an’ still, for comrades drouthy

A bing o’ hampers.[2]

O Airlan! thou may weel be crouse,

Thy soger on his butter’d stews;

An’ tar-breeks on the fat lab-scouse

His ladle laves,

Can bear the gree frae hosts, an’ crews,

O’ fine-fed knaves.

Upsettin’ England sudna ding

Thee just sae sair - she’s no the thing:

Gif thou’d withdraw for ae camping,

Thy brow-beat callens,

Whaever pleas’d cud clip her wing,

An’ pare her talons.

What pity, folk thou sairst, sud tythe ay,

The poor man’s rig, that maks him blythe ay!

May proud oppression ne’er come nigh thee,

Nor sloth’s fause smiles,

’Till time, wi’ warl-destroyin’ scythie

Pass owre the isles!

[1] A kind of the Potatoe.

[2] Another kind of the Potatoe.

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