1804 Poem, James Orr, 'Epistle to S. Thomson of Carngranny'

Author: James Orr

Date: 1804

Source: Poem: ‘Epistle to S. Thomson of Carngranny, A Brother Poet’, 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/1800-1899/008



Dear Thomson! Fav’rite o’ the nine!

Wi’ wham I shar’t the feast of min’

Before the hag of strife,

Wi’ han’s that reek’t wi’ bluid she’d shed,

’Gan wi’ the hues o’ black an’ red,

To strip my wab o’ life.

Gaun thro’ the muir awee ere night

I mark’t Lyle’s lafty hill;

An’ min’t the minstrel, blythe an’ bright,

Wha fam’t it wi’ his quill;

An’ why now, thought I now,

Hae we been mute sae lang;

Ise sen’ now, an’ ken now,

How things wi’ Samie gang.

For me, we’ a’ that’s come an’ past,

I’m at my ain fire-side at last,

Fu’ blythe, tho’ fash’t awee,

When geckt at by the purse-proud drove; —

But deel-ma-care, sin’ little love

Is lost ’tween them an’ me.

Wi’ plackless deels, like us, to board,

They’d think a burnin’ shame,

An’ at their revels, tak’ my word,

We’d deem oursel’s frae hame:

While dealin’s, an’ mailin’s,

They dully egotize on,

Durst we, Sam, mak’ free, Sam,

To mention rhyme or reason?

L--d! what this pridefu’ heart has thol’d

To hear a cuif, whase useless gold

Ne’er made ae poor man happy,

Expose some selfless son o’ worth,

Because half-doil’d wi’ wine an’ mirth,

He kent na when to stap ay.

I’d rather drudge, an’ do-blacks[1] roast,

An’ want hale breeks to shift me,

Than shine in ease, gif grubs cud boast

They lent me gear to lift me.

We’se debtless, an’ fretless,

Enjoy the mite we hae;

An’ drink whyles, an’ think whyles,

To trifle life away.

I needna fret; the han’ o’ heav’n

Has gi’en poor me, wham, hardship-driv’n,

It sav’t by lan’, an’ sea,

A feelin’ heart, a thinkin’ head,

An’ health, an’ han’s, to win my bread,

An’ comrades firm an’ free:

A landscape fine, that charms my e’en

While workin’ sair days-dark on’t;

An’ Sylvia, an engagin’ frien’,

Wha can mak’ fine remarks on’t:

Wi’ sense grac’d, an mense grac’d,

An’ fand o’ truth an’ taste,

While Spring’s sweet, she sings sweet,

She soothes this trampled breast.

Nae wreath shall grace my rustic brows,

But countra folk my dog’rels roose,

In terms that mak’ me blythe;

Tho’ whyles scarce worth ae bare babee,

Fancy an’ taste, I wadna gie

For a’ Braid-Islan’[2] tythe.

I’d rather, blest wi’ skill an’ grace,

Beg lodgin’ in a mill,

Than be the owner o’ the place,

An’ want baith taste an’ skill.

Thro’ life, frien’, my strife, frien’,

Has been to search an’ know:

But slight ay’s, the light ay,

That shines on want an’ woe.

But ne’er, tho’ pin’d, let’s be sae wee

As to implore on supple knee,

The proud folks patronage;

They ken, fu, brawly whare we stay,

An’ gif they notice us they may,

Aince they’ve luck’t owre our page:

Th’ inglorious thymes o’ countra clouns,

Get plenty to degrade ’em,

Wha wad reward wi’ laurel crowns,

Gif Kings or Priests had made ’em.

Tho’ vain folk disdain folk,

We’se sing the burns, an’ bow’rs,

O’ Airlan’, our fair lan’ —

Deel tak’ her faes an’ ours!

I’ll hae to quat my humble strains,

The moon-beams gild my frost-wrought panes,

An’ I’ve a bit to gang:

I hope your muirlan muse ye’ll woo,

To tell me how ye wrastle thro’,

Some time when ye’re no thrang.

Atween an’ May, gif bowls row right,

I’ll meet ye in Roughfort,

An’ aince again devote a night

To frien’liness an’ sport.

Meanwhile, sir, sud bile, sir,

Mak’ factious prose-men fight,

May leisure, an’ pleasure,

An’ peace be ours! — Good night.

[1] A kind of Potatoe.

[2] The Parish of Broad Island.


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