Epistle to my Worthy Friend The Poet, Henry Fletcher

Author: Robert Huddleston

Date: 1994

Source: Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots, Nummer 2 Spring 1994

Mill Street National School, Comber

Dear Fletcher, denty civil boddie

We better brains than e’er graced noddy

This day the Muse being gi’en to study

I dirty paper

And hand you ower, like witless baby

Her empty clatter

’Tween sense, and nonsence, and presumption

I’ll write you out a bland o’ somethin’

’Twill aye hae mair o’ wit and gumption,

If no o’ mense

Than just an ignorant ‘turry grumphin’

Devoid o’ sense

Scholastic rules though I sink under

And gi’e you errors by the hundre’

I hope on my poor lore you’ll ponder

And e’en forgi’e

Gramatic flaws and every blunder

That you may see

Wi’ bards and rhymes and all sic joes

By this you’re weary, I suppose,

But yet wi’ thee I fain would close

And rhyme infuse it

It is my way o’ writing prose

And you’ll excuse it

Schoolmasters, clitter-clatter buddies

Are aye at clip wi’ ither’s studies

When they’re, themsel’s, oft ill fared laddies

A gleaning crew

That rob the bards, by all that Good is

But that’s not you —

Obscurity, how dark thy gloom!

Lives there a wretch would wish such doom

To high be niched up like the moon,

Or shining star,

Is the position bards assume,

And sweeter far.

The jipsy Fame that sair does deuk me

I’ll try her ance mair to repute me

And till the Heliconians book me

All hail, dear Muse —

Although the scholars may dispute me

Spread thou my views

And foremost lady, come wi’ me

And praise him that so praises thee;

We can’t do less’ than sing wi’ glee

A lengthy sonnet

To let dear poet Fletcher pree

Kate Fleecheough’s bonnack

A Book, a new Book he has written —

A Book that has my heart love smitten

A Book that few will dare to spit on —

And mother Erin

For it, an other stone some token

Clods to the cairn

O Erin weep not, though you’re poor,

You’re famed and great and not obscure

Your very bards, Goldsmith and Moor

And Swift, the scratcher,

Fought Tyranny, the red glaived w—e

As yet does Fletcher

Ye pettifogging clique that lack rhyme

That fizz and puff like lime growing slack-lime

Wha moods and tenses wi’ a rae-rhyme

Would a’ run through,

And new books cut and smash, and tak’ time

Bards to review:

Up critics a’ now in a pucker

Ye ill-grained donkeys bray and bicker

Now Fletcher calls you, and come quicker,

Your spleen, to show it

But mind that he’s nae mean plate-licker

You scan, but poet

Awa’ ye book worms, dry and musty —

Come, Common Sense, the Muse will trust you;

And Fletcher come those sharks so nasty

We’ll whip and wattle

Auld Nature for Art’s ower crusty

And a’ sic cattle

Four poets lived in different times —

Four through-gaun chiels wi’ rattling rhymes, —

And, like their clink, their ilk name chimes,

Blithe Robins a’ —

But oh! to see thy witty lines,

The best would blaw!

Dear Songster ’mongst the famed you stand

‘You now wi’ lords may wag the hand —

While ram-stam fools, like me, are d—d,

Like lousie Sinner,

You wi’ the greatest in the land

May eat your dinner

Thy pithy verse and polished taste

Would ony great man mak’ a feast

While cards and invitations haste

Upon you thrang

You wil be honoured now and graced

Whar e’er you gang

Believe me, Sir, thy book will tell

What I have read o’t, I like well;

In all thy lays such pathos swell

Thou moral teacher,

They’ll yet place on Fame’s pedestal

The bust of Fletcher

I vow the merest bletherskite

If sang by you it would delight

So soft your notes, they would invite

A Jenny Lind

Or cure the Tarantula’s bite

On torrid Ind.

Ne’er heed the smashing world sae shallow,

Go on, and prosper, bully fellow,

Till you the very birds excell a’

That sing sae sweetly

And round the globe ilk tongue can tell

Thy name completely

But oh ’mang a’ this fuss and blawin —

This fouth o’ praise that thy sangs draw on —

Whare e’er you meet an honest man

Wi’ him act bonnie

And aye remember twa ye’ve sawn

Gawin and his croney

To friend or stranger ne’er be tart

But to the woe-worn act a part;

For cauld rebuke’s a wicker’d dart

That Want sair blin’s:

And, oh! the sympathetic heart

Co’ers many sins

Thus rise dear Fletcher and be blithe

And spurn the rotten spendthrift hive

Their ill-got gain — by rap and rive —

Will yet gae gite

Let you and I by fair means thrive

Whome sense delight

Nay, what though bards are often starved!

To make them clear sculled, thus they’re served

Behold you batch, that much hae carved,

Whome Luxury fills

Their brains wi whirligigums nerved

Turn like windmills

All hail, dear Wisdom, sense divine,

And rhyming girls — ye famous Nine,

Inspire the bard, and be you mine

Blest rosy health

I envy not the sotted swine

Their boasted wealth

Hail, dearest Fame, the poet’s beam —

Hail, lovely Erin, “Isle of Green” —

Hail, blooming Nature, fairest Queen

Inspire my lays —

I’ll cheerily sail life’s troubled stream

To gain thy praise!

But though to rhyme’s our inclination

O’er much o’ ae thing’s good for naethin

To shun, dear boy, the dissipation

That few get fu’ on

Rhyme must not be our avocation

It leads to ruin

Aye when we write, we’ll write for pleasure,

And no wi’ thochts o gain, for treasure —

to fill th’ independent measure

And beggary fling

At but the times o’ slack and leisure

We’ll laugh and sing

Ye hae a wife and four wee roses

That maun be cooked, — five blooming posies —

And I poor wretch, that so jocose is,

Less blest than you,

For daily food, betimes the Muses

Must quit, and pl’ugh

Love raiks my pow, too, and I itch,

And yet you say that love I mitch;

But wot you, lad, when delvers ditch

And quicks do throw in

Auld roots mak vigorous shoots; yet such

You’ll see me growin’

To thy sweet buskit laughing lass

My kindest compliments express

And friend McKeag prays for your bliss,

To crown the banquet

And loud o’er every fullsome ass

I’ll blaw thy trumpet

Now fare you well, thou shame the fool

Lang may you guide the Comber School

And may thy scholars thrive and stool

My humble prayer

Nor wife nor wean n’er yameryule

To cause you care.


denty — pleasant

civil — polite, well-mannered

boddie — person

we — with

noddy — a two-wheeled cab or buggy

gumption — common sense

mense — credit, honour

turry grumphin — grunting pig

sic — such

fain would — would love to

clitter-clatter — senseless chatter

clip — cutting to pieces

ither — other (people)

nicked up — positioned

deuk — avoid

pree — sample, try

bonnack — cake

clods — throws

scratcher — writer

glaived — gloved

pettifoggin — wrangling about petty points

bicker — fight, pelt with missiles

wattle — interlace rods

cattle — birds and beasts in general

chiels — lads

clink — verses

ilk — each

gang — go

bletherskite — fool

fouth — abundance

Gawin — Gavin (Orr)

whirligigums — whirligig, rotating device

fu — full, drunk

betimes — occasionally

plugh — plough

raiks — ranges over

pow — head

mitch — avoid, run away from

wot — know, understand

ditch — make earth banks

quicks — thorn plants

buskit — adorned

slack-lime — slaked lime



The Ulster-Scots Academy has been an integral part of the Ulster-Scots Language Society since 1993. The name "Ulster-Scots Academy" is registered to the USLS with the Intellectual Property Office.

Ulster Scots Academy


A new edition of Michael Montgomery’s From Ulster to America: The Scotch-Irish Heritage of American English recounts the lasting impact that at least 150,000 settlers from Ulster in the 18th century made on the development of the English language of the United States. This new edition published by the Ulster-Scots Language Society documents over 500 ‘shared’ vocabulary items which are authenticated by quotations from both sides of the Atlantic. A searchable online version of this dictionary is now also available here.


The Ulster-Scots Academy is currently working on the digitisation of Dr Philip Robinson's seminal Ulster-Scots Grammar and the English/Ulster-Scots part (with circa 10,000 entries) of a two-way historical dictionary of Ulster-Scots. These projects are planned to be completed and available on the site in 2016.



This site is being developed on a purely voluntary basis by the Ulster-Scots Language Society at no cost to the taxpayer. USLS volunteers have been involved in preserving and promoting Ulster-Scots for more than 20 years. All donations, however small, will be most gratefully received and contribute towards the expansion of the project. Thank you!

This site is being developed by the Ulster-Scots Language Society (Charity No. XN89678) without external financial assistance. USLS volunteers have been involved in preserving and promoting Ulster-Scots for more than 20 years. All donations, however small, will be most gratefully received and contribute towards the expansion of the project. Thank you!

(Friends of the Ulster-Scots Academy group)