Scottish Poetry Selection
- Epistle to a Young Friend
This poem was sent in 1786 to an Andrew Hunter Aiken. The lad must have followed the advice quite well as he later became a merchant and latterly was the British consul in Riga, the capital of Latvia. Perhaps Burns could have done well to follow some of his own advice!
Epistle to a Young FriendI lang hae thought, my youthfu friend,
A something to have sent you,
Tho it should serve nae ither end
Than just a kind memento:
But how the subject-theme may gang.
Let time and chance determine:
Perhaps it may turn out a sang;
Perhaps, turn out a sermon.
Ye'll try the world soon, my lad;
And, Andrew dear, believe me,
Ye'll find mankind an unco squad,
And muckle they may grieve ye:
For care and trouble set your thought,
Ev'n when your end's attained;
And a' your views may come to nought.
Where ev'ry nerve is strained.
I'll no say, men are villains a':
The real, harden'd wicked,
Wha hae nae check but human law,
Are to a few restricked;
But, och! mankind are unco weak,
An little to be trusted;
If self the wavering balance shake,
It's rarely right adjusted!
Yet they wha fa' in Fortune's strife,
Their fate we should na censure;
For still, th' important end of life
They equally may answer:
A man may hae an honest heart,
Tho poortith hourly stare him;
A man may tak a neebor's part,
Yet hae nae cash to spare him.
Ay free, aff han', your story tell,
When wi a bosom cronie;
But still keep something to yoursel
Ye scarcely tell to onie:
Conceal yoursel as weel's ye can
Frae critical dissection:
But keek thro ev'ry other man,
Wi sharpen'd, sly inspection.
Meaning of unusual words:
Where else would you like to go in Scotland?
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