Scottish Poetry Selection
- Scotch Drink

Robert Burns, who was partial to a "wee refreshment" himself, wrote a number of poems in praise of Scotch whisky. Of course, in addition to enjoying the amber dew, he also earned a living for a spell as a result of being an excise man, ensuring that the government got its tax on spirits.

Unfamiliar Scots words are translated at the end of the poem.

Scotch Drink

Let other poets raise a fracas
Bout vines and wines, and drunken Bacchus,
And crabbit names and stories wrack us,
   And grate our lug:
I sing the juice Scotch bear can mak us,
   In glass or jug.

Oh thou, my Muse! Guid auld Scotch drink!
Whether thro wimplin worms thou jink,
Or, richly brown, ream owre the brink,
   In glorious faem,
Inspire me, till I lisp and wink,
   To sing thy name.

Let husky wheat the haughs adorn,
An oats set up their awnie horn,
An pease and beans at e'en or morn,
   Perfume the plain:
Leeze me on thee, John Barleycorn,
   Thou king o' grain.

On thee aft Scotland chows her cood,
In souple scones, the wale o' food!
Or tumblin' in the boiling flood
   Wi' kail and beef;
But when thou pours thy strong heart's blood,
   There thou shines chief.

Food fills the wame, and keeps us livin';
Tho' life's a gift no worth receivin',
When heavy-dragg'd wi pine and grievin';
   But oiled by thee,
The wheels o' life gae down-hill, scrievin',
   Wi' rattlin' glee.

Thou clear's the head o' doited Lear:
Thou cheers the heart o' drooping Care;
Thou strings the nerves o' Labour sair,
   At's weary toil:
Thou even brightens dark Despair
   Wi' gloomy smile.

Aft, clad in massy siller weed,
Wi' gentles thou erects thy head;
Yet humbly kind, in time o' need,
   The poor man's wine,
His wee drap parritch, or his bread,
   Thou kitchens fine.

Thou art the life o' public haunts;
But thee, what were our fairs and rants?
Ev'n godly meetings o' the saunts,
   By thee inspir'd,
When gaping they besiege the tents,
   Are doubly fir'd.

That merry night we get the corn in,
O sweetly then thou reams die horn in!
Or reekin' on a New-Year mornin'
   In cog or bicker,
And just a wee drap sp'ritual burn in,
   And gusty sucker!

When Vulcan gies his bellows breath,
An' ploughmen gather wi' their graith,
O rare to see thee fizz and freath
   I' the lugget caup!
Then Burnewin comes on like death
   At ev'ry chap.

Nae mercy, then, for airn or steel;
The brawnie, banie, ploughman chiel,
Brings hard owrehip, wi' sturdy wheel,
   The strong forehammer,
Till block and studdie ring and reel
   Wi' dinsome clamour.

When skirlin' weanies see the light,
Thou maks the gossips clatter bright
How fumblin' cuifs their dearies slight -
   Wae worth the name!
Nae howdie gets a social night,
   Or plack frae them.

When neibors anger at a plea,
And just as wud as wud can be,
How easy can the barley-bree
   Cement the quarrel!
It's aye the cheapest lawyer's fee
   To taste the barrel.

Alake! That e'er my muse has reason
To wyte her countrymen wi' treason;
But mony daily weet their weason
   Wi' liquors nice,
And hardly in a winter's season,
   E'er spier her price.

Wae worth that Brandy, burning trash!
Fell source o' mony a pain and brash!
Twins mony a poor, doylt, drucken hash,
   O' half his days;
And sends beside, auld Scotland's cash
   Tae her worst faes.

Ye Scots, wha wish auld Scotland well!
Ye chief, to you my tale I tell,
Poor plackless devils like mysel'
   It sets you ill,
Wi' bitter, dearthfu' wines to mell,
   Or foreign gill.

Meaning of unusual words:

crabbit=bad tempered, cross
wimplin=twisting, turning
jink=dodge nimbly
haughs=river meadowland
Leeze me on=an expression of extreme pleasure
chows her cood=chews her cud
souple=thin, pliable
wale=the pick, choice
kail=a curly variety of cabbage
doited=foolish, crazed
graith=harness for horses
freath=froth, foam

lugget caup=cup with projecting handles
owrehip=striking metal by raising a hammer over the shoulder
studdie ring=anvil ring
dinsome=riotous, brawling
skirlin' weanies=screaming children
cuifs=fool, simpleton
plack=a small copper coin (worth about one-third of a penny)
doylt, drucken hash=muddled, drunken mess

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