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Charlotte Bleh’s Collection of Favourite  Nursery  Rhymes, Poems and Prose Book
Robert Burns

My  Character  and  Pride  of  Scotland
Memory  Pages
From  the  Music  and  Verse
of  Robert  Burns

My Granny had a copy of Burns’ Kilmarnock edition, one of the first collections of his work, that she said she was given to her by her Granny; by the time I came along, it was tattered and torn, pages missing, etc., but what was left of it was kept in an honored place, safely wrapped in another faded family remnant (a piece of her Granny’s original paisley woven shawl) in one of deep bottom drawers of our big mahogany wardrobe;  I wish she had given those to me for safekeeping, but they are now long gone – yet, like so much that is long lost,  we have the memories that remain with us still and the stories to pass on to those we love..

The Heart of Family

. . . November chill blaws loud wi’ angry sugh;
The short’ning winter-day is near a close;
The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh;
The black’ning trains o’ craws to their repose:
The toil-worn Cotter frae his labour goes –
This night his weekly moil is at an end,
Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes,
Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend,
And weary, o’er the moor, his course does homeward bend.

At length his lonely cot appears in view,
Beneath the shelter of an aged tree;
Th’ expectant wee-things, toddling, stacher through
To meet their dad, wi’ flichterin’ noise and glee.
His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonilie,
His clean hearth-stane, his thrifty wifie’s smile,
The lisping infant, prattling on his knee,
Does a’ his weary carking cares beguile,
And makes him quite forget his labor and his toil. . . .

With joy unfeign’d, brothers and sisters meet,
And each for other’s welfare kindly spiers:
The social hours, swift-wing’d unnoticed fleet;
Each tells the uncos that he sees or hears.
The parents partial eye their hopeful years;
Anticipation forward points the view;
The mother, wi’ her needle and her sheers,
Gars auld claes look amaist as weel’s the new;
The father mixes a’ wi’ admonition due. . . .

. . . The cheerfu’ supper done, wi’ serious face,
They, round the ingle, form a circle wide;
The sire turns o’er wi’ patriarchal grace,
The big ha’-Bible, ance his father’s pride.’
His bonnet rev’rently is laid aside,
His lyart haffets wearing thin and bare;
Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,
He wales a portion with judicious care,
And ‘Let us worship God!’ he says, with solemn air.

. . . From scenes like these, old Scotia’s grandeur springs,
That makes her lov’d at home, rever’d abroad:
Princes and lords are but the breath of Kings,
‘An honest man’s the noble(st) work of God’; . . .


Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dicht,
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their well swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit!’ hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil!  See him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned
Like taps o’ thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o‘ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware,
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!
Address to the Haggis


When Death’s dark stream I ferry o’er
(A time that surely shall come),
In Heaven itself I’ll ask no more
Than just a Highland welcome.
A Highland Welcome


Sweet flow’ret, pledge o’ meikle love,
And ward o’ monie a prayer,
What heart o’ stane wad thou na move,
Sae helpless, sweet and fair!

November hirples o’er the lea,
Chill, on thy lovely form;
And gane, alas! the shelt’ring tree,
Should shield thee frae the storm.

May He who gives the rain to pour,
And wings the blast to blaw,
Protect thee frae the driving show’r,
The bitter frost and snaw!

May He, the friend of Woe and Want,
Who heals lif’e’s various stounds,
Protect and guard the mother plant,
And heal her cruel wounds!

But late she flourish’d rooted fast,
Fair on the summer morn,
Now feebly bends she in the blast,
Unshelter’d and forlorn.

Blest be thy bloom, thou lovely gem,
Unscath’d by ruffian hand!
And from thee many a parent stem
Arise to deck our land!

On the Birth of a Posthumous Child


There was a lad was born in Kyle,
But whatna day o’ what na style,
I doubt it’s hardly worth the while
To be sae nice wi’ Robin.

Robin was a rovin’ boy,
Rantin, rovin, rantin, rovin,
Robin was a rovin boy,
Rantin, rovin robin!

. . .”He’ll hae misfortunes great an’ sma’,
But ay’ a heart aboon them a’.
He’ll be a credit till us a’:
We’ll a’ be proud o’ Robin!


Willie Wastle dwalt on Tweed,
The spot they ca’d it Linkumdoddie.
Willie was a wabster guid
Could stone a clue wi’ onie bodie.
He had a wife was dour and din,
O, Tinkler Maidgie was her mither!
Sic a wife as Willie had,
I wad na gie a button for her.

She has an e’e (she has but ane),
The cat has twa the very colour,
Five rusty teeth, forbye a stump,
A clapper-tongue wad deave a miller;
A whiskin beard about her mou,
Her nose and chin they threaten ither:
Sic a wife as Wilie had,
I wad na gie a button for her.

She’s bow-hough’d, she’s hem-shin’d,
Ae limpin leg a hand-breed shorter;
She’s twisted richt, she’s twisted left,
To balance fair in ilka quarter;
She has a hump upon her breast,
The twin o’ that upon her shouther;
Sic a wife as Willie had,
I wad na gie a button for her.

Auld baudrans by the ingle sits,
An’ wi’ her loof her face a-washin’;
But Willie’s wife is nae sae trig,
She dights her grunzie wi’ a hushion;
Her walie nieves like midden-creels,
Her face wad fyle the Logan Water:
Sic a wife as Willie had,
I wad na gie a button for her.

(My mother loved this well received performance piece.)

The Heart of Love

Fair Empress of the Poet’s soul
And Queen of poetesses;
Clarinda, take this little boon,
This humble pair of glasses;

And fill them high with generous juice,
As generous as your mind;
And pledge me in the generous toast:
‘The whole of human kind!’

‘To those who love us!’ second fill;
But not to those whom we love,
Lest we love those who love not us!
A third:- ‘To thee and me, love!’

‘Long may we live! Long may we love!
And long may we be happy!
And may we never want a glass
Well charg’d with generous nappy!’


O. whistle an’ I’ll come to ye, my lad!
O, whistle, an’ I’ll come to ye, my lad!
Tho’ father an’ mother an’ a’ should gae mad,
O, whistle an’ I’ll come to ye my lad!


Of a’ the airts the wind can blaw
I dearly like the west,
For there the bonie lassie lives,
The lassie I lo’e best.

There wild woods grow, and rivers row,
And monie a hill between,
But day and night my fancy’s flight
Is ever wi’ my Jean.
I see her in the dewy flowers –

I see her sweet and fair.
I hear her in the tunefu’ birds –
I hear her charm the air.
There’s not a bonie flower that springs
By fountain, shaw, or green,
There’s not a bonie bird that sings,
But minds me o’ my Jean.


O, that I were where Helen lies!
Night and day on me she cries;
O, that I were where Helen lies
In fair Kirkconnel lees.

O Helen fair! beyond compare,
A ringlet of thy flowing hair,
I’ll wear it still for evermair
Until the day I die.

Curs’d be the hand that shot the shot,
And curs’d the gun that gave the crack,
Into my arms bird Helen lap,
And died for sake o’ me.

O think na ye but my heart was sair,
My love fell down and spake nae mair,
There did she swoon wi’ meikle care
On fair Kirkconnel lee.

I lighted down, my sword did draw,
I cutted him in pieces sma’;
I cutted him in pieces sma;
On fair Kirkconnel lee.

O Helen chaste, thou wert modest
If I were with thee I were blest,
Where thou lies low, and takes they rest
On fair Kirkconnel lee.

I wish my grave was growing green,
A winding sheet put o’er my een,
And I in Helen’s arms lying
In fair Kirkconnel lee!

I wish I were where Helen lies!
Night and day on me she cries;
O, that I were where Helen lies
On fair Kirkconnel lee.


John Anderson my jo, John,
When we were first acquent,
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bonie brow was brent;

But now your brow is beld, John,
Your locks are like the snaw,
But blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson my jo.
John Anderson my jo, John,

We clamb the hill thegither,
And monie a cantie day, John,
We’ve had wi’ ane anither;
Now we maun totter down, John,
And hand in hand we’ll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson my jo!

(This is the song I sing for John and me.)


Thou ling’ring star with less’ning ray,
That lov’st to greet the early morn,
Again thou usher’st in the day
My Mary from my soul was torn.
O Mary, dear departed shade!

Where is thy place of blissful rest?
See’st thou thy lover lowly laid?
Hear’st thou the groans that rend his brest? . . .


Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!
Ae farewell, and then forever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I’ll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I’ll wage thee.

. . . Had we never lov’d sae kindly,
Had we never lov’d sae blindly,
Never met – or never parted –
We had ne’er been broken-hearted.

Fare-thee-weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare-thee-weel, thou best and dearest!
Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
Peace, Enjoyment, Love and Pleasure! . . .


My heart is a-breaking, dear tittie,
Some counsel unto me come len’,
To anger them a’ is a pity,
But what will I do wi’ Tam Glen?
I’m thinking, wi’ sic a braw fellow
In poortith I might mak a fen’.
What care I in riches to wallow,
If I mauna marry Tam Glen?
There’s Lowrie the laird o’ Dumeller:
‘Guid day to you,’ brute! he comes ben.
He brags and he blaws o’ his siller,
But when will he dance like Tam Glen?

My minnie does constantly deave me,
And bids me beware o’ young men.
They flatter, she says, to deceive me –
But wha can think sae o’ Tam Glen?

My daddie says, gin I’ll forsake him,
He’d gie me guid hunder marks ten.
But if it’s ordain’d I maun take him,
O, what will I get but Tam Glen?
Yestreen at the valentines’ dealing,
My heart to my mou gied a sten,
For thrice I drew ane without failing,
And thrice it was written “Tam Glen’!
The last Halloween I was waukin
My droukit sark-sleeve, as ye ken –
His likeness came up the house staukin,
And the very grey breeks o’ Tam Glen!

Come, counsel, dear tittie, don’t tarry!
I’ll gie ye my bonie black hen,
Gif you will advise me to marry
The lad I lo’e dearly, Tam Glen.


Ye banks and braes o’ bonie Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
And I sae weary fu’ o’ care!
Thou’ll break my heart, thou warbling bird,
That wantons thro’ the flowering thorn!
Thou minds me o’ departed joys,
Departed never to return.

Aft hae I rov’d by bonie Doon
To see the rose and woodbine twine,
And ilka bird san o’ its luve,
And fondly sae did I o’ mine.

Wi’ lightsome heart I pu’d a rose,
Fu’ sweet upon its thorny tree!
And my fause luver staw my rose –
But ah! he left the thorn wi’ me.


Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes!
Flow gently, I’ll sing thee a song in thy praise!
My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream –
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream!

Thou stock dove whose echo resounds thro’ the glen,
Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den,
Thou green-crested lapwing, thy screaming forbear –
I charge you, disturb not my slumbering fair!

How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills,
Far mark’d with the courses of clear, winding rills!
There daily I wander, as noon rises high,
My flocks and my Mary’s sweet cot in my eye.

How pleasant thy banks and green vallies below,
Where wild in the woodlands the primroses blow;
There oft, as mild ev’ning weeps over the lea,
The sweet scented birk shades my Mary and me.

Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides,
And winds by the cot where my Mary resides!
How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave,
As, gathering sweet flowerets, she stems thy clear wave!

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes!
Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays!
My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream –
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream!

(I remember my Granny singing this and teaching it to me when I was a little child – I always
associated this with her and my Grandfather who was lost at sea. I think this was the song
she sang when she was sad and grieving his loss – after all, David James Thomas was a Welshman
and they are a singing people.)


O, my luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June.
O, my luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still, my Dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my Dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun!
O I will luve thee still, my Dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again my Luve,
Tho’ it were then thousand mile.


O, wert thou in the cauld blast
On yonder lea, on yonder lea,
My plaidie to the angry airt,
I’d shelter thee, I’d shelter thee.

Or did Misfortune’s bitter storms
Around thee blaw, around thee blaw,
Thy bield should be by bosom,
To share it a’, to share it a’.

O were I in the wildest waste,
Sae black and bare, sae black and bare,
The desert were a Paradise,
If thou wert there, if thou wert there.

Or were I monarch of the globe,
Wi’ thee to reign, wi’ thee to reign,
The brightest jewel in my crown
Wad be my queen, wad by my queen.


When o’er the hill the eastern star
Tells bughtin time is near, my jo,
And owsen frae the furrow’d field
Return sae dowf and weary, O,
Down by the burn, where scented birks
Wi’ dew are hingin clear, my jo,
I’ll meet thee on the lea-rig,
My ain kind dearie, O.

At midnight hour in mirkest glen
I’d rove, and ne’er be eerie, O,
If thor’ that glen I gaed to thee,
My ain kind dearie, O!
Altho’ the night were ne’er sae wild,
And I were ne’er sae weary, O,
I’ll meet thee on the lea-rig,
My ain kind dearie, O.

The hunter lo’es the morning sun
To rouse the mountain deer, my jo;
At noon the fisher takes the glen
Adown the burn to steer, my jo:
Gie me the hour o’ gloaming grey –
It maks my heart so cheery, O,
To meet thee on the lea-rig
My ain kind dearie, O!


Bonnie wee thing, cannie wee thing,
Lovely wee thing, wert thou mine,
I wad wear thee in my bosom
Lest my jewel it should tine.


O Mary at thy window be!
It is the wish’d the trysted hour.
Those smiles and glances let me see,
That make the miser’s treasure poor.
How blithely wad I bide the stoure,
A weary slave frae sun to sun,
Could I the rich reward secure –
The lovely Mary Morison!

Yestreen, when to the trembling string
The dance gaed thro’ the lighted ha’,
To thee my fancy took its wing,
I sat, but neither heard or saw:
Tho’ this was fair, and that was braw,
And yon the toast of a’ the town,
I sigh’d and said among them a’: -
“Ye are na Mary Morison!’

O Mary, canst thou wreck his peace
Wha for thy sake wad gladly die?
Or canst thou break that heart of his
Whase only faut is loving thee?
If love for love thou wilt na gie,
At least be pity to me shown:
A thought ungentle canna be
The thought o’ Mary Morison.


I’ll aye ca’ in by yon town
An by yon garden green again!
I’ll ay ca’ in by yon town,
And see my bonie Jean again. . . .


Duncan Gray cam here to woo
(Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!)
One blithe Yule-Night when we were fou
(Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!)
Maggie coost her head fu’ high,
Look’d asklent and unco skeigh,
Gart poor Duncan stand abeigh –
Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!
Duncan fleech’d and Duncan pray’d
(Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!)
Meg was deaf as Ailsa Craig
(Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!)
Duncan sigh’d baith out and in,
Grat his een baith bleer’t an’ blin’,
Spak o’ loupin o’er a linn –
Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!
Time and Chance area but a tide
(Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!)
Slighted love is sair to bide
(Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!)
‘Shall I like a fool,” quoth he,
‘For a haughty hizzie die?
She may gae to – France for me!’ –
Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!

How it comes, let doctors tell
(Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!)
Meg grew sick, as he grew hale
(Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!)
Something in her bosom wrings,
(Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!)
For relief a sigh she brings,
And O! her een they spak sic things ! –
(Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!)
Duncan was a lad o’ grace
(Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!)
Maggie’s was a piteous case
(Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!)
Duncan could na be her death,
(Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!)
Swelling pity smoor’d his wrath;
Now they’re crouse and canty baith –
(Ha, ha, the wooing o’t!)

(I learned this in school and loved to sing it loud and clear!)


O saw ye bonie Lesley
As she gaed o’er the Border?
She’s gane, like Alexander,
To spread her conquests farther!

To see her is to love her,
And love but her for ever;
For Nature made her what she is,
And never made anither!

Thou art a queen, fair Lesley –
Thy subjects, we before thee!
Thou art divine, fair Lesley –
The hearts o’ men adore thee.

The Deil he could na skaith thee,
Or aught that wad belang thee:
He’d look into thy bonie face,
And say: -‘I canna wrang thee!’

The Powers aboon will tent thee,
Misfortune sha’na steer thee:
Thou’rt like themsel’ sae lovely,
That ill they’ll ne’er let near thee.

Return again, fair Lesley,
Return to Caledonie!
That we may brag we hae a lass
There’s nane again sae bonie.

(A competition piece)

Return to Char's Index Page  |  Return to Burns Index Page


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