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The Scots Week-End
Epigrams, Epitaphs and Other Trifles


LIBERA NOS DOMINE

DELIVER me, O Lord, from the errors of wise men, yea, and of good men.
 - Archbishop Leighton.

SIX MORAL EPIGRAMS

On the True Test of Poverty

He that agreeth with his povertie
Is truly rich, while on the other part,
He's poore, who 'midst the superfluitie
Of wealth, in new desires consumes his heart:
For 'tis an empty mind inflicts the curse
Of poverty, and not an empty purse.

On Self-conceit

Fond selfe-conceit likes never to permit
One's mind to see itselfe with upright eyes;
Whence many men might have attain'd to wit,
Had they not thought themselves already wise:
To boast of wisedome then is foolishnesse,
For while we thinke we're wise, we're nothing lesse.

On Candour

Though all some errors doe commit, yet few
Having committed them would have them told:
That talke then being displeasing which is true,
Who cannot flatter, he his peace must hold;
So hard a thing it is to say or pen,
Without offence, the truth of living men.

On mere Longevity

That aged man, we should, without all doubt
Of all men else the most disgraceful hold,
Who can produce no testimonie but
The number of his yeares that he is old;
For of such men what can be testifyed
But that being borne, they lived long, then dyed?

On Sinning and Repenting

We sinne with joy: and having sin'd, we mourn;
Then kindle, after teares, new sinfull fires,
There being a turne perpetuall, and returne
'Twixt our repentance and profane desires;
For senses to delights are wedded wholly,
Which purchas'd, reason doth bewail their folly.

On Time and Eternity

As death o'rthroweth man, and cuts his breath,
And fame most gloriously subdueth death;
So gourmandizing time doth fame o'rcome,
And to eternity time must succumb.

Sir Thomas Urquhart

MAN AND GOD

As with the fire,
So with thy God do stand,
Keep not far off,
Nor come thou too near hand.

-Inscription on an Edinburgh Chimney piece, 17th Century

CORNUCOPIA

If for one only Horne
Which Nature to him gave
So famous is the noble Unicorne,
What praise should that Man have
Whose head a Ladie brave
Doth with a goodlie Paire at once adorne?

Drummond of Hawthornden

SCEPTICISM

To save a maid St. George a dragon slew,
A brave exploit, if all that's said is true.
Some think there are no dragons-nay, 'tis said
There was no George: pray God there be a maid!

Anon. (c. 1700)

POLITICS

Fools out of favour grudge at knaves in place,
And men are always honest in disgrace;
But, since preferment makes men knaves by course,
If those that's out were in, they would be worse.

Anon. (early 18th century)

PEDIGREE

Here lies a man,
Com'd of Adam and Eve;
If any will climb higher,
I give him leave.

Anon. (1703)

ON A LION ENRAGED AT SEEING A LAD
IN HIGHLAND DRESS

Calm and serene the imperial lion lay,
Mildly indulging in the solar ray;
On vulgar mortals with indifference gazed,
All unconcerned, nor angry, nor amazed;
But when the Caledonian lad appeared,
Sudden alarmed, his manly mane he reared,
Prepared in fierce encounter to engage
The only object worthy of his rage.

William Hamilton of Bangour

SUCCESS

Here continueth to rot
The body of FRANCIS CHARTERIS,
Who, with an Inflexible Constancy
and
Inimitable Uniformity of Life
Persisted
In spite of Age and Infirmities
In the practice of Every Human Vice,
Excepting Prodigality and Hypocrisy:
His insatiable Avarice exempted him from the first,
His matchless Impudence from the second.
Nor was he more singular
In the undeviating pravity of his manners
Than successful
in accumulating Wealth;
For, without Trade or Profession,
Without Trust of Public Money,
And without Bribe-worthy service,
He acquired, or more properly created,
A Ministerial Estate.
He was the only person of his time
Who could Cheat without the mask of Honesty,
Retain his primeval Meanness
When possessed of Ten Thousand a year,
And having daily deserved the Gibbet for what
he did,
Was at last condemned to it for what he could not do.[1]
Oh, indignant reader!
Think not his life useless to mankind!
Providence connived at his execrable designs,
To give to after ages
A conspicuous Proof and Example

[1] Colonel Charteris, rather late in life, was cast at the Old Bailey for rape and sentenced to death. He had interest enough, however, to procure a pardon.

Of how small estimation is Exorbitant Wealth
In the sight of God
By His bestowing it upon the Most Unworthy of All Mortals.

John Arbuthnot, M.D.

THE WORLD

This is the best world that we can live in
To lend, to spend, and to give in;
But to borrow, or beg, or get a man's own,
It is the worst world that ever was known.

Anon.

THE HAPPY WARRIOR

I murder hate by field or flood,
Though glory's name may screen us;
In wars at home I'll spend my blood,
Life-giving wars of Venus.

The deities that I adore
Are social peace and plenty;
I'm better pleased to make one more
Than be the death of twenty.

Burns

ON A NOTORIOUS SHE-NAMESAKE

Cease, ye prudes, your envious railing,
Lovely Burns has charms-confess.
True it is, she had one failing
Had a woman ever less?

Idem

THE HENPECKED HUSBAND

Cursed be the man, the poorest wretch in life,
The crouching vassal to the tyrant wife!
Who has no will but by her high permission;
Who has not sixpence but in her possession;
Who must to her his dear friend's secret tell;
Who dreads a curtain-lecture worse than hell!
Were such a wife had fallen to my part,
I'd break her spirit or I'd break her heart;
I'd charm her with the magic of a switch,
I'd kiss her maids, and kick the perverse bitch.

Idem

ON JOHN DOVE

Here lies Johnny Pigeon,
What was his religion?
Whae'er desires to ken
To some other warl'
Maun follow the carl,
For here Johnny Pigeon had nane!

Idem

ON A GAY LAD

Lament him, Mauchline husbands a',
He aften did assist ye;
For had ye staid whole years awa'
Your wives they ne'er had missed ye.
Ye Mauchline bairns, as on ye pass
To school in bands thegither,
Oh, tread ye lightly on his grass
Perhaps he was your faither!

Idem

A BARD'S EPITAPH

Is there a man whose judgment clear
Can others teach the course to steer,
Yet runs himself life's mad career
Wild as the wave?
Here pause-and, through the starting tear,
Survey this grave.

Idem

ON A SCHOOLMASTER

Mr Rhind is very kind,
He goes to kirk on Sunday.
He prays to God to give him strength
To skelp the bairns on Monday.

Children's rhyme

LIFE

Like thee I once have stemm'd the sea of life,
Like thee, have languish'd after empty joys;
Like thee, have labour'd in the stormy strife;
Been grieved for trifles, and amused with toys.

James Beattie

LAWS

Laws, as we read in ancient sages,
Have been like cobwebs in all ages.
Cobwebs for little flies are spread,
And laws for little folks are made;
But if an insect of renown,
Hornet or beetle, wasp or drone,
Be caught in quest of sport or plunder,
The flimsy fetter flies in sunder.

Idem

THE QUESTION

Yes, yes, I grant the sons of earth
Are doom'd to trouble from their birth.
We all of sorrow have our share;
But say, is yours without compare?

Idem

WOMAN

Could this ill warld hae been contrived
To stand without mischeevous woman,
How peacefu' bodies might hae lived,
Released frae a' the ills sae common!
But, since it is the waefu' case
That man maun hae this teazing crony,
Why sic a sweet bewitching face?
Oh, had she no been made sae bonnie!

James Hogg

ON AN ABERDEEN FAVOURITE

Here lie the bones of Elizabeth Charlotte,
That was born a virgin and died a harlot.
She was aye a virgin till seventeen
An extraordinary thing for Aberdeen.

Anon.

STRICTURES ON THE ECONOMY
OF NATURE

A' things created have their uses,
This truth will bear nae doots,
As far as hauds to fleas and louses
An' ither bitin' brutes.
I ken the use o' crawlin' clocks
An' bugs upon you creepin';
But what's the use o' Barbara Fox?
By jingo, that's a deep ane!

George Outram

HERE LIES

Here lies of sense bereft
But sense he never had.
Here lies, by feeling left
But that is just as bad.

Here lies, reduced to dirt
That's what he always was;
Here lies without a heart
He ne'er had one, alas!

Here lies ...
He did so ere he died,
Then simply to begin, Here lies
But all his life he lied.
Death is a change, they say
Ye powers that rule the sky,
What change is here, I pray?
For surely he did die.

Idem

TWO EPITAPHS

On a Manufacturer

Here lies lang-length-cut porpoise Dixon
Dished out for greedy mauks tae fix on,
Wha lang devoured his best bread wunners,
But noo devoured himsel' by hunners,
Whilk as they worry, grumlin' say
Though fat, he's unco vulgar clay.

On a Country Gentleman whom the Author has seen passionately
abuse, then liberally assist an Old Beggar

Stop, beggar, stop-bedew this blighted sod
Wi' tears as het as e'er frae mourner flowed,
In him wha sleeps beneath its scanty grass,
(Though whan alive, mair tiger was than ass,)
Ye wad hae faund a brute the maist uncivil,
A furious, rampant, kindly kind o' deevil.

Roger Quinn, the elder

IN HOSPITAL

Fast came ye, sir, to me no weel,
A hunner students at your heel,
A hunner hands did ower me feel,
Wi' Boreas blue.
I had nae fever then, but, deil,
I hae it noo!

Anon. (from Martial)

MAKE-BELIEVES

When I was young and well and glad
I used to play at being sad;
Now youth and health are fled away,
At being glad I sometimes play.

R. F. Murray

ON A HIGHLAND FACTOR

Ged thachradh oighreachd mhór agad,
'S ged ghéill na sloigh fo d'smachd;
Tha 'm bàs 'us laghan geur aige,
'S gu feum thu géill d' a reachd.
Sud uachdaran a dh' òrduicheas,
Co-ionnan còir gach neach;
'S mar oighreachd bheir e léine dhuit,
'S dà cheum de thalamh glas.

'N sin molaidh a' chruimh shnàigeach thu,
Cho tàirceach 's a bhitheas d' fheoil;
'N uair gheigh i air do chàradh thu,
Gu sàmhach air a bòrd.
Their i, "'S e fear miath 'tha 'n so,
Tha math do bhiasd nan còs,
Bho'n rinn e caol na ciadan,
Gus e féin a bhiathadh dhomh-s' ".

lain Mac A'Ghobhainn

SEASON'S GREETINGS

I remember, I remember
Nothing further after that,
But I wakened in the morning
On an alien lobby mat;
And I felt not unpersuaded
(Though my reasons were not clear)
That I'd spent a Merry Christmas
And a Prosperous New Year.

George Fletcher, M.D.

SCOTS ORTHOGRAPHY

I know of a fellow called Menzies
About whom the peculiar thing is
He incessantly chatters
Political matters
And works himself up into frenzies.

Archibald Browning

EFFICACY OF PRAYER

There was aince an auld body o' Sydney
Wha suffered from pains in the kidney.
He prayed to the Lord
That he might be restored,
And He promised He would-but He didnae.

- Attributed to Neil Munro

THOUGHTS ON MY BOSS

Curse his new hoose, his business, his cigar,
His wireless set, and motor car,
Alsatian, gauntlet gloves, plus fours and wife,
-A'thing included in his life;
And, abune a', his herty laughter,
And - if he has yin-his hereafter.

Hugh MacDiarmid

UP TO DATE

Christ, wha'd ha'e been Chief Rabbi gin he lik't!
Wi publicans and sinners did foregether,
But, losh! the publicans noo are Pharisees.
And I'm no shair o' maist the sinners either.

Idem

SCOTLAND

Respectable Scotland! Land o' Grundy! -
Burns! and back-street pubs! and Sunday! -
(Of course it's no the pubs I mind:
But why the devil are they a' behind?)

Roderick Watson Kerr

SECRETS

I had Smith's secrets, Robinson's I had;
To Jones I was a confidential brother:
My own I kept lest they should grow as bad
As those of Smith which Jones heard from the other.

William Soutar

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

With the Scots it was whisky or perish.
And how they have survived!

Lawton Mackall

OUR FRIEND

He had his faults, like all of woman born;
These and himself alike we deeply mourn.
They made of him a man we ill could spare -
It was his virtues that were hard to bear.

Catherine Carswell


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