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Poems of John Lapraik

John Lapraik 1727 - 1807 was a gentleman farmer who was born in 1727 lived near Muirkirk, Ayrshire. He had had a long and eventful life - which included a spell in a debtor's prison following the collapse of a local Bank.

He became known to Burns after Burns heard one of Lapraik's poems - When I upon thy bosom lean and Burns sent (and subsequently published) three Epistles to John Lapraik, "an old Scottish bard".

Two years after Burns' first edition of his poems had been published with great success John Lapraik decided to try and emulate Robert Burns by also publishing a book of poems and songs.

The contents include Lapraik's reply to Burn's first Epistle.

The poems and songs are principally interesting for their content in casting light on life in Ayrshire in the 18th Century.

The book did not sell well and James Maxwell, a contemporary of both Burns and Lapraik - who disapproved of their religious and cultural values - bluntly summed up his view on Lapraik's venture:

For some devoted theirs unto the flame;
Bumfodder also others made of them.
Some turn'd to dung, and others they were burn'd,
And so to dirt and ashes all were turn'd.

John Lapraik remained friends with Robert Burns until the latter's death in 1796.

WHEN I upon thy bosom lean
Tune, Johnny's Grey Breeks

WHEN I upon thy bosom lean,
Enraptur'd, I do call thee mine;
I glory in those sacr'd ties,
That made us one, who once were twain.

A mut'al flame inspires us both;
The tender look, the melting kiss,
Ev'n years shall ne'er destroy our love;
Some sweet sensation new will rise.

Have I a wish? 'tis all for thee;
I know thy wish is me to please;
Our moments pass so smooth away,
That numbers on us look and gaze.

Well pleas'd to see our happy days,
They bid us live and still love on;
And if some cares shall chance to rise,
Thy bosom still shall be my home.

I'll lull me there and take my rest;
And if that thought disturb my fair,
I'll bid her laugh her cares all out,
And beg her not to drop a tear.

Have I a joy? 'tis all her own;
Her heart and mine are all the same;
They're like the woodbine round the tree,
That's twin'd till Death shall us disjoin.

Epistle to R****T B***s

O far fam'd RAB! my silly Muse,
That thou sae prais'd langsyne,
When she did scarce ken verse by prose,
Now dares to spread her wing.

Unconcious of the least desert,
Nor e'er expecting fame,
I sometimes did myself divert,
Wi' jingling worthless rhyme.

When sitting lanely by myself,
Just unco griev'd and wae,
To think that Fortune, fickle Joe!
Had kick'd me o'er the brae!

And when I was amaist half-drown'd
Wi' dolefu' grief and care,
I'd may-be rhyme a verse or twa,
To drive away despair.

Or when I met a chiel like you,
Sae gi'en to mirth an' fun,
Wha lik'd to speel Parnassus' hill
An drink at Helicon,

I'd aiblins catch a wee bit spark
O' his Poetic fire,
An rhyme awa like ane half-mad,
Until my Muse did tire.

I lik'd the Lasses unco weel,
Langsyne when I was young,
Which fortimes kittled up my Muse
To write a kind love sang;

Yet still it ne'er ran in my head,
To trouble Mankind with
My dull, insipid, thowless rhyme,
And stupid, senseless stuff;

Till your kind Muse, wi' friendly blast,
First tooted up my fame,
And sounded loud, through a' the Wast,
My lang forgotten name.

Quoth I, "Shall I, like to a sumph,
"Sit douss and dowie here,
"And suffer the ill-natur'd warld
"To ca' RAB BURNS a liar.

"He says that I can sing fu' weel,
"An through the warld has sent it-
"Na; faith I rhyme a hearty blaud,
"Though I should aye repent it."

Syne I gat up, wi unco glee,
An snatch'd my grey goose quill,
An cry'd, "Come here, my Muse, fy come,
"An rhyme wi' a' your skill."

The Hizzy was right sweer to try't,
An' fearce wad be persuaded:
She said, I was turn'd auld an' stiff,
My youthfu' fire quite faded.

Quoth she, "Had ye begun langsyne,
"When ye were brisk and young,
"I doubtna but ye might hae past,
"And sung a glorious sang:

"But now ye're clean gane out o' tune,
"Your auld grey scaulp turn'd bare:
"Mair meet that ye were turning douse
"And try'ng to say your pray'r.

"The folk's a' laughing at you, else,
"Ye'll gar them laugh aye father:
"When ye gang out, they'll point and say,
"There gangs the Poetafter."

"Devil care," said I, haud just your toungue,
"Begin and nae mair say;
"I maun maintain my honour now,
"Though I should seldom pray!

"I oft when in a merry tift
"Have rhym'd for my diversion;
"I'll now go try to rhyme for bread
"And let the warld be clashin'."

"Weel, weel," says she, "fin ye're fae bent,
"Come, let us go begin then;
"We'll try to do the best we can,
"I'm sure we'll aye say something."

Syne till't I gat, an' rhym'd away,
'Till I hae made a Book o't,
An though I should rue 't 'a my life,
I'll gie the warld a look o't.

I'm weel aware the greatest part
(I fain hope not the whole)
Will look upon't as senseless stuff,
And me's a crazy fool.

Whether that it be nonsense a'
Or some o't not amiss
And whether I've done right or wrang,
I leave the warld to guess:

But I should tell them, bye the bye,
Though it is may-be idle,
That fint a book scarce e'er I read,
Save ance or twice the Bible.

An' what the learned folk ca' grammar,
I naething ken about it;
Although I b'lieve it be owre true,
Ane can do nought without it.

But maist my life has just been spent
(Which to my cost I feel)
In fechtin fair wi' luckless brutes,
Till they kick'd up my heel.

Now fare-ye-well, my guid frien' RAB,
May luck and health attend ye;
If I do weel, I'll bless the day
That e'er I came to ken ye:

But on the tither han', should folk
Me for my nonsense blason,
Nae doubt I'll curse th' unlucky day,
I listen'd to your fraisin.

May that great Name that ye hae got
Untainted aye remain!
And may the Laurels on your head
Ay flourish fresh and green!

The LORD maintain your honour aye,
And then ye needna fear,
While I can write, or speak, or think,
I am your frien' sincere!

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