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One, and but one poor solitary cave, Too sparing of her favours, nature gave; That one alone (hard tax on Scottish pride!) Shelter at once for man and beast supplied. Their snares without entangling briers spread, And thistles, arm'd against th' invader's head, Stood in close ranks all entrance to oppose, Thistles now held more precious than the rose. All creatures which, on nature's earliest plan, Were form'd to lothe, and to be loth'd by man, Which ow'd their birth to nastiness and spite, Deadly to touch, and hateful to the sight, Creatures, which when admitted in the ark, Their saviour shunn'd, and rankled in the dark, Found place within: marking her noisome road With poison's trail, here crawl'd the bloated toad; There webs were spread of more than common size, And half-starv'd spiders prey'd on half-starv'd flies; In quest of food, efts strove in vain to crawl; Slugs, pinch'd with hunger, smear'd the slimy wall; The cave around with hissing serpents rung; On the damp roof unhealthy vapour hung; And Famine, by her children always known, As proud as poor, here fix'd her native throne. Here, for the sullen sky was overcast, And summer shrunk beneath a wint❜ry blast, A native blast, which, arm'd with hail and rain, Beat unrelenting on the naked swain, The boys for shelter made; behind, the sheep, Of which those shepherds every day take keep,
Sickly crept on, and with complainings rude,
On nature seem'd to call, and bleat for food.
Jock. Sith to this cave, by tempest, we're confin'd,
And within ken our flocks, under the wind,
Safe from the pelting of this perilous storm,
Are laid emong yon thistles, dry and warm,
What, Sawney, if by shepherd's art we try
To mock the rigour of this cruel sky?
What if we tune some merry roundelay ?
Well dost thou sing, nor ill doth Jockey play.
Saw. Ah, Jockey, ill advisest thou, I wis,
To think of songs at such a time as this.
Sooner shall herbage crown these barren rocks,
Sooner shall fleeces clothe these ragged flocks,
Sooner shall want seize shepherds of the south,
And we forget to live from hand to mouth,
Than Sawney, out of season, shall impart
The songs of gladness with an aching heart.
Jock. Still have I known thee for a silly swain:
Of things past help, what boots it to complain?
Nothing but mirth can conquer fortune's spite;
No sky is heavy, if the heart be light:
Patience is sorrow's salve; what can't be cur'd,
So Donald right areeds, must be endur'd.
Saw. Full silly swain, I wot, is Jockey now; How didst thou bear thy Maggy's falsehood? how, When with a foreign loon she stole away, Didst thou forswear thy pipe and shepherd's lay? Where was thy boasted wisdom then, when I Applied those proverbs, which you now apply?
Jock. O she was bonny! All the Highlands round Was there a rival to my Maggy found? More precious (though that precious is to all) Than the rare med'cine which we brimstone call, Or that choice plant, so grateful to the nose, Which in I know not what far country grows, Was Maggy unto me; dear do I rue, A lass so fair should ever prove untrue.
Saw. Whether with pipe or song to charm the ear,
Through all the land did Jamie find a peer?
Curs'd be that year by ev'ry honest Scot,
And in the shepherd's calendar forgot,
That fatal year, when Jamie, hapless swain,
In evil hour forsook the peaceful plain.
Jamie, when our young laird discreetly fled,
Was seiz'd, and hang'd till he was dead, dead, dead.
Jock. Full sorely may we all lament that day;
For all were losers in the deadly fray.
Five brothers had I on the Scottish plains,
Well dost thou know were none more hopeful swains ;
Five brothers there I lost, in manhood's pride,
Two in the field, and three on gibbets died:
Ah! silly swains, to follow war's alarms!
Ah! what hath shepherds' life to do with arms!
Saw. Mention it not-There saw I
In all the honours of our ravish'd plaid,
Saw the ferrara too, our nation's pride,
Unwilling grace the awkward victor's side.
There fell our choicest youth, and from that day
Mote never Sawney tune the merry lay;
Bless'd those which fell! curs'd those which still
To mourn fifteen renew'd in forty-five.
Thus plain'd the boys, when from her throne of turf,
With boils emboss'd, and overgrown with scurf,
Vile humours, which, in life's corrupted well,
Mix'd at the birth, not abstinence could quell,
Pale Famine rear'd the head: her eager eyes,
Where hunger ev'n to madness seem'd to rise,
Speaking aloud her throes and pangs of heart,
Strain'd to get loose, and from their orbs to start;
Her hollow cheeks were each a deep-sunk cell,
Where wretchedness and horror lov'd to dwell;
With double rows of useless teeth supplied
Her mouth, from ear to ear, extended wide,
Which, when for want of food her entrails pin'd,
She op'd, and, cursing, swallow'd nought but wind;
All shrivell'd was her skin, and here and there
Making their way by force, her bones lay bare:
Such filthy sight to hide from human view,
O'er her foul limbs a tatter'd plaid she threw.
Cease, cried the goddess, cease, despairing swains,
And from a parent hear what Jove ordains!
Pent in this barren corner of the isle,
Where partial fortune never deign'd to smile;
Like nature's bastards, reaping for our share
What was rejected by the lawful heir;
Unknown amongst the nations of the earth,
Or only known to raise contempt and mirth;
Long free, because the race of Roman braves
Thought it not worth their while to make us slaves
Then into bondage by that nation brought,
Whose ruin we for ages vainly sought;
Whom still with unslack'd hate we view, and still,
The pow'r of mischief lost, retain the will;
Consider'd as the refuse of mankind,
A mass till the last moment left behind,
Which frugal nature doubted, as it lay,
Whether to stamp with life, or throw away;
Which, form'd in haste, was planted in this nook,
But never enter'd in creation's book;
Branded as traitors, who for love of gold
Would sell their God, as once their king they sold;
Long have we borne this mighty weight of ill,
These vile injurious taunts, and bear them still.
But times of happier note are now at hand,
And the full promise of a better land:
There, like the sons of Israel, having trod,
For the fix'd term of years ordain'd by God,
A barren desert, we shall seize rich plains,
Where milk with honey flows, and plenty reigns.
With some few natives join'd, some pliant few,
Who worship int'rest, and our track pursue,
There shall we, though the wretched people grieve,
Ravage at large, nor ask the owner's leave.
For us, the earth shall bring forth her increase; For us, the flocks shall wear a golden fleece; Fat beeves shall yield us dainties not our own, And the grape bleed a nectar yet unknown;