Twelfth entry: Second erasure

I’ve decided that this erasure business is pretty fun – not to mention that it gives me an(other) excuse to read Robert Burns. Seriously, if you’ve never heard of his work — and actually, you have: “Should auld acquaintance be forgot…” — you need to check it out. I actually attended my first official Robert Burns Supper this year, if you want to read about it (the link will take you to my other blog).

This time I chose “Death and Dr. Hornbrook.” While the last entry was probably easy to keep up with, this one features much more of the Scottish dialect that Burns preserved in his writing, so after the initial presentation (and my cleaned-up second version), I’ll give you some vocabulary. Same as last time, the crossed-out italics are the erased portions, the bold is “my” new poem:

Some books are lies frae end to end,
And some great lies were never penn’d:
    Ev’n ministers, they
ha’e been kenn’d,
                        In holy rapture,
    A rousing whid,
at times, to vend,
                        And nail’t wi’
Scripture.

But this that I am gaun to tell,
Which lately on a night befel,
Is just as true‘s the Deil’s in h–ll
Or Dublin-city;
That e’er he nearer comes oursel
‘S a muckle pity.

The Clachan yill had made me canty,
I was na fou, but just had plenty;
I stacher’d whyles, but yet took tent ay
To free the ditches;
An’ hillocks, stanes, and bushes, kenn’d ay
Frae ghaists an’ witches.

The rising moon began to glow’r
The distant Cumnock hills out-owre:
    To count her horns with a’ my pow’r,
I set mysel;
But whether she had three or four,
I could na tell.

    I was come round about the hill,
    And todlin down on Willie’s mill,
    Setting my staff with a’
my skill,
To keep me sicker;
Tho’ leeward whyles, against my will,
I took a bicker.

I there wi’ something did forgather,
That put me in an eerie swither;
An awfu’ scythe, out-owre ae shouther,
Clear-dangling, hang;
A three-taed leister on the ither
Lay, large an’ lang.

Its stature seem’d lang Scotch ells twa,
The queerest shape that e’er I saw,
For fient a wame it had ava:
And then, its shanks,
They were as thin, as sharp an’ sma’
As cheeks o’ branks.

“Guid-een,” quo’ I; “Friend, hae ye been mawin,
When ither folk are busy sawin?”
It seem’d to mak a kind o’ stan’,
But naething spak;
At length, says I, “Friend, where ye gaun,
Will ye go back?”

It spak right howe,–My name is Death,
But be na fley’d.”–Quoth I, “Guid faith,
Ye’re may be come to stap my breath;
But tent me, billie;
I red ye weel, take care o’ skaith,
See, there’s a gully!”

“Guidman,” quo’ he, “put up your whittle,
I’m no design’d to try its mettle;
But if I did, I wad be kittle
To be mislear’d,
    I wad nae mind it, no that spittle
Out-owre my beard.”

“Weel, weel!” says I, “a bargain be’t;
Come, gies your hand, an’ sae we’re gree’t;
We’ll ease our shanks an’ tak a seat,
Come, gies your news!
    This while ye hae been mony a gate
At mony a house.

“Ay, ay!” quo’ he, an’ shook his head,
“It’s e’en a lang, lang time indeed
Sin’ I began to nick the thread,
An’ choke the breath:
Folk maun do something for their bread,
An’ sae maun Death.

“Sax thousand years are near hand fled
Sin’ I was to the butching bred,
An’ mony a scheme in vain’s been laid,
To stap or scar me;
Till ane Hornbook’s ta’en up the trade,
An’ faith, he’ll waur me.

“Ye ken Jock Hornbook i’ the Clachan,
    Deil mak his kings-hood in a spleuchan!
He’s grown sae weel acquaint wi’ Buchan
An’ ither chaps,
The weans haud out their fingers laughin
And pouk my hips.

“See, here’s a scythe, and there’s a dart,
They hae pierc’d mony a gallant heart;
But Doctor Hornbook, wi’ his art
And cursed skill,
Has made them baith no worth a f—-t,
Damn’d haet they’ll kill.

“‘Twas but yestreen, nae farther gaen,
I threw a noble throw at ane;
Wi’ less, I’m sure, I’ve hundreds slain;
But-deil-ma-care,
It just play’d dirl on the bane,
But did nae mair.

“Hornbook was by, wi’ ready art,
And had sae fortified the part,
That when I looked to my dart,
It was sae blunt,
Fient haet o’t wad hae pierc‘d the heart
Of a kail-runt.

“I drew my scythe in sic a fury,
I near-hand cowpit wi’ my hurry,
But yet the bauld Apothecary,
Withstood the shock;
I might as weel hae tried a quarry
O’ hard whin rock.

“Ev’n them he canna get attended,
Although their face he ne’er had kend it,
Just sh—- in a kail-blade, and send it,
As soon’s he smells’t,
Baith their disease, and what will mend it,
At once he tells’t.

“And then a’ doctor’s saws and whittles,
Of a’ dimensions, shapes, an’ mettles,
A’ kinds
o’ boxes, mugs, an’ bottles,
He’s sure to hae;
Their Latin
names as fast he rattles
As A B C.

“Calces o’ fossils, earths, and trees;
True sal-marinum
o’ the seas;
The farina of beans and pease,
He has’t
in plenty;
Aqua-fortis, what you please,
He
can content ye.

    “Forbye some new, uncommon weapons,
    Urinus spiritus of capons;
Or mite-horn shavings, filings, scrapings,
Distill’d _per se_;
    Sal-alkali o’ midge-tail clippings,
And mony mae.”

“Waes me for Johnny Ged’s-Hole[7] now,”
Quoth I, “if that thae news be true!
His braw calf-ward whare gowans grew,

Sae white and bonie,
Nae doubt they’ll rive it wi’ the plew;
They’ll ruin Johnie!”

The creature grain’d an eldritch laugh,
 And says, “Ye need na yoke the plough,
Kirkyards will soon be till’d
eneugh,
Tak ye nae fear;
They’ll a’ be trench’d wi’ mony a sheugh
In twa-three year.

“Whare I kill’d ane a fair strae death,
By loss o’ blood or
want of breath,
This night I’m free to tak my aith,
That Hornbook’s skill
Has clad a score i’ their last claith,
By drap an’ pill.

An honest wabster to his trade,
Whase wife’s twa nieves were scarce weel bred,
Gat tippence-worth to mend her head,
When it was sair;
The wife slade cannie to her bed,
But
ne’er spak mair

A countra laird had ta’en the batts,
Or some curmurring in his guts,
His only son for Hornbook sets,
An’ pays him well.
The lad, for twa guid gimmer-pets,
Was laird himsel.

“A bonnie lass, ye kend her name,
Some ill-brewn drink had hov’d her wame;
She trusts hersel, to hide the shame,
In Hornbook’s care;
Horn sent her aff to her lang hame,
To hide it there.

“That’s just a swatch o’ Hornbook’s way;
Thus
goes he on from day to day,
Thus does he poison, kill, an’ slay,
An’s weel paid for’t;
    Yet stops me o’ my lawfu’ prey,
Wi’ his d–mn’d dirt:

“But, hark! I’ll tell you of a plot,
Though dinna ye be
speaking o’t;
    I’ll nail the self-conceited sot,
As dead’s a herrin’:
Niest time we
meet, I’ll wad a groat,
He gets his fairin’!”

But just as he began to tell,
The auld kirk-hammer strak’ the bell

    Some wee short hour ayont the twal,
Which rais’d us baith:
I took the way that pleas’d
mysel’,
And sae did Death.

__________________________________

Here’s the cleaned-up & retouched version:

Lies never penn’d
ha’e been, at times,
Scripture.

I am lately
just as true;
‘S a muckle pity.

I was yet free
frae ghaists, an’
my pow’r I could na tell.

My skill
to bicker
did put me,
clear-hanging,
on the
queerest shape that e’er I saw.

Ither folk
naething spak;
At length, says I,
“My name be na faith,”

But I wad nae mind it, no.

Gies your hand, an’
gies your news!
Ye had been a lang, lang time indeed.

The breath
in vain’s been laid
to scar me:

A gallant heart
wi’ cursed skill
threw a noble throw at
hundreds
but did nae mair.

Wi’ ready art,
I looked to
pierc’ my fury,
but withstood the shock;

Dimension o’ names,
o’ fossils,
o’ seas in plenty
can content ye.

Quoth I, if
white doubt
grain’d enough fear,
they’ll be a want of breath,
an’ honest nieves
ne’er spak mair.

A son for
some ill-brewn shame
goes on from day to day;
Thus does he poison, kill, an’ slay
wi’ his speaking.

I’ll meet
some wee short hour ayont
mysel’
and Death.

________

And here’s your “translation”:

Lies never penned
have been, at times,
Scripture.

I am lately
just as true;
It’s a great pity.

I was yet free
from ghosts, and
my power I could not tell.

My skill
to bicker
did put me,
clear-hanging,
on the
queerest shape that ever I saw.

Other folk
nothing spoke;
At length, says I,
“My name be not faith,”

But I would not mind it, no.

Give us your hand, and
give us your news!
You had been a long, long time indeed.

The breath
in vain has been laid
to scar me:

A gallant heart
with cursed skill
threw a noble throw at
hundreds
but did no more.

With ready art,
I looked to
pierce my fury,
but withstood the shock;

Dimension of names,
of fossils,
of seas in plenty
can content you.

Quoth I, if
white doubt
groaned enough fear,
there will be a want of breath,
and honest fists
never spoke more.

A son for
some ill-brewed shame
goes on from day to day;
Thus does he poison, kill, and slay
with his speaking.

I’ll meet
some wee short hour beyond
myself
and Death.

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