Robert Fergusson

(1750 - 1774 / Scotland)

The Daft-days


Now mirk December's dowie face
Glours our the rigs wi' sour grimace,
While, thro' his minimum of space,
The bleer-ey'd sun
Wi' blinkin light and stealing pace,
His race doth run.

From naked groves nae birdie sings,
To shepherd's pipe nae hillock rings,
The breeze nae od'rous flavour brings
From Borean cave,
And dwyning nature droops her wings,
Wi' visage grave.

Mankind but scanty pleasure glean
Frae snawy hill or barren plain,
Whan Winter, 'midst his nipping train,
Wi' frozen spear,
Sends drift owr a' his bleak domain,
And guides the weir.

Auld Reikie! thou'rt the canty hole,
A bield for mony caldrife soul,
Wha snugly at thine ingle loll,
Baith warm and couth;
While round they gar the bicker roll
To weet their mouth.

When merry Yule-day comes, I trow
You'll scantlins find a hungry mou;
Sma' are our cares, our stamacks fou
O' gusty gear,
And kickshaws, strangers to our view,
Sin Fairn-year.

Ye browster wives, now busk ye bra,
And fling your sorrows far awa';
Then come and gie's the tither blaw
Of reaming ale,
Mair precious than the well of Spa,
Our hearts to heal.

Then, tho' at odds wi' a' the warl',
Amang oursells we'll never quarrel;
Tho' Discord gie a canker'd snarl
To spoil our glee,
As lang's there's pith into the barrel
We'll drink and 'gree.

Fiddlers, your pins in temper fix,
And roset weel your fiddle-sticks,
But banish vile Italian tricks
From out your quorum,
Nor fortes wi' pianos mix,
Gie's Tulloch Gorum.

For nought can cheer the heart sae weil
As can a canty Highland reel,
It even vivifies the heel
To skip and dance:
Lifeless is he what canna feel
Its influence.

Let mirth abound, let social cheer
Invest the dawning of the year;
Let blithesome innocence appear
To crown our joy,
Nor envy wi' sarcastic sneer
Our bliss destroy.

And thou, great god of Aqua Vitæ!
Wha sways the empire of this city,
When fou we're sometimes capernoity,
Be thou prepar'd
To hedge us frae that black banditti,
The City-Guard.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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  • Rookie Colin Bell (3/6/2006 5:41:00 AM)

    I looked up Robert Fergusson as part of a training exercise based on a mental health theme. Obviously, The Daft-days has a rueful irony about it as the poet was to be admitted to Edinburgh's Bedlam asylum shortly before his short time was up. I think I'll have to look into Lallans and Auld Reekie vernacular to get the full benefit from this poem, a lot of the references are beyond me, looking at it for the first time. I didn't realise the wee statue at the church in the Canongate commemorated this poet, whose general wit and joie de vivre seemed to disintegrate into a mass of religious obsession. The same kind of thing happened to me at a similar age. Thankfully, there's a greater likelihood of some kind of cure for these ailments nowadays, although it's not necessarily an easy journey. I'm gonna go read the poem again. Ciao. (Report) Reply

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