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To a Louse
by Robert Burns

Scottish poet and songwriter, Burns is best known today for the latter and, in particular, for his Auld Lang Syne, generally sung in Britain upon the occasion of New Year. This appeared, along with such other lyrics as O My Loves Like a Red, Red Rose, Ye Banks and Braes and Scots wha hac, in the selection of Scottish tunes Burns collected and contributed to: the Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice (1793-1818). Other of his songs are also collected in another compendia, The Scots Musical Museum (1787-1803).

As a poet Burns worked with simple concepts, but applied them across a number of forms. He wrote and published satires, scenes of rustic life, epistles to friends, epigrams and nature poems, both in a composite poetic form made up of a number of Scottish dialects and in English. In poems such as The Cotter's Saturday Night and To a Mountain Daisy he uses both Scottish dialect and English together. His poems were published in the Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (1786).


To a Louse
by Robert Burns

(On seeing one on a lady's bonnet at church)

Ha! whare ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie!
Your impudence protects you sairly:
I canna say but ye strunt rarely
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho' faith, I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunned by saunt an' sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her,
Sae fine a lady!
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner,
On some poor body.

Swith, in some beggar's haffet squattle;
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle
Wi' ither kindred, jumpin cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Whare horn or bane ne'er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.

Now haud ye there, ye're out o' sight,
Below the fatt'rels, snug an' tight;
Na faith ye yet! ye'll no be right
Till ye've got on it,
The vera tapmost, towering height
O' Miss's bonnet.

My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an' grey as onie grozet:
O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I'd gie ye sic a hearty dose o't,
Wad dress your droddum!

I wad na been surprised to spy
You on an auld wife's flainen toy;
Or aiblins some bit duddie boy,
On's wyliecoat;
But Miss's fine Lunardi! -fie!
How daur ye do't?

O Jenny, dinna toss your head,
An' set your beauties a' abread!
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie's makin!
Thae winks and finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin!

O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
And ev'n Devotion!


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