A Fragment

This ballad, by Robert Burns, is familiar to every one. Chambers, in his Life and Works of the Poet, says, the production "is curious, as an example of that brief direct narration in which the rustic mind usually gives its version of the most complicated political and historical transactions."


WHEN Guildford good our pilot stood,
And did our helm thraw, man,
Ae night, at tea, began a plea,
Within America, man;
Then up they gat the maskin'-pat,
And in the sea did jaw, man;
And did nae less, in full Congress,
Than quite refuse our law, man.

Then through the lakes Montgomery takes,
I wat he was na slaw, man;
Down Lowrie's burn he took a turn,
And Carleton did ca', man;
But yet, what-reck, he, at Quebec,
Montgomery-like did fa', man,
Wi' sword in hand, before his band,
Amang his en'mies a', man.

Poor Tammy Gage, within a cage,
Was kept at Boston ha, man;
Till Willie Howe took o'er the knowe
For Philadelphia, man;
Wi' sword and gun he thought a sin
Guid Christian blood to draw, man:
But at New York, wi' knife and fork,
Sir-loin he hackèd sma', man.

Burgoyne gaed up, like spur and whip,
Till Fraser brave did fa', man;
Then lost his way, ae misty day,
In Saratoga shaw, man.
Cornwallis fought as lang's he dought,
And did the buckskins claw, man;
But Clinton's glaive frae rust to save,
He hung it to the wa', man.

Then Montague, and Guildford too,
Began to fear a fa', man:
And Sackville dour, wha stood the stoure,
The German Chief to thraw, man;
For Paddy Burke, like ony Turk,
Nae mercy had at a', man;
And Charlie Fox threw by the box,
And lows'd his tinkler jaw, man.

Then Rockingham took up the game,
Till death did on him ca', man;
When Shelburne meek held up his cheek,
Conform to gospel law, man;
Saint Stephen's boys, wi' jarring noise,
They did his measures thraw, man,
For North and Fox united stocks,
And bore him to the wa', man.

Then clubs and hearts were Charlie's cartes,
He swept the stakes awa', man,
Till the diamond's ace, of Indian's race,
Led him a sair faux pas, man;
The Saxon lads, wi' loud placads,
On Chatham's boy did ca', man;
And Scotland drew her pipe and blew,
'Up, Willie, waur them a', man I

Behind the throne then Grenville's gone,
A secret word or twa, man;
While slee Dundas aroused the class,
Be-north the Roman wa', man;
And Chatham's wraith, in heavenly graith,
(Inspirèd Bardies saw, man)
Wi' kindling eyes cried, ' Willie, rise !
Would I hae fear'd them a, man ?'

But, word and blow, North, Fox and Co.,
Gowff'd Willie like a ba', man,
Till Southron raise, and coost their clase
Behind him in a raw, man;
And Caledon threw by the drone,
And did her whittle draw, man;
And swoor fu' rude, through dirt and blood,
To make it guid in law, man.

*A Fragment. This ballad was adapted to the tune Killiecrankie, a Gælic air, composed, it is said, by the pipe-major of the old Highland regiment, known to the world by the title of "The XLII. Regiment of Royal Highlanders," or as Cook, the celebrated actor, used to style it, "the brave forty-twa."

Burns, at the time he wrote these verses, says Chambers, was "in a raw and unenlightened state as a politician." In a letter to the Hon. Henry Erskine, in reference to this ballad, Burns says, "I showed the enclosed political ballad to my Lord Glencairn, to have his opinion whether I should publish it; as I suspect my political tenets, such as they are, may be rather heretical in the opinion of some of my best friends. I have a few first principles in religion and politics, which, I believe, I would not easily part with; but for all the etiquette of, by whom, in what manner, &c., I would not have a dissocial word about it with any one of God's creatures, particularly an honored patron or a respected friend. His lordship seems to think the piece may appear in print, but desired me to send you a copy for your suffrage."