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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Robert Burns (1759–1796)

The Death of Poor Mailie

AS Mailie, an’ her lambs thegither,

Was ae day nibbling on the tether,

Upon her cloot she coost a hitch,

An’ owre she warsl’d in the ditch;

There, groaning, dying, she did lie,

When Hughoc he cam doytin’ by.

Wi’ glowerin’ een, and lifted han’s,

Poor Hughoc like a statue stan’s;

He saw her days were near-hand ended,

But, wae’s my heart! he couldna mend it!

He gapéd wide, but naething spak;

At length poor Mailie silence brak:

“Oh, thou, whose lamentable face

Appears to mourn my wofu’ case,

My dying words attentive hear,

An’ bear them to my master dear.

“Tell him, if e’er again he keep

As muckle gear as buy a sheep,

Oh, bid him never tie them mair,

Wi’ wicked strings o’ hemp or hair,

But ca’ them out to park or hill,

An’ let them wander at their will;

So may his flock increase, an’ grow

To scores o’ lambs, an’ packs o’ woo’.

“Tell him, he was a master kin’,

An’ ay was guid to me an’ mine;

An’ now my dying charge I gie him,

My helpless lambs, I trust them wi’ him.

“Oh, bid him save their harmless lives

Frae dogs, an’ tods, an’ butchers’ knives!

But gie them guid cow-milk their fill,

Till they be fit to fend themsel’;

An’ tent them duly, e’en an’ morn,

Wi’ teats o’ hay an’ ripps o’ corn.

“An’ may they never learn the gates

Of ither vile, wanrestfu’ pets—

To slink thro’ slaps, an’ reave an’ steal

At stacks o’ pease, or stocks o’ kail.

So may they, like their great forbears,

For mony a year come thro’ the shears;

So wives will gie them bits o’ bread,

An’ bairns greet for them when they’re dead.

“My poor toop-lamb, my son an’ heir,

Oh, bid him breed him up wi’ care;

An’ if he live to be a beast,

To pit some havins in his breast.

An’ warn him—what I winna name—

To stay content wi’ yowes at hame;

An’ no to rin an’ wear his cloots,

Like ither menseless, graceless brutes.

“An’ neist, my yowie, silly thing,

Gude keep thee frae a tether string!

Oh, may thou ne’er forgather up,

Wi’ ony blastit, moorland toop;

But ay keep mind to moop an’ mell,

Wi’ sheep o’ credit like thysel’!

“An’ now, my bairns, wi’ my last breath

I lea’e my blessin’ wi’ you baith:

An’ when you think upo’ your mither,

Mind to be kind to ane anither.

“Now, honest Hughoc, dinna fail

To tell my master a’ my tale;

An’ bid him burn this cursèd tether,

An’, for thy pains, thou’se get my blather.”

This said, poor Mailie turn’d her head,

An’ closed her een amang the dead!