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Address to the Devil

June 20, 2016

From Address to the Devil

Then you, ye auld snick-drawin dog!
Ye cam to Paradise incog,
And play’d on man a cursed brogue,
(Black be your fa’!)
An gied the infant warld a shog,
Maist ruin’d a’.

D’ye mind that day, when in a bizz,
Wi’ reeket duds an reestet gizz,
Ye did present your smoutie phiz
Mang better folk,
An’ sklented on the man of Uz
Your spitefu’ joke?

An’ how ye gat him i’ your thrall,
An’ brak him out o’ house and hal’,
While scabs and blotches did him gall,
Wi’ bitter claw,
An’ lows’d his ill-tongued, wicked scaul,
Was warst ava?

But a’ your doings to rehearse,
Your wily snares an’ fechtin fierce,
Sin’ that day Michael did you pierce,
Down to this time,
Wad ding a Lallan tongue, or Erse,
In prose or rhyme.

–Robert Burns 1786
COMMENTARY: Just a few of my favorite stanzas from one of Robert Burns’ most amusing poems. I love the wildness and the dizziness of the old Scots spelling, but here’s a rough translation in English English:

Then, you old conniving dog/ came to Eden in disguise/ and played on a man a wicked trick/ (black be your fall) / and gave the infant world a shake, and almost ruined all.// Do you remember the day when in a hurry/ with stinking clothes and a burning wig/ you presented your sooty face/ among better folk/ and inflicted on the man from Uz/ your spiteful joke? // And how you got him in your power/ and broke him out of house and hall,/ while scabs and blotches did gall/ him with bitter claws, and loosed his ill-tongued wicked scold,/ the worst of all? // But do rehearse all your doings, / your wily snares and fierce tricks, / since the day St. Michael pierced you, / down to this time, / would tire out a lowland or an Irish tongue in prose or rhyme.

Not quite the same without the “Llallan tongue.” You can read the whole poem here: Address to the Devil – Poetry Foundation
One Comment
  1. Ye cam to Paradise incog–great line!

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