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Robert Burns Poems
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296. The Five Carlins: An Election Ballad by Robert Burns
THERE was five Carlins in the South,
They fell upon a scheme,
To send a lad to London town,
To bring them tidings hame.

Nor only bring them tidings hame,
But do their errands there,
And aiblins gowd and honor baith
Might be that laddie’s share.

There was Maggy by the banks o’ Nith,
A dame wi’ pride eneugh;
And Marjory o’ the mony Lochs,
A Carlin auld and teugh.

And blinkin Bess of Annandale,
That dwelt near Solway-side;
And whisky Jean, that took her gill,
In Galloway sae wide.

And auld black Joan frae Crichton Peel, 1
O’ gipsy kith an’ kin;
Five wighter Carlins were na found
The South countrie within.

To send a lad to London town,
They met upon a day;
And mony a knight, and mony a laird,
This errand fain wad gae.

O mony a knight, and mony a laird,
This errand fain wad gae;
But nae ane could their fancy please,
O ne’er a ane but twae.

The first ane was a belted Knight,
Bred of a Border band; 2
And he wad gae to London town,
Might nae man him withstand.

And he wad do their errands weel,
And meikle he wad say;
And ilka ane about the court
Wad bid to him gude-day.

The neist cam in a Soger youth, 3
Who spak wi’ modest grace,
And he wad gae to London town,
If sae their pleasure was.

He wad na hecht them courtly gifts,
Nor meikle speech pretend;
But he wad hecht an honest heart,
Wad ne’er desert his friend.

Now, wham to chuse, and wham refuse,
At strife thir Carlins fell;
For some had Gentlefolks to please,
And some wad please themsel’.

Then out spak mim-mou’d Meg o’ Nith,
And she spak up wi’ pride,
And she wad send the Soger youth,
Whatever might betide.

For the auld Gudeman o’ London court 4
She didna care a pin;
But she wad send the Soger youth,
To greet his eldest son. 5

Then up sprang Bess o’ Annandale,
And a deadly aith she’s ta’en,
That she wad vote the Border Knight,
Though she should vote her lane.

“For far-off fowls hae feathers fair,
And fools o’ change are fain;
But I hae tried the Border Knight,
And I’ll try him yet again.”

Says black Joan frae Crichton Peel,
A Carlin stoor and grim.
“The auld Gudeman or young Gudeman,
For me may sink or swim;

For fools will prate o’ right or wrang,
While knaves laugh them to scorn;
But the Soger’s friends hae blawn the best,
So he shall bear the horn.”

Then whisky Jean spak owre her drink,
“Ye weel ken, kimmers a’,
The auld gudeman o’ London court,
His back’s been at the wa’;

“And mony a friend that kiss’d his caup
Is now a fremit wight;
But it’s ne’er be said o’ whisky Jean—
We’ll send the Border Knight.”

Then slow raise Marjory o’ the Lochs,
And wrinkled was her brow,
Her ancient weed was russet gray,
Her auld Scots bluid was true;

“There’s some great folk set light by me,
I set as light by them;
But I will send to London town
Wham I like best at hame.”

Sae how this mighty plea may end,
Nae mortal wight can tell;
God grant the King and ilka man
May look weel to himsel.

Note 1. Sanquhar. [back]
Note 2. Sir James Johnston of Westerhall. [back]
Note 3. Captain Patrick Millar of Dalswinton. [back]
Note 4. The King. [back]
Note 5. The Prince of Wales. [back]
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