Death and Dr. Hornbook

SOME books are lies frae end to end,
And some great lies were never penn�d:
Ev�n ministers they hae been kenn�d,
In holy rapture,
A rousing whid at times to vend,
And nail�t wi� Scripture.

But this that I am gaun to tell,
Which lately on a night befell,
Is just as true�s the Deil�s in hell
Or Dublin city:
That e�er he nearer comes oursel�
�S a muckle pity.

The clachan yill had made me canty,
I was na fou, but just had plenty;
I stacher�d whiles, but yet too tent aye
To free the ditches;
An� hillocks, stanes, an� bushes, kenn�d eye
Frae ghaists an� witches.

The rising moon began to glowre
The distant Cumnock hills out-owre:
To count her horns, wi� a my pow�r,
I set mysel�;
But whether she had three or four,
I cou�d na tell.

I was come round about the hill,
An� todlin down on Willie�s mill,
Setting my staff wi� a� my skill,
To keep me sicker;
Tho� leeward whiles, against my will,
I took a bicker.

I there wi� Something did forgather,
That pat me in an eerie swither;
An� awfu� scythe, out-owre ae shouther,
Clear-dangling, hang;
A three-tae�d leister on the ither
Lay, large an� lang.

Its stature seem�d lang Scotch ells twa,
The queerest shape that e�er I saw,
For fient a wame it had ava;
And then its shanks,
They were as thin, as sharp an� sma�
As cheeks o� branks.

�Guid-een,� quo� I; �Friend! hae ye been mawin,
When ither folk are busy sawin!� 1
I seem�d to make a kind o� stan�
But naething spak;
At length, says I, �Friend! whare ye gaun?
Will ye go back?�

It spak right howe,��My name is Death,
But be na fley�d.��Quoth I, �Guid faith,
Ye�re maybe come to stap my breath;
But tent me, billie;
I red ye weel, tak care o� skaith
See, there�s a gully!�

�Gudeman,� quo� he, �put up your whittle,
I�m no designed to try its mettle;
But if I did, I wad be kittle
To be mislear�d;
I wad na mind it, no that spittle
Out-owre my beard.�

�Weel, weel!� says I, �a bargain be�t;
Come, gie�s your hand, an� sae we�re gree�t;
We�ll ease our shanks an tak a seat�
Come, gie�s your news;
This while ye hae been mony a gate,
At mony a house.� 2

�Ay, ay!� quo� he, an� shook his head,
�It�s e�en a lang, lang time indeed
Sin� I began to nick the thread,
An� choke the breath:
Folk maun do something for their bread,
An� sae maun Death.

�Sax thousand years are near-hand fled
Sin� I was to the butching bred,
An� mony a scheme in vain�s been laid,
To stap or scar me;
Till ane Hornbook�s 3 ta�en up the trade,
And faith! he�ll waur me.

�Ye ken Hornbook i� the clachan,
Deil mak his king�s-hood in spleuchan!
He�s grown sae weel acquaint wi� Buchan 4
And ither chaps,
The weans haud out their fingers laughin,
An� pouk my hips.

�See, here�s a scythe, an� there�s dart,
They hae pierc�d mony a gallant heart;
But Doctor Hornbook, wi� his art
An� cursed skill,
Has made them baith no worth a f�t,
D�n�d haet they�ll kill!

��Twas but yestreen, nae farther gane,
I threw a noble throw at ane;
Wi� less, I�m sure, I�ve hundreds slain;
But deil-ma-care,
It just play�d dirl on the bane,
But did nae mair.

�Hornbook was by, wi� ready art,
An� had sae fortify�d the part,
That when I looked to my dart,
It was sae blunt,
Fient haet o�t wad hae pierc�d the heart
Of a kail-runt.

�I drew my scythe in sic a fury,
I near-hand cowpit wi� my hurry,
But yet the bauld Apothecary
Withstood the shock;
I might as weel hae tried a quarry
O� hard whin rock.

�Ev�n them he canna get attended,
Altho� their face he ne�er had kend it,
Just �� in a kail-blade, an� sent it,
As soon�s he smells �t,
Baith their disease, and what will mend it,
At once he tells �t.

�And then, a� doctor�s saws an� whittles,
Of a� dimensions, shapes, an� mettles,
A� kind o� boxes, mugs, an� bottles,
He�s sure to hae;
Their Latin names as fast he rattles
As A B C.

�Calces o� fossils, earths, and trees;
True sal-marinum o� the seas;
The farina of beans an� pease,
He has�t in plenty;
Aqua-fontis, what you please,
He can content ye.

�Forbye some new, uncommon weapons,
Urinus spiritus of capons;
Or mite-horn shavings, filings, scrapings,
Distill�d per se;
Sal-alkali o� midge-tail clippings,
And mony mae.�

�Waes me for Johnie Ged�s-Hole 5 now,�
Quoth I, �if that thae news be true!
His braw calf-ward whare gowans grew,
Sae white and bonie,
Nae doubt they�ll rive it wi� the plew;
They�ll ruin Johnie!�

The creature grain�d an eldritch laugh,
And says �Ye needna yoke the pleugh,
Kirkyards will soon be till�d eneugh,
Tak ye nae fear:
They�ll be trench�d wi� mony a sheugh,
In twa-three year.

�Whare I kill�d ane, a fair strae-death,
By loss o� blood or want of breath
This night I�m free to tak my aith,
That Hornbook�s skill
Has clad a score i� their last claith,
By drap an� pill.

�An honest wabster to his trade,
Whase wife�s twa nieves were scarce weel-bred
Gat tippence-worth to mend her head,
When it was sair;
The wife slade cannie to her bed,
But ne�er spak mair.

�A country laird had ta�en the batts,
Or some curmurring in his guts,
His only son for Hornbook sets,
An� pays him well:
The lad, for twa guid gimmer-pets,
Was laird himsel�.

�A bonie lass�ye kend her name�
Some ill-brewn drink had hov�d her wame;
She trusts hersel�, to hide the shame,
In Hornbook�s care;
Horn sent her aff to her lang hame,
To hide it there.

�That�s just a swatch o� Hornbook�s way;
Thus goes he on from day to day,
Thus does he poison, kill, an� slay,
An�s weel paid for�t;
Yet stops me o� my lawfu� prey,
Wi� his d�n�d dirt:

�But, hark! I�ll tell you of a plot,
Tho� dinna ye be speakin o�t;
I�ll nail the self-conceited sot,
As dead�s a herrin;
Neist time we meet, I�ll wad a groat,
He gets his fairin!�

But just as he began to tell,
The auld kirk-hammer strak the bell
Some wee short hour ayont the twal�,
Which rais�d us baith:
I took the way that pleas�d mysel�,
And sae did Death.

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