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WEE, modest, crimson-tippèd flow'r,
Thou's met me in an evil hour;
For I maun crush among the stoure
Thy slender stem;
To spare thee now is past my pow'r,
Thou bonnie gem!

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(The numbers refer to lines.)

THIS is the best known of Burns's longer poems. As we have already learned from our study of the poet, his father's cottage supplied the principal features. But the poem has a far wider significance. It is a description of the ideal peasant life of Scotland. In its substantial elements, an exemplification might have been found in a thousand homes. Said an old Scotch servingwoman, to whom a copy of "The Cotter's Saturday Night" had been given for perusal, "Gentlemen and ladies may think muckle o' this; but for me it's naething but what I saw i' my faither's house every day, and I dinna see how he could hae tell't it ony ither way."

It would lead us too far to inquire particularly into the causes that have produced this beautiful peasant life. No doubt the basis of it is to be found in the native sturdiness of the Scotch character. But the immediate cause must be sought in religion. The truths and duties of Christianity occupied a large place in the daily thought and life. The sentiment of reverence, which seems to be sadly lacking at the present time, was carefully cultivated. Family worship was general; the Sabbath was strictly observed; the Bible was revered and studied to an unusual degree. "The Cotter's Saturday Night' shows us how a humble, laboring life may be glorified by a simple, earnest, reverent piety.


1. R. Aikin, to whom the poem is inscribed, was an attorney of Ayr, and a man of worth.

2. Mercenary bard. - The poem was inspired, not by the hope of pecuniary reward, but simply by the promptings of friendly affection. 5. Lays songs, lyric poems. A favorite word with poets in the last century. 6. Train class, company. Goldsmith in the "Deserted Village." 9. Ween = think, imagine. From A. S. wenan, to imagine. 10. Sugh a sighing sound as of wind in the trees.

Another favorite word, much used by



The local fea

tures of the poem are in the Ayrshire dialect, the poet's vernacular. covered with mire or wet soil. — Pleugh = plough. cottager; a small farmer.

12. Miry

14. Cotter 15. Moil

toil, drudgery.





17. Morn morrow.
19. Cot


21. Wee-things 22. Flichterin'







23. Ingle = fire, fireplace. — Blinkin' bonnily = blazing cheerfully.

26. Carking distressing, oppressive.

27. Toil. This word seems to have been pronounced tile. In the last century of frequently had the sound of long i.

28. Belyve

by and by. - Bairns :


heedfully run.

30. Ca' the pleugh drive the plough. Literally, call. Tentie rin Tentie is a corruption of attentive. trustworthy, careful. - Neebor


31. Cannie 34. Braw

brave, in the sense of fine, handsome. 35. Deposit has the accent on the first syllable. - Sair-won

- Penny fee = wages paid in money.

38. Spiers: inquires. 40. Uncos = news.

44. Gars auld claes, etc. = makes old clothes look almost as well as the



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47. Younkers = youngsters.

48. Eydent diligent.

49. Jauk = trifle, dally.

51. Duty prayers.
52. Gang go.
56. Wha kens
58. Convoy accompany.

59. Conscious = tell-tale.




little things, children.


who knows.

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- Laithfu' = hesitating.

62. Hafflins partly, half.

64. Benin. A. S. binnan, within.
67. Cracks
talks.- Kye = COWS.
69. Blate bashful.
72. Lave rest.

88. Ruth = pity, tenderness.

92. Halesome parritch = wholesome porridge, oatmeal pudding.

milk. Hawkie

93. Sowpe face.


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Penny is used vaguely for money.


94. 'Yont beyond. — Hallan = screen or low partition between the fireplace and the door. Chows her cood chews her cud. 96. Weel-hain'd well kept. Kebbuck cheese. biting.

hard won.

= a cow; properly one with a white


99. How 'twas a towmond, etc. = how it was a twelvemonth old since flax was in the bloom; that is, the cheese was a year old last flax-blossoming.


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103. Ha'-Bible: or chief room.


104. Bonnet a cap or covering for the head, in common use before the introduction of hats, and still used by the Scotch. 105. Lyart gray, mixed gray. — Haffets heads.

temples; literally, half


107. Wales: chooses. Cf. Ger. wählen, to choose.

III. Dundee, Martyrs, Elgin = names of Scottish psalm-tunes.
113. Beets = adds fuel to.

121. Amalek's ungracious progeny = the Amalekites, a fierce and warlike Canaanitish nation. They were uncompromising in their hostility to the Israelites. See Deut. xxv. 17-19.

122. Royal bard David. See 2 Sam. xii. 16.

133. He the Apostle John. Patmos = an island in the Ægean Sea, to which John was banished in the year 94, and where he wrote Revelation. the figurative Babylon spoken of in Rev. xviii. 2-24. Usually interpreted among Protestants as referring to papal Rome.

135. Babylon

138. From Pope's "Windsor Forest."
143. Society

social enjoyment.

150. Sacerdotal stole = priestly vestments or robes.

156. Secret homage = private devotions.

166. From Pope's "Essay on Man.”


Wallace = the national hero of Scotland. He lived in the thirteenth


15. Daimen

and then. able quantity.





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hall Bible; that is, the family Bible kept in the hall


1. Sleekit sly. - Cow'rin' cowering, crouching through fear.
4. Bickering brattle = a short race.

5. Wad be, etc. = would be loathe to run.

6. Pattle = a paddle for cleaning the soil from the plough.
13. Whyles = sometimes.

14. Maun = must.


= rare, now and then; daimen-icker = an ear of corn now Thrave two shocks or twenty-four sheaves of corn; a consider

20. Silly frail, weak.
21. Big = to build.

22. Foggage = coarse grass.
24. Snell bitter, severe.

31. Stibble = stubble.

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