New poems and variant readings/To Charles Baxter
TO CHARLES BAXTER
On the death of their common friend, Mr. John Adam, Clerk of court.
Our Johnie's deid. The mair's the pity!
He's deid, an' deid o' Aqua-vitæ.
O Embro', you're a shrunken city,
Noo Johnie's deid!
Tak hands, an' sing a burial ditty
Ower Johnie's heid.
To see him was baith drink an' meat,
Gaun linkin' glegly up the street.
He but to rin or tak a seat,
The wee bit body!
Bein' aye unsicken on his feet
Wi' whusky toddy.
To be aye tosh was Johnie's whim,
There's nane was better teut than him,
Though whiles his gravit-knot wad clim'
Ahint his ear,
An' whiles he'd buttons oot or in
The less ae mair.
His hair a' lang about his bree,
His tap-lip lang by inches three—
A sleekened sort 'mon,' to pree
A droutly glint was in his e'e
An' day an' nicht, frae daw to daw,
Dink an' perjink an' doucely braw,
Wi' a kind o' Gospel ower a',
May or October,
Like Peden, followin' the Law
An' no that sober.
Whusky an' he were pack thegether.
Whate'er the hour, whate'er the weather,
John kept himsel' wi' mistened leather
An' kindled spunk.
Wi' him, there was nae askin' whether—
John was aye drunk.
The auncient heroes gash an' bauld
In the uncanny days of auld,
The task ance fo(u)nd to which th'were called,
Stack stenchly to it.
His life sic noble lives recalled,
Little's he knew it.
Single an' straucht, he went his way.
He kept the faith an' played the play.
Whusky an' he were man an' may
Bonny in life—in death—this twae
Were no' divided.
An' wow! but John was unco sport.
Whiles he wad smile about the Court
Malvolio-like—whiles snore an' snort
Was heard afar.
The idle winter lads' resort
Was aye John's bar.
What's merely humorous or bonny
The Worl' regairds wi' cauld astony.
Drunk men tak' aye mair place than ony;
An' sae, ye see,
The gate was aye ower thrang for Johnie—
Or you an' me.
John micht hae jingled cap an' bells,
Been a braw fule in silks an' pells,
In ane o' the auld worl's canty hells
Paris or Sodom.
I wadnae had him naething else
But Johnie Adam.
He suffered—as have a' that wan
Eternal memory frae man,
Since e'er the weary worl' began—
Mister or Madam,
Keats or Scots Burns, the Spanish Don
Or Johnie Adam.
We leuch, an' Johnie deid. An' fegs!
Hoo he had keept his stoiterin' legs
Sae lang's he did's a fact that begs
He stachers fifty years—syne plegs