Home  »  The Book of Georgian Verse  »  Robert Fergusson (1750–1774)

William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

Ode to the Gowdspink

Robert Fergusson (1750–1774)

FRAE fields whare Spring her sweets has blawn

Wi’ caller verdure o’er the lawn,

The gowdspink comes in new attire,

The brawest ’mang the whistling choir,

That, ere the sun can clear his ein,

Wi’ glib notes sane the simmer’s green.

Sure Nature herried mony a tree,

For spraings and bonny spats to thee;

Nae mair the rainbow can impart

Sic glowing ferlies o’ her art,

Whase pencil wrought its freaks at will

On thee the sey-piece o’ her skill.

Nae mair through straths in simmer dight

We seek the rose to bless our sight;

Or bid the bonny wa’-flowers blaw

Whare yonder Ruin’s crumblin’ fa’:

Thy shining garments far outstrip

The cherries upo’ Hebe’s lip,

And fool the tints that Nature chose

To busk and paint the crimson rose.

’Mang men, wae’s-heart! we aften find

The brawest drest want peace of mind,

While he that gangs wi’ ragged coat

Is weil contentit wi’ his lot.

Whan wand wi’ glewy birdlime’s set,

To steal far aff your dautit mate,

Blyth wad ye change your cleething gay

In lieu of lav’rock’s sober grey.

In vain thro’ woods you sair may ban

Th’ envious treachery of man,

That, wi’ your gowden glister ta’en,

Still haunts you on the simmer’s plain,

And traps you ’mang the sudden fa’s

O’ winter’s dreary dreepin’ snaws.

Now steekit frae the gowany field,

Frae ilka fav’rite houff and bield,

But mergh, alas! to disengage

Your bonny bouck frae fettering cage,

Your free-born bosom beats in vain

For darling liberty again.

In window hung, how aft we see

Thee keek around at warblers free.

That carrol saft, and sweetly sing

Wi’ a’ the blythness of the spring?

Like Tantalus they hing you here

To spy the glories o’ the year;

And tho’ you’re at the burnie’s brink,

They douna suffer you to drink.

Ah, Liberty! thou bonny dame,

How wildly wanton is thy stream,

Round whilk the birdies a’ rejoice,

An’ hail you wi’ a grateful voice.

The gowdspink chatters joyous here,

And courts wi’ gleesome sangs his peer;

The mavis frae the new-bloom’d thorn

Begins his lauds at earest morn;

And herd lowns louping o’er the grass,

Need far less fleetching till their lass,

Than paughty damsels bred at courts,

Wha thraw their mou’s and take the dorts:

But, reft of thee, fient flee we care

For a’ that life ahint can spare.

The gowdspink, that sae lang has kand

Thy happy sweets (his wonted friend),

Her sad confinement ill can brook

In some dark chamber’s dowy nook;

Tho’ Mary’s hand his nebb supplies,

Unkend to hunger’s painfu’ cries,

Ev’n beauty canna cheer the heart

Frae life, frae liberty apart;

For now we tyne its wonted lay,

Sae lightsome sweet, sae blythely gay.

Thus Fortune aft a curse can gie,

To wyle us far frae liberty;

Then tent her syren smiles wha list,

I’ll ne’er envy your girnal’s grist;

For whan fair freedom smiles nae mair,

Care I for life? Shame fa’ the hair:

A field o’ergrown wi’ rankest stubble,

The essence of a paltry bubble.