Epistle to a Young Friend

May----1786
I
I LANG hae thought, my youthfu' friend,
A Something to have sent you,
Tho' it should serve nae other end
Than just a kind memento;
But how the subject theme may gang,
Let time and chance determine;
Perhaps it may turn out a Sang;
Perhaps, turn out a Sermon.
II
Ye'll try the world soon, my lad,
And ANDREW dear believe me,
Ye'll find mankind an unco squad,
And muckle they may grieve ye:
For care and trouble set your thought,
Ev'n when your end's attained;
And a' your views may come to nought,
Where ev'ry nerve is strained.
III
I'll no say, men are villains a';
The real, harden'd wicked,
Wha hae nae check but human law,
Are to a few restricked:
But Och, mankind are unco weak,
An' little to be trusted;
If self the wavering balance shake,
It's rarely right adjusted!
IV
Yet they wha fa' in Fortune's strife,
Their fate we shouldna censure;
For still, th' important end of life
They equally may answer:
A man may hae an honest heart,
Tho' Poortith hourly stare him;
A man may tak a neebor's part,
Yet hae nae cash to spare him.
V
Aye free, aff-han', your story tell,
When wi' a bosom crony;
But still keep something to yoursel
Ye scarcely tell to ony.
Conceal yoursel' as weel 's ye can
Frae critical dissection;
But keek thro' ev'ry other man,
Wi' sharpen'd, sly inspection.
VI
The sacred lowe o' weel-plac'd love,
Luxuriantly indulge it;
But never tempt th' illicit rove,
Tho' naething should divulge it:
I wave the quantum o' the sin,
The hazard of concealing;
But Och! it hardens a' within,
And petrifies the feeling!
VII
To catch Dame Fortune's golden smile,
Assiduous wait upon her;
And gather gear by ev'ry wile,
That 's justified by Honor:
Not for to hide it in a hedge,
Nor for a train-attendant;
But for the glorious priviledge
Of being independent.
VIII
The fear o' Hell 's a hangman's whip,
To haud the wretch in order;
But where ye feel your Honor grip,
Let that ay be your border:
It’s slightest touches, instant pause
Debar a' side-pretences;
And resolutely keep it’s laws,
Uncaring consequences.
IX
The great CREATOR to revere,
Must sure become the Creature;
But still the preaching cant forbear,
And ev'n the rigid feature:
Yet ne'er with Wits prophane to range,
Be complaisance extended;
An atheist-laugh 's a poor exchange
For Deity offended!
X
When ranting round in Pleasure's ring,
Religion may be blinded;
Or if she gie a random-fling,
It may be little minded;
But when on Life we're tempest-driven,
A Conscience but a canker----
A correspondence fix'd wi' Heav'n,
Is sure a noble anchor!
XI
Adieu, dear, amiable Youth!
Your heart can ne'er be wanting!
May Prudence, Fortitude and Truth,
Erect your brow undaunting!
In ploughman phrase, "GOD send you speed,"
Still daily to grow wiser;
And may ye better reck the rede,
Then ever did th' Adviser!