The kirk was filled, the door was steeked; Up to the pu'pit ance I keeked; I was mair pleased than I can tell - It was the minister himsel'! Proud, proud was I to see his face, After sae lang awa' frae grace. Pleased as I was, I'm no denyin' Some maitters were not edifyin';
For first I fand - an' here was news! - Mere hymn-books cockin' in the pews - A humanised abomination, Unfit for ony congregation. Syne, while I still was on the tenter, I scunnered at the new prezentor; I thocht him gesterin' an' cauld - A sair declension frae the auld. Syne, as though a' the faith was wreckit, The prayer was not what I'd exspeckit. Himsel', as it appeared to me, Was no the man he used to be. But just as I was growin' vext He waled a maist judeecious text, An', launchin' into his prelections, Swoopt, wi' a skirl, on a' defections.
O what a gale was on my speerit To hear the p'ints o' doctrine clearit, And a' the horrors o' damnation Set furth wi' faithfu' ministration! Nae shauchlin' testimony here - We were a' damned, an' that was clear, I owned, wi' gratitude an' wonder, He was a pleisure to sit under.
Late in the nicht in bed I lay, The winds were at their weary play, An' tirlin' wa's an' skirlin' wae Through Heev'n they battered; - On-ding o' hail, on-blaff o' spray, The tempest blattered.
The masoned house it dinled through; It dung the ship, it cowped the coo'. The rankit aiks it overthrew, Had braved a' weathers; The strang sea-gleds it took an' blew Awa' like feathers.
The thrawes o' fear on a' were shed, An' the hair rose, an' slumber fled, An' lichts were lit an' prayers were said Through a' the kintry; An' the cauld terror clum in bed Wi' a' an' sindry.
To hear in the pit-mirk on hie The brangled collieshangie flie, The warl', they thocht, wi' land an' sea, Itsel' wad cowpit; An' for auld airn, the smashed debris By God be rowpit.
Meanwhile frae far Aldeboran, To folks wi' talescopes in han', O' ships that cowpit, winds that ran, Nae sign was seen, But the wee warl' in sunshine span As bricht's a preen.
I, tae, by God's especial grace, Dwall denty in a bieldy place, Wi' hosened feet, wi' shaven face, Wi' dacent mainners: A grand example to the race O' tautit sinners!
The wind may blaw, the heathen rage, The deil may start on the rampage; - The sick in bed, the thief in cage - What's a' to me? Cosh in my house, a sober sage, I sit an' see.
An' whiles the bluid spangs to my bree, To lie sae saft, to live sae free, While better men maun do an' die In unco places. "WHAUR'S GOD?" I cry, an' "WHAE IS ME TO HAE SIC GRACES?"
I mind the fecht the sailors keep, But fire or can'le, rest or sleep, In darkness an' the muckle deep; An' mind beside The herd that on the hills o' sheep Has wandered wide.
I mind me on the hoastin' weans - The penny joes on causey stanes - The auld folk wi' the crazy banes, Baith auld an' puir, That aye maun thole the winds an' rains An' labour sair.
An' whiles I'm kind o' pleased a blink, An' kind o' fleyed forby, to think, For a' my rowth o' meat an' drink An' waste o' crumb, I'll mebbe have to thole wi' skink In Kingdom Come.
For God whan jowes the Judgment bell, Wi' His ain Hand, His Leevin' Sel', Sall ryve the guid (as Prophets tell) Frae them that had it; And in the reamin' pat o' Hell, The rich be scaddit.
O Lord, if this indeed be sae, Let daw that sair an' happy day! Again' the warl', grawn auld an' gray, Up wi' your aixe! An' let the puir enjoy their play - I'll thole my paiks.
XIV - MY CONSCIENCE!
Of a' the ills that flesh can fear, The loss o' frien's, the lack o' gear, A yowlin' tyke, a glandered mear, A lassie's nonsense - There's just ae thing I cannae bear, An' that's my conscience.
Whan day (an' a' excuse) has gane, An' wark is dune, and duty's plain, An' to my charmer a' my lane I creep apairt, My conscience! hoo the yammerin' pain Stends to my heart!
A' day wi' various ends in view The hairsts o' time I had to pu', An' made a hash wad staw a soo, Let be a man! - My conscience! whan my han's were fu', Whaur were ye than?
An' there were a' the lures o' life, There pleesure skirlin' on the fife, There anger, wi' the hotchin' knife Ground shairp in Hell - My conscience! - you that's like a wife! - Whaur was yoursel'?
I ken it fine: just waitin' here, To gar the evil waur appear, To clart the guid, confuse the clear, Mis-ca' the great, My conscience! an' to raise a steer Whan a's ower late.