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My curse upon thy venom'd stang,
Wi' gnawing vengeance;
Tearing my nerves wi' bitter pang,
Like racking engines!
When fevers burn, or ague freezes, Rheumatics gnaw, or cholic squeezes ; Our neighbour's sympathy may ease us, Wi' pitying moan;
But thee-thou hell o' a' diseases,
Ay mocks our groan!
beard the slavers trickle!
I kick the wee stools o'er the mickle,
While, raving mad, I wish a heckle
O' a' the num'rous human dools,
The tricks o' knaves, or fash o' fools,-
Where'er that place be priests ca' hell,
Thou, Tooth-ache, surely bear'st the bell
O thou grim mischief-making chiel,
In gore a shoe-thick !
Gie a' the faes o' Scotland's weal
A towmond's Tooth-ache!
The tooth-ache attacked Burns soon after he took up his abode at Ellisland: like other sufferers, he was any thing but patient under it; and his neighbours aver that he spoke truth when he said he
"Kicked the wee stools owre the mickle."
Some of the verses are in his happiest mood.
SACRED TO THE MEMORY
DWELLER in yon dungeon dark,
View the wither'd beldam's face
Can thy keen inspection trace
Aught of humanity's sweet melting grace?
Note that eye, 'tis rheum o'erflows,
Pity's flood there never rose.
See these hands, ne'er stretch'd to save,
Hands that took-but never gave.
Keeper of Mammon's iron chest,
Lo, there she goes, unpitied and unblest
She goes, but not to realms of everlasting rest!
Plunderer of armies, lift thine eyes,
(Awhile forbear, ye tort'ring fiends ;)
Seest thou whose step, unwilling hither bends? No fallen angel, hurl'd from upper skies;
'Tis thy trusty quondam mate,
Doom'd to share thy fiery fate,
She, tardy, hell-ward plies.
And are they of no more avail,
In other words, can Mammon fail,
O, bitter mock'ry of the pompous bier,
The origin of this harsh effusion is thus related by the Poet to Dr. Moore -"In January last, on my road to Ayrshire, I had to put up at Bailie Whigham's in Sanquhar, the only tolerable inn in the place. The frost was keen, and the grim evening and howling wind were ushering in a night of snow and drift. My horse and I were both much fatigued with the labours of the day; and just as my friend the bailie and I were bidding defiance to the storm, over a smoking bowl, in wheels the funeral pageantry of the late Mrs. Oswald; and poor I am forced to brave all
the terrors of the tempestuous night, and jade my horsemy young favourite horse, whom I had just christened Pegasus, further on through the wildest hills and moors of Ayrshire to the next inn! The powers of poetry and prose sunk under me when I would describe what I felt. Suffice it to say, that when a good fire at New Cumnock had so far recovered my frozen sinews, I sat down and wrote the enclosed ode." The Poet lived to think more favourably of the name; one of his finest lyrics, "O wat ye wha's in yon town," was written in honour of the beauty of the succeeding Mrs. Oswald.
It was probably to these verses, as well as to others that Burns alluded in one of his last conversations upon literary subjects." He lamented," said Mrs. Riddell, that he had written many epigrams on persons against whom he entertained no enmity, and whose characters he should be sorry to wound. These, and some unguarded letters and verses, he feared would be handed about by idle vanity or malevolence, when no dread of his resentment would restrain them, or prevent the censures of shrill-tongued malice, or the insidious sarcasms of envy, from pouring forth all their venom to blast his fame."