To David Brodie, December 31, 1788

Out as a 'Packman (Pedlar)—In an Inn at St. Andrews—The year departing—Silence and solitude—'Holy' inferences and admonitions kept back—Despondency—Self-Blame—Remembrance—Farewell—A Visit announced—Verse and Prose.

To Mr. DAVID BRODIE, Schoolmaster,
Quarrelton, near Paisley.
Written on the last day, and last hour of that last day,
December 31, 1788.

Far distant, in an inn's third storey rear'd,—
The sheet beneath a glimmering taper spread,—
Along the shadowy walls no sound is heard,
Save Time's slow, constant, momentary tread.

Here lone I sit; and will you, sir, excuse
My midnight theme, while (feebly as she can)
Inspiring silence bids the serious Muse
Survey the transient bliss pursued by Man.

Deluded Man, for him Spring paints the fields;
For him, warm Summer rears the rip'ning grain;
He grasps the bounty that rich Autumn yields,
And counts those trifles as essential gain.

For him, yes, sure, for him those mercies flow!
Yet, why so passing, why so fleet their stay?
To teach blind mortals what they first should know,
That all is transient as the fleeting day.

Short is the period since green smil'd the wood,
And flowers ambrosial bath'd my morning path;
Sweet was the murmuring of the silver flood,
And glad the bee roam'd o'er the empurpled heath!

With conscious joy, I hail'd the rosy scene;
I joined the music of the woodlan' throng,
Stretch'd on the hazel bank, or sunny plain,
Where answering echo warbl'd all day long.

Delightful time! but, ah, how short its stay!
Stript were the foliage from each flower, each tree,—
Grim tyrant Winter vail'd the joyless day,
And rear'd imperious o'er the hail-beat lea.

Where now the fragrance of the howling wood,
And what the pleasures we from morn can taste;
The snow-clad banks, the big brown roaring flood,
The bleak wind whistling o'er the drifted waste.

'Tis thus, dear sir, in Life's delusive dream;—
We fondly sport till Youth's gay act is o'er,
Till Age, till Death, steal on in sullen stream,
And worldly bubbles charm the soul no more.

Passing by a whole cart-load of holy inferences which I had drawn from these considerations, also overleaping the long train of admonitions resulting from these inferences, let me tell you that nothing but the hopes I have that you entertain most magnificent ideas of my poems, (part of which I guess by your expressive silence,) would have induced me to have racked my brain at such a rate, and sitten in such an uncomfortable situation, to give you a rhyme narration,—a hint of which uncomfortable seat you have in the following verses, which I am obliged to give you just as they are broken off from the cluster of a long prayer which I had inserted, but which, on account of its enormous weight and vast extent, I omit and expunge:—

But, sir, forgive the wandering of the Muse.
To you, again, her sadd'ning strain she'll turn;
To you, to ask (and oh! remit the news)
Why thus, with silence, all my warmth return?

It is because—but, hark!—the tempest blows
Loud. O'er my fireless dome it wildly heaves!
The wintry drop, prone from my drooping nose,
Hangs dangling, limpid as the brain it leaves.

The frowning Muse has fled the frozen frame,—
The voice of Riot strikes my list'ning ear,—
In sinking, mounting—sad, inconstant flame—
My candle's ending with the ending year.