Your last, my dear Madam, had the effect on me that Job’s situation had on his friends, when “they sat down seven days and seven nights astonied, and spake not a word.” – “Pay my addresses to a married woman!” I started, as if I had seen the ghost of him I had injur’d: I recollected my expressions; some of them indeed were, in the law phrase, “habit and repute,” which is being half guilty.
– I cannot positively say, Madam, whether my heart might not have gone astray a little; but I can declare upon the honor of a Poet that the vagrant has wandered unknown to me.
– I have a pretty handsome troop of Follies of my own; and, like some other people’s retinue, they are but undisciplined blackguards: but the luckless rascals have something of honor in them; they would not do a dishonest thing.
– To meet with an unfortunate woman, amiable and young; deserted and widowed by those who were bound by every tie of Duty, Nature and Gratitude, to protect, comfort and cherish her; add to all, when she is perhaps one of the first of Lovely Forms and Noble Minds, the Mind too that hits one’s taste as the joys of Heaven do a Saint should a vague infant-idea, the natural child of Imagination, thoughtlessly peep over the fence-were you, My Friend, to sit in judgement, and the poor, airy Straggler brought before you, trembling self-condemned; with artless eyes, brimful of contrition, looking wistfully on its Judge-you could not, My dear Madam, condemn the hapless wretch to “death without benefit of Clergy?”
I won’t tell you what reply my heart made to your raillery of “Seven Years;” but I will give you what a brother my trade says on the same allusion-
The Patriarch to gain a wife
Chaste, beautiful and young,
Serv’d fourteen years a painful life
And never thought it long:
O were you to reward such cares, And life so long would stay,
Not fourteen but four hundred years
Would seem but as one day!
I have written you this scrawl because I have nothing else to do, and you may sit down and find fault with it if you have no better way of consuming your time; but finding fault with the vaguings of it Poet’s fancy is much such another business as Xerxes chastising the waves of Hellespont.
– My limb now allows me to sit in some peace; to walk I have yet no prospect of, as I can’t mark it to the ground.
– I have just now looked over what I have written, and it is such a chaos of nonsense that I daresay you will throw it into the fire, and call me an idle, stupid fellow; but whatever you think of my brains, believe me to be, with the most sacred respect, and heart-felt esteem,
My Dear Madam, your humble servant Robt Burns