Address to the Devil

By Robert Burns 1759–1796 Robert Burns

O Prince, O chief of many throned pow'rs!
That led th' embattled seraphim to war!
(Milton, Paradise Lost)

O thou! whatever title suit thee,—
Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie!
Wha in yon cavern, grim an' sootie,
       Clos'd under hatches,
Spairges about the brunstane cootie
       To scaud poor wretches!

Hear me, Auld Hangie, for a wee,
An' let poor damned bodies be;
I'm sure sma' pleasure it can gie,
       E'en to a deil,
To skelp an' scaud poor dogs like me,
       An' hear us squeel!

Great is thy pow'r, an' great thy fame;
Far ken'd an' noted is thy name;
An' tho' yon lowin heugh's thy hame,
       Thou travels far;
An' faith! thou's neither lag nor lame,
       Nor blate nor scaur.

Whyles, ranging like a roarin lion,
For prey a' holes an' corners tryin;
Whyles, on the strong-wing'd tempest flyin,
       Tirlin' the kirks;
Whyles, in the human bosom pryin,
       Unseen thou lurks.

I've heard my rev'rend graunie say,
In lanely glens ye like to stray;
Or whare auld ruin'd castles gray
       Nod to the moon,
Ye fright the nightly wand'rer's way
       Wi' eldritch croon.

When twilight did my graunie summon
To say her pray'rs, douce honest woman!
Aft yont the dike she's heard you bummin,
       Wi' eerie drone;
Or, rustlin thro' the boortrees comin,
       Wi' heavy groan.

Ae dreary, windy, winter night,
The stars shot down wi' sklentin light,
Wi' you mysel I gat a fright,
       Ayont the lough;
Ye like a rash-buss stood in sight,
       Wi' waving sugh.

The cudgel in my nieve did shake,
Each bristl'd hair stood like a stake,
When wi' an eldritch, stoor "Quaick, quaick,"
       Amang the springs,
Awa ye squatter'd like a drake,
       On whistling wings.

Let warlocks grim an' wither'd hags
Tell how wi' you on ragweed nags
They skim the muirs an' dizzy crags
       Wi' wicked speed;
And in kirk-yards renew their leagues,
       Owre howket dead.

Thence, countra wives wi' toil an' pain
May plunge an' plunge the kirn in vain;
For oh! the yellow treasure's taen
       By witchin skill;
An' dawtet, twal-pint hawkie's gaen
       As yell's the bill.

Thence, mystic knots mak great abuse,
On young guidmen, fond, keen, an' croose;
When the best wark-lume i' the house,
       By cantraip wit,
Is instant made no worth a louse,
       Just at the bit.

When thowes dissolve the snawy hoord,
An' float the jinglin icy-boord,
Then water-kelpies haunt the foord
       By your direction,
An' nighted trav'lers are allur'd
       To their destruction.

And aft your moss-traversing spunkies
Decoy the wight that late an drunk is:
The bleezin, curst, mischievous monkeys
       Delude his eyes,
Till in some miry slough he sunk is,
       Ne'er mair to rise.

When Masons' mystic word an grip
In storms an' tempests raise you up,
Some cock or cat your rage maun stop,
       Or, strange to tell!
The youngest brither ye wad whip
       Aff straught to hell!

Lang syne, in Eden'd bonie yard,
When youthfu' lovers first were pair'd,
An all the soul of love they shar'd,
       The raptur'd hour,
Sweet on the fragrant flow'ry swaird,
       In shady bow'r;

Then you, ye auld snick-drawin dog!
Ye cam to Paradise incog,
And play'd on man a cursed brogue,
       (Black be your fa'!)
An gied the infant warld a shog,
       Maist ruin'd a'.

D'ye mind that day, when in a bizz,
Wi' reeket duds an reestet gizz,
Ye did present your smoutie phiz
       Mang better folk,
An' sklented on the man of Uz
       Your spitefu' joke?

An' how ye gat him i' your thrall,
An' brak him out o' house and hal',
While scabs and blotches did him gall,
       Wi' bitter claw,
An' lows'd his ill-tongued, wicked scaul,
       Was warst ava?

But a' your doings to rehearse,
Your wily snares an' fechtin fierce,
Sin' that day Michael did you pierce,
       Down to this time,
Wad ding a Lallan tongue, or Erse,
       In prose or rhyme.

An' now, Auld Cloots, I ken ye're thinkin,
A certain Bardie's rantin, drinkin,
Some luckless hour will send him linkin,
       To your black pit;
But faith! he'll turn a corner jinkin,
       An' cheat you yet.

But fare you weel, Auld Nickie-ben!
O wad ye tak a thought an' men'!
Ye aiblins might—I dinna ken—
       Still hae a stake:
I'm wae to think upo' yon den,
       Ev'n for your sake!

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Poet Robert Burns 1759–1796

POET’S REGION Scotland

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

Subjects Religion, Weather, Christianity, Mythology & Folklore

Poetic Terms Allusion, Rhymed Stanza

 Robert  Burns

Biography

Born on 25 January 1759 in Alloway, Scotland, to William and Agnes Brown Burnes, Robert Burns followed his father's example by becoming a tenant farmer. Unlike William Burnes, however, Burns was able to escape the vicissitudes and vagaries of the soil in two ways: toward the end of his life he became an excise collector in Dumfries, where he died in 1796; and throughout his life he was a practicing poet. As a poet he recorded . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Weather, Christianity, Mythology & Folklore

POET’S REGION Scotland

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

Poetic Terms Allusion, Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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