Prologue to the Gentle Shephard by Robert Tannahill
Ye patronisers of our little party,
My heart ‘s e’en light to see you a’ sae hearty;
I ‘m fain indeed, and troth! I ‘ve meikle cause,
Since your blithe faces half insure applause.
We come this night wi’ nae new-fangl’d story
Of knave’s deceit, or fop’s vain blust’ring glory,
Nor harlequin’s wild pranks, with skin like leopard;
We ‘re come to gi’e your ain auld Gentle Shepherd,
Whilk aye will charm, and will be read and acket,
Till Time himsel’ turn auld, and kick the bucket.
I mind, langsyne, when I was just a callan,
That a’ the kintra rang in praise o’ Allan;
Ilk rising generation toots his fame,
And, hunner years to come, ’twill be the same:
For wha has read, though e’er sae lang sinsyne,
But keeps the living picture on his min’;
Approves bauld Patie’s clever, manly turn,
And maist think Roger cheap o’ Jenny’s scorn;
His dowless gait, the cause of a’ his care,
For “Nane, except the brave, deserve the fair.”
Hence sweet young Peggy lo’ed her manly Pate,
And Jenny geck’d at Roger, dowf and blate.
Our gude Sir William stands a lesson leal
To lairds wha ‘d ha’e their vassals lo’e them weel;
To prince and peer this maxim it imparts,
Their greatest treasures are the people’s hearts.
Frae Glaud and Simon would we draw a moral—
“The virtuous youth-time mak’s the canty carl”;
The twa auld birkies caper blithe and bauld,
Nor shaw the least regret that they ‘re turned auld.
Poor Bauldy! O, it ‘s like to split my jaws!
I think I see him under Madge’s claws:
Sae may Misfortune tear him spawl and plack,
Wha ‘d wrang a bonnie lass, and syne draw back.
But, Sirs, to you I maist forgat my mission:
I ‘m sent to beg a truce to criticism.
We don’t pretend to speak by square and rule,
Like yon wise chaps bred up in Thespian school;
And to your wishes should we not succeed,
Pray be sae kind as tak’ the will for deed.
(And as our immortal Robin Burns says),
“And aiblins though they winna stand the test,
Wink hard and say, the folks ha’e done their best”;
And keep this gen’rous maxim still in min’,
“To err is human, to forgive divine!”