Faith, there’s a hantle queer complaints
To cheenge puir sinners into saints,
An’ mony divers ways o’ deein’
That doctors hae a chance o’ seein’.
The Babylonian scartit bricks
To tell his doots o’ Death’s dark tricks,
The Roman kentna hoo ’twas farin’
Across the ferry rowed by Charon,
An’ readin’ doonwards through the ages
The tale’s the same in a’ their pages,
Eternal grum’lin’ at the load
We hae to bear alang Life’s road,
Yet, when we’re fairly at the bit,
Awfu’, maist awfu sweer to flit,
Praisin’ the name o’ ony drug
The doctor whispers in oor lug
As guaranteed to cure the evil,
To haud us here an’ cheat the Deevil.
For gangrels, croochin’ in the strae,
To leave this warld are oft as wae
As the prood laird o’ mony an acre,
O’ temporal things a keen partaker.
Noo a’ this leads up to my tale
O’ what befell puir Tam MacPhail,
A dacent miner chiel in Fife
Wha led a maist exemplar’ life,
An’ ne’er abused himsel’ wi’ liquor,
But took it canny-like an’ siccar.
Aye when he cast his wet pit-breeks,
Tam had a gless that warm’d his cheeks;
For as it trickled owre his craigie,
He held it wardit aff lumbaigy.
It wasna that he liked the dram,
’Twas pure needcessity wi’ Tam!
But twa years syne-or was it three?-
Tam thocht that he was gaun to dee,
An’ Faith! they’ve often gar’d me grew
By tellin’ what I’ll tell to you.
The early tatties had come in
When Tammas’s besettin’ sin,
A love o’ a’ this warld’s gude things
An’ a’ the pleesures eatin’ brings,
Gar’d him hae sic a bad mischeef
It fleggit him ayont belief!
Pay-Saturday it was, I mind,
An’ Jean, intendin’ to be kind,
Had biled the firstlins o’ her yaird
(For naethin’ else Tam wud hae sair’d),
Sae when they cam’ frae Jean’s clean pat,
Altho’ they seemed a trifle wat,
Tam in his hunger ate a meal
That wud hae staw’d the big black Deil,
Syne at his cutty had a draw,
Syne gantit wi’ wide-open jaw,
An’ aince his heid was on the cod,
He sune was in the land o’ Nod.
But when the knock had chappit four
Tam had to rise an’ get attour,
For in his bed he couldna’ bide
He’d sic a steer in his inside!
The granes o’m waukent faithfu’ Jean.
An’ then began a bonny scene!
A parritch poultice first she tries,
Het plates on plates she multiplies,
But ilka time his puddens rum’les
A’ owre the place Tam rows an’ tum’les,
For men in sic-like situations,
Gude kens hae gey sma’ stock o’ patience!
Yet fast the pain grows diabolic,
A reg’lar, riving, ragin’ colic,
A loupin’, gowpin’, stoondin’ pain
That gars the sweat hail doon like rain.
Whiles Tam gangs dancin’ owre the flair,
Whiles cheeky-on intil a chair,
Whiles some sma’ comfort he achieves
By brizzin’ hard wi’ baith his nieves;
In a’ his toilsome tack o’ life
Ne’er had he kent sic inward strife,
For while he couldna’ sit, forbye
Like Washington he couldna’ lie!
Noo, at lang last his guts was rackit
Till Tam was bullerin’ fair distrackit,
An’ sune wi’ roar succeedin’ roar
He fosh in a’ the fowk neist door,
An’ ane o’ them-auld Girsie Broon-
She ran an’ brocht the doctor doon,
Wha hurried in a’ oot o’ breath,
For Girsie said ’twas life or death!
The doctor oxter’d Tam till’s bed,
Fingert his wame an shook his head;
“We who pursue the healing art,
See youth commence and age depart,
Pills we prescribe and pulses feel,
Your systems know from scalp to heel!
And here? Potato indigestion,
Of that there’s not the slightest question,
While, what my great experience teaches
Is most relief is got from leeches.”-
“Awa’,” yells Tam, “fesh hauf a dizzen!
O haste ye, ere I loss my rizzon!”
Sae aff gangs wullin’ Girsie Broon,
To wauk the druggist wast the toon.
Noo, Droggie had an awfu’ stock,
Tobacco, wreetin’ paper, rock,
A’ kin’ o’ wersh tongue-twistin’ drinks,
A’ kin’ o’ Oriental stinks,
The best cod liver ile emulsions,
Wee poothers that could cure convulsions,
Famed Peter Puffer’s soothin’ syrup,
An’ stuff to gar canaries chirrup.
He’d toothache tinctur’s, cures for corns,
Pomades to gar hair grow on horns,
He’d stuff for healin’ beelin’ lugs,
He’d stuff for suffocatin’ bugs,
He’d stuff for feshin’ up your denners,
Against your wull an’ a’ gude menners,
A’ kin’ o’ queer cahoochy goods
To suit the system’s varyin’ moods,
Wi’ navvies’ operatin’ peels,
Sookers for bairns an’ fishin’ reels,
In fac’-but losh! I’d better stop,
The mannie kep’ a druggist’s shop!
An’ in his bauchles an’ his breeches
Cam’ grum’lin’ doon to get the leeches
While, nearly scunnert wi’ their squirmin’,
Aff hirples Girsie wi’ the vermin.
An’ noo, my billies, draw a veil,
Till mornin’s licht, owre Tam Macphail,
Till aince again the doctor cam’
To see what cheenge was wrocht in Tam.
’Twas nine o’clock he stapt in-bye,
Relieved to hear nae waesome cry.
“Well, well, Macphail!” the doctor says,
“My treatment’s worthy of all praise!
I left you-why ’twas like a riot!
I see you now, contented, quiet.
Far, very far, our knowledge reaches!
How did you get on with the leeches?”
Tam ne’er replied, but turn’d his back,
Wi’ tearful een ’twas Jean wha spak,
“Eh, Doctor! -Sic an awfu’ cure
I ne’er saw gi’en to rich or puir,
For when we saw the ugsome beasts
It gart the herts rise in our breists!
But Tam, wha tak’s your word for law,
Juist swalla’d doon the first pair raw!
Yet try’s he micht, an’ sair he tried,
He had to hae the last four fried!”
The doctor turn’d him on his heel,
An’ though puir Tam looked rale no-weel,
He couldna trust himsel’ to speak,
The tears were rinnin’ doon his cheek,
An’ a’ that day was sair forfaughen
Wi’ tryin’ to haud himsel’ frae lauchin’!
Whate’er wi’ Tam ye chance to crack on,
There’s ae thing ye maun ne’er gang back on.
Freely he’ll talk on politics,
The weather an’ its dirty tricks,
On wages an’ the price o’ coal
Or things conneckit wi’ the soul,
On hoo the meenister’s a leear
An’ medical advice owre dear,
But if the crack warks roond to leeches,
Puir Tam pits doon his pipe an’ retches!