1824 Poem, George Dugall, ‘Epistle To Mr. J— D—, Coshquin’

Author: George Dugall

Date: 1824

Source: Poem: ‘Epistle To Mr. J— D—, Coshquin’, from The Northern Cottage and other poems; written partly in the Dialect of the North of Ireland by George Dugall (Londonderry: William McCorkell, 1824)

Comments: George Dugall (c.1790-1855) was the son of Rev. George Dugall, Presbyterian minister of Magherafelt from 1786-1810, and lived most of his life near Newtowncunningham in Donegal. He was a schoolteacher in north Donegal, and his only book of poems The Northern Cottage contains an extensive glossary of Ulster-Scots words. The vocabulary and cultural context of his poems are rich in Ulster-Scots reference.

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Poetry/1800-1899/054


To Mr. J— D—, Coshquin

I never wish to cultivate

A hollow friendship wi’ the great;

Wha look upon their condescension,

As if it were a yearly pension;

An’ view a rustic at their lug,

Like some Newfoundland fav’rite dog;

Caress’d ’tis true he’ll sometimes be,

But boasted when he maks owre free.

Fortune, (unless thou’st ta’en an aith

To thwart me till my latest breath,)

Hear ae short pray’r — ’twill be but ane: —

Protect me frae a saucy frien’,

Who proffers with one hand assistance,

An’ with the other marks my distance;

Who holds my reputation dear,

Yet mocks it in a stifl’d sneer:

So pridefu’ puss will seldom fail,

To rub her crony wi’ her tail.

Thou Nature, wha ere I could paddle,

Didst nurse me in misfortune’s cradle;

An’ wi’ thy pamper’d offspring thrang,

Sooth’d my poor wailings wi’ a sang;

If there’s amang thy num’rous weans,

One lofty mind of humble means,

Who shrewdly weighs the grov’lling throng,

By thy own laws of right and wrong:

Of sprightly wit and humour chaste,

By sentiment and feeling grac’d;

Who needs no selfish art to bind him;

Whom as he was I still may find him;

Whilst time attachment closer sothers,

Thy true disciples, friends and brothers.

But haud — I’ll mak’ the sketch nae langer,

For fear I should the carlin anger:

This while she has got naething new;

To stap my mouth she’d hand me — you.

Then come, my friend, whose lib’ral heart

Unfolds a universal chart,

Whose ample bounds afford a place,

For ev’ry son of Adam’s race;

Whate’er his lot — wherever born —

Though failings shroud, or worth adorn,

What sect soe’er his own he calls,

’Tis fellow man whate’er befalls.

Yet rank’d by reason as by nature,

Some maun be waur, an’ some be better:

The bigot wi’ his frozen soul,

Poor Greenlander, maun keep a pole;

The reprobate may hae the tither;

They’re foes to truth and ane anither.

But ev’ry mod’rate, manly mind,

A temp’rate peaceful spot may find:

There too’s a clime of calm repose,

Where friendship’s lasting summer glows;

Through years, amaist hale four times three,

Whar winter’s breath ne’er blew on me:

Touch’d by the magnet o’ the skies,

The needle keeps due counterpoise;

And steady points on either han’,

To love of God and love of man.

But narrow minds, the deil confound them,

Though civic honours glare around them,

Whose consciences scarce farthing braid,

Still lessen as their prospects spread;

While to each wave-toss’d murky soul,

Self-int’rest is baith card and pole;

Whose variation’s sae surprising,

It hovers roun’ the hale horizon:

Who fixes firm — nae farther heeding,

In its own sect the prime meridian;

An’ still the longitude’s to look for,

Till h---’s at last the port mistook for.

God never will’d the hideous plan,

That teaches man to trample man;

But on the level base of nature,

He built the rights of ev’ry creature;

And set the seal of heav’n above,

To order, liberty, and love:

Hence despotism in church and state,

Religious rancor, party hate,

We trace, with ev’ry moral evil,

To their own origin — the devil.

Atween us twa, ’tis no intrusive,

Why should redemption be exclusive[1]

In either Church, be’t yours or mine,

While both profess one faith divine,

Sufficient for their lasting good,

Yet mutually misunderstood?

If in your Church there’s nae salvation,

Pray whence has mine her derivation?

Why Jamie lad, this curs’d position

Would prove her founded on perdition.

If yours alone teach saving faith,

Then we’re of course in greater skaith

Than was the famous Gentile leader,

On whose account God soften’d Peter.

The man who spurns all wrangling nonsense,

Yet dares obey an honest conscience,

In rites consistent wi’ his notion;

Alone has rational devotion.

Who to obtain the world’s dominion,

Disdains to sacrifice opinion;

Whose blameless life will recommend it;

Who lives befriending and befriended;

And when his soul to its great Author

Returns — the good lament a brother.

Unlike the wretch, whom dirty bread,

Decoys to the establish’d creed;

From native filth projected higher,

The idol o’ some country squire,

Wha blunders in his zealous study,

To save the soul, an’ swalls the body.

The farmer’s bane — the cotter’s foe —

He aims — nor does he miss the blow:

The honest man alone he fears;

Hence duns his simple master’s ears

With lies, all weathers, warm and wintry,

Th’ accusing devil o’ the country;

An’ aft his ill-got pow’r extends,

To gain his vengeful private ends,

That in a brutal pamper’d rage,

Root many an ancient privilege;

As victims of his cringing crimes —

The records dear of better times,

When gentry to the earth were given,

As stewards o’ the gifts o’ heaven.

Thus as he sells his rotten conscience,

He’ll ha’e the price o’t wi’ a vengeance;

Each hidden perquisite he’ll levy;

An’ rive an’ steal, through het an’ heavy;

Whilst knaves an’ fools caress his curship,

As Indian tribes[2] the devil worship,

To blunt his fangs; by self or fear

Impell’d. Thus he from year to year,

In fraud an’ rapine dashes on

Till life’s last ebb — then ten to one,

When there he maks his wretched lan’ fa’,

Some priest will get a dirty han’ fu’.

But truce wi’ villains, let them rest;

An’ if they can in death be blest,

Just let them — for wi’ a’ their gear,

They only are the wretched here.

Now Jamie to the aerial scene,

Where fancy reigns an elfin queen

Ascend! the view is worth the trouble;

My Pegasus will carry double.

The sinking sun on verge o’ day,

Bade eve commence her eastern sway;

While on the skies far to the west,

Our hills their visages impress’d:

There Binian rose, whose vertic ray,

Wi’ mid-day meal divides the day:

An’ Dooish wi’ his triple crown;

The winter barrier o’ the sun:

An’ Arrogil’s far jutting height,

Whar many parting blessings light:[3]

An’ Muckish wi’ his level riggin,

A peat-stack huge o’ Nature’s biggin.

All these an’ mair, in rank enroll’d,

Beneath an arch of airy gold,

That eastward blending seem’d to fade,

In crimson blue and starry shade.

Low crept the mist the hills between,

While many a cottage crown’d the scene;

Whose rising smoke the skies receive,

Unbiass’d by the breath of eve.

At length the fair-fac’d queen of light,

From Holy-well[4] had bless’d the night;

And shot a level lovely ray,

That homeward chee’rd my peaceful way.

I drew my table to the fire,

And fell a-dosing in my chire:

A book I happen’d to discover,

Wi’ binding green that folded over;

And at the op’ning poring on’t,

Beheld the, “Sermon on the mount:

A sermon which, alas the fact is,

We’ve ten to preach, for ane to practise.

Just then a blast the welkin rends;

An’ through the riven roof descends

A form etherial, awful, bright,

Wi’ silver wings an’ robes o’ light.

Proud o’ my visitor, nae doubt,

As quick as thought I fac’d about;

An’ struck wi’ rev’rence ey’d my guest,

Who wrapp’d in smiles, these words exprest: —

“To thee, thou highly-gifted bard,

My mission runs in kind regard;

Deputed from indulgent skies,

I bring instruction and advice:

Wouldst thou on earth gain wealth and praise,

And reap on high immortal bays?

Sill let the Church’s precious weal,

Inspire thy pen with holy zeal,

To keep her sacred fasts and dinners,

Aye pure and separate from sinners:

Of Calvin’s stiff-neck’d brood ’tis true,

High heav’n intends to save a few:

Wage not with these a war ungracious;

Yet still mistrust — at least be cautious.

Teach Rome, the drudge of Zion’s daughter,

To hew her wood and draw her water:

Thus let her sons pursue their labours,

Nor deign to think them friends and neighbours.”

Half mad wi’ rage, I’d hear nae mair,

But started up, to hit him fair:

“Tak’ that,” quo’ I, “thou lying skybal” —

I threw, an’ fell’d him wi’ the Bible.

Frae this you’ll may be guess the stranger:

I ‘woke, an’ shudder’d at the danger.

Guid night — sleep glimmers in my eyes;

My paper’s done — my candle dies.


[1] The diabolical dogma of exclusive salvation, which is either openly avowed, or tacitly implied by the ignorant and designing, among both Protestants and Catholics, is the sole foundation of religious animosity: let this be destroyed, and the whole infernal Babel of intolerance tumbles to the ground. If we suppose that there is no salvation within the pale of the Church of Rome, it inevitably follows that the entire Protestant population of the world are to a man the descendants of the damned. Again, to suppose that Protestants cannot be saved, would be placing them in an infinitely worse predicament than that of Cornelius, a professed heathen, (Acts, chap. 10 and 11,) who would have been rejected by St. Peter and the bigoted Jewish converts, as an abomination to Christianity, but for the express reproof of the VOICE in the vision: and this not only after that Apostle had received the famous promise; but also subsequent to the descent of the Holy Spirit. This former hypothesis is physically absurd; the latter morally impossible; and both equally repugnant to christian charity, common sense, and right reason.

[2] The Virginian Indians are said to have formerly worshipped the devil, in order to prevent his bad offices.

[3] Arrogil is said to be the last hill visible to the outward bound American traders.

[4] A hill in the neighbourhood.

Other poems from ‘The Northern Cottage’


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