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Long title
The Race - An Heoric Ballad. Addressed to the Honourable Company of Scots Hunters.
Original text


Ye frolicsome blades, who thro' life rove along,
Give ear, en passant, to the words of my song,
Which fondly attempts, tho' 'tis only in story,
To make the event once again seem before ye.
                           Derry down, etc.


It chanc'd, then, one day, in Edina's good city,
A jolly assembly of souls bright and witty,
Were happily met o'er a bottle of claret,
That mighty inflamer of humour and spirit!


A nobleman, bless'd with the true Scottish fire,
Was merrily rallying an opulent squire,
That his body, who knew him must readily own,
(Emblem of his estate) was indeed overgrown.


The squire (tho' perhaps he was angry the while)
Rising up, thus replied to my Lord, with a smile:
'Your Lordship to-night is extremely jocose,
Or rather, impertinent, to speak in plain prose.'


So, when in a high court of justice I've been,
The counsel disputing I've frequently seen
With constrain'd complaisance, mix'd with wonderful pother
While Puzzle took this side, and Blunder the other.


But I stray from my subject - for Daniel went on:
'Tho' my weight, like Jack Falstaff's, be many a stone,
Tho' portly my belly, and cheeks blown up are,
Yet with me none for vigour and health can compare.


'Besides, my dear Lord, I will venture to say,
And, what's more, will a purse of twice ten guineas lay,
That - nay, laugh not, no time now for jest or for cunning -
That I'll easily beat your good Lordship at running.


'And that my strength, as well as speed, may be tried,
Upon my broad shoulders brisk Wattie shall ride;
But, to make matters equal, your course must be double,
As my burthen will probably give me some trouble.


'Tomorrow at ten, in the park - if too soon,
I shall not be against our delaying 't till noon.'
Young D[ou]gl[a]s agreed to the terms as propos'd,
And the ev'ning in social debauchery was clos'd.


This astonishing match reach'd the ears of the Town,
Who, next day, to the park in great numbers rush'd down;
Some heartily laughing, some with a sour face,
Declaring that - really, 'twould be a disgrace.


For my part, believe me, I soon did begin to
Remember the man who the bottle jump'd into;
But Dame Curiosity told me 'twas best
That I e'en should be made such a fool as the rest.


The Gentlemen Hunters had mark'd out the ground,
And with the fair ladies gallanting were found;
While, eager the rabble at distance to keep,
'Shins! shins!' cries bold R[e]nt[o]n, and smacks his smart whip.


Nor must I neglect handsome Seaton to paint,
Tho' I'm sure that my colours are vastly too faint;
Yet, rather than pass so distinguish'd a man,
I would beg leave to sketch him as well as I can.


So fine was his figure, so taking his face,
In so pleasing a taste was his elegant dress,
That Scotia's sweet beauties (to tell the plain truth)
Seem'd fond of admiring the delicate youth.


He touch'd with so killing an air his neat hat,
Gently smiling to this, and soft chatting to that,
What maid could resist such profusion of charms,
Or help longing to hold him enclasp'd in her arms?


The jovial Triumvirate quickly appear'd,
And all by their sev'ral companions were cheer'd.
Poor Wattie, ascending, seem'd greatly afraid,
As dreading to be by his horse overlaid.


They started at last, and (so fortune ordain'd)
The vict'ry by huge Quinbus Flestrin was gain'd,
Who, 'midst a tumultuours mob's loud'ning huzzas,
Carried off all that was to be had of applause.


Tho' some nicer judges will strongly aver
That to run twice the ground was unequal by far,
And that the Man Mountain was as sure to have won
As th' enough-cautious Teague who contended, alone.


As I think ev'ry man should excel in his station,
I leave to good Matthew to make calculation,
Who, if I mistake not, will tell to a hair,
What proportion the one to the other should bear.


My province was slyly to leand a sharp ear
The different comical sayings to hear,
Which (like brother Bayes) I shall slapdash set down,
And so, by transprosing, shall make 'em my own.


A Tory exclaim'd, without any preamble,
'By the King, I rejoice to see S[tewar]t ride C[ampbell].'
And Dick Idle affirm'd, 'As grim death it as sure is,
That nothing's so ponderous as Corpus Juris.'


A wag, who had gather'd a circle around him,
Whose faces were brimful of joy to have found him,
Remov'd a small way from the din and confusion,
Was dealing about his jokes in great profusion.


To realte ev'ry single quirk, quibble, and pun,
Would require at least more than a course of the sun;
Take one, then, than which I have scarce heard a better:
'This lawyer', he cried, 'is become commentator.


'For', said the old fellow, with countenance grave,
'As the English their Coke upon Littleton have,
So Scotland, a wise head - nay, wiser - has found,
For S[tewar]t on S - - - d shall still be renown'd.'


Written by James Boswell ca. 1761 and originally published in Alexander Donaldson's "A Collection of Original Poems by Scotch Gentlemen, 1762".

Original sources