17 December 2009

"Address to the Unco Press"

After a soothing period slumped beneath the spangly Sitka spruce, I’ve now blearily attained consciousness anew. Squinting at the text before me in a crisp copy of the Herald this morning, primly remonstrating with the Scots blogosphere, I was timely reminded of this poem, recovered from beneath the floorboards of Robert Burns’ Alloway cottage, during its restoration. Attributed to the man himself, the piece nevertheless has a distinctly modern resonance – it is perhaps an early draft of his more famous work, Address to the Unco Guid, addressed to the conceited newspaper proprietors of his own time. I include the text here for your historical curiosity.

Address to the Unco Press,
Or the Rigidly Writeous

My son, these maxims make a rule,
An' lump them ay thegither:
The Rigid Pressman is a fool,
The Rigid Wise anither;
The cleanest prose that e'er was scratch’d
May hae some pyles o' lies in;
So ne'er a fellow-creature slight
For random fits o' daffin.
Solomon. (Ecclesiastes vii. 16)

O ye wha are sae frank yoursel’,
Sae candid and sae wholly,
Ye’ve nought to do but scribe and spell
Your neibour’s fauts and folly!
Whase prose is like a well-gaun trill,
Supplied wi’ store o’ chatter;
The weil-read blogger’s scribing still,
An’ still ye scorn our matter!

Hear me, ye venerable corps,
As counsel for poor scribblers,
That frequent pass douce Truthiness’ door
Meeting glaikit Folly’s quibblers:
I for their thoughtless, careless sakes
Would here propone defences -
Their donsie tricks, their black mistakes,
Their failings and mischances.

Ye see your state wi’ theirs compared,
And shudder at the niffer;
But cast a moment's fair regard,
What makes the mighty differ?
Discount what scant employment gave;
That purity ye pride in;
And (what's aft mair than a' the lave)
Your better art o’ hidin.

Think o
yoursel’, when partisan,
An’ impulse tends tae dollop,
Ye notch scripts o’ a party man,
Your biases run tae gallop!
Hot airs an’ a’ airy fair bring
Only fair furth words, impartial?
But from your fingers such tales spring,
Ye seem so unco

See Politiks and Glee sit down
All joyous and unthinking,
Till, quite transmugrify’d, they’re grown
Loquacious and indicting:
O, would they stay to calculate,
Th’ fear that pricks insiders’ senses?
Or - your more dreaded hell to state -
All do wi’out expenses!

Ye high, exalted, virtuous hacks,
Pulling haughty faces,
Before ye gie poor Bloggers names,
Suppose a change o’ cases:
We don nae judgin’ robes, Mug,
Nor treach’rous sneak our inclinations -
But, let me whisper i’ your lug,
Ye’re aiblins nae temptation!

Then gently scan your brother’s blog,
Or blogging sister woman;
Tho’ they may gang a kennin wrang,
To step aside is human:
One point must still be greatly dark,
Whose falsehoods deeper blacken?
To smudge a fact fae ten's remark
Or tae mislead the nation?

Who made the heart, ‘tis He alone
Decidedly can try us:
He knows each clause, its various tone,
Each phrase, its various bias:
Then at the balance let us moot,
And wi egality adjust
In friendship, lets both make pursuit
And puncture press Snobbery’s disgust.


  1. Quite excellent LPW and a timely rebuff.

  2. Hi Lallands,

    Brillaint, absolutely brilliant. Almost worthy of the Bard himself. Pity it will go right over their heads though. Them thinking they're doing such a good job a'n all!