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Poems by James Ruickbie 1757-1829


Love the site. However, I notice that you do not include poetry by James Ruickbie in the related area. James is an ancestor of mine and had published works 1806 through 1879. His books are rare, but are available for viewing at Scotland’s national library. I submit the following works of his, and his heirs, for your review and possible inclusion on your site:

Poems by James Ruickbie 1757-1829:

"Even in the cottage, where the earthen floor,
The straw-made bed, the wooden candlestick,
Display their sober equipage - even there
The Muses will haunt, where Pomp discusses to tread
And breathe the song, deny'd to Palaces."


I've drunk too freely of the cask
To cheat the world's a dev'lish task
But here I throw off the mark
Ah' at mysel'
A few impatient questions ask
'Bout heav'n and hell


But hail, my sonsy mother-tongue
Mey I be routit wi' a runy
If e'er I leave  your praise unsung
But will rehearse
Your usefulness to auld and young


son of William Ruickbie

Address to a Gardener
The voice of Spring again I here,
She in yon snowy cloud draws near,
Lest Winter, should, in anger tear
this tender form;
The lark salutes her with a cheer
Amid the storm.

Tobacco is a foreign plant
Fir which the hearts of Britons pant
I wadna wish it wou'd turn scant
For this same cause;
Or else auld wives I'm sure wou'd grant
Already their jaws..  


O Mary, my love! 'tis mild and calm
And the wavey light of the rising moon
Shines soft and sweet, while around us is calm
And fragrance is breathing of rosy June

With you, love an' beauty flee fast
Then our bosoms with rapture no longer shall burn
Let's enjoy the fleet hours then, my love, while we may
Nor sigh for the days that never can return -
When I've left my dear Mary and H__b___n.

All of the above is easily confirmed at the library – look for “The Wayside Cottager – Hawick 1807” or “Hawick Songs and Song Writers” by Robert Murray 1897.

From Hawick Songs:

“James enjoyed the friendship of such distinguished men as Ettrick Shepherd, Professor Wilson, Allan Cunningham, Thomas Campbell, Henry Scott Riddell, William Knox and Robert Anderson, the Cumbrian bard. He published three or four volumes of poems, one of these being issued in 1815 by R Armstrong, printer, Hawick and the last edition contained a few pieces written by some of his admiring contemporaries, such as William Scott and William Deans.

Ruickbie was the landlord of the Harrow Inn, and a model one he was; all classes of the community admired him. He died beloved in the year 1829, in the 72nd year of his age”


Larry Ruickbie

Taken from "Hawick Songs and Song Writers" by Robert Murray 1897

"James Ruickbie
Was the first of our local poets who ventured on publishing his works. Ruickbie came from Innerleithen, and was a miller to trade. His youth was spent in his native village. In his "Apology to the Public" he says:

I'm no acquaint wi' mealy pows;
I was brought up wi' tups and ewes,
High up amang the heather
winter girns
And naething seen but heighs and howes,
And bent and birns.

I dinna wear a copper nose,
Wi' guzzling down the liquid dose,
But stuff my wame wi' guid kail brose,
To fleg the caul',
Syne strutting in guid plaidin' hose,
I look fu' baul'.

He published three or four volumes of poems; one of these being issued in 1815 by R Armstrong, printer, Hawick, and the last edition contained a few pieces written by some of his admiring contemporaries, such as William Scott and William Deans. No more fitting tribute can be paid to the memory of James Ruickbie than that written by his friend William Scott -

Thou old Son of Song! a long night is descending
In thick gloom around thee, its shade hovers o'er thee
And darkness thy path; but a day never ending
Shall break through the darkness - a long day of glory.

When forgot shall be all thou hast suffered while here,
Like a tale that is told shalt thou look on the past,
Smiles shall dimple the cheek how distained with a tear,
When Heaven shall receive thy pure spirit at last.

Thy end like a mild summer sunset shall be,
Thy grey hairs are to thee a bright halo of glory,
Thou hast walked with thy God, and through faith dost thou see,
Thy seat with the saints, and thy Saviour before thee.

Farewell, then, Old Bard! I have learned by thy fate
That goodness and genius conjoined cannot save
From neglect the possessor, but often await
On him scorn and contempt, til shut out by the grave.


This house a public building is design’d
To gratify the curious mind;
Subservient to the parson and the player,
By turns a theatre, and a house of prayer.
Within its walls may sometimes be perchance
The thrilling music, and the graceful dance;
In it the juggler may his tricks reveal,
And in it sometimes masons
raise the De’il!
Methinks I hear the superstitious say,
What man would go to such a house to pray ?
A house profan’d by ev’ry thing unholy,
A mere receptacle of sin and folly.
But with your leave, my superstitious brother,
Say, is one place more sacred than another ?
It is the heart that sanctifies the place,
And ‘tis the heart that brings it to disgrace.
We, without breach of charity, may say,
That saints may sometimes dance, and sinners pray;
King David danc’d,-nor of it was asham’d,
And pray’d,-and for his dancing ne’er was blam’d
By any but his witless scolding wife,
Which made her barren all her after life.
Then may this building prosp’rously arise,
Its lofty summit pointing to the skies;
And when ‘tis finish’d height, and breadth, and length.
Its pillars be stability and strength !

by James Ruickbie, c. 1821, Hawick, Roxburgshire, Scotland.

Note: The above poem was written by James to commemorate the laying of the foundation stone of the “Subscription Rooms” at Hawick. The building was erected  to be used for the Arts and as a library, and was totally funded by private local “subscriptions”. The placing of the stone was carried out with full Masonic honours followed by a speech by Robert Wilson and the reading of the above poem.  [LR]

To Mr. ______, at ______, on being fined for felling
Ale without Licence.

Sir, you’ll receive my twa pund ten,
Wi’ what you call expenses,
Sometimes misfortunes humbles men,
And brings them to their fenfes.

For now I’m by experience taught,
(The fchoolmasfer of affes),
What ’tis to quaff the illicit draught,
And touch unhallow’d glaffes.

Deil thank your pot to wallop brown,
While mine boils thin and bluely,
When ilka ferawl ye gie’s a crown,
But law doss a’ things truly.

Leeze me on law ! when we gang wrang
It keeps us aye in order,
And never fuffers us to gang
O’er the forbidden border.

The lawyer watches for our wealth,
The patriot for our nation,
The doctor watches for our health,
The prieft for our falvation.

When guarded by this fourfold fence,
Auld Nick can never fang us;
Nor Bonapart’ e’er drive us hence,
Nor villains mint to wrang us.

God fave the Kng ! and Blefs the Law,
With crime-detefting vigour;
May villains underneath its paw,
Be punifhed with rigour.

And here’s ilk honeft lawyer’s health,
Upon my knees I toaft it,
In that fame ale I had by ftealth,
But now hae paid the coft o’t.

     by James Ruickbie, c. 1805, Colterscleuch, Roxburgshire, Scotland.

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