Godly Ballants by George MacDonald


The rich man sat in his father’s seat–
Purple an’ linen, an’ a’thing fine!
The puir man lay at his yett i’ the street–
Sairs an’ tatters, an’ weary pine!

To the rich man’s table ilk dainty comes,
Mony a morsel gaed frae’t, or fell;
The puir man fain wud hae dined on the crumbs,
But whether he got them I canna tell.

Servants prood, saft-fittit, an’ stoot,
Stan by the rich man’s curtained doors;
Maisterless dogs ‘at rin aboot
Cam to the puir man an’ lickit his sores.

The rich man deeit, an’ they buried him gran’,
In linen fine his body they wrap;
But the angels tuik up the beggar man,
An’ layit him doun in Abraham’s lap.

The guid upo’ this side, the ill upo’ that–
Sic was the rich man’s waesome fa’!
But his brithers they eat, an’ they drink, an’ they chat,
An’ carena a strae for their Father’s ha’!

The trowth’s the trowth, think what ye will;
An’ some they kenna what they wad be at;
But the beggar man thoucht he did no that ill,
Wi’ the dogs o’ this side, the angels o’ that!


Stately, lang-robit, an’ steppin at ease,
The rich men gaed up the temple ha’;
Hasty, an’ grippin her twa baubees,
The widow cam efter, booit an’ sma’.

Their goud rang lood as it fell, an’ lay
Yallow an’ glintin, bonnie an’ braw;
But the fowk roun the Maister h’ard him say
The puir body’s baubees was mair nor it a’.

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Doon frae Jerus’lem a traveller took
The laigh road to Jericho;
It had an ill name an’ mony a crook,
It was lang an’ unco how.

Oot cam the robbers, an’ fell o’ the man,
An’ knockit him o’ the heid,
Took a’ whauron they couth lay their han’,
An’ left him nakit for deid.

By cam a minister o’ the kirk:
“A sair mishanter!” he cried;
“Wha kens whaur the villains may lirk!
I s’ haud to the ither side!”

By cam an elder o’ the kirk;
Like a young horse he shied:
“Fie! here’s a bonnie mornin’s wark!”
An’ he spangt to the ither side.

By cam ane gaed to the wrang kirk;
Douce he trottit alang.
“Puir body!” he cried, an’ wi’ a yerk
Aff o’ his cuddy he sprang.

He ran to the body, an’ turnt it ower:
“There’s life i’ the man!” he cried.
He wasna ane to stan an’ glower,
Nor hand to the ither side!

He doctort his oons, an’ heised him then
To the back o’ the beastie douce;
An’ he heild him on till, twa weary men,
They wan to the half-way hoose.

He ten’d him a’ nicht, an’ o’ the morn did say,
“Lan’lord, latna him lack;
Here’s auchteen pence!–an’ ony mair ootlay
I’ll sattle ‘t as I come back.”

Sae tak til ye, neibours; read aricht the word;
It’s a portion o’ God’s ain spell!
“Wha is my neibour?” speirna the Lord,
But, “Am I a neibour?” yersel.


Ance was a woman wha’s hert was gret;
Her love was sae dumb it was ‘maist a grief;
She brak the box–it’s tellt o’ her yet–
The bonny box for her hert’s relief.

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Ane was there wha’s tale’s but brief,
Yet was ower lang, the gait he cawed;
He luikit a man, and was but a thief,
Michty the gear to grip and hand.

“What guid,” he cried, “sic a boxfu to blaud?
Wilfu waste I couth never beir!
It micht hae been sellt for ten poun, I wad–
Sellt for ten poun, and gien to the puir!”

Savin he was, but for love o’ the gear;
Carefu he was, but a’ for himsel;
He carried the bag to his hert sae near
What fell i’ the ane i’ the ither fell.

And the strings o’ his hert hingit doun to hell,
They war pu’d sae ticht aboot the mou;
And hence it comes that I hae to tell
The warst ill tale that ever was true.

The hert that’s greedy maun mischief brew,
And the deils pu’d the strings doon yon’er in hell;
And he sauld, or the agein mune was new,
For thirty shillins the Maister himsel!

Gear i’ the hert it’s a canker fell:
Brithers, latna the siller ben!
Troth, gien ye du, I warn ye ye’ll sell
The verra Maister or ever ye ken!


The Lord gaed wi’ a crood o’ men
Throu Jericho the bonny;
‘Twas ill the Son o’ Man to ken
Mang sons o’ men sae mony:

The wee bit son o’ man Zacchay
To see the Maister seekit;
He speilt a fig-tree, bauld an’ shy,
An’ sae his shortness ekit.

But as he thoucht to see his back,
Roun turnt the haill face til ‘im,
Up luikit straucht, an’ til ‘im spak–
His hert gaed like to kill ‘im.

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“Come doun, Zacchay; bestir yersel;
This nicht I want a lodgin.”
Like a ripe aipple ‘maist he fell,
Nor needit ony nudgin.

But up amang the unco guid
There rase a murmurin won’er:
“This is a deemis want o’ heed,
The man’s a special sinner!”

Up spak Zacchay, his hert ableeze:
“Half mine, the puir, Lord, hae it;
Gien oucht I’ve taen by ony lees,
Fourfauld again I pay it!”

Then Jesus said, “This is a man!
His hoose I’m here to save it;
He’s are o’ Abraham’s ain clan,
An’ siclike has behavit!

I cam the lost to seek an’ win.”–
Zacchay was are he wantit:
To ony man that left his sin
His grace he never scantit.

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