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Mark Olival-Bartley studied applied linguistics at Hawaii Pacific University, attaining B.A. and M.A. degrees in TESOL, and poetry at the City College of New York. He is now anatomizing the prosody of E. A. Robinson’s sonnets for his dissertation at Amerika Institut of LMU Munich, where also he edits a poetry weekly. His poems and translations have appeared in journals on both sides of the Atlantic. He is the resident poet at EcoHealth, where his science-themed verse is regularly featured, and a senior copyeditor of Review of International American Studies.


Address to the Toothache

by Robert Burns

My curse upon your venom’d stang,
That shoots my tortur’d gums alang,
An’ thro’ my lug gies mony a twang,
                  Wi’ gnawing vengeance,
Tearing my nerves wi’ bitter pang,       
                  Like racking engines!
When fevers burn, or argues freezes,
Rheumatics gnaw, or colics squeezes,
Our neibor’s sympathy can ease us,
                  Wi’ pitying moan;       
But thee—thou hell o’ a’ diseases—
                  They mock our groan.
Adown my beard the slavers trickle
I throw the wee stools o’er the mickle,
While round the fire the giglets keckle,        
                  To see me loup,
While, raving mad, I wish a heckle
                  Were in their doup!
In a’ the numerous human dools,
Ill hairsts, daft bargains, cutty stools,        
Or worthy frien’s rak’d i’ the mools,—
                  Sad sight to see!
The tricks o’ knaves, or fash o’fools,
                  Thou bear’st the gree!
Where’er that place be priests ca’ hell,       
Where a’ the tones o’ misery yell,
An’ ranked plagues their numbers tell,
                  In dreadfu’ raw,
Thou, TOOTHACHE, surely bear’st the bell,
                  Amang them a’!        
O thou grim, mischief-making chiel,
That gars the notes o’ discord squeel,
Till daft mankind aft dance a reel
                  In gore, a shoe-thick,
Gie a’ the faes o’ SCOTLAND’S weal        
                  A townmond’s toothache!

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

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