Scottish Poetry Selection
- A Bard's Epitaph

When he was preparing to publish the first edition of his poems, Robert Burns was having an affair with Jean Armour - much to the distress of her family. Burns then decided to make a new life by sailing to Jamaica. So it is perhaps understandable that the last poem in the Kilmarnock edition of his poems was this epitaph, in which he acknowledges his "thoughtless follies". Of course, the actual publication and success of his book of "Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect" changed his plans completely.

A Bard's Epitaph

Is there a whim-inspired fool,
Owe fast for thought, owre hot for rule,
Owre blate to seek, owre proud to snool?
   Let him draw near;
And owre this grassy heap sing dool,
   And drap a tear.

Is there a Bard of rustic song,
Who, noteless, steals the crowds among,
That weekly this area throng?
   O, pass not by!
But, with a frater-feeling strong,
   Here, heave a sigh.

Is there a man, whose judgment clear
Can others teach the course to steer,
Yet runs, himself, life's mad career,
   Wild as the wave? -
Here pause - and, thro the starting tear,
   Survey this grave.

The poor inhabitant below
Was quick to learn and wise to know,
And keenly felt the friendly glow,
   And softer flame;
But thoughtless follies laid him low,
   And stain'd his name!

Reader, attend! whether thy soul
Soars Fancy's flights beyond the pole,
Or darkling grubs in this earthly hole.
   In low pursuit;
Know, prudent, cautious, self-control
   Is wisdom's root.

Meaning of unusual words:
frater-feeling=brotherly feeling

Return to the Index of Scottish Poetry Selection

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