The Ayrshire Bard – The Grief Behind The Glory
1786 January 1st to April 3rd age 27
This was written in Burns’ prolific Spring of 1786.
It is suggested that Burns based the title and measure
on Fergusson’s ‘The Hallow Fair’ forwarded
to him at his request by John Richmond. Burns said that
he ‘often had Ramsay and Fergusson in his eye……
but rather with a view to kindle at their flame than for
- The Auld Farmer’s New Year Morning Salutation
to his Auld Mare, Maggie
On giving her the accustomed ripp of Corn to Hansel
in the New Year.
This is another of those pieces which Burns must have
had unfinished at the time of his Kilmarnock publication.
It is touching that, even in his own personal misery and
in a storm, he thinks of the cattle, the sheep and the
- The Cotter’s Saturday Night
Inscribed to Robert Aitken, Writer in Ayr, who was one
of Burns early friends and patrons. On the morning of
Monday 8th May Burns crossed the Tweed for the first time
into England on his Border tour with Ainslie. Kneeling
on English soil with his face toward Scotland and with
head bared, he fervently recited this poem. Burns is indebted
to the ‘Farmers Ingle’ of Fergusson for suggesting
the title and structure of the poem and William Burns,
the poet’s father, supplied the model of ‘the
Saint, the Father, and the Husband’.
A tale. The first we hear of this poem is in one of the
Bard’s letters dated 17th February to his Mauchline
friend, John Richmond, then in Edinburgh. After mentioning
‘The Ordination’, ‘Scotch Drink’,
The Cotter’s Saturday Night’ and ‘An
Address to the Deil’ as being newly written he adds
– ‘I have likewise completed my poem on The
Dogs but have not shown it to the World.’ This Poem
was placed at the beginning of The Kilmarnock Edition
by request of Wilson, the printer, who felt that it was
essential to place one of the more important pieces at
the beginning, where potential purchasers might open and
read, before deciding to buy the book. Robert had decided
to introduce his favourite dog, Luath, at some time into
one of his books after Luath was killed by the cruelty
of someone the night before his father’s death.
On 27th February 1786, Burns wrote to his friend John
Richmond, then in Edinburgh in which he says ‘I
have been very busy with The Muses since I saw you and
have composed among several others, The Ordination, a
poem on Mr McKinlay’s being called to Kilmarnock.’
On seeing one on a ladies’ bonnet in Church.
- Scotch Drink
- The Author’s Earnest Cry
To the Right Honorable and Honorable, the Scotch Representatives
in the House of Commons. The opening words of the poem
‘Ye Irish Lords’ have given rise to some discussion.
The records of that period show several Irish Lords as
‘among the Scotch Representatives in the House of
Commons’. Election patronage in Scotland was then
in the hands of a very few dominant Dukes and Earls, whose
daughters were married to poor Irish Lords who were keen
to improve their position and found no difficulty in being
elected ‘Scotch Members of Parliament.’ Burns
saw this as a disgrace to Scotland and this gave rise
to the poem. An Edinburgh Edition of the Poet’s
Works dated 1805 changed the first line to ‘Ye Scottish
Lords’ instead of ‘Ye Irish Lords’ and
this ‘politically correct’ and probably unauthorised
change made the rest of the poem a nonsense.
There are various versions of this poem, the manuscript
one was 60 verses but this was trimmed down for first
publication. Others include ‘suppressed’ stanzas.
- The Inventory, Addressed to Mr Aitken
In answer to a Mandate by The Surveyor of the Taxes
In 1785, in order to address the National Debt, Prime
Minister Pitt made a considerable addition to the number
of taxed articles and amongst these were female servants.
Mr Aitken of Ayr was surveyor of taxes for Burns’
district and hence these curious verses addressed to him.
This poem will be well enough understood by most people.
It is thought to be a night when Witches, Devils and other
mischief-making beings are out on their errands. The fairies
are said to hold a grand Anniversary celebration.
- Lament, occasioned by the unfortunate issue of a
In his autobiography Burns says ‘The unfortunate
story (Jean Armour’s desertion of him in Spring
1786 by command of her father) that gave rise to my printed
poem THE LAMENT, was a most melancholy affair, which I
cannot yet bear to reflect on, and had very nearly given
me one or two of the principal qualifications for those
who have lost the chart and mistaken the reckoning of
rationality. The very fact of writing such poems as ‘The
Lament’ and ‘Despondency, an Ode’ caused
his feelings to subside and the excitement and work of
supervising the printing of his poems, completed the cure.
It is sad to think that Burns, who was then only 27 years
old, writing about despondency and his ‘enviable
Following the same theme as ‘Lament’ and
‘Despondency’, Burns outraged feelings turn
into feelings of resignation to his lot.
- Song –Again Rejoicing Nature sees
Sung to the tune – Jockey’s Gray Breeks.
It is thought that this was written around the same time
as The Lament, Despondency and Ode to Ruin and it is said
that the chorus is part of a song composed by an Edinburgh
friend and put in to please him.
This has become a much longer list than I thought and
I am sure we could write all day about Burns’s time
in Mauchline. The list underlines our statement that Robert
‘Born in Alloway, Died in Dumfries
but Lived in Mauchline’