More about this poem
James Thomson (1700-1748) was one of the most celebrated Scottish poets of the eighteenth century, who found fame in London with his poem The Seasons.
In 1791 the Earl of Buchan, David Erskine (1742-1829), desired to commemorate the poet at his birthplace in Ednam.
Buchan wrote to Burns inviting him to the proposed ceremony and asking him to provide a poem for the occasion, should the muse inspire.
Burns was unable to attend, stating that although he would have been willing to make the 75 mile journey, the harvest would keep him at home.
The actual ceremony was nothing short of a disaster. The bust itself was, according to Buchan, ‘broken in a midnight frolic during the race week’, and so instead he had to make do with a laurel wreath on a copy of The Seasons.
In his response to Buchan, Burns questioned if it was indeed possible to better the tribute which was paid to Thomson by William Collins in his, Ode on the Death of Mr. Thomson.
Burns reported that he despaired over the task, although he still attempted three or four stanzas.
Although Burns’s poem is completely different from that of Collins’s, both used the imagery of the seasons throughout their pieces, as a recognition of Thomson’s most noted work.