Address, to the shade of Thomson, on crowning his bust, at Ednam, Roxburghshire, with bays


While virgin Spring, by Eden's flood, Unfolds her tender mantle green, Or pranks the sod in frolic mood, Or tunes Eolian strains between. While Summer with a matron grace Retreats to Dryburgh's cooling shade, Yet oft, delighted, stops to trace The progress of the spiky blade. While Autumn, benefactor kind, By Tweed erects his aged head, And sees, with self-approving mind, Each creature on his bounty fed. While maniac Winter rages o'er The hills whence classic Yarrow flows, Rousing the turbid torrent's roar, Or sweeping, wild, a waste of snows. So long, sweet Poet of the Year, Shall bloom that wreath thou well hast won; While Scotia, with exulting tear, Proclaims that Thomson was her son.

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Phyllida Law

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1791 and is read here by Phyllida Law.

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.

Ralph McLean

Themes for this poem

nature death

Selected for 11 September

The author of, 'Rule, Britannia!', was James Thomson, a Borderer, born on this day in 1700. He rose from humble beginnings to become a tutor to the nobility and companion on their Grand Tours of Europe. It was in a masque produced for the then Prince of Wales, Frederick, that he introduced the song that brings the Proms to a close each year. Thomas Arne composed the rousing music. Robert Burns would be an unlikely 'Union Jack' waggler in the Albert Hall, and today's, somewhat lamely, 'phoned in' selection may not show him at quite his most bracingly sincere.

Donny O'Rourke

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