Address To The Toothache

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 - Aye mocks 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!


Richard Wilson

Ken MacDonald

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1786 and is read here by Richard Wilson.

More about this poem

The poem, 'Address to the Toothache' was first published in the Belfast Newsletter on 11 September 1797.

An example of Burns's skill when writing in Scots, Burns exploits the often harsh, plosive and alliterative qualities of the language together with grotesque imagery to demonise toothache, 'thou grim, mischief-making chiel,/That gars the notes o' discord squeal,' with comedic effect.

Pauline Mackay

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Locations for this poem


Selected for 13 January

For Friday the thirteenth a poem lamenting the ill luck that can befall one suffering from that 'hell of all diseases', toothache. The mock serious 'Standard Habbie' stanza with its combination of long lines and short, stabbing ones is almost painfully apt and Burns, comically identifying his own (exaggerated) sufferings with those of his native land, concludes by wishing a year long toothache on all the foes of Scotland's well being.

Donny O'Rourke

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