Clarinda (Mistress of my soul)

Clarinda, mistress of my soul, The measur'd time is run! The wretch beneath the dreary pole, So marks his latest sun. To what dark cave of frozen night Shall poor Sylvander hie; Depriv'd of thee, his life and light, The Sun of all his joy. We part-but by these precious drops, That fill thy lovely eyes! No other light shall guide my steps, Till thy bright beams arise. She, the fair Sun of all her sex, Has blest my glorious day: And shall a glimmering Planet fix My worship to its ray?


Gerry Mulgrew

About this work

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written in 1788 and is read here by Gerry Mulgrew.

More about this song

Writing to Clarinda, Burns remarked that, ‘My song was a real affair. It was un petit egaremen du coeur... but circumstances are too romantic to be credited’.

In another letter to Mrs Dunlop of 12th February 1788 he asked her what she thought of the poem, complaining to her that he was sick of writing about things which his heart was not interested in.

Clearly, Burns was interested in Clarinda.

The air for the song was composed by Johan Georg Schetky of Darmstadt (1740-1824), who had come to Edinburgh in 1772 as a violincellist for the Musical Society.

Ralph McLean

Themes for this song

woman love anguish

Selected for 24 February

In Edinburgh, the principal 'love interest' of Burns's time away from his 'intended' Jean, had been, 'Clarinda', Nancy McLehose. Today, in 1787, a letter written the afternoon before, was making the long journey back to the capital. In it, having just, finally established a family home with Jean, he disloyally disparages and dismisses her, encouraging Nancy, whom he was continuing to call, 'mistress of my soul', falsely, to believe that it is she who holds sway in his heart, as opposed to, 'a certain women' whose 'tasteless insipidity' and, 'vulgarity of soul', Burns has had done with, 'and she with me'. In his treatment of women, the poet is rarely seen in a poorer light. Here is one of the ten, mostly slight and second rate songs inspired by Jean’s rival.

Donny O'Rourke

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