Elegy on the year 1788


For Lords or kings I dinna mourn, E'en let them die - for that they're born! But oh! prodigious to reflect, A Towmont, Sirs, is gane to wreck! O Eighty-eight, in thy sma' space What dire events ha'e taken place! Of what enjoyments thou hast reft us! In what a pickle thou has left us! The Spanish empire's tint a head, And my auld teethless Bawtie's dead; The toolzie's teugh 'tween Pitt and Fox, An' our gudewife's wee birdy cocks; The tane is game, a bluidy devil, But to the hen-birds unco civil; The tither's dour, has nae sic breedin', But better stuff ne'er claw'd a middin. Ye ministers, come mount the pupit, An' cry till ye be haerse an' rupit; For Eighty-eight he wished you weel, An' gied ye a' baith gear an' meal; E'en mony a plack, an' mony a peck, Ye ken yoursels, for little feck! Ye bonny lasses, dight your e'en, For some o' you hae tint a frien'; In Eighty-eight, ye ken, was taen, What ye'll ne'er hae to gi'e again. Observe the very nowt an' sheep, How dowff an' dowie now they creep; Nay, even the yirth itsel' does cry, For Embro' wells are grutten dry. O Eighty-nine, thou's but a bairn, An' no owre auld, I hope, to learn! Thou beardless boy, I pray tak care, Thou now hast got thy Daddy's chair, Nae handcuff'd, mizl'd, hap-shackl'd Regent, But, like himsel', a full free agent, Be sure ye follow out the plan Nae waur than he did, honest man! As muckle better as you can.

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Kate Dickie

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1789 and is read here by Kate Dickie.

More about this poem

Burns wrote the Elegy on 1 January 1789, and sent it for publication to the Edinburgh Courant. It is a reflection on the regency crisis of 1788, and the political opposition of William Pitt and Charles James Fox.

The line ‘The Spanish empire’s tint a head’, is a reference to the recent death of Charles III of Spain on 13 December 1788.

The allusion to the two fighting cocks is representative of the fight between Pitt and Fox, and even makes mention of Fox’s persistent womanizing.

The line, ‘For Embro wells are gutten dry!’ is a reference to a particularly severe frost which hit the city and resulted in a scarcity of water.

Ralph McLean

Themes for this poem

humour religion brotherhood

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