Epitaph For Mr Walter Riddell

So vile was poor Wat, sic a miscreant slave, That the worms ev'n damn'd him when laid in his grave; "In his skull there is famine," a starved reptile cries, "And his heart it is poison!" another replies.


Crawford Logan
Phyllida Law

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1794 and is read here by Crawford Logan.

More about this poem

Walter Riddell (1764-1802) was the younger brother of Captain Robert Riddell, and the husband of Maria Riddell.

Burns never had a high opinion of him, and had even less time for him when Maria sided with the rest of the Riddells over the ‘Sabine Rape’ controversy.

Walter had inherited lands in Antigua from his first wife Ann Doig (d. 1788) before marrying Maria in 1790, however following his death his wife and daughter became state pensioners owing to his poor financial management during his life.

Burns sent this epitaph to Mrs Dunlop in September 1794.

Early editors of Burns claimed not to know who ‘poor Wat’ was in order to spare embarrassment for his remaining family.

Ralph McLean

Themes for this poem

death humour

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