Extempore - on some commemorations of Thomson

Dost thou not rise, indignant Shade, And smile wi' spurning scorn, When they wha wad hae starv'd thy life, Thy senseless turf adorn. They wha about thee make sic fuss Now thou art buy a name, Wad seen thee damn'd ere they had spar'd Ae plack to fill thy wame. Helpless, alane, thou clamb the brae, Wi' meikle, meikle toil, And claught th' unfading garland there, Thy sair-won, rightful spoil. And wear it there! and call aloud, This axiom undoubted- 'Wouldst thou hae Nobles' patronage, First learn to live without it! To whom hae much, shall yet be given, Is every Great man's faith; But he, the helpless, needful wretch, Shall lose the mite he hath.


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

Burns wrote these lines in the autumn of 1791, following the debacle which had surrounded the Earl of Buchan’s proposed celebration of the Scottish poet James Thomson. See: Address to the Shade of Thomson.

Ralph McLean

Themes for this poem

death supernatural class

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