Contains some scenes of a sexual nature

Extempore to Mr Gavin Hamilton


To you, Sir, this summons I've sent, Pray whip till the pownie is fraething; But if you demand what I want, I honestly answer you, naething. Ne'er scorn a poor Poet like me, For idly just living and breathing, While people of every degree Are busy employed about - naething. Poor Centum per centum may fast, And grumble his hurdies their claithing; He'll find, when the balance is cast, He's gane to the devil for - naething. The Courtier cringes and bows, Ambition has likewise its plaything; A Coronet beams in his brows, And what is a Coronet? naething. Some quarrel the presbyter gown, Some quarrel Episcopal graithing, But every good fellow will own Their quarrel is all about - naething. The lover may sparkle and glow, Approaching his bonie bit gay thing; But marriage will soon let him know, He's gotten a buskit up naething. The Poet may jingle and rhyme, In hopes of a laureate wreathing, And when he has wasted his time, He's kindly rewarded with naething. The thundering bully may rage, And swagger and swear like a heathen; But collar him fast, I'll engage You'll find that his courage is naething. Last night with a feminine whig, A Poet she could na put faith in, But soon we grew lovingly big, I taught her, her terrors were naething. Her whigship was wonderful pleased, But charmingly tickled wi' ae thing; Her fingers I lovingly squeezed, And kissed her and promised her - naething. The Priest anathemas may threat, Predicament, Sir, that we're baith in; But when honor's reveille is beat, The holy artillery's naething. And now I must mount on the wave, My voyage perhaps there is death in; But what of a watery grave! The drowning a Poet is naething. And now as grim death's in my thought, To you, Sir, I make this bequeathing: My service as lang as ye've ought, And my friendship, by God, when ye've naething.

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Tam Dean Burn

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1786 and is read here by Tam Dean Burn.

More about this poem

This poem is undated, but given the referencing of specific events it must have been composed in the spring of 1786.

Gavin Hamilton (see: A Dedication to Gavin Hamilton, Esq.) had just endured his encounter with the Kirk Session, while Burns was about to incur its wrath for his sexual dalliances.

Lines 45-46, "And now I must mount on the wave: / My voyage perhaps there is death in", specifically relates to Burns’s proposed emigration to the West Indies and the potential dangers of such an undertaking.

Ralph McLean

Themes for this poem

poetry friendship religion

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