In the character of a ruined Farmer


The sun he is sunk in the west; All creatures retired to rest, While here I sit, all sore beset, With sorrow, grief, and woe: And it's O, fickle Fortune, O! The prosperous man is asleep, Nor hears how the whirlwinds sweep; But Misery and I must watch The surly tempest blow: And it's O, fickle Fortune, O! There lies the dear Partner of my breast; Her cares for a moment at rest: Must I see thee, my youthful pride, Thus brought so very low! And it's O, fickle Fortune, O! There lie my sweet babies in her arms; No anxious fear their little hearts alarms; But for their sake my heart does ache, With many a bitter throe: And it's O, fickle Fortune, O! I once was by Fortune carest: I once could relieve the distrest: Now life's poor support, hardly earn'd My fate will scarce bestow: And it's O, fickle Fortune, O! No comfort, no comfort I have! How welcome to me were the grave! But then my wife and children dear O, wither would they go! And it's O, fickle Fortune, O! O whither, O whither shall I turn! All friendless, forsaken, forlorn! For in this world, Rest or Peace I never more shall know! And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!

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Gerry Carruthers

About this work

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written between 1771 and 1779 and is read here by Gerry Carruthers.

More about this song

It is thought that Burns was inspired to write 'In the character of a ruined farmer' in response to the financial troubles faced by his father, William Burnes (1721).

Following a string of poor farms and difficult tenancies William Burnes moved his family to Lochlea in 1777. However, the land at Lochlea was also poor, and so Burnes was eventually unable to meet the rent. His landlord threatened legal action, forcing Burns's father to appeal to the Court of Session in January 1784.

While the appeal was successful, the effect of such difficulty on William Burnes's health was severe. He died just weeks later, on 13 February 1784.

Pauline Mackay

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