Lines Written on a Banknote

Wae worth thy pow'r, thou cursed leaf! Fell source o' a' my woe and grief! For lake o' thee I've lost my lass! For lake o' thee I scrimp my glass! I see the children of Affliction Unaided, thro' thy curst restriction: I've seen the Oppressor's cruel smile Amid his hapless victim's spoil; And for thy potence vainly wish'd, To crush the Villain in the dust: For lake o' thee I leave this much-lov'd shore, Never perhaps, to greet old Scotland more!


Liam Brennan

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1786 and is read here by Liam Brennan.

Themes for this poem

poverty anguish regret

Locations for this poem


Selected for 17 July

The Bank Of Scotland was founded by an act of the Scottish Parliament on the July 17th, 1695. Like Robert Burns, it would later be suspected of harbouring Jacobite sympathies. The bard jotted down today's poem on one of its guinea notes dated March 1st, 1780. He attributes all of his woes to the lack of this, 'accursed leaf'. The poet himself was to feature on Clydesdale Bank 'fivers' from 1971 until 2009, an irony he could be forgiven for failing to savour...

Donny O'Rourke

Skip to top

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.