Lines Written on a window at the King's Arms Tavern, Dumfries

Ye men of wit and wealth, why all this sneering 'Gainst poor Excisemen? give the cause a hearing: What are your landlords' rent-rolls? Taxing ledgers: What premiers, what? Even Monarchs' mighty gaigers: Nay, what are priests? those seeming godly wisemen: What are they, pray? but spiritual Excisemen.


John Bett

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1795 and is read here by John Bett.

Themes for this poem

work class hypocrisy

Locations for this poem


Selected for 02 February

Or Candlemas, as Burns would have called it. Tax returns were due to be filed by the end of January. Those late with their accounts and liable therefore to pay a penalty to the Inland Revenue may, however unfairly, be thinking ill of those duty-bound, to collect duty owed. In today’s poem Burns, the excise man or ‘gaiger’, defends his fellow Customs officials by means of some audacious analogies.

Donny O'Rourke

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