On Scaring Some Water Fowl In Loch Turit


Why, ye tenants of the lake, For me your wat'ry haunt forsake? Tell me, fellow-creatures, why At my presence thus you fly? Why disturb your social joys, Parent, filial, kindred ties? Common friend to you and me, Nature's gifts to all are free: Peaceful keep your dimpling wave, Busy feed, or wanton lave; Or, beneath the sheltering rock, Bide the surging billow's shock. Conscious, blushing for our race, Soon, too soon, your fears I trace, Man, your proud, usurping foe, Would be lord of all below: Plumes himself in freedom's pride, Tyrant stern to all beside. The eagle, from the cliffy brow, Marking you his prey below, In his breast no pity dwells, Strong necessity compels: But Man, to whom alone is giv'n A ray direct from pitying Heav'n, Glories in his heart humane And creatures for his pleasure slain! In these savage, liquid plains, Only known to wand'ring swains, Where the mossy riv'let strays, Far from human haunts and ways; All on Nature you depend, And life's poor season peaceful spend. Or, if man's superior might Dare invade your native right, On the lofty ether borne, Man with all his pow'rs you scorn; Swiftly seek, on clanging wings, Other lakes and other springs; And the foe you cannot brave, Scorn at least to be his slave.

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Phyllis Logan

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1787 and is read here by Phyllis Logan.

More about this poem

A note by Burns on the Glenriddell Manuscript indicates that this poem 'was the production of a solitary forenoon's walk from Oughtertyre-house'.

In the autumn of 1787 Burns was the guest of Sir William Murray of Ochtertyre, and one of Murray's cousins recalls the poet reciting the poem after supper one evening. The poem was first published in the Edinburgh edition, 1793.

Like To a Mouse, this poem laments the broken union between man and beast; however, the sing-song Augustan English does not convey the same diminutive closeness to the animal realm as does the Scots vocabulary of 'To a Mouse'.

Rather, mankind's pompous attitude is highlighted. According to the poet, man stands unique among God's creation in his ability to pity, yet, he takes perverse pleasure from the pains of animals via the sports of country life.

In contrast, the eagle feels neither pity nor pleasure in hunting his prey, but rather does so out of necessity. The narrator attributes mankind's unnatural pleasure to his desire to dominant all nature.

His praise of the water-fowl's flight as contemptuous of mankind's tyranny gives the poem a potential political edge.

Megan Coyer

Themes for this poem

nature man religion

Selected for 04 October

Between the fourth and 20th of October 1787, Burns made a tour of Stirlingshire with his friend Dr Adair. Today's poem was inspired by that journey.

Donny O'Rourke

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