Poor Mailie's Elegy


Lament in rhyme, lament in prose, Wi' saut tears trickling down your nose; Our Bardie's fate is at a close, Past a' remead! The last, sad cape-stane of his woes; Poor Mailie's dead! It's no the loss o' warl's gear, That could sae bitter draw the tear, Or mak our Bardie, dowie, wear The mourning weed: He's lost a friend an' neebor dear In Mailie dead. Thro' a' the town she trotted by him; A lang half-mile she could descry him; Wi' kindly bleat, when she did spy him, She ran wi' speed: A friend mair faithfu' ne'er came nigh him, Than Mailie dead. I wat she was a sheep o' sense, An' could behave hersel' wi' mense: I'll say't, she never brak a fence, Thro' thievish greed. Our Bardie, lanely, keeps the spence Sin' Mailie's dead. Or, if he wanders up the howe, Her living image in her yowe, Comes bleating to him, owre the knowe, For bits o' bread; An' down the briny pearls rowe For Mailie dead. She was nae get o' moorlan tips, Wi' tauted ket, an' hairy hips; For her forbears were brought in ships, Frae 'yont the TWEED: A bonier fleesh ne'er cross'd the clips Than Mailie's dead. Wae worth the man wha first did shape, That vile, wanchancie thing - a raep! It maks guid fellows girn an' gape, Wi' chokin dread; An' Robin's bonnet wave wi' crape For Mailie dead. O, a' ye Bards on bonie DOON! An' wha on AIRE your chanters tune! Come, join the melancholious croon O' Robin's reed! His heart will never get aboon - His Mailie's dead!

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Elaine C Smith
Eileen McCallum

About this work

This is an elegy by Robert Burns. It was written in 1783 and is read here by Elaine C Smith.

More about this elegy

'Poor Maillie's Elegy' was written as an accompaniment to The Death and Dying Words of Poor Maillie and first appeared in the Kilmarnock Edition of Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (1786).

Burns's tribute to his dead sheep, is made humorous by exaggeration and lends context to its partner piece by explaining that Mailie, far from being a common sheep, was imported from England and therefore of a superior breed to the 'moorlan tips' of whom she is so critical.

Pauline Mackay

Themes for this elegy

unhappiness death friendship

Selected for 10 December

We look today at the companion piece to our selection for 9th December, another poem about the farmer Bard's pet sheep.

Donny O'Rourke

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