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The Bonie Wee Thing


Bonie wee thing, cannie wee thing, Lovely wee thing, wert thou mine, I wad wear thee in my bosom, Lest my jewel it should tine. Wishfully I look and languish In that bonie face o' thine, And my heart it stounds wi' anguish, Lest my wee thing be na mine. Bonie wee thing, cannie wee thing, Lovely wee thing, wert thou mine, I wad wear thee in my bosom, Lest my jewel it should tine. Wit, and Grace, and Love, and Beauty, In ae constellation shine; To adore thee is my duty, Goddess o' this soul o' mine! Bonie wee thing, cannie wee thing, Lovely wee thing, wert thou mine, I wad wear thee in my bosom, Lest my jewel it should tine.

Listen

Alan Cumming

About this work

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written in 1791 and is read here by Alan Cumming.

More about this song

'The Bonie Wee Thing' was first published in the Scots Musical Museum in August 1792. It was later sent, along with a letter dated the 06 April 1793, to Miss Deborah Duff Davies, who is thought to have inspired the song.

Miss Davies was apparently in poor health, and very frail, yet her vulnerability seems to have captured the Poet's sympathy and imagination. In a letter to Frances Dunlop written in June 1793, Burns declares Miss Davies beautiful, regardless of her frailty.

As such, Burns's treatment of Miss Davies in song is exceedingly tender, and without the sexual charge that we witness in other love songs such as 'Yestreen I Drank A Pint O Wine'.

The fragile and delicate woman is not necessarily to be desired, but protected, and this is communicated by Burns's repetitive description of the lady: 'Bonie wee thing, canie wee thing/ Lovely wee thing'.

Burns describes the inspiring female in other-worldly, divine terms as a 'constellation', a 'Goddess', and as such she is rendered untouchable in every sense of the word.

Pauline Gray

Themes for this song

love

Selected for 07 April

Two important anniversaries caused today’s poem to be held over from April 6th. ‘Yesterday’, on April 6th, 1793, Burns sent this lovely little poem to its muse and dedicatee, Deborah Duff Davies, a fragile society beauty soon to die of the consumption that had long ailed her. The poet’s avoidance of earthy, fleshly imagery may have as much to do with tact as with a fondness for rhetorical flourish.

Donny O'Rourke

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