The Hue and Cry of John Lewars


A thief, and a murderer! Stop her who can! Look well to your lives and your goods! Good people, ye know not the hazard you run, 'Tis the far-famed and much-noted Woods. While I looked at her eye, for the devil is in it, In a trice she whipt off my poor heart: Her brow, cheek and lip - in another sad minute, My peace felt her murderous dart. Her, features, I'll tell you them over - but hold! She deals with your wizards and books; And to peep in her face, if but once you're so bold, There's witchery kills in her looks. But softly - I have it - her haunts are well known, At midnight so slily I'll watch her; And sleeping, undrest, in the dark, all alone Good lord! The dear THIEF HOW I'LL CATCH HER!

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Denis Lawson

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1796 and is read here by Denis Lawson.

More about this poem

This poem was inspired by John Lewars (d.1826), Burns's close friend and colleague in the Excise. It is thought that Burns composed these verses in response to one of Lewars' love affairs.

The lady named 'Woods' is unidentified, although John Syme (1755 - 1831) - a friend of both Burns and Lewars - noted on the poet's manuscript copy that she was the Governess at a local boarding school.

In Burns's poem, Lewars is bewitched by the young women and his heart is stolen. In Scottish folk song and poetry, seductive females are often attributed supernatural powers and accused of witchcraft. Burns plays upon this motif in 'The Hue and Cry of John Lewars' and also in works such as Tam o Shanter.

Pauline Mackay

Themes for this poem

woman seduction supernatural

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