The Humble Petition Of Bruar Water

My lord, I know your noble ear Woe ne'er assails in vain; Embolden'd thus, I beg you'll hear Your humble slave complain, How saucy Phoebus' scorching beams, In flaming summer-pride, Dry-withering, waste my foamy streams, And drink my crystal tide. The lightly-jumping, glowrin' trouts, That thro' my waters play, If, in their random, wanton spouts, They near the margin stray; If, hapless chance! they linger lang, I'm scorching up so shallow, They're left the whitening stanes amang, In gasping death to wallow. Last day I grat wi' spite and teen, As poet Burns came by. That, to a bard, I should be seen Wi' half my channel dry; A panegyric rhyme, I ween, Ev'n as I was, he shor'd me; But had I in my glory been, He, kneeling, wad ador'd me. Here, foaming down the skelvy rocks, In twisting strength I rin; There, high my boiling torrent smokes, Wild-roaring o'er a linn: Enjoying each large spring and well, As Nature gave them me, I am, altho' I say't mysel', Worth gaun a mile to see. Would then my noble master please To grant my highest wishes, He'll shade my banks wi' tow'ring trees, And bonie spreading bushes. Delighted doubly then, my lord, You'll wander on my banks, And listen mony a grateful bird Return you tuneful thanks. The sober lav'rock, warbling wild, Shall to the skies aspire; The gowdspink, Music's gayest child, Shall sweetly join the choir; The blackbird strong, the lintwhite clear, The mavis mild and mellow; The robin pensive Autumn cheer, In all her locks of yellow. This, too, a covert shall ensure, To shield them from the storm; And coward maukin sleep secure, Low in her grassy form: Here shall the shepherd make his seat, To weave his crown of flow'rs; Or find a shelt'ring, safe retreat, From prone-descending show'rs. And here, by sweet, endearing stealth, Shall meet the loving pair, Despising worlds, with all their wealth, As empty idle care; The flow'rs shall vie in all their charms, The hour of heav'n to grace; And birks extend their fragrant arms To screen the dear embrace. Here haply too, at vernal dawn, Some musing bard may stray, And eye the smoking, dewy lawn, And misty mountain grey; Or, by the reaper's nightly beam, Mild-chequering thro' the trees, Rave to my darkly dashing stream, Hoarse-swelling on the breeze. Let lofty firs, and ashes cool, My lowly banks o'erspread, And view, deep-bending in the pool, Their shadow's wat'ry bed: Let fragrant birks, in woodbines drest, My craggy cliffs adorn; And, for the little songster's nest, The close embow'ring thorn. So may old Scotia's darling hope, Your little angel band Spring, like their fathers, up to prop Their honour'd native land! So may, thro' Albion's farthest ken, To social-flowing glasses, The grace be - "Athole's honest men, And Athole's bonie lasses!


Bill Paterson

About this work

This is an epitaph by Robert Burns. It was written in 1787 and is read here by Bill Paterson.

More about this epitaph

The poem was written in 1787 when Burns visited Blair Atholl, on his way north during the highland tour. He sent it to Josiah Walker, tutor to the son of the Duke of Atholl.

It was to the Duke that Burns dedicated the work. Burns had met Walker through Dr Blacklock while he was in Edinburgh.

Ralph Richard McLean

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Selected for 30 August

In this overblown and underwhelming 'panegyric' addressed to the Duke of Atholl, the Bard, at his most annoyingly 'Bardic' is in, 'ever so humble' mode, ramping up the rhetoric in hopes of preferment and patronage. 'Toffs' rarely brought out the best in Burns. But the sincere social leveller could also be something of a social climber. At any rate he thoroughly enjoyed his stay at Blair Atholl castle (though his travelling companion, the sullen and perhaps jealous Willie Nicol did not, causing them to leave early). Robert Graham of Fintry whom the poet met there was to prove a very loyal and influential friend.

Donny O'Rourke

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