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The Keekin Glass


How daur ye ca' me 'Howlet-face', Ye blear-e'ed, wither'd spectre? Ye only spied the keekin' glass, An' there ye saw your picture.

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Liam Brennan

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1791 and is read here by Liam Brennan.

More about this poem

'The Keekin' Glass' is attributed to Robert Burns by Robert Chambers and first appeared in his posthumous edition of the poet's life and works in 1851.

Robert Chambers notes in his Life and Works of Robert Burns that this short verse in Scots was inspired by an incident at the home of Burns's acquaintance, Patrick Miller of Dalswinton, whereby a drunken dinner guest insulted the host's daughter by exclaiming, "Wha's yon howlet-faced thing in the corner?"

Pauline Mackay

Themes for this poem

hypocrisy man

Selected for 09 September

Robert Burns loved to go for long walks with his artist friend, Alexander Naysmith. The Edinburgh painter, who produced the best known portrait of the Bard, was born on this day in 1758. It was commissioned by the publisher of the Edinburgh Edition of Burns’s works. Although the poet visited the painter in his studio, the image is perhaps slightly idealised. It is a softly feminised version of the poet, a long eye-lashed study in fine-featured sensitivity, lacking the course, ruddy, big boned 'manliness' of Alexander Reid's portrait. That painting, in miniature, dating from the final months of Burns's life, the poet believed to be the best likeness of him. Naysmith's Burns is sensually refined and beguilingly beautiful; small wonder it has graced a million shortbread tins and tea towels. It was an insult overheard that gave rise to today’s short poem.

Donny O'Rourke

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