To a painter


Dear -, I'll gie ye some advice, You'll tak it no uncivil: You shouldna paint at angels, man, But try and paint the Devil. To paint an angel's kittle wark, Wi' Nick there's little danger; You'll easy draw a lang-kent face, But no sae weel a stranger.

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Barbara Rafferty

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1787 and is read here by Barbara Rafferty.

Themes for this poem

work humour

Selected for 04 March

Henry Raeburn, perhaps Scotland’s greatest portrait painter, was born this day in 1756. Although Naysmith, Reid, Skirving and other accomplished artists depicted Robert Burns, there is no absolutely reliable likeness of the Bard. Had Raeburn not been abroad when Burns was in Edinburgh, posterity could have had an outstandingly life-like image of the painter’s near contemporary. Maybe the mystery of quite what the poet looked like adds allure to his mystique. Certainly there was angel and devil, both, in the mix. The 'artist' addressed here is NOT Raeburn!

Donny O'Rourke

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