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To Clarinda


Fair Empress of the Poet's soul, And Queen of Poetesses; Clarinda, take this little boon, This humble pair of Glasses: And fill them up with generous juice, As generous as your mind; And pledge me in the generous toast, "The whole of human kind!" "To those who love us!" second fill; But not to those whom we love; Lest we love those who love not us A third - "To thee and me, Love!" Long may we live! Long may we love! And long may we be happy!!! And may we never want a Glass, Well charg'd with generous Nappy!!!!

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Liam Brennan

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1788 and is read here by Liam Brennan.

More about this poem

'Clarinda' was he pseudonym adopted by Agnes McLehose, an educated woman whom Burns met in Edinburgh in 1787, and who was separated from her husband James McLehose, a Glasgow lawyer. The lovers exchanged a wealth of letters in which they refer to each other as 'Sylvander' and 'Clarinda'.

Mrs McLehose also inspired works such as Ae fond Kiss and Clarinda, mistress of my soul. Agnes McLehose arranged an introduction to Robert Burns by a mutual friend, Miss Erskine Nimmo (b.1731), and following this the couple embarked on a lengthy and, at times, passionate correspondence, sometimes writing to each other twice in one day (over the years 1787 and 1788).

That said, Agnes McLehose remained aware of her controversial status as a married, yet separated woman, living alone and dependent upon the generosity of her cousin, William Craig (1745-1813). She was deeply concerned with propriety and confidentiality, and so it was partly to protect both her own and Burns's privacy and reputation that she suggested the noms d'amours 'Sylvander' and 'Clarinda'.

These verses were presented to Clarinda along with two glasses (now held by the trustees of Burns Monument and Burns Cottage) on 17 March 1788, as a parting gift.

Following Burns's departure from Edinburgh it is apparent that the correspondents' friendship suffered owing to the poet's reunion with Jean Armour and eventual marriage, not to mention the birth of his illegitimate child to Jenny Clow, Agnes McLehose's maid.

Pauline Mackay

Themes for this poem

brotherhood drink woman

Selected for 03 December

For one of the Bard's admirers December 3rd, 1786 was a day filled with excited anticipation. The following day Nancy McLehose finally managed to meet the literary sensation who had begun, mildly, to obsess her. The Glasgow surgeon's daughter had persuaded a friend who was hosting a tea party, to introduce her to the Bard. That encounter marked the beginning of an emotionally torrid, if mostly chaste, relationship. The verses and letters that passed between 'Sylvander' and his 'Clarinda' blazed with impassioned, somewhat worked up and rhetorical ardour. And yet something touchingly authentic did unite the newly vaunted Bard and the separated wife of an abusive plantation owner. Today's offering flashes forward to their parting. And it is abysmal! The clip-clop rhythm and groanworthy rhyme of 'Poetesses' with 'glasses' add poetic insult to amatory injury. We can only hope the glasses he gave her as keepsakes were rather better crafted.

Donny O'Rourke

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