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To Dr Maxwell, on Miss Jessy Staig's recovery


Maxwell, if merit here you crave, That merit I deny: You save fair Jessie from the grave! An Angel could not die.

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Liz Lochhead

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1794 and is read here by Liz Lochhead.

Themes for this poem

life humour

Selected for 18 July

As he lay dying the poet must have hoped that he would live long enough to see his last child come into the world he was leaving. In fact his son Maxwell was born on the day of Burns's funeral. The boy was named Maxwell after William Maxwell, the physician who had attended the bard in his final illness. Educated by the Jesuits in France he retained Jacobin sympathies and was much admired by his fellow radical, Burns. Failing to diagnose heart disease, Dr Maxwell mistook endocarditis for 'flying gout' and prescribed horse riding and immersion in the chilly Solway Firth. These 'cures' probably made matters worse, though, as the parting bequest to him of Burns's precious Excise pistols showed, he retained his patient's esteem and confidence to the end. The GP's remedies were more restorative in this case.

Donny O'Rourke

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