To Miss Ainslie, in Church

Fair maid, you need not take the hint, Nor idle tests pursue; 'Twas only sinners that he meant, Not angels such as you.


Simon Donald

About this work

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

More about this poem

In the epigram 'To Miss Ainslie in Church' (?1787) Burns implies a more frivolous approach to Sunday worship than that advocated by the eighteenth century Kirk when, instead of paying attention to the church service, the poet indulges his admiration for beautiful women.

This short verse was inspired by Miss Rachel Ainslie (b.1768), sister of the poet's friend and acquaintance Robert Ainslie (1766 - 1838).

Here Burns implies that it is Miss Ainslie's beauty as opposed to her piety or devotion that sets her apart from the rest of the congregation.

Pauline Mackay

Themes for this poem


Selected for 08 November

Our word, 'dunce' derives from the name of a mediaeval scholar, born near Duns. The Franciscan philosopher and theologian John Duns Scotus died on November 8th, 1308. Robert Burns was a keen amateur theologian who loved philosophical disputation. Along with the Borders-bred Oxford preacher and teacher, Duns Scotus, Thomas Aquinas was accused of arguing about the number of angels dancing on a pin! The story, though satirically apt, is apocryphal. Today's poem has a church and an angel but has nothing to say about, 'unicovity of being' and indeed cannot be said to be philosophical in any way...

Donny O'Rourke

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