Written In Friars' Carse Hermitage


Thou whom chance may hither lead, Be thou clad in russet weed, Be thou deckt in silken stole, Grave these maxims on thy soul. Life is but a day at most, Sprung from night, in darkness lost; Hope not sunshine every hour, Fear not clouds will always lour. Happiness is but a name, Make content and ease thy aim. Ambition is a meteor gleam; Fame a restless, airy dream; Pleasures, insects on the wing Round Peace, the tend'rest flow'r of spring; Those that sip the dew alone, Make the butterflies thy own; Those that would the bloom devour, Crush the locusts, save the flower. For the Future be prepar'd, Guard, wherever thou canst guard, But thy utmost duly done, Welcome what thou can'st not shun: Follies past, give thou to air; Make their consequence thy care: Keep the name of Man in mind, And dishonour not thy kind. Reverence with lowly heart Him whose wondrous work thou art; Keep His Goodness still in view, Thy trust, and thy example, too. Stranger, go! Heaven be thy guide! Quod the Beadsman of Nid-side.

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Liz Lochhead
Liz Lochhead

About this work

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

Themes for this poem

life future religion

Selected for 14 June

The longer title of today's poem tells us that it was written on the banks of the Nith in June 1788. In this garden retreat near Dumfries Burns the newly arrived farmer and soon to be local customs official, could relax, read and write, away from the cares of family and employment. The Bard meditating on the future, whether in his, 'russet weed', or the landowner's, 'silken stole', tries to cultivate an air of detached indifference in offering, 'these maxims'. 'Make CONTENT and EASE thy aim'... 'Ambition is a meteor gleam/ Fame a restless, airy dream...'. Perhaps. But in truth, Burns, for all his fatalism, sometimes seethed with the desire to see his poems succeed.

Donny O'Rourke

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