Structure and style

This narrative poem takes Tam from Ayr via Kirk Alloway to the nearby bridge over the River Doon. Stanzas of variable length develop the narrative but here are also the narrator’s interjections for various reasons. This gives us a blend of fast-paced storytelling with calmer moments in different styles.


The form is mock-epic. The poem is written in iambic tetrameters, lines of eight or nine syllables, usually with four stressed syllables per line. The lines are arranged in couplets – rhyming a/a, b/b, c/c and so on. This creates a pacey, lively feel.

Tam, galloping fecklessly into trouble, is the perfect mock-hero. The narrator, an intentionally intrusive presence, switches between seeing Tam as heroic and appearing to agree with Tam’s wife, Kate, that he is a fool.

The supernatural or horror-based comedy touches on horrific aspects of 18th century society, using folk tales that terrified - or had recently terrified - local people.