The gallop

Burns’ main task in this section is to maintain momentum while building up horror. The storm is terrible but, once Meg the horse, is into her stride, she and Tam seem to outdo it. Word choice of skelpit captures their fearless approach and the galloping rhythm of Despisin' wind, and rain, and fire show Tam’s energy and control. The repetition of Whiles holding fast…Whiles crooning o’er…Whiles glow’ring… builds momentum further, at the same time suggesting a certain nervousness, as Tam sings and looks around him.

In the next stanza, Burns intensifies the Gothic folk-tale horror of the journey. It is in two parts: first a helter-skelter gallop past scenes of gruesome death, then a description of the worsening storm. We sense a climax approaching and it takes the form of a mystery.