The poem goes into the present tense to increase the sense of urgency as Tam flees for his life and soul:
So Maggie runs, the witches follow
The speaker now appears to be absolutely caught up in the action, reliving these events. He despairs over Tam’s fate
Ah, Tam! ah, Tam! and encourages Meg:
Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg
The story now reveals its true hero the grey mare. The final showdown is between the two strong female characters, the athletic Nannie and the
noble Maggie. The bathos of the chase’s final couplet is effectively worked and though richly comical, allows us to feel sympathy for Maggie. First comes the onomatopoeia and violence of
The carlin claught her by the rump and there follows the picture of Maggie, left with
scarce a stump. The ludicrous rhyme of
rump…stump and the fact that Tam remains unpunished while Maggie is the one to suffer help to undermine the moral which is to follow.
The excitement over, the speaker remembers to provide a short moral lecture, but this is of course a piece of irony by Burns. The speaker has been much more interested in the excitement and fun of the narrative.