MS: 'Verses written in Friars Carse Hermitage'

Date:
1788 
Creator:
Robert Burns, Author 
Object Number:
3.6215.f

Summary

In this poem, the Poet addresses himself to the rustic and the rich, contrasting the aims and ambitions of man with that which will ensure true contentment of the mind and the soul.

In this first page Burns addresses men of high or low degree, telling them to think on his words and that life is short. There will be good times and bad. Contentment is more important than happiness, just as peace is preferable to ambition, fame or transient pleasures. Those who seek solitude should look to nature for a solution.

In this second page Burns completes the first verso of the poem urging the preservation of what matters in the population, the workers. He goes on to say look to the future but once you have done what you can, accept the outcome and don't worry about the past.

At the time of writing this poem, Burns had just settled in his new farm of Ellisland neighbouring the Glenriddell estate and Friars' Carse, where Capt. Riddell lived. Nearby was a secluded monk’s hermitage to which the Captain gave Robert a key and it was here that he wrote this poem in June 1788. It may be he was thinking of his ruinous financial bargain and consequential lifestyle, as he was comparing his recent stay in Edinburgh, where he was entertained and lauded as Caledonia's Bard in rich surroundings but now had become the 'Beggar of Nithsdale'.

This particular manuscript is part of the Afton Manuscript collection. This collection of thirteen poems was presented by Robert to Mrs Alexander Stewart of Stair in 1791.

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