MS: 'A fragment, which was meant for the beginning of an Elegy on the late Miss Burnet of Monboddo'

Date:
1791 
Creator:
Robert Burns, Author 
Object Number:
3.6215.n

Summary

Burns wrote this elegy for Elizabeth Burnett (referred to in the Address to Edinburgh as 'Fair Burnet'). It has been suggested that Burns laboured for several months to produce a satisfactory Elegy. Alexander Cunningham received the text from Burns on the 23 January 1791.

This elegy reveals the Poet's feelings for Miss Burnett. Indeed, 'Life ne'er exulted in so rich a prize'. For example, Burnett carries the epithet of being God's 'noblest work' and Burns provides beautiful countryside images to reflect this.

The second page of this elegy continues the Poet's feelings for Miss Burnett. For example, Burnett carries the epithet of being 'sweet excellence'. She shone 'in youth and beauty's pride' but, having died, 'left us darkling in a world of tears'.

Elizabeth Burnett died of tuberculosis on 17 June 1790. Earlier in December 1786, Burns said of her, 'There has not been anything nearly like her in all the combinations of Beauty, Grace, and Goodness the great Creator has formed, since Milton's Eve on the first day of her existence.'

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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