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This is a poem that Robert Burns first included in a letter of condolence he sent to Mrs Dunlop on the death of her son in 1790. However, it appears that the following year he sent an almost identical text to his ‘Clarinda’, Nancy McLehose, including her by name and claiming that he had just composed it.
“Sensibility, how charming, Thou, my friend canst truly tell;
But distress, with horrors arming, Thou alas! hast known too well!
Fairest flower, behold the lily Blooming in the sunny ray:
Let the blast sweep o'er the valley, See it prostrate in the clay.
Hear the wood lark charm the forest, Telling o'er his little joys;
But alas! a prey the surest To each pirate of the skies.
Dearly bought the hidden treasure Finer feelings can bestow:
Chords that vibrate sweetest pleasure Thrill the deepest notes of woe.”