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When Robert Burns moved into his last farming enterprise, Ellisland in Dumfriesshire, he became close friends with the neighbouring owner of Friars Carse, Captain Robert Riddell. Riddell delighted in the company of Burns and gave him the use of the little ‘hermitage’ on the banks of the River Nith so that the poet could develop his muse in peace and tranquillity. Their great friendship ended after Burns rather exceeded himself in a riotous night of revelry, something that Burns evermore regretted. On the death of Riddell in 1794, the poet was moved to write this poem as “a heart-felt tribute in memory of the man I loved”.
“No more, ye warblers of the wood! no more;
Nor pour your descant grating on my soul;
Thou young-eyed Spring! gay in thy verdant stole,
More welcome were to me grim Winter's wildest roar.
How can ye charm, ye flowers, with all your dyes?
Ye blow upon the sod that wraps my friend!
How can I to the tuneful strain attend?
That strain flows round the untimely tomb where Riddell lies.
Yes, pour, ye warblers! pour the notes of woe,
And soothe the Virtues weeping o'er his bier:
The man of worth-and hath not left his peer!
Is in his "narrow house," for ever darkly low.
Thee, Spring! again with joy shall others greet;
Me, memory of my loss will only meet.”