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SONNET TO ROBERT GRAHAM, ESQ., OF FINTRY On Receiving A Favour, 19th August, 1789

December 14, 2017

Click here to listen: https://soundcloud.com/words-of-burns/sonnet-to-robert-graham-esq-of-fintry


Robert Burns was an idealist but also a pragmatist. He well understood how the world worked and recognised the importance of patronage and having influential friends. Robert Graham, a Commissioner of the Scottish Board of Excise, much enjoyed the poet’s work and Burns sought and gained his support in being appointed an Excise Officer in Dumfries. Burns later had to call on Graham’s favour again 1792 when his post was at risk due to claims of republicanism being laid against him. Burns was happy to acknowledge such favouritism.

“I call no Goddess to inspire my strains: 
A fabled Muse may suit a Bard that feigns. 
Friend of my life! my ardent spirit burns, 
And all the tribute of my heart returns, 
For boons accorded, goodness ever new, 
The gift still dearer, as the giver you.

Thou orb of day! thou other paler light! 
And all ye many sparkling stars of night! 
If aught that giver from my mind eface, 
If I that giver's bounty e'er disgrace, 
Then roll to me along your wand'ring spheres 
Only to number out a villain's years!

I lay my hand upon my swelling breast, 
And grateful would, but cannot, speak the rest.“


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© 2014 Neil Macgillivray