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Robert Burns sent these words to his long-standing supporter, Mrs Frances Dunlop, on the occasion of the death of her son-in-law in 1790. However, a year later, he took up the text again and personalised it for his Clarinda, changing the start of the second line to “Dearest Nancy”. He also told the lady he had just written the poem, with no mention of recycling 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."