Margaret Burns, originally named Matthews and unrelated to the poet, came from Durham. She worked as a high-class prostitute in Edinburgh. Following complaints from neighbours she was banished from the city, a punishment which was later reversed after a successful appeal. Robert Burns was a supporter of her cause and actually composed this poem shortly before she died at the young age of 23.
“Like to a fading flower in May, Which Gardner cannot save,
So Beauty must, sometime, decay And drop in the grave.
Fair Burns, for long the talk and toast Of many a gaudy Beau,
That Beauty has forever lost That made each bosom glow.
Think, fellow sisters, on her fate! Think, think how short her days!
Oh! think, and, e’er it be too late, Turn from your evil ways.
Beneath this cold, green sod lies dead That once bewitching dame
That fired Edina’s lustful sons, And quench’d their glowing flame.”