In the primary schools of the Ayrshire of my childhood, children were encouraged to learn poems and songs (sometimes they coincided) for the annual Burns competitions.

It was a good way of engraving some of the poet’s best work on young minds. This poem-cum-song was a competition favourite.


O Mary, at thy window be,

It is the wish’d, the trysted hour;

Those smiles and glances let me see,

That make the miser’s treasure poor:

How blythely wad I bide the stoure,

A weary slave frae sun to sun;

Could I the rich reward secure,

The lovely Mary Morison!


Yestreen when to the trembling string

The dance gaed through the lighted ha’,

To thee my fancy took its wing,

I sat, but neither heard nor saw:

Though this was fair, and that was braw,

And yon the toast of a’ the town.

I sighed, and said amang them a’,

‘Ye are na Mary Morison.’


O Mary, canst thou wreck his peace

Wha for thy sake wad gladly die!

Or canst thou break that heart of his,

Whase only faute is loving thee!

If love for love thou wilt na gie,

At least be pity to me shown;

A thought ungentle canna be

The thought o’ Mary Morison.