Epistle To John Lapraik, An Old Scottish Bard "Gie Me Ae Spark O' Nature's Fire"
by Robert Burns

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"Gie Me Ae Spark O' Nature's Fire"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Robert Burns, Scotland's foremost poet, largely rejected the neoclassical literary patterns of the eighteenth century. He is thoroughly romantic in his passion for freedom, his respect for the common man, his knowledge of nature and love of natural beauty, his interest in local traditions and folklore, and, above all, his faith in emotion and instinct as higher guides than reason. This poem, the first of three poetic epistles to John Lapraik, a wit and poet who owned an estate in Ayrshire, is one of the most significant statements of his poetic credo. Burns admits that he may be no poet, in a sense, and have no pretense to learning, but avers that good and natural poetry never emanates from the jargon of the schools and the Latin names; nor does one climb Parnassus by dint of Greek. Rather than the command of poetic theory, he merely requests:

Gie me ae spark o' Nature's fire,
That's a' the learning I desire;
Then, tho' I drudge thro' dub an' mire
At pleugh or cart,
My Muse, tho' hamely in attire,
May touch the heart.