"There's Death In The Cup–so Beware!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In January of 1796 the poet, on his way home after an evening spent in the conviviality of a tavern, was overpowered by drowsiness and drink; falling asleep on the way, he spent several hours in the cold of a winter night. As a result of his experience he fell ill and never completely recovered. The lines inscribed upon a goblet, written after this illness afflicted him, reflect the knowledge he had gained about drink in large quantity. The verse was written at the home of Mr. Syme, the "man" of the last line of the quatrain. One tradition, perhaps apocryphal, has it that Burns inscribed the lines on a goblet which he presented to Jessy Lewars, a young woman who nursed him when he was ill. According to tradition, Burns made the gift when the young woman herself fell ill, the poet telling her that the "Inscription on a Goblet" should be a companion piece to a toast he had written in her honor. The line quoted is the first line of the quatrain:

There's death in the cup–sae beware!
Nay, more–there is danger in touching;
But wha can avoid the fell snare?
The man and his wine's sae bewitching?