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Ae Fond Kiss -- Robert Burns

Guest poem submitted by Steve Axbey:
(Poem #1474) Ae Fond Kiss
 Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
 Ae fareweel, alas, for ever!
 Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
 Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.
 Who shall say that Fortune grieves him,
 While the star of hope she leaves him?
 Me, nae cheerful twinkle lights me;
 Dark despair around benights me.

 I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy,
 Naething could resist my Nancy:
 But to see her was to love her;
 Love but her, and love for ever.
 Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
 Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
 Never met -- or never parted,
 We had ne'er been broken-hearted.

 Fare-thee-weel, thou first and fairest!
 Fare-thee-weel, thou best and dearest!
 Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
 Peace, Enjoyment, Love and Pleasure!
 Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!
 Ae fareweel, alas, for ever!
 Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
 Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.
-- Robert Burns
This is quite a well known poem, so I imagine many Minstrels subscribers
will be familiar with it, but I think it's worth featuring -- it's one
of my favourites, sentimental as it is.

Nancy was a real person: Agnes McLehose, with whom Burns established a
long running platonic relationship, and with whom he continued a long
correspondence, in which they addressed each other as 'Clarinda' and
'Sylvander'. "Ae Fond Kiss" is contained in Burns' final letter to
Nancy, written in Dec 1791, and is generally considered to be much the
best of the nine poems or songs he sent her (this one is sometimes
classified as a song).

Nancy lived a long life - she was 83 when she died in 1841, by which
time she was something of a celebrity: well known as "the woman who
broke Rabbie Burns' heart". You can read more about her here:
http://www.robertburns.org/encyclopedia/MLehoseAgnesCraigClarinda1759-18
41.555.html

It's a great poem full of heartfelt passion. Like all the folk poetry,
and folk music, it tells a story and, like all the *best* folk/country
poetry the story is a sad one. (Q: What do you get if you play country
music backwards? A: You get your wife back, your home back, your kids
back, you car back...).

If I had a criticism: it's the timing. Surely the best lines -- and
indeed the whole point of the poem -- are these:
        Had we never lov'd sae blindly
        Never met -- or never parted
        We had ne'er been broken-hearted"
So shouldn't those lines  come at the end?

I first came across the poem as a song by Fairground Attraction, a 1980s
Scottish band fronted by Eddi Reader. Their debut (and as it turned out
final) album was called "First of a Million Kisses".  Then, after they
broke up and an album of off-cuts was released, it was symmetrically
called "Ay Fond Kiss", with a version of this as the title track.  And a
very beautiful version it is: released nearly 20 years ago, it's still
got a high billing on my iPod :-)

Although Fairground Attraction broke up, Eddi Reader is still going
strong and indeed she released an album of Robbie Burns' songs in 2003.
That album includes a new version of Ae Fond Kiss, and with lyrics more
faithful to the original, and I can recommend it whole-heartedly.

You can find more details of Eddi at her official site
www.eddireader.com

For more on Robbie Burns try
        http://www.robertburns.org/
or      http://www.rabbie-burns.com/index.cfm
for starters... but a quick Google will turn up many, many more
references.

Steve.

47 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Ulrich Windl said...

Hi,

as you know the song from Eddi Reader, too, I'm surprised:
"Thine be ilka joy and treasure,"
I always heard:
"Thine be LIKE joy and treasure,"

A typo?

Regards,
Ulrich

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Anonymous said...

Ulrich,

ilka = every

Hope that clarifies matters, if you ever look back here after three years :-)

Tom

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Unknown said...

Eddi Reader's singing of this, from her Robert Burns collection, is so very moving and heart-felt. It is a joy to listen over and over, again.

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