Robert Fergusson Cotter's Saturday Night - Wilkie Painting Cotter's Saturday Night - Etching Cotter's Saturday Night - Re-Enactment Tam O'Shanter - Scene Inside Kirk Tam O'Shanter - Witch Chasing Tam Tam O'Shanter - An Audio Clip Tam O'Shanter - Souter Johnny's Thatched House Tam O'Shanter - Brig O'Doon Other Works - Poem On Glass Pane Other Works - 'Macpherson's Farewell'

Illustration of Tam O'Shanter - A Tale, by Robert Burns.

One of Burns' best loved poems, "Tam O'Shanter - A Tale" is the only example of a narrative poem Burns produced. It tells how Tam, returning on horseback from an evening's drinking, happens to go past Alloway Kirk. Inside he sees an astonishing sight: witches and warlocks dancing to music played by the Devil - "Auld Nick" himself. This literally hellish scene is frightening enough, but Tam - until then only an observer, interrupts this by shouting out "Weel done, Cutty-sark!" He is chased by these ghoulish revellers until he manages to escape at the bridge, (the witches can't cross a running stream), as one of these witches attempts to stop his flight. The witch only succeeds in pulling off the poor horse's tail, leaving a stump.

It is claimed that Burns wrote this poem in one day, as a result of him skiving off his work. Had his circumstances been different, and his work allowed him more time to write, no doubt more such masterpieces would have been written.

This picture shows the "unco sight" inside the Kirk.

"Warlocks and witches in a dance:
Nae cotillon, brent new frae France,
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.
A winnock-bunker in the east,
There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast;
A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large,
To gie them music was his charge:
He screw'd the pipes and gart them skirl,
Till roof and rafters a' did dirl. -
Coffins stood round, like open presses,
That shaw'd the Dead in their last dresses;
And (by some devilish cantraip sleight)
Each in its cauld hand held a light. "

from Tam O'Shanter - A Tale, by Robert Burns

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