“Man was Made to Mourn,” pp.35-36.

[Anecdotes of Burns Contents]

CONNECTED with the composition of “Man was Made to Mourn,” the following anecdote is given in the “Land of Burns:” 

In a little holm near Barskimming Bridge lived an old man of the name of Kemp and his daughter Kate. She was one of the leading belles of the district, and as such had attracted a share of the attentions of Robert Burns. One evening the poet had come from Mauchline to see Kate; but, on arriving at the house, he found the old man at the door in a peevish mood, and was informed by him that the cow was lost, and that Kate had gone in quest of her, but she had been so long away he was afraid that she was lost too. The poet, leaving the old man, crossed the bridge, and at the further end, he met the miller of Barskimming Mill, James Andrew, then a young man about his own age, whom he accosted thus: 

“Weel, miller, what are ye doing here?” 

“Na, Robin,” said the miller, “I should put that question to you, for I am at hame and ye’re no.” 

“Why,”” said Robin, “I cam’ doun to see Kate Kemp.” 

“I was just gaun the same gate,” said the miller. 

“Then ye need gang nae further,” said Burns, “for baith her and the coo’s lost, and the auld man is perfectly wud at the want o’ them. But, come, we’ll tak’ a turn or twa in the holm till we see if she cast up.” 

They, accordingly, went into the holm, and during the first two rounds they made, the poet chatted freely, but subsequently got more and more taciturn, and during the last two rounds spoke not a word. On reaching the stile that led from the place, he abruptly bade the miller good night, and walked rapidly towards Mauchline. Next time the miller and he met, he said:- 

“Miller, I owe you an apology for my silence during our last walk together, and for leaving you so abruptly.” 

“Oh,” said he, “Robin, there is no occasion, for I supposed some subject had occurred to you, and that you were thinking and perhaps composing something on it.” 

“You were quite right, miller,” said Burns, “and I will now read you what was chiefly the work of that evening.” 

The composition he read was “Man was Made to Mourn.” 

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