My Handsome Nell

by Robert Burns


O, once I lov'd a bonnie lass,
Ay, and I love her still;
And, whilst that virtue warms my breast
I'll love my handsome Nell.


As bonnie lasses I hae seen,
And mony full as braw;
But for a modest gracefu' mien,
The like I never saw.


A bonnie lass, I will confess,
Is pleasant to the e'e,
But without some better qualities,
She's no a lass for me.


But Nelly's looks are blythe and sweet,
And what is best of a' -
Her reputation is complete,
And fair without a flaw.


She dresses aye sae clean and neat,
Baith decent and genteel:
An' then there's something in her gait
Gars ony dress look weel.


A gaudy dress and gentle air
May slightly touch the heart;
But it's innocence and modesty
That polishes the dart.


'T is this in Nelly pleases me,
'T is this enchants my soul!
For absolutely in my breast
She reigns without control.

Notes to the poem:

The heroine of this song, Nelly Kilpatrick, was the daughter of the village blacksmith, and the poet's first partner in the labours of the harvest-field. She was the "sonsie quean" he sings of, whose "witching smile" first made his heart-strings tingle.

"This song," he says, "was the first of my performances, and done at an early period in my life, when my heart glowed with honest warm simplicity - unacquainted and uncorrupted with the ways of a wicked world. It has many faults; but I remember I composed it in a wild enthusiasm of passion; and to this hour I never recollect it but my heart melts - my blood sallies, at the remembrance."


The Poetical Works Of Robert Burns
Copyright 1910
Ward, Lock, and Co., Ltd