Robert Fergusson Poems

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Robert Fergusson
Robert Fergusson (September 5, 1750 - October 16, 1774), Scottish poet, son of William Fergusson, a clerk in the British Linen Company, was born at Edinburgh. Robert, Edinburgh's most gifted but least recognised poet, was educated at the Edinburgh Royal High School, High School of Dundee, and at the University of St Andrews, where he matriculated in 1765. His father, who was originally from Aberdeenshire but had moved to Edinburgh, died while Robert was still at college; but a bursary enabled him to complete his four years of study. He refused to study for the church, and was too nervous to study medicine as his friends wished. He quarrelled with his uncle, John Forbes of Round Lichnot, Aberdeenshire, and returned to Edinburgh, where he obtained employment as copying clerk in a lawyer's office. In this occupation he passed the remainder of his life. While at college he had written a clever elegy on Dr David Gregory, and in 1771 he began to contribute verses regularly to Ruddiman's Weekly Magazine. He was a member of the Cape Club, celebrated by him in his poem of "Auld Reekie". "The Knights of the Cape" assembled at a tavern in Craig's Close, in the vicinity of the Cross; each member had a name and character assigned to him, which he was required to maintain at all gatherings of the order. David Herd (1732-1810), the collector of the classic edition of Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs (1776), was sovereign of the Cape (in which he was known as "Sir Scrape") when Fergusson was dubbed a knight of the order, with the title of "Sir Precentor," in allusion to his fine voice. Alexander Runciman, the historical painter, his pupil Jacob More, and Sir Henry Raeburn were all members. The old minute books of the club abound with pencilled sketches by them, one of the most interesting of which, ascribed to Runciman's pencil, is a sketch of Fergusson in his character of "Sir Precentor."

braid claith
Ye wha are fain to hae your name
Wrote in the bonny book of fame,
Let merit nae pretension... [read poem]
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