'Auld Reikie'


Robert Fergusson continued the strain of satirical writing in the Scots dialect that was popularised earlier by Allan Ramsay. Living and working in Edinburgh, Fergusson produced in two years a body of work which is closely associated with life in the intellectually energetic Scottish capital. He died at the age of 24, and was buried in a pauper’s grave, but 15 years later, in 1789, Robert Burns set up a headstone with a verse praising the 24-year-old poet whom he called ‘my elder brother in the muse’.

What is ‘Auld Reikie’ about? 

Fergusson’s ‘Auld Reikie’ is a 300-line poem praising Edinburgh through observations of the daily life of ordinary people. Never patronising, Fergusson’s poem documents a day in the life of the city, embracing shopkeepers, porters, children, whores, dandies, debtors, servants, lawyers and schoolboys. For Burns Fergusson’s poetry served as a model of how the Scots dialect was ideally suited to the energy of the lives of ordinary people.

Full title:
Auld Reikie, a poem (Canto 1)
1773, Edinburgh
Robert Fergusson
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

Related articles

A ‘cargo of Songs’: Robert Burns, the Hastie manuscript and The Scots Musical Museum

Article by:
Robert Irvine

Dr Robert Irvine examines the Hastie manuscript, a collection of manuscript songs by Robert Burns, and The Scots Musical Museum, where they were ultimately published.

Related collection items

Related works

'A Red, Red Rose'

Created by: Robert Burns

A poem by Robert Burns (1759-1796). Towards the end of his short life, Burns contributed many songs to James ...

'To a Mouse'

Created by: Robert Burns

‘To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough’ was written by Robert Burns (1759-1796) in ...

'To a Louse'

Created by: Robert Burns

The full title of this vernacular poem by Robert Burns (1759-1796) is ‘To a Louse: On Seeing One On A ...