Nellie Kilpatrick (1760-1820)
 Burns's 'Handsome Nell', the poet's partner when he was harvesting in his 15th year.  She was the daughter of Allan Kilpatrick, miller at Parclewan, near Dalrymple. She married the Laird of Newark's coachman, William Bone. 

In Burns's Autobiographical Letter, he tells how this 'bonnie, sweet, sonsie lass', initiated him in a 'certain delicious Passion'. He 'looked and fingered over her hand, to pick out the nettle stings and thistles...'

Among her other love inspiring qualifications, she sung sweetly; and 'twas her favourite reel to which I attempted giving an embodied vehicle in rhyme. I was so presumptive as to imagine that I could make verses like the printed ones, composed by men who had Greek and Latin; but my girl sang a song which was said to be composed by a small country laird's son, on one of his father's maids, with whom he was in love; and I saw no reason why I might not rhyme as well as he... Thus with me began Love and Poesy...'

The tune to the song, 'O, once I loved a Bonny lass', has not come down to us. 
 


Handsome Nell

                          by Robert Burns. 

     O, once I lov'd a bonnie lass,
     Aye, 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 ee, 
     But without some letter qualities 
     She's no a lass for me.

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

     She dresses aye sae clean and neat, 
     Both decent and genteel; 
     And 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.

     'Tis this in Nelly pleases me, 
     'Tis this enchants my soul 
     For absolutely in my breast 
     She reigns without control
 

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