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'Ae fond kiss, and then we sever'

'Ae Fond Kiss'
by Robert Burns
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'I Am'
by John Clare
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Ae Fond Kiss

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever; 

Ae fareweel, and then forever! 

Deep in heart-wrung tears   I'll pledge thee, 

Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee. 

Who shall say that Fortune grieves him, 

While the star of hope she leaves him? 

Me, nae cheerfu' twinkle lights me; 

Dark despair around benights me. 


I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy, 

Naething could resist my Nancy; 

But to see her was to love her; 

Love but her, and love forever. 

Had we never lov'd sae kindly, 

Had we never lov'd sae blindly, 

Never met—or never parted— 

We had ne'er been broken-hearted. 


Fare thee weel, thou first and fairest! 

Fare thee weel, thou best and dearest! 

Thine be ilka joy and treasure, 

Peace. enjoyment, love, and pleasure! 

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever; 

Ae fareweel, alas, forever! 

Deep in heart-wrung tears   I'll pledge thee, 

Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee! 

by Robert Burns


I Am

I am—yet what I am none cares or knows; 

My friends forsake me like a memory lost: 

I am the self-consumer of my woes— 

They rise and vanish in oblivious host, 

Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes 

And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed 


Into the nothingness of scorn and noise, 

Into the living sea of waking dreams, 

Where there is neither sense of life or joys, 

But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems; 

Even the dearest that I loved the best 

Are strange—nay, rather, stranger than the rest. 


I long for scenes where man hath never trod 

A place where woman never smiled or wept 

There to abide with my Creator, God, 

And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept, 

Untroubling and untroubled where I lie 

The grass below—above the vaulted sky.

by John Clare


Poem as Friend to Brian Cox

'Ae Fond Kiss' and 'I Am'by Robert Burns and John Clare

In this episode, world-renowned actor, Brian Cox CBE talks with us about two poems that have been friends to him – 'Ae Fond Kiss' by Robert Burns and 'I am' by John Clare.

Brian joined The Poetry Exchange online, from his home, over the course of lockdown in 2020. He is a Scottish actor who works in film, television and theatre, and as a multiple award-winner, has gained huge respect in the industry for the many captivating roles he has undertaken. He currently stars in HBO's critically acclaimed television series, 'Succession'.

Michael reads the gift reading of 'I Am'.


We talk to people about the poem that has been a friend to them.

In exchange we create a gift for them, a bespoke reading of their chosen poem inspired by the conversation. Our award-winning podcast shares these unique and powerful stories of connection with people across the world. 


We set up an intimate environment for these conversations at festivals, in arts, cultural and public spaces across the country. We also hold exchanges ‘long distance’. Our visitors come from all walks of life and we also feature well-known personalities such as Andrew Scott, Maxine Peake, Roy McFarlane and Paterson Joseph.