Monday, 25 January 2016

#Monday Moments with Robert Burns

My #Monday Moments are with Robert Burns, National bard of Scotland, since today 25th January is Burns Day.

Tonight I will be eating haggis, neeps n' tatties a) because we eat it often and b) it give us the excuse to have a 'wee dram' to celebrate the bard. 

I've particulary chosen this image (left) painted by Alexander Naysmith in 1787 because the date was close to the event written about in the poem below.

Robert Burns – the great self marketer or just one who liked to buck the trend?

I’ve always loved the poems and songs of Robert Burns, indeed I’ve posted some on this blog in past days. There’s a saying that he was a ‘man of many parts’ and today I’m thinking he just might have been into self-marketing long before the word was even invented! More likely it was just his manner of not bowing to the morality of the society around him.

It’s fairly common to read that Robert Burns was a man who was ‘awfu fond o’ the wimmin’—a man who loved many women and left some proof of it. What I’ve just noticed in the poem below is that he was not averse to using his situation to become a man and presumably a poet more talked about. In essence, the more who knew him and his reputation perhaps the better it would be for him as an earning poet?

On the 22nd May 1785 the first of Robert Burns’ illegitimate children was born. Elizabeth Paton, a servant of the Burns household, bore him a daughter- also named Elizabeth/. Burns’ mother would have been happy for him to marry the girl but it was not to be- Robert Burns was counselled against this by his brother Gilbert and his sister Isabella on the grounds that the girl was coarse and uneducated.

The baby grew up in the Burns’ household at Mossgiel for many years till Robert Burns died after which she was given into her mother’s care, Elizabeth Paton having married a farm servant named Andrew. From the words below, it would be lovely to believe he always felt the same about this illegitimate daughter. The fact that he made provision for her on his death means he didn’t forget her but I do hope he was always kindly to her, as at the beginning.

There are a few versions of the following poem but this is the one in my Souvenir Edition copy, Edited by James Barke, Collins Publishers, 1969 edition.


Thou’s welcome, wean! Mishanter fa’ me,  (mishap befall me)
If thoughts o’ thee or yet they mammie
Shall ever daunton me or awa me,
My sweet, wee lady,
 Or if I blush when thou shalt ca’ me
Tyta or daddie!
What tho’ they ca me fornicator,
An’ tease my name in kintra clatter?  (country gossip)
The mair they talk, I’m kend the better;
E’en let them clash! (tattle)
An auld wife’s tongue’s a feckless matter (feeble)
To gie ane fash.  (annoyance)
Welcome, my bonie, sweet, wee dochter!
Tho’ ye come here a wee unsought for,
And tho’ your comin I hae fought for
Baith kirk and queir;
Yet, by my faith, ye’re no unwrought for—
That I shall swear!
Sweet fruit o’ monie a merry dint,
My funny toil is no’ a tint:  (not all lost)
Tho’ thou cam to the warl’ asklent,  (world askew)
Which fools may scoff at,
In my last plack thy part’s be in’t  (coin)
The better half o’t.
Tho’ I should be the waur bestead,  (worse)
Thou’s be as braw and bienly clad, (provided for)
And thy young years as nicely bred  (comfortably)
Wi’ education
As onie brat o’ wedlock’s bed
In a’ they station.
Burns Cottage - where Robert Burns was born

Wee image o’ my bonie Betty,
As fatherly I kiss and daut thee, (pet, dandle)
As dear and near my heart I set thee,
Wi’ as guid will,
As a’ the priests had seen me get thee
That’s out o’ hell.
Gude grant that thou may ay inherit  (God)
Thy mither’s looks a’ gracefu’ merit,
An’ thy poor, worthless daddie’s spirit
Without his failins!
‘Twill please me mair to see thee heir it
Than stockit mailins. (farms)
And if thou be what I wad hae thee,
An’ tak the counsel I shall gie thee,
I’ll never rue my trouble wi’ thee—
The cost nor shame o’t—
But be a loving father to thee,
And brag the name o’t.


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