I’ve done the reply to the toast to the lassies at several Burns nights over the years. The first time I was asked, what followed were several days panic-googling to try to come up with something vaguely original. In the end, I suggested Burns would have been happier as an Australian, thus creating an excuse to read out some really vulgar Aussie poetry from the 1980s. Obviously not a theory that would stand up to any scrutiny, however, swearing and general rudeness do the job at a Burns night if (and only if) much whisky has been consumed.
Any historical errors about Burns are all mine. Goes without saying, the poetry included isn’t representative of the entirety of Australia’s cultural output.
This is my opportunity on behalf of womenkind to put a different, feminist perspective on the memory of Robbie Burns.
In his day, Robbie Burns was considered a great admirer and supporter of women and held us to be his social and intellectual equals. He is talked about as if he’s some sort of proto-feminist. Indeed, he even wrote a poem called the Rights of Women.
However, from the vantage point of 200 years later, it seems that Robbie Burns wasn’t an innocent lover or advocate of women. He was a straight up shagger in the Russell Brand school of seduction, a total sex addict long before Michael Douglas invented the concept.
The list is impressive:
One of his mother’s servants – pregnant.
Two barmaids – Meg and Ann – both pregnant.
Highland Mary (assume there must have been a Lowland Mary?) – not pregnant, but many a shag until she died of typhus.
Nancy, who was married – not pregnant either, hurrah.
Her servant Jenny Clow on the other hand – pregnant.
Jean – pregnant, who he tried to marry but her parents preferred her to be a single mother than marry Burns.
Let’s run through that one again. In the 1700s, Jean’s parents preferred their darling daughter to be a mother of a child born out of wedlock, rather than marry Robbie Burns. That is a truly awful reputation.
14 kids in total, more than half illegitimate. Two of them born nine days apart by two different women. His three interests if he was doing a Guardian Soulmates profile would be: writing poetry, drinking whisky and fucking.
Despite these impressive achievements, I think that Robbie Burns should never have been born a Scot. He would have got so much further as a rampant womanizer if he had been born an Australian. And not just any Australian, but a stereotypical Aussie bloke.
As a Scot, Robbie Burns had to spout acres of romantic tripe in an attempt to have a go on a woman’s nether regions.
I see her in the dewy flowers
I see her sweet and fair,
I hear her in the tuneful birds
I hear her charm the air.
So much easier if he was an Ocker Aussie bloke. A culture where the greatest compliment you can offer a woman is: “Now, SHE would bang like a dunny door in a gale”.
Short and to the point. And no poncing about so doesn’t run the risk of ever leading people to question your sexuality. You must remember, Australia is a country where some men feel uncomfortable if they are asked to eat quiche rather than flan.
In one of Burns most famous poems, he burbled on and on trying to get a leg over:
O my Love is like a red, red rose;
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Love’s like the melody,
That’s sweetly played in tune
Wouldn’t it have been easier, if he had been an Australian? No bollocks about melodies, instead how about Aussie poet Rodney Rude: “And when she farts, it smells like flowers”.
Back to Burns. In My Highland Lassie O (Mary, typhus), Burns wrote:
She has my heart, she has my hand,
By sacred troth and honor’s band!
Till the mortal stroke shall lay me low,
I’m thine, my highland Lassie, O.
Pretty romantic. It would have been significantly more romantic if he hadn’t been shagging several other women at the same time.
If he had been born an Aussie, he never would have had to bother with all the romance nonsense. Compare Burns to the towering Australian poet Kevin Bloody Wilson. Who can fail to appreciate the sentiments in his seminal piece “Kev’s Courting Song”, where his wooing of women involves asking two key questions:
Do you fuck on first dates?
Does you Dad own a brewery?
If you aren’t familiar with Kevin Bloody Wilson’s work, I’d heartily recommend it if you feel your chauvinism isn’t quite rampant enough. Amongst his finest works include: Me Dick Just Dialled Your Number, Rooting in the Back of the Ute and that old family favourite, The Pubic Hair Song.
In Ae Fond Kiss, Burns talks about his beloved Nancy, one of his many many many women.
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.
In comparison, in the Aussie movie Idiot Box the lead character wrote a poem as an ode to his wife: “Tracy. You are an idiot, you are a bitch. You shit me to tears, I’m going down the pub.”
Maybe all this vulgarity and barbarity might have offended Burns’ romantic sensibilities? After all he did think of himself as a lover and not demeaner of women.
However, he wasn’t completely lily-livered. He wrote poems including ‘Nine Inches Will Please a Lady’ and the imaginatively titled ‘The Fornicator’. No one ever mentions these poetic works. Ald Lang Syne? Yes. The Fornicator? Not so much.
But considering he died in penury aged just 37, the scourge of many an angry father or husband, perhaps he should have considered emigrating south to the new colonies? Hop on a boat, hop off at Bris-vegas.
To demonstrate that Burns’ romantic efforts might have found some companionship in Australia, I’ll leave you with A Love Poem, whose author sadly remains anonymous:
Of course I love ya darlin
You’re a bloody top-notch bird
And when I say you’re gorgeous
I mean every single word
So ya bum is on the big side
I don’t mind a bit of flab
It means that when I’m ready
There’s somethin there to grab
So your belly isn’t flat no more
I tell ya, I don’t care
So long as when I cuddle ya
I can get my arms round there
No sheila who is your age
Has nice round perky breasts
They just gave in to gravity
But I know ya did ya best
I’m tellin’ ya the truth now
I never tell ya lies
I think its very sexy
That you’ve got dimples on ya thighs
I swear on me nanna’s grave now
The moment that we met
I thought you was as good as
I was ever gonna get
No matter what u look like
I’ll always love ya dear
Now shut up while the footy’s on
And fetch another beer.
Now I will ask you to raise your glasses, as a toast to all of Burns’ long suffering women.