As Burns Night 2017 approaches, I thought I would share my “Reply from the Lassies” that I gave at the 2016 celebrations at The Barn Bar in Lerags, Scotland. How will you be celebrating Rabbie on January 25th?
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I would like to thank our hosts Jim, Linda, Donnie and Keith for inviting me to be a part of this, and would like to of course thank my husband Rab for his, er um…gracious toast to the lassies. I pointed out when they asked me, I am possibly the least Scottish person in this room. I do have a good dose of Scottish ancestry, which I suppose gives me a bit of street cred. Maybe. We’ll see…
Listening to our fine speakers tonight, it’s obvious that men revere Robert Burns- a favourite son, a jack the lad, a real sly dog…well ladies, we see it a bit differently don’t we? We see Rabbie for what he truly was…a slacker, a drunkard, a womaniser, a failure in business and farming, a real chancing bastard, I’d say! Burns described himself as inconstant- a cheating git is more like it! He claimed to know a lot about women. I’ll say! He apparently knew a lot about Anna, Alison, Katie, Mary, Jeannie, Chloris, Clarinda, Nancy, Nell, Molly, Polly, Peggy, Bessie, Jessie, Eliza, Maria and Delia. And those are just the ones he bothered to write a poem about.
He got two women pregnant at the same time. But he did the honourable thing…. He tried to scuttle off to Jamaica! He wrote a poem to his first born, aww, isn’t that sweet….it was called Welcome to the Bastard Wean. Yea, he’s a real charmer! He finally got married. But that didn’t stop his philandering ways. Oh no… He fathered at least 13 children by five women- one was even born on the day of his funeral! Maybe he died of testosterone poisoning?
But for all of his faults, obviously Burns didn’t spend all of his time drunk among the barley rigs. If he had, he wouldn’t have been so prolific in his 37 short years on this earth. And, in fairness, he did represent for the ladies…I quote his poem, The Rights of Women:
“While Europe’s eye is fixd on mighty things, The fate of Empires and the fall of Kings, While quacks of State must each produce his plan, And even children lisp the Rights of Man, Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention, The Rights of Women merit some attention.”
Of course let’s not get carried away, Burns was not really advocating equal rights for women. Not that we care, do we ladies, for as we say in America, “Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.” No….What he actually meant by the poem was that society could benefit from a little less men running rampant causing wars and a little more of the humanity and peace that we women impart upon civilisation. That’s pretty darn enlightened of Burns, don’t you think?
While he may have been a cad, he genuinely loved women. And let’s face it, ladies, he must have been doing something right? Burns was a man of passion, a brilliant wordsmith and an artist in the truest sense of the word-and yes, maybe even a feminist, long before feminism was cool. And I think it says something wonderful about this country, that its national hero is not a warrior or a politician- but a man of the heart.
Any man who could write—Not the bee upon the blossom In the pride o sunny noon, Not the little sporting fairy, All beneath the simmer moon, Not the poet, in the moment Fancy lightens in his e’e, Kens the pleasure, feels the rapture, That thy presence brings to me. Well, that man deserves to be celebrated….and so, in the spirit of Rabbie Burns, and in the spirit of my other half Rab’s toast, I am going to lower the tone, and give my own poem to the laddies…
He was the devil with a silver tongue
Love songs to the girls he sung
He made their hearts beat all the faster
Cuz he was a cool, smooth talking bastard
And even when his life was fadin
He was still a hit with all the maidens
He kept on going til his heart stopped
Then Mauchline’s population dropped
He wooed them with his sparkling prose
How many only Rabbie knows
But in spite of his philanderous ways
For his art we give him praise
The legend of such a famous man
Travelled to many distant lands
And many lassies, wondered like I would
Surely Scotsmen can’t all be that good?
But there’s something about a kilted rogue
Add to that a charming brogue
Who locks us in a fond embrace
And takes us to that happy place
For the bonnie flower of Scotland
Is one that never wilts
And makes a lassie say with pride
Down with trousers, Up with kilts
So ladies please join me and stand, Take your drink up in hand
Let’s toast the lads, our precious treasures Who bring us such happiness, laughter and pleasures.”