Robert Burns – A Man’s A Man For A’That
I once intercepted a man intent on doing damage to his ex-wife with a piece of a broken bottle – in a former life working in a night club.
However, writing a blog post about Robert Burns occurs to me as a much greater risk. I am a resident of Scotland, and a passionate one at that – I offer this blog as evidence – but this hardly seems to fit me for the task. So I’ll lay all my cards on the table from the start. I’m not a poet.. and worse, I’m English. Hardly stand-out credentials. But I’m nothing if not rash. I merely wish to pay tribute to Burns. On Burns night. Why? Because he seems to personify – to me – all that is encompassed in being a man.
Burns found women irresistible. He was a rake, a ‘fornicator’ (in his own words) and both a hopeless, and hopeful romantic. What is less well-known – only because it is rarely a side of him that is aired – is that he was one of the few men of his time to treat women as equals – publishing ‘The Rights Of Women’ 100 years before women here were eligible to vote.
Burns admiration for women was not merely that of the pretty face.. he preferred someone with intellect. He wrote some of the most beautiful and romantic poetry ever in praise of the women in his life. So intense were his feelings that he believed himself to be in love with each one. In a wonderful book “Robert Burns – The Lassies”, George Scott Wilkie says ‘he had an uncontrollable urge to love and be loved by them’.
“The charms o’ the min’ the longer they shine,
The mair admiration they draw, man,
While peaches and cherries, and roses and lilies,
they fade and they wither awa’ man”.
He could be contrary and contradictory, bawdy and religious, depressive and arrogant, compassionate and plain rude. It’s no more possible to define him than any man (or woman).
“Thee sweet maid, hae I offended?
The offence is loving thee:
Canst thou wreck his peace for ever,
Wha for thine would gladly die!
While the life beats in my bosom,
Thou shalt mix in ilka throe;
Turn again thou lovely maiden,
Ae sweet smile on me bestow.”
Long may he continue to elude definition.
He was a Man..For A’That.