Burns the Lover
Listen to the story
Although Jean Armour was his beloved wife, Burns was a hopeless romantic and flirt all his days.
Ma mither aye minds me tae keep ma ain counsel, sae ye willna be hearing ony gossip frae me. Hairst time is busy eneugh onyways, nae time tae be staunin aroon clatterin. Ahve tae walk oer tae Mount Oliphant tae help wi the hairst this day’s morn, afore the sun is oot his bed. Aye, an the walk back – i the derk o evening tae. But mind, ahm nae my lane the walk back. Young Rab frae Mount Oliphant aye taks me hame.
It’s the custom heareabouts tae partner lad an lass thegither at hairst time, working the field at ane time. Rab taks the weeder-clips an ah walk ahint him gaitherin the stalkies. It’s simple eneugh but hard efter a while. Ah cover ma hair wi a cloot tae keep the stour frae it, but ane time we flung oursels oan the foggage tae tak a bite o summat, twa three curls brust oot an Rab leans oer tae tuck them back in trigly. Ah near turnit red wi the shame o it but luikin aroon naebody hae mindit it. Ah ate ma bit bread an Missus Burns’ fine yowe-milk kebbuck whiles Rab sate on a patch o sedge grinnin lik a loon an slappin his hauns on his breeks.
They say he’s a queer-lik lad wi mony fancies, fond o his faither’s buiks an trampin lang hours his lane oer the fields. He disna mind takin time oot tae see me hame tho, his lang legs stridin ahead, an ah have tae maist rin tae keep up wi him. An yet he slaes his pace ance we get near the hoose an looks laggardly, draggin his heels i the dirt. Ah times hae tae gie him a push tae be aff.
Ah nivir kenned a lad be sae blate an bashfu afore – maist o them ainly want aye thing an are nae best pleased when ye say them nay. But Rab he taks ma haun sae doucely an pluckit oot the thristle burrs an nettle stings frae ma fingers. An when ah sing for the sheer joy o the sun an the day, ah hear him whistle sae sweetly in tune wi me. He says he kens o the laird’s son wha wrote the words tae the tune, an he can dae as weel if no better. But I dinna mind much o it, lads are aye boastin this or that. ‘Fair words butter nae parsnips’, as ma mither aye says.
He’s an unco chiel richt eneugh. An ah’ll tell ye a tale as shaws it. It was near eneugh the derk o the day, wi the sun glimmering oot oer the trees an the shadows stretching lang oer the field. We’d had a weary day o it an I was fain tae be aff awa hame. But there wis ane patch o bear-corn left an a big burr-thristle i the midst o it, a stalk near as thick as ma wrist, tapped wi a croun o prickles. Rab he casts the weeder-clips aside an stauns in a maze starin at this muckle thristle.
Nell, he says, Nell, ah canna touch the thristle.
Why no? (I wis fair snappish wi him fer the wanting tae be aff)
It’s the symbol of Scotland, he says, an it’s richt dear tae me just this moment.
Like ah said – an unco chiel. But ah think ah love him aw the same.
Map location of silhouette
Hairst – harvest
Clattering – chattering
Weeder-clips – shears for weeding
Ahint – behind
Cloot – a piece of cloth, a rag
Foggage – grass for winter grazing
Brust – burst
Trigly – neatly, tidily
Yowe – ewe
Sedge – rushes
Loon – rascal
Breeks – breeches, trousers
Laggardly – to loiter or fall behind
Blate – shyness, sheepishness, modest
Doucely – sweetly
Thristle – thistle
Kens – knows
Unco – strange
Chiel – a young man
Fain – glad
Bear-corn – barley