Come, let me take thee to my breast,
And pledge we ne’er shall sunder;
And I shall spurn, as vilest dust,
The warld’s wealth and grandeur.
And do I hear my Jeannie own
That equal transports move her?
I ask for dearest life, alone,
That I may live to love her.
Thus in my arms, wi’ a’ thy charms,
I clasp my countless treasure;
I’ll seek nae mair o’ heaven to share
Than sic a moment’s pleasure.
And by thy een, sae bonnie blue,
I swear I’m thine for ever:
And on thy lips I seal my vow,
And break it shall I never.
The business of Robert Burns was love-making.
All love is good, but some kinds of love are better than others. Through Burns’ penchant for falling in love we have his songs. A Burns bibliography is simply a record of his love-affairs, and the spasms of repentance that followed his lapses are made manifest in religious verse.
Poetry is the very earliest form of literature, and is the natural expression of a person in love; and I suppose we might as well admit the fact at once that without love there would be no poetry.
Poetry is the bill and coo of sex. All poets are lovers, and all lovers, either actual or potential, are poets. Potential poets are the people who read poetry; and so without lovers the poet would never have a market for his wares.
If you have ceased to be moved by religious emotion; if your spirit is no longer exalted by music, and you do not linger over certain lines of poetry, it is because the love-instinct in your heart has withered to ashes of roses. It is idle to imagine Bobby Burns as a staid member of the Kirk; had he been so, there would now be no Bobby Burns. The literary ebullition of Robert Burns (he himself has told us) began shortly after he had reached the age of indiscretion; and the occasion was his being paired in the hayfield, according to the Scottish custom, with a bonnie lassie. This custom of pairing still endures, and is what the students of sociology call an expeditious move. The Scotch are great economists–the greatest in the world. Adam Smith, the father of the science of economics, was a Scotchman; and Draper, author of “A History of Civilization,” flatly declares that Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” has influenced the people of Earth for good more than any other book ever written–save none.
The Scotch are great conservators of energy.
The practise of pairing men and women in the hayfield gets the work done. One man and one woman going down the grass-grown path afield might linger and dally by the way. They would never make hay, but a company of a dozen or more men and women would not only reach the field, but do a lot of work. In Scotland the hay-harvest is short–when the grass is in bloom, just right to make the best hay, it must be cut. And so the men and women, the girls and boys, sally forth. It is a jolly picnic-time, looked forward to with fond anticipation, and after recalled with sweet, sad memories, or otherwise, as the case may be.
But they all make hay while the sun shines, and count it joy. Liberties are allowed during haying-time that otherwise would be declared scandalous; during haying-time the Kirk waives her censor’s right, and priest and people mingle joyously. Wives are not jealous during hay-harvest, and husbands never faultfinding, because they each get even by allowing a mutual license. In Scotland during haying-time every married man works alongside of some other man’s wife. To the psychologist it is somewhat curious how the desire for propriety is overridden by a stronger desire–the desire for the shilling. The Scotch farmer says, “Anything to get the hay in”–and by loosening a bit the strict bands of social custom, the hay is harvested.