Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Scottish Bard's Dirty Verse

For the second year in a row I've missed Burns Night completely. The celebration of the birthday of Scotland's great Bard, Robert Burns, comes on January 25. Scots and fans of the poet will gather to recite Burns' "Address to a Haggis," and then ceremoniously stab the haggis with a dirk. They'll eat neeps and tatties and make toasts and recite more of Burns poetry. (See this description in Time Magazine from last week.)

Burns (1758-1796) is best known for Auld Lang Syne (which means, roughly, "old long ago"), the song often sung on New Year's Eve. But Burns was also a writer of bawdy verse. (Alas, his 1791 poem Johnie Lad, Cock Up Your Beaver is about tipping one's hat; it is not one of the risque poems.)

It turns out that although scholars had for centuries tried to downplay Burns' ribald side, the father of twelve (by four women) was quite unashamed of it himself.

Here, from a recent article in The Scotsman is a passage from one of Burns' letters:
"I have given her a guinea, and I have f——ed her till she rejoiced with joy unspeakable… I gave her such a thundering scalade that electrified the very marrow of her bones! Oh, what a peace-maker is a guid weel-willy pintle! It is the mediator, the guarantee, the umpire, the bond of union, the solemn league and covenant, the plenipotentiary, the Aaron's Rod, the Jacob's Staff, the prophet Elisha's pot of oil, the Ahasuerus' Sceptre, the sword of mercy, the philosopher's stone, the Horn of Plenty, the Tree of Life between Man and Woman!"
A pintle, a plenipotentiary, and the rest are all of course his gleeful terms for the phallus. The f-word hinted at above, is just what you think it is. Burns used it liberally.

Many of his bawdy poems contain those euphemisms, and those poems can be found in a book called Merry Muses of Caledonia. It was published a few years after Burns' death, and only two copies of the original exist today. Legend has it the book's very existence was denied by scholars and the public for a century, and, once out, was banned in the U.K. and America until 1965 and 1964, respectively. After that, people began recording these dirty pieces as music. Today it can be found online (in PDF form here or via Google Book Search here).

In honor of the Scottish Bard, I present one of his filthier poems. Here's an example, in barely understandable Scottish dialect, called "Wad ye dae That?"
Gudewife, when your gudeman’s frae hame,
Micht I but be sae bauld,
As come to your bed-chaumer,
When winter nichts are cauld;
As come to your bed-chaumer,
When nichts are cauld an wat,
An lie in your gudeman’s steed, Wad ye dae that?

Young man, an ye should be sae kind,
When oor gudeman’s frae hame,
As come to my bed-chaumer,
Where I am laid my lane;
An lie in oor gudeman’s steed,
I will tell you what,
He fucks me five times ilka nicht, Wad ye dae that?
It seems to be in two parts: first the Young Man asking the married woman if he could come over when her husband is far from home and sleep with her on cold nights. Next, the married woman, the Gudewife responds, saying her husband fucks her five times a night; he may come over if he can do that. Damn.

Look for other gems, like "Nine Inch Will Please a Lady."

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