It’s a pity that the reputation of Robert Burns, a prolific and uniformly brilliant poet, is consistently condensed into the same few poems, quoted and misquoted over and over again. He wrote on diverse topics – money and politics among them – but on ly a few of his works are widely known. A recurrent theme was his love for and lack of shame in babies born in unconventional cirncumstances. Admittedly Burns was unlikey to bear the burden of feeding or washing these children but at least he did his bit to ensure that no shame attached to what he saw as innocent ‘love begotten’ creatures. Good for him.
On the Birth of a Posthumous Child. Born in peculiar circumstances of family distress 1790.
Sweet flow’ret, pledge o’ meikle love,
And ward o’ mony a prayer,
What heart o’ stane wad thou na move,
Sae helpless, sweet, and fair?
November hirples o’er the lea,
Chil, on thy lovely form:
And gane, alas! the shelt’ring tree,
Should shield thee frae the storm.
May He who gives the rain to pour,
And wings the blast to blaw,
Protect thee frae the driving show’r,
The bitter frost and snaw.
May He, the friend o’ Woe and Want,
Who heals life’s various stounds,
Protect and guard the mother plant,
And heal her cruel wounds.
But late she flourish’d, rooted fast,
Fair in the summer morn,
Now feebly bends she in the blast,
Unshelter’d and forlorn.
Blest be thy bloom, thou lovely gem,
Unscath’d by ruffian hand!
And from thee many a parent stem
Arise to deck our land!
A poet’s welcome to his love-begotten daughter
Thou’s welcome, wean; mishanter fa’me,
If thoughts o’ thee, or yet thy mamie,
Shall ever daunton me or awe me,
My bonie lady,
Or if I blush when thou shalt ca’ me
Tyta or daddie.
Tho’ now they ca’ me fornicator,
An’ tease my name in kintry clatter,
The mair they talk, I’m kent the better,
E’en let them clash;
An auld wife’s tongue’s a feckless matter
To gie ane fash.
Welcome! my bonie, sweet, wee dochter,
Tho’ ye come here a wee unsought for,
And tho’ your comin’ I hae fought for,
Baith kirk and queir;
Yet, by my faith, ye’re no unwrought for,
That I shall swear!
Wee image o’ my bonie Betty,
As fatherly I kiss and daut thee,
As dear, and near my heart I set thee
Wi’ as gude will
As a’ the priests had seen me get thee
That’s out o’ hell.
Sweet fruit o’ mony a merry dint,
My funny toil is now a’ tint,
Sin’ thou came to the warl’ asklent,
Which fools may scoff at;
In my last plack thy part’s be in’t
The better ha’f o’t.
Tho’ I should be the waur bestead,
Thou’s be as braw and bienly clad,
And thy young years as nicely bred
As ony brat o’ wedlock’s bed,
In a’ thy station.
Lord grant that thou may aye inherit
Thy mither’s person, grace, an’ merit,
An’ thy poor, worthless daddy’s spirit,
Without his failins,
‘Twill please me mair to see thee heir it,
Than stockit mailens.
For if thou be what I wad hae thee,
And tak the counsel I shall gie thee,
I’ll never rue my trouble wi’ thee,
The cost nor shame o’t,
But be a loving father to thee,
And brag the name o’t.