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Robert Burns’ Lassies

By Arthur Smith

Arthur Smith

A long-long list of lassies passed thru Robert Burns’ life

From one-night stands with servant girls to Jean Armour, his wife.

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And in between were ladies with impressive pedigrees,

and some were very beautiful, most everyone agrees.

When Rob was only fifteen Nel Kilpatrick caught his eye;

Then “charming fillette” Margaret Thompson, Burns gave her a try.

Wrote letters asking marriage to young Alison Begbie,

but she rejected Rob, he was depressed as he could be.

Once Robert’s father, William, died, Rob got involved again.

This time with Lizzie Paton, servant girl, his mother’s friend.

A daughter was produced and brought into the Burns household,

but mother Lizzie left the scene, that’s how the story’s told.

Next up Jean Armour, “Mauchline Lass” had found Rob’s wondering eye.

Her parents were not pleased when she was pregnant by this guy.

They ripped the marriage document, made her repent her sins,

while all of this was happening, she produced a set of twins.

An angered Rob, Jamaica bound, his farm and love life shattered,

meets Margaret Campbell “Highland Mary” …. she’s now the one who mattered.

Preparing to leave Scotland news received from Greenock said,

(though mystery surrounds the cause) that Highland Mary’s dead.

Now Burns decides he’ll stay in Scotland, moves to Edinburgh.

His poet reputation growing, now who’ll be his girl?

The women there, a different sort, not farmers daughters they;

While Rob wants to get “down to business” they would rather play.

Beyond the drawing rooms of Edinburgh’s classy women

were the salty taverns of the “Mile” where nice girls were forbidden.

Burns, in the city eighty-six and stayed ‘till eighty-eight,

was comfortable in either scene, just looking for a mate.

Soon after his arrival, Burns finds Agnes McLehose.

Their relationship platonic far as anybody knows.

“Clarinda” and “Sylvander,” names they chose for one another,

Expressed their feelings through love letters, sent to each the other.

Now enter Peggy Chalmers, Burns just loved this lassie so.

Rob even asked to marry her but Peggy told him “no.”

He wrote a special love song for her called “My Peggy’s Charms,”

even though he would, no longer, hold her in his arms.

The servant girl to Agnes, Jennie Clow, was asked to take

a letter from Clarinda to Sylvander, goodness sake!

He seduced her on the spot and in her pregnancy,

issued a writ acknowledging Burns’ paternity.

Another servant girl, May Cameron, spent some time with Burns.

By June of eighty-seven she is pregnant Robbie learns.

She also served him with a writ in case he tried to flee,

but May miscarried, thus the end, now this time Rob was free.

He finally marries Jean, moves to the farm at Ellisland.

Good fortune strikes, Rob’s now appointed as an Exciseman.

Jean produces two more sons, then almost as a lark,

Robbie has a daughter with Globe barmaid, Anna Park.

In February ninety-one Rob falls and break’s his arm;

deems Ellisland a failure, he’ll no longer work the farm.

He’ll move the family down to Dumfries, all the kids and Jean…

A promotion in the Excise, much more money it will mean.

Another Lady enters Burns’ life…. Maria Riddell.

She claimed to be a poet, they both hit it off quite well;

until one night at Friars Carse, Rob took to rowdy drinking.

No longer welcome in her home, what could he have been thinking?

Those long, harsh years of farming, Burns’ body paid a price.

By summer ninety-six he’d make the final sacrifice.

Yet even on his deathbed, Robbie fell in love again

with household helper Jessy Lewers, despite his constant pain.

So in the year of ninety-six, July the twenty-first,

poet Robert Burns has died, his soul at last dispersed.

He lived it seemed a thousand years, but only thirty-seven.

He’s now with all his lassie friends forever up in heaven.

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