More about this poem
This song, or at least part of it, dates from Burns' time at Ellisland and is one of the most famous pieces in the collection of bawdry songs and poems which make up the Merry Muses of Caledonia.
Lines 5-7 are part of a now fragmentary letter written from Ellisland and dated January 1789. Kingsley has noted that the song is described in the Merry Muses of Caledonia (1911 edition) as 'anonymous, but evidently old; perhaps brushed up a little'.
There are indications as to the authorship, however, such as the 'simple energy, as well as the form of the woman's monologue' which are characteristic of Burns.
The song is a response to the first 4 lines: 'What length o' graith (sexual implements), when weel ca'd hame/ Will sair a woman duly', leading to the reply that, while for some in certain parts, 'nine inch will please a lady' (the alternative title), the more formidable country women will 'tak tway thumb-bread to the nine'.
Interestingly enough, there are even Jacobite politics at work in this song, with Bonnie Prince Charlie referenced as a particularly suitable and well remembered acquaintance:
O Leeze me on my Charlie lad
I'll ne'er forget my Charlie!
Tway roarin handfu's and a daud,
He nidge't it in fu' rarely.