The Answer, to the Guidwife of Wauchope-House


Guidwife, I Mind it weel in early date, When I was beardless, young, and blate, An' first could thresh the barn, Or haud a yokin' at the pleugh; An, tho' fu' foughten sair eneugh, Yet unco proud to learn. When first amang the yellow corn A man I reckon'd was; An' with the lave ilk merry morn Could rank my rig and lass; Still shearing, and clearing The tither stooked raw; Wi' claivers, an' haivers, Wearing the day awa: Ev'n then, a wish, (I mind its power) A wish,that to my latest hour Shall strongly heave my breast; That I for poor auld Scotland's sake Some useful plan, or book could make, Or sing a sang at least. The rough burr-thistle, spreading wide Amang the bearded bear, I turn'd the weeder-clips aside, An' spar'd the symbol dear. No nation, no station My envy e'er could raise: A Scot still, but blot still, I knew no higher praise. But still the elements o' sang In formless jumble, right an' wrang, Wild floated in my brain; Till on that hairst I said before, May partner in the merry core, She rous'd the forming strain. I see her yet, the sonsie quean, That lighted up my jingle; Her pauky smile, her kittle een, That gar't my heart-strings tingle. So tiched, bewitched, I rav'd ay to mysel; But bashing and dashing, I kend na how to tell. Hale to the sex, ilk guid chiel says, Wi' merry dance in winter days, An' we to share in common: The gust o' joy, the balm of woe, The saul o' life, the heav'n below, Is rapture-giving woman. Ye surly sumphs, who hate the name, Be mindfu' o' your mither: She, honest woman, may think shame That ye're connected with her. Ye're wae men, ye're nae men, That slight the lovely dears: To shame ye, disclaim ye, Ilk honest birkie swears. For you, na bred to barn and byre, Wha sweetly tune the Scottish lyre, Thanks to you for your line. The marled plaid ye kindly spare, By me should gratefully be ware; 'Twad please me to the nine. I'd be mair vauntie o' my hap, Douce hingin owre my curple, Than ony ermine ever lap, Or proud imperial purple. Farewell then, lang hale then, An' plenty be your fa': May losses and crosses Ne'er at your hallan ca'.

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John Cairney

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1787 and is read here by John Cairney.

More about this poem

This epistle was composed in response to Elizabeth Scott (1729 - 1789), an Edinburgh poetess who sent Robert Burns a verse epistle in admiration of his Kilmarnock edition, Poems, Chiefly in the Scots Dialect (1787).

Accompanying her verse was the 'marled plaid' to which Burns refers in the penultimate stanza of this poem. Following their poetic correspondence, Burns briefly met Elizabeth during his tour of the Scottish borders in 1787.

Shortly after Elizabeth Scott's death, her family published her works in the edition Alonzo and Cora with other Original Poems, Principally Elegiac to which are added Letters in Verse by Blacklock and Burns (1801) immediately followed by Burns's 'Answer'.

Here Burns flatters Miss Scott's poetry by stating that she 'sweetly tune[s] the Scottish lyre'. That the poet took time to reply in such complimentary verse would suggest that Burns was impressed by the poetess's work.

Pauline Mackay

Themes for this poem

farming poetry woman

Selected for 28 February

This is Robert Burns's reply to the fan letter which comprises the selection for 27 February.

Donny O'Rourke

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