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The Bonie Lass Made The Bed To Me

When Januar wind was blawing cauld, As to the north I took my way, The mirksome night did me enfauld, I knew na where to lodge till day. By my gude luck a maid I met, Just in the middle o' my care; And kindly she did me invite To walk into a chamber fair. I bow'd fu' low unto this maid, And thank'd her for her courtesie; I bow'd fu' low unto this maid, And bade her mak a bed for me. She made the bed baith large and wide, Wi' twa white hands she spread it down; She put the cup to her rosy lips And drank, "Young man now sleep ye sound." She snatch'd the candle in her hand, And frae my chamber went wi' speed; But I call'd her quickly back again To lay some mair below my head. A cod she laid below my head, And served me wi' due respect; And to salute her wi' a kiss, I put my arms about her neck. Haud aff your hands, young man, she says, And dinna sae uncivil be: Gif ye hae ony luve for me, O wrang na my virginitie! Her hair was like the links o' gowd, Her teeth were like the ivorie, Her cheeks like lillies dipt in wine, The lass that made the bed to me. Her bosom was the driven snaw, Twa drifted heaps sae fair to see; Her limbs the polish'd marble stane, The lass that made the bed to me. I kiss'd her o'er and o'er again, And ay she wist na what to say; I laid her between me and the wa', The lassie thocht na lang till day. Upon the morrow when we rase, I thank'd her for her courtesie: But ay she blush'd, and ay she sigh'd, And said, Alas, ye've ruin'd me. I claps'd her waist, and kiss'd her syne, While the tear stood twinkling in her e'e; I said, My lassie, dinna cry. For ye ay shall mak the bed to me. She took her mither's holland sheets, And made them a' in sarks to me: Blythe and merry may she be, The lass that made the bed to me. The bonie lass made the bed to me, The braw lass made the bed to me. I'll ne'er forget till the day I die The lass that made the bed to me.


John Cairney

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1795 and is read here by John Cairney.

More about this poem

'The bonie lass made the bed to me' first appeared in James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum in 1796.

Songs lamenting the seduction and 'ruin' of young women are common in Scottish folk song. Here a submissive female treats a male stranger with 'courtesie' and 'due respect' only to be coerced into sex 'I laid her between me and the wa'.

While the female's beauty is conveyed by bodily imagery ('Her teeth were like the ivorie,/ Her cheeks like lilies dipt in wine') so too is her distress and regret following the seduction ('But ay she blush'd, and aye she sigh'd'; 'the tear stood twinkling in her e'e').

Ultimately it would appear that the young woman is spared 'ruin' as the final stanzas imply a marriage proposal: 'I said, My lassie, dinna cry./ For ye ay shall mak the bed to me'.

Pauline Mackay

Themes for this poem

woman seduction regret

Selected for 12 January

Who knows what good fortune the January winds can blow in upon a traveller seeking shelter? Or to what use Burns, the bearer and passer on of tradition, can put the style and stanza form of the seduction ballad?

Donny O'Rourke

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