Previous work:

Next work:

Contains some strong language

The Bonniest Lass


The bonniest lass that ye meet neist, Gie her a kiss an' a' that, In spite o' ilka parish priest, Repentin' stool, an' a' that. For a' that an' a' that, Their mim-mou-d sangs an' a' that, In time and place convenient, They'll do't themselves for a' that. Your patriarchs in days o' yore, Had their handmaids an' a' that; O' bastard gets, some had a score An' some had mair than a' that. For a' that an' a' that, Your langsyne saunts, an' a' that, Were fonder o' a bonnie lass Than you or I, for a' that. King David, when he waxed auld, An's bluid ran thin, an' a' that, An' fand his cods were growin' cauld, Could not refrain, for a' that. For a' that an' a' that, To keep him warm an' a' that, The dochters o' Jerusalem Were waled for him, an' a' that Wha wadna pity thae sweet dames He fumbled at, an' a' that, An' raised their bluid up tae the flames He couldna drown, for a' that. For a' that an' a' that, He wanted pith, an' a' that; For, as to what we shall not name, What could he do but claw that. King Solomon, prince o' divines, Wha proverbs made, an' a' that, Baith mistresses an' concubines In hundreds had, for a' that. For a' that an' a' that, Tho' a preacher wise an' a' that, The smuttiest sang that e'er was sung His Sang o' Sangs is a' that. Then still I swear, a clever chiel Should kiss a lass, an' a' that, Tho' priests consign him to the deil As reprobate, an' a' that. For a' that an' a' that, Their canting stuff, an' a' that, They ken nae mair wha's reprobate Than you or I, for a' that.

Listen

Alan Cumming

About this work

This is a song by Robert Burns. It was written in 1785 and is read here by Alan Cumming.

More about this song

A song from the Merry Muses of Caledonia, The Bonniest Lass is written to the tune of For A' That, though its subject is somewhat different.

Burns covers the hypocrisy of the church with regards to sex; 'In time and place convenient/ They'll do't themselves for a' that' and continues to explain that 'Your patriarchs in days o' yore, /Had their handmaids an' a' that; / O' bastard gets, some had a score / An' some had mair than a' that'.

While this song could not claim the explicit bawdiness of other pieces found in the Merry Muses, its content, describing the sexual appetites of not only contemporary parish priests, but biblical figures, affords it a certain degree of notoriety, although, it must be said that the song does highlight the fact that even the greatest kings of the bible, had no reason to be ashamed of sex; 'King Solomon, prince o'divines/ Wha proverbs made, an a' that/ Baith mistresses an' concubines/ In hundreds had, for a' that'.

Iain Macdonald

Themes for this song

marriage humour

Skip to top

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.