Previous work:

The Mauchline Wedding


When Eighty-five was seven month auld, And wearing thro the aught, When rotting rains and Boreas bauld Gied farmer-folks a faught; Ae morning quondam Mason Will, Now Merchant Master Miller, Gaed down to meet wi Nansie Bell And her Jamaica siller, To wed, that day. The rising sun o'er Blacksideen Was just appearing fairly, When Nell and Bess got up to dress Seven lang half-hours o'er early! Now presses clink and drawers jink, For linnens and for laces; But modest Muses only think What ladies' underdress is, On sic a day. But we'll suppose the stays are lac'd, And bony bosoms steekit; Tho, thro the lawn - but guess the rest - An Angel scarce durst keek it: Then stockins fine, o silken twine, Wi cannie care are drawn up; And gartened tight, whare mortal wight But now the gown wi rustling sound, Its silken pomp displays; Sure there's no sin in being vain O siccan bony claes! Sae jimp the waist, the tail sae vast - Trouth, they were bony Birdies! O Mither Eve, ye wad been grave To see their ample hurdies Sae large that day!!! Then Sandy wi's red jacket braw Comes, whip-jee-whoa! about, And in he gets the bony twa ? Lord send them safely out! And auld John Trot wi sober phiz As braid and braw's a Bailie, His shouthers and his Sunday's giz Wi powther and wi ulzie Weel smear'd that day.

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

As in The Holy Fair, here Burns pokes fun at peasant manners and turns a wedding-scene into a brawl (making 'A Mauchline Wedding' fit into the brawl tradition, seen also in Sir John Suckling's 'Ballad upon a Wedding').

This poem is also a kind of literary revenge; however, as in a letter to Mrs Dunlop on 21 August 1788, Burns discusses William Millar, a merchant who has married a woman for a dowry of £500 (money left to her by her brother, who made his fortune in Jamaica).

Burns writes that 'A Sister of Miller's who was then Tenant of my heart for the time being, huffed my Bardship in the price of her new Connection; and I, in the heat of my resentment resolved to burlesque the whole business, and began as follows.'

So, annoyed at being rejected, Burns mockingly catalogues the wedding of 'Merchant Master Miller' with 'Nansie Bell / And her Jamaica siller'. Details of extravagant dress and manners are laughed at throughout.

Juliet Linden Bicket

Themes for this song

marriage humour

Selected for 09 July

Today a gossipy, indeed, 'bitchy', poem from 1785 about events that took place when the year was 'seven month auld'. Burns missed nothing when it came to the follies and foibles of the people in his part of Ayrshire. He was, to stretch a point, like a sort of CCTV surveillance camera in verse! So if you lived on his poetic patch it was a case of take care or don't care...

Donny O'Rourke

Skip to top

BBC navigation

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.