Contains some strong language

The Henpecked Husband

Curs'd be the man, the poorest wretch in life, The crouching vassal to a tyrant wife, Who has no will but by her high permission; Who has not sixpence but in her possession; Who must to her, his dear friend's secret tell; Who dreads a curtain-lecture worse than hell. Were such the wife had fallen to my part, I'd break her spirit, or I'd break her heart; I'd charm her with the magic of a switch, I'd kiss her maids, and kick the perverse bitch.


Denis Lawson

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1788 and is read here by Denis Lawson.

More about this poem

Although there is no manuscript evidence to attribute 'The Henpecked Husband' to Robert Burns, it was published by the Glasgow publisher Thomas Stewart in Poems Ascribed to Robert Burns the Ayrshire Bard (1801).

Thomas Stewart, a notoriously unscrupulous publisher, was only too happy to publish unauthentic and/or previously suppressed materials for financial gain. This is apparent from his introduction to the 1801 edition which begins, 'The following Poems, ascribed to Burns, are presented to the public without any positive affirmation of their authenticity on the part of the Publisher'.

This poem conveys a negative and ultimately violent perspective on marriage and encourages 'henpecked husbands' to assert patriarchal authority.

Pauline Mackay

Themes for this poem

woman marriage unhappiness

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