This week marks Robert Burns’s birthday.

Among the jollities, haggis stabbings, and recitations of Tam o’ Shanter, there is a controversy this year – Liz Lochhead’s dubbing of Burns as a sex pest in a Harvey Weinsteinish way.

The case rests on admittedly unpleasant boasting by Burns in a private letter, long known to scholars. But with the personalities and background circumstances so different, the Weinstein angle seems inappropriate.

It’s to be hoped it won’t impinge on Burns’s global status not only as a writer of peerless love poetry, but for his great radical verses, his witty political and social satires, and his love of nature and the landscapes of Scotland.

The choices of poems this week will try to cover some of these themes. The opening poem is Burns’s gently lyrical tribute to the girl in question, who became his wife, Jean Armour. Case closed?

                 I LOVE MY JEAN

Of a’ the airts the wind can blaw,

I dearly like the West;

For there the bony Lassie lives,

The Lassie I lo’e best:

There’s wild-woods grow, and rivers row,

And mony a hill between;

But day and night my fancy’s flight

Is ever wi’ my Jean.


I see her in the dewy flowers,

I see her sweet and fair;

I hear her in the tunefu’ birds,

I hear her charm the air:

There’s not a bony flower, that springs

By fountain, shaw, or green;

There’s not a bony bird that sings

But minds me o’ my Jean.