Bonie Jean (Jean Armour)
For all his philandering ways whe he was a young lad there can be no doubt that Robert Burns loved his wife, Jean Armour. He fell for her when he was about 25 years of age and she soon became pregnant. Her father, a master mason from the nearby village of Mauchline, was outraged and forbade her to see him. In September 1786 Burns wrote to Mr John Richmond in Edinburgh ...
Mossgiel Sunday 3rd Sept. 1786
Wish me luck dear Richmond! Armour has just brought me a fine boy and girl at one throw. God bless the little dears! R. B.
Green grow the rashes O,
Green grow the rashes O,
A feather bed is no sae saft
As the bosoms 'o the lasses O.
By this time Burns had published his first book of poetry and this was an oustanding success. This made him change cancel his plan to emigrate to Jamaica. The change in Robert's fortunes also changed Jean's father's view of Burns and there is some suggestion that he then threw her at him. The result (inevitably!) was that she became pregnant again.
It was to be about another year and a half before Burns finally settled down with Jean. In a letter to Mr. Robert Ainslie on May 26th 1788 Burns wrote ...
"I have the pleasure to tell you that I have been extremely busy in all my buyings and bargainings hitherto; Mrs. Burns not excepted; which title I now avow to the World. (My emphasis)
I am truly pleased with this last affair: it has indeed added to my anxieties for futurity, but it has given a stability to my mind and resolutions unknown before; and the poor girl has the most sacred enthusiasm of attachment to me, and has not a wish but to gratify my every idea of her deportment."
There was a lass, and she was fair,
At kirk or market to be seen;
When a' our fairest maids were met,
The fairest maid was bonie Jean.
And aye she wrought her mammie's wark,
And aye she sang sae merrilie;
The blythest bird upon the bush
Had ne'er a lighter heart than she.
But hawks will rob the tender joys
That bless the little lintwhite's nest;
And frost will blight the fairest flowers,
And love will break the soundest rest.
Young Robie was the brawest lad,
The flower and pride of a' the glen;
And he had owsen, sheep, and kye,
And wanton naigies nine or ten.
He gaed wi' Jeanie to the tryste,
He danc'd wi' Jeanie on the down;
And, lang ere witless Jeanie wist,
Her heart was tint, her peace was stown!
As in the bosom of the stream,
The moon-beam dwells at dewy e'en;
So trembling, pure, was tender love
Within the breast of bonie Jean.
And now she works her mammie's wark,
And aye she sighs wi' care and pain;
Yet wist na what her ail might be,
Or what wad make her weel again.
But did na Jeanie's heart loup light,
And didna joy blink in her e'e,
As Robie tauld a tale o' love
Ae e'ening on the lily lea?
The sun was sinking in the west,
The birds sang sweet in ilka grove;
His cheek to hers he fondly laid,
And whisper'd thus his tale o' love:
"O Jeanie fair, I lo'e thee dear;
O canst thou think to fancy me,
Or wilt thou leave thy mammie's cot,
And learn to tent the farms wi' me?
"At barn or byre thou shalt na drudge,
Or naething else to trouble thee;
But stray amang the heather-bells,
And tent the waving corn wi' me."
Now what could artless Jeanie do?
She had nae will to say him na:
At length she blush'd a sweet consent,
And love was aye between them twa.