Merry Muses of Caledonia by Robert Burns
Warning - Adults Only!
The Merry Muses contains explicit material of an adult nature.
Leave this page now if you are easily offended.
Many scholars and Robert Burns enthusiasts prefer not to mention his association with the Merry Muses of Caledonia because they don't like him to be associated with this sort of material. Burns allegedly made no secret of his interest in erotic verse and bawdy song but apparently he kept this in a locked drawer at home. Well, you would, wouldn't you?
It was first published within three or four years of his death and of the original only two copies are known to exist but it has since been published several times in facsimile editions. Burns both wrote and collected this material so there is no knowing how much of it is actually his. While some of it is local and clearly from the hand of the bard he may also have collected other material during his tours around Scotland.
It is also worth mentioning that some of Burns's most admired works were sanitised versions of the bawdy originals.
Many people who read these verses are surprised at Burns' awareness and his macho attitude to sex more than 200 years ago. But then sex is not new and isn't it strange that each successive generation thinks that they have just invented it? It is also worth noting that some of the words used by Burns in this connotation are still in use today, including of course the "F" word. Some recent commentators have compared the Robert Burns of the late 1700's to the rock stars of today. Maybe that's not too far off the mark?
There is no doubt that Burns was fond of "Houghmagandie" and as a writer it was perhaps logical for him to write about it. But the Merry Muses were considered to be so explicit that their existence was denied for more than 100 years after his death. When they were finally acknowledged they were banned in the UK until 1965 (and the USA until 1964). Today's more liberal attitudes to sex however make them (a wee bit!) more acceptable.
In actual fact even the Burns Heritage Centre now sells CD's of the songs, changed days indeed! The titles of some of the verses ably illustrate the type of content to expect in the Merry Muses, e.g. "Nine Inch Will Please a Lady" and "Hoo Can I Keep My Maidenheid?"
(The material we have is available as a PDF download file. Adults who are not easily offended may click here to download it.)
Note: One of the original copies of the Merry Muses is held in the library of University of South Carolina in Columbia. George Ross Roy is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at this university and distinguished Burnsian. He produced one of the facsimiles published for the Thomas Cooper Library from the G. Ross Roy Collection of Robert Burns, Burnsiana, and Related Scottish Literature