Betsey’s Fine Legs.

Robert Burns.

Burns’ Birthplace.

The morals of the congregation of the Scottish Presbyterian church in the sixteenth century were severely dealt with, resulting in the perpetrator of any sinful deed being publicly rebuked and shamed by a lengthy tirade from the minister in front of the whole congregation while being seated on the ‘cutty’ stool.

Robert Burns was one such, a self-confessed fornicator.

This stool of repentance was placed in full view of the congregation, usually below the pulpit. The minister would deliver his tirade for an hour or two every Sunday until the recipient was suitably shamed and repentant, only then would the person be accepted back into the church. Robert was no stranger to the stool. One appearance was at Tarbolton Kirk, due to his relationship with a servant girl, Elizabeth Paton, the mother of his first child. In his poem ‘The Fornicator’ he doesn’t appear to be concerned by the punishment. As the pair are being subjected to the tirade, rather than taking his punishment and repenting, his roving eye wanders to admire Betsey’s fine legs.

I pass’d the muster fairly,
My handsome Betsey by my side,
We gat our ditty rarely;
But my downcast eye by chance did spy
What made my lips to water,
Those limbs so clean where I, between,
Commenc’d a Fornicator.

After having shown remorse with his downcast face and petted-lip, he leaves the kirk with Elizabeth only to re-offend almost immediately;

With rueful face and signs of grace
I pay’d the buttock-hire,
The night was dark and thro’ the park
I could not but convoy her;
A parting kiss, what could I less,
My vows began to scatter,
My Betsey fell-lal de dal lal lal,
I am a Fornicator.

Copyright © Joe Sharp.

For adventures of Francie and Josie, click here.

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