What They Didn’t Teach us in English Class

                 In front of Robert Burn’s cottage in Ayrshire

I sometimes need a dictionary to decipher it, but I love Robert Burn’s poetry which runs the gamut from lyrical love poems to acerbic blasts against injustice. As only a Scotsman can, he derides and lambasts with humor, holding nothing back in his blunt political and civil commentary. He was a liberal, a feminist, and a socialist. I learned all of this in high school from a very good-looking English teacher. (Note: the English teacher in The Lady was so closely modeled after him that my classmates recognized him immediately.) What we didn’t learn was that Burns was an inveterate womanizer. English class was like Sunday School in that they left out all the good stuff.

Burns fathered twelve children from several different mothers – his wife Jean, his mother’s servant, a woman from church, a friend. His first child was born to a servant about the same time he got his future wife pregnant with twins. At last count he had six hundred descendants from these various women. Which leads me to a question. Were some of those lovely love poems he wrote a peace offering to his wife? Did he, instead of bringing home a bouquet of roses, present her with My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose or Ae Fond Kiss? Oh my, English class could have been so much more fun had we discussed questions like this.