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What is the theme of Robert Burns' Green Grow the Rashes, O?

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Walter Fischer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Eighteenth century Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns was well-known for his affinity for women. And that affinity was quite explicit in some of his poems and lyrics. Take, for example, his poem unsubtly titled The Fornicator:

For I've lately been on quarantine,     
A proven Fornicator.

This affinity for women constitutes the theme of his lyrics to the song Green Grow the Rashes, a potential euphemism if ever one existed given the theme of The Fornicator. Whereas the latter is explicit in its emphasis on sex, however, the former is more a paean to women. Green Grows the Rashes is a celebration of women. A man well-accustomed to wine, women and song makes...

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The speaker is an individual who is celebrating his love for women. He is unabashed in his pronouncements and there is no reason to take his remarks as anything but serious, despite his hyperbolic praise. The speaker claims that he has spent his “sweetest hours” among “the lasses.” He also seeks to corroborate his attitude by claiming that the “wisest man the war’l e’er saw” was also a person who “dearly loved the lasses, O.” He is uncomplimentary toward sober people who might sneer at his pronouncements (lines 17–18). This view of men professing love is a natural extension of the poet's feelings of expression with no holding back.