The Posie "The Pink Of Womankind"

Robert Burns

"The Pink Of Womankind"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: "Pink," in the sense of highest point or choicest bit, may be a variant of "pick," as when we say "The pick of the crop." It occurs in many well-known phrases. "The pink of condition" is current. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's character boasted of being "the very pink of courtesy," a phrase later repeated by Steele in The Tatler, No. 204. She Stoops to Conquer, Act I, speaks of "the very pink of perfection." So Robert Burns in writting a poem to his "ain dear May," calls her "the pink o' womankind," the finest of women, and therefore includes a flower of the variety called Pinks in the Posie, or bouquet, that he gathers for her. Unfortunately, his knowledge of flowers was less than his skill as a poet, because into the bouquet, he manages to put, and tie with the silken band of love, flowers from all seasons of the year: rose, hyacinth, daisy, woodbine, violet, lily, and hawthorn among them. Here are the second and the sixth of the seven stanzas.

The primrose I will pu', the firstling of the year,
And I will pu' the pink, the emblem o' my dear,
For she's the pink o' womankind, and blooms without a peer:
And a' to be a Posie to my ain dear May . . .
The woodbine I will pu' when the e'ening star is near,
Amd the diamond drops o' dew shall be her een (eyes) sae clear:
The violet's for modesty which weel she fa's to wear.
And a' to be a Posie to my ain dear May.