|Mossgiel farm painted by William Findlay Watson. Photo credit: National Galleries Scotland|
This poem it seems was initially written as a song in 1794 while Robert Burns was at his family's farm in Mossgiel.
O Leave Novels
O leave novels, ye Mauchline belles,
Ye're safer at your spinning wheel;
Such witching books, are baited hooks
For rakish rooks like Rob Mossgiel.
Your fine Tom Jones And Grandisons
They make your youthful fancies reel
They heat your brains, and fire your veins
And then you're prey for Rob Mossgiel.
Beware a tongue that's smoothly hung;
A heart that warmly seems to feel;
That feelin heart but acks* a part,
'Tis rakish art in Rob Mossgiel.
The frank address, the soft caress,
Are worse than poisoned darts of steel,
The frank address, and politesse,
Are all finesse in Rob Mossgiel.
Mauchline belles were supposedly a group of women that Robert knew in Mauchline the town next to his farm at Mossgiel. One of the women in that group (Jean Armour) he knocked up and eventually married, although her father forbade it. This was most likely because Robert put the cart before the horse, although it could have been because Robert's mother's servant gave birth to his first child, just before Jean became pregnant. Wikipedia has a great little bit on this:
[Robert Burn's] casual love affairs did not endear him to the elders of the local kirk and created for him a reputation amongst his neighbours for dissoluteness. His first child, Elizabeth Paton Burns (1785–1817), was born to his mother's servant, Elizabeth Paton (1760-circa 1799) while he was embarking on a relationship with Jean Armour, who became pregnant with twins in March 1786 ... Although Armour's father initially forbade it, they were eventually married in 1788.
So, anyone willing to speculate on who Rob Mossgiel is? ;0)