Writing Exercise – the Burns Stanza

by | January 6, 2016 | Writing Exercise | 5 comments

by Ashley Lister

Happy New Year. I’m hoping 2016 brings you
everything you desire that makes your life satisfying.

We first looked at the Burns Stanza back in
October 2014. I’m looking at it again now because we’re in January and Burns
night (25th January) will be on us before we know it. And, what
better way to prepare for a Burns night celebration than to write a saucy Burns

As I mentioned when we looked at this form
before, the form did exist before Burns made it his own. It had previously been
known as the Standart Habbie or the Scottish stanza or, sometimes,
simply the six-line stave. Personally, I’m happy calling it a Burns
stanza. This is my attempt at the form.

Stanzas have six lines rhyming aaabab.
The a lines have four metrical feet and the b lines have two metrical feet.

fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Basque of leather, stockings of lace
A cold smile with no soft embrace
You hold the crop
You wield the whip. I know my place
Please never stop.

As always, I’d love to see your
interpretations of this form in the comments box below. And, if you are celebrating
Burns night this year, please eat haggis responsibly.

Ashley Lister

Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his second title published under his own name: Swingers: Female Confidential by Ashley Lister (Virgin Books; ISBN: 0753513439) Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica. Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto. He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.


  1. Fiona McGier

    Me late faither from Glesga woulda been horrified to think that his beloved Robbie Burns wrote about a dom-female and a sub-male! I loved it! I have his old, tattered, leather-bound book. I'll look for that verse.

    Me faither telt me that in his experience, the only way to eat Haggis involved 2 people and a gun. You hold the gun on your friend and make him eat it, then he holds the gun on you to make you eat it. Though I must say, I've been to Gaelic Festivals where one of the gaming events was "Haggis-tossing", where comely females toss bags of the stuff as far away from themselves as they could manage. That I could support!

    Give me a wee hot meat pie, sausage roll, or bridie anytime…or maybe some bangers. Now that's good eatin'!

  2. Ashley Lister


    One of my favourite aspects of Burns is that he reminds us that poetry belongs to dialects. No one tries to read a Burns stanza in RP or standard English: everyone is comfortable accommodating the content of the stanza in an appropriate dialect. This is why writers can comfortably talk about Burns and then go on to mention relatives from 'Glesga'.

    And, considering the traditional ingredients consist of sheep's heart, lung and liver, as well as various seasonings, I think tossing the haggis is possibly the best thing for it 🙂


  3. Lisabet Sarai

    Oh, I really wish I was skilled enough with dialect to do one with a US southern accent. Need to get Daddy X in on this!

    • Ashley Lister

      I'd really like to read one of these written in a southern drawl. Please point Daddy X to this page and ask him consider it.


  4. Jean Roberta

    Yes,I would love to see someone write one of these in any accent whatever. 🙂

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