Burns was a romantic and I’m a romantic, not in that sickly sweet Mills and Boon fashion but romantic in the sense that we will always oppose the classicists and we will always question the establishment.
Burns intoxicated me; his legendary life of womanising, love making, drinking and debauchery just enthralled me. This was a man that could write such beautiful poems and yet could be so flawed and had endured such tragedy. I guess I recognised a kindred spirit in him; a tortured soul. He was simply a genius and this poem in particular is a work of genius.
It is satirical, funny, pokes fun at the establishment and is completely timeless - it could have been written today. Burns wasn’t not a believer so he was not poking fun at God but he was poking fun at people’s perceptions of God and at the hypocrisy that can exist within the church. I am also a Christian and I have fought bigotry all my life and what this poem did at the time was change perceptions and that is a remarkable thing.
Burns was a rebel and he made people think. That’s what art is all about for me; making people question and open doors into another world. Burns ignited my spark and that’s all I can ever hope to do to others.
Peter Howson - Artist
Text © Peter Howson