This is one of the rare occasions we have to see young Burns in the open air, out under the sun among his own and already standing out, if only for the whiteness of his shirt. He always knew that there was another fate intended for him, although he had no idea what it might be. He hope that his way with words would point him in the right direction, but in his youth it only seemed to get him into trouble with everyone – even his good father, who could never understand why his clever son should so enjoy dancing for instance. He couldn’t see that it was all part of the young man’s plan to prepare himself for another world other than farming. Meantime, he was part of the family, the job had to be done so he did just as all his friends, male and female, had to do at harvest time.
Sex was in the air all around. Young bodies were sweating in the sun and his senses were alert to the pleasure afforded by the close proximity of the female form. The love of women was a learning curve he was early to appreciate.
He was already being talked about in the neighbourhood and all eyes were on him wherever he went or whatever he did locally. So when he wrote his verses for Nelly Kilpatrick, she, too, became the centre of attention as she moved away from the line to read them. It was a tribute to the effective attention to early learning among the Scottish peasantry at the time that she could read at all. The 16-year old Burns looked on hopefully. It was his first song and he wanted a good reaction.
He didn’t get it, but it mattered little. He had been given the first clue about what he might do all his life – he might even hope to be a writer. The poem might be his passport to fresher fields and who knows, the harvest could be great.