Friday, 25 January 2008

Burns Day

No, I don't know the date by heart, I figured it out when I noticed today's Oxford English Dictionary's Word of the Day was haggis! So it's the commemoration of Scotland's national poet Robbie Burns today and tonight many a haggis will be addressed:

Address To A Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm.

It's a bit too long to quote all of it, but you can read the complete poem here.

I have never tasted a haggis and quite frankly have no intention of ever doing so. But Burns was a pretty darn good poet, if sometimes slightly a bit too romantic for my taste. Still, he manages to touch my heart sometimes...

A Red, Red Rose

O my Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June:
O my Luve's like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' 'twere ten thousand mile!

As you can see, the haggis triggered a lot of memories for me. This poem was set to my class as a riddle by the teacher when we were around 15:

John Barleycorn: A Ballad

There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.

I don't know whether it was a credit to us that nobody figured out what it was about (because nobody drank beer - which I doubt, although I didn't) or a disgrace (that we didn't know enough about how it's made). More than half my class came from a rural area, having to ride their bikes for 45 minutes to an hour each way, but I don't think any of their families were involved in any such activities. (There was a dairy farmer's daughter, which of course didn't help on this occasion.)

No Churchman Am I

No churchman am I for to rail and to write,
No statesman nor soldier to plot or to fight,
No sly man of business contriving a snare,
For a big-belly'd bottle's the whole of my care.

I sense a theme in my quotes, and a distinct whiff of alcohol to boot! It's all my fault, I take full responsibility, although I haven't had a drink since last Friday.

Remorseful Apology

The friend whom, wild from Wisdom's way,
The fumes of wine infuriate send,
(Not moony madness more astray)
Who but deplores that hapless friend?

Mine was th' insensate frenzied part,
Ah! why should I such scenes outlive?
Scenes so abhorrent to my heart!-
'Tis thine to pity and forgive.

Okay, who am I kidding? I like his lechery and his wit. Let's end on a happy note:

The Deil's Awa Wi' The Exciseman

The deil cam fiddlin' thro' the town,
And danc'd awa wi' th' Exciseman,
And ilka wife cries, "Auld Mahoun,
I wish you luck o' the prize, man."
The deil's awa, the deil's awa,
The deil's awa wi' the Exciseman,
He's danc'd awa, he's danc'd awa,
He's danc'd awa wi' the Exciseman.

Happy Birthday, Rabbie!

All the poems in this post come from Robert Burns Country. Check out all the wonderful stuff on that site.

And if you didn't recognise any of the poems I quoted and think you've never heard or read anything by Burns, click this link!


kusala ~ joe said...

It's a good think you threw in the "Auld Lang Syne" link. I am embarrassed to say I've never really heard of Burns. You know how "undereducated" we are over here, however... My high school lit teacher did spend quite a bit of time on Andrew Marvell and John Donne, however. Ah, memories.

SubtleKnife said...

Thank you for your reply. I had a lovely time browsing through all those poems I hadn't seen for a while now. And it's not completely surprising you didn't know about him before - besides the school system - they could simply never fit everything into high school.

I've done a lot more rewarding reading after school, reading for my list was something I had to get through.

WUM said...

I reacted against Burns when we learned his stuff at school, because he was SO Scottish. Since then, I've begun to develop a real appreciation for his marrying of low and high forms.

I rather like his erotic spookathon, Tam o'Shanter.

SubtleKnife said...

I can see that happening, I didn't care much for Dutch literature in school either. Burns, on the other hand, was rather exotic.