How remiss of me not to have mentioned yesterday the birthday of Robert Burns. Some of you may be asking, “Who is he?’ He is probably the most well known of the Scottish poets. There are links to many wonderful resources at this site as most of his works have been digitised.
When asked the source of his greatest creative inspiration, Bob Dylan selected “A Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns as the lyric that had the greatest impact on his life. Abraham Lincoln was also a fan of Burns, reciting his poetry from memory, and perhaps being influenced to emancipate slaves by the great Scottish poet’s forcibly stated belief in the equality of all human beings. Burns was certainly a freethinker and a man ahead of his time: on the eve of the French Revolution, he was already writing “The Rights of Woman”. What shines through the poetry of Robert Burns is his compassion for all human beings and living creatures: whether a young girl about to be judged for “loose morals” for loving a boy, or a field mouse whose nest was destroyed by an errant plow, or a mountain daisy cut down before its time, or himself when he had to part with someone he cherished.
Poems by Burns inspired the titles of two classic novels: John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and J .D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. A prolific songwriter, he collected hundreds of Scottish folk songs, often revising or adapting them, or writing new lyrics himself. His version of “Auld Lang Syne” is often sung at Hogmanay (the last day of the year) to usher in the new year—not only in Scotland, but around the world. His “Scots Wha Hae” has been called an unofficial Scottish national anthem.
Today, Burns has become a national hero and a cultural icon in Scotland and among the Scottish Diaspora around the world. In 2009 he was designated the Greatest Scot, through a poll conducted by Scottish television channel STV. (The HyperTexts)
I find it difficult to name my favourite poem but after much consideration I think it would be Tam o Shanter.
My elder daughter had A Red Red Rose recited at her wedding. My elder brother was the speaker. A beautiful love poem recited by a loved one of mine for a loved one of mine.
A Red, Red Rose
by Robert Burns
modern English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Oh my luve is like a red, red rose, Oh, my love is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June: that’s newly sprung in June
Oh my luve is like the melodie, and my love is like the melody
That’s sweetly play’d in tune. that’s sweetly played in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonie lass, And you’re so fair, my lovely lass,
So deep in luve am I; and so deep in love am I,
And I will luve thee still, my dear, that I will love you still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry. till all the seas run dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear, Till all the seas run dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun; and the rocks melt with the sun!
And I will luve thee still, my dear, And I will love you still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run. while the sands of life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only luve! And fare you well, my only love!
And fare thee weel a while! And fare you well, awhile!
And I will come again, my luve, And I will come again, my love,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile! though it were ten thousand miles!
Burns Night in Scotland is celebrated with gusto!
Many people and organizations hold a Burns’ supper on or around Burns’ Night. These may be informal or formal, only for men, only for women, or for both genders. Formal events include toasts and readings of pieces written by Robert Burns. Ceremonies during a Burns’ Night supper vary according to the group organizing the event and the location. The evening centers on the entrance of the haggis to the accompaniment of bagpipes.
A haggis is made from a concoction of ingredients that are mixed and inserted into a sheep’s stomach bag, which is then tied tightly at both ends and boiled. The ingredients include lambs liver, oatmeal, suet, stock, onion, salt pepper and other seasonings. In recent times the sheep’s stomach bag is often replaced with a collagen sausage skin. It may not sound very attractive but the end result is delicious. If you have not tried it do so at the earliest opportunity. You don’t know what you’re missing!
This is a haggis, cooked by my husband when we were in Scotland.
When the haggis is on the table, the host reads the “Address to a Haggis”. This is an ode that Robert Burns wrote to the Scottish dish. At the end of the reading, the haggis is ceremonially sliced into two pieces and the meal begins.
We found this sign about haggis on a recent trip to Scotland.