Happy Birthday Rabbie!


Robert burns.jpg

 January 25 2009 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland’s best-loved poet (and sometimes scoundrel) Robert Burns. Scotland designed this year’s tourism extravaganza Homecoming Scotland around the event. Touted as “a year-long celebration of Scottish culture, heritage, and contributions to the world,” the folks at VisitScotland are hoping the romantic aura surrounding the famous Ayrshire bard will lure travelers to their bonny banks throughout the year. 

The British press are falling all over themselves to get in their fifteen minutes of Burns. The Times’ Brian Pedley takes us on a tour of Burns Country.  The Times Literary Supplement ran a wonderful essay in praise of Burns—a refreshing respite from the negative press he’s been receiving of late. Not to be outdone, Charles Moore puts in his two pence (and the reader comments don’t disappoint as the centuries-long English vs. Scottish ideological battle rages on). 

Burns was a prolific writer, and music lovers everywhere are grateful that many of his poems translated so beautifully into songs. My favorite version of “Ae Fond Kiss” is this one by Eddi Reader.

Of course, Scots, descendants of Scots, and wanna-be Scots everywhere will be celebrating this coming Sunday in a big way at Burns Suppers all over the world. The Independent’s John Walsh summed up the average Burns Night Supper thus:

“Wherever large, sentimental men in tartan skirts are gathered together with glasses of Talisker 18-year-old in their hands, someone will declaim Burns’s “Address to a Haggis” and whip a skean dhu from his sock and stab the inoffensive oatmeal pudding to death.”

For more on the bard:

Christopher Tait performs as Robert Burns here.

The Ultimate Burns Supper site.

Linn Records is offering a 12-volume set of the Complete Songs of Robert Burns.

Be sure not to miss the Celtic Zone episode in honor of the Bard at BBC Radio Scotland.

Will Gerard Butler ever finish filming the long-promised biopic of Rabbie’s life?



Address to a Haggis

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

The groaning trencher
there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit’ hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis.  



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