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 bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
~from A Red, Red Rose
January 25th is the birthday of Scotland's national bard, Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796).
Around the world on January 25th, a celebration of Scotland's best known bard's life and works, called a Burns Supper, will take place. The first Burns Supper was held in Scotland in 1802. "The basic format starts with a general welcome and announcements, followed with the Selkirk Grace. After grace comes the piping and cutting of the haggis, where Burns' famous Address To a Haggis is read and the haggis is cut open. The event usually allows for people to start eating just after the haggis is presented. This is when the reading called the "immortal memory", an overview of Burns' life and work, is given. The event usually concludes with the singing of Auld Lang Syne." ~from Wiki
Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!
~ from To A Mouse, On turning her up in her Nest with the Plough
Burns died tragically young, but many of his poems, or phrases from them, have become universally known.
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursel's as others see us
Nae man can tether time or tide
The best-laid schemes o' mice, and men
Gang aft agley
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?
the Official Robert Burns site.
Because Burns first published his poems in the late 1780s, I was able to work mention of him into a scene or two in Kindred, set in 1794. Here's a clip from the story, in which I've disguised the identity of a particular character with X, to avoid spoilers:
They ate with little conversation. Before X finished Ian lay back on the pillows, the scent of roses sweetly painful, but roused at the clink of dinnerware and took hold of X’s hand. “Leave it. Would ye like me to read to ye?”
Her face brightened. “Mr. Burns?”
Ian smiled flatly, but capitulated. X liked him to read the man’s romantical works, Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, with his faint accent ridiculously broadened. “I can manage a verse or twa. But first….”
X had set the tray by the door and was reaching for the volume.
[break for unrelated spoilerish stuff before they get to the reading]
Outside the day was fading. Ian lit a candle while X settled on the bed beside him.
“Aye, right.” Ian pitched his voice to mimic his mam’s lowland speech, and began the poem of the son who left the honest work to which his father had reared him, to seek an easy fortune. “My father was a farmer upon the Carrick border, O/And carefully he bred me in decency and order, O….”
In the middle of the fifth stanza, as the son left off his failed schemes and returned to work the soil—to plough and sow, and reap and mow—X interrupted him.
“Do you like being a farmer, Ian?”
“Aye, lassie. I like it weel.” He’d answered flippantly, but hearing the words out of his mouth he knew them for truth. He stared at his hand, splayed on the page, noting new calluses from spade and axe and plow. Minding the slaves’ lighter steps coming in from the field that evening he said, “Today’s Saturday.”
“And tomorrow’s the Sabbath,” X said. “Though there’s no meeting for us to attend.”
“Aye, there is… if ye wouldn’t mind a bit of manure on your shoes.”
“You mean the Reynolds?”
He’d surprised her with the notion. But why not? He’d yet to tell John of what happened on the ridge, the night he followed the slaves. It was time he did so. “Would ye come with me tomorrow, to worship with our neighbors?”
The tiredness lifted from X’s face. “I’d like that, Ian. Yes.”
~ from Kindred, Copyright 2011 Lori Benton All Rights Reserved
And last but not least, a Burns poem not to be missed:
Ha! whaur ye gaun, ye crowling ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly:
I canna say but ye strunt rarely,
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho', faith, I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place
~ from To A Louse, On seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet in Church
photo credits: quill by neil conway; Scottish landscape by Shandchem; Trossachs bridge by kyahl. All photos used under creative common license.