Monthly Archives: January 2012

Happy Birthday, Robert Burns!

Here’s to Robert Burns and all the Scots and poetry lovers out there who are celebrating his birthday today! Enjoy your Haggis and Happy Birthday, Robert!

Address To A Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Fair and honest your happy face
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
You Chief of the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Above them all you take your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Stomach, tripe, or guts:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
Well are you worthy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.
As long as my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
The groaning platter there you fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your rump like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
Your skewer would help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
In time of need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
While through your pores the juices seep
Like amber bead.
Like amber beads.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
His knife see the serving man clean
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
And cut you up with great skill
Trenching your gushing entrails bright
Making a trench in your bright, gushing guts
Like onie ditch;
Like a ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
And then, what a wonderful sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!
Warm-steaming, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they strech an’ strive:
Then spoonful after spoonful they stretch and strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
The devil will get the last bit! On they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve,
Until all their well-stretched stomachs, by and by
Are bent like drums;
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Then head of the family, about to burst,
‘Bethankit!’ hums.
Murmurs, “Thank the Lord!”

Is there that owre his French ragout
Is there that over his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or Italian food that would sicken a sow (pig)
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Or fricassee that would make her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
With perfect disgust,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
Would look down with sneering, scornful view
On sic a dinner?
On this dinner? (Haggis)

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
Poor devil! See him over his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
As feeble as a withered bullrush,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His skinny leg no thicker than a thin rope,
His nieve a nit;
His fist a nut;
Thro’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
Through bloody river or field to run,
O how unfit!
How unfit he’d be.

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
But look at the healthy, Haggis-fed person,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
The earth trembles under his foot.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
Put a knife in his fist,
He’ll make it whissle;
He’ll make it whistle (work);
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
And legs, and arms, and heads will shed (come off)
Like taps o’ thrissle.
Like tops of thistles.

Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
You powers who care about mankind,
And dish them out their bill o ‘fare,
And give them their food,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
Scotland does not want watery, wimpy stuff
That jaups in luggies;
That splashes in wood bowls;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
But, if you want her gratitude,
Gie her a Haggis!
Give her a Haggis!

What is Haggis? It used to be the liver, lungs and heart of a sheep, boiled, minced and mixed with onions, oatmeal, salt, pepper and spices then stuffed in a sheep’s stomach and boiled again.

Nowadays, it is prepared with the best meats, oatmeal, and spices and stuffed like a sausage and boiled.

I’ve never had it, but maybe today’s the day. A toast to Robert Burns.

Emily Dickinson Knew Winter

Everything, depending on our circumstance, takes on different meaning. Winter, to a person well-fed, sitting by a fire with loved ones in good health, means only beauty and wonder; for them it is a time to rest, reflect, celebrate and enjoy. Yet, a person who has lost someone they loved, and has been shaken by the tenuousness of life, might look at that same winter scene as something harsh, ominous, and unmerciful.

The way I see winter and the way Emily sees it in the poem below are so different, and yet, I know that part of this human experience is to go through all the seasons, each in their time. As Emily experienced whatever loss of hope she did here, we will have our season of experiencing the same thing: an oppressive heft, heavenly hurt, scars you feel, but can’t see. See how internal difference almost forms the word indifference where she looks for Meaning with a capital “M”? She warns that nothing can prepare us for this type of hurt and we won’t be able to find meaning in it.

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons —
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes —

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us —
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are —

None may teach it — Any —
’Tis the Seal Despair —
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air —

When it comes, the Landscape listens —
Shadows — hold their breath —
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death —

I’ve never experienced anything quite like this, close, but not the same. I know people who have: two friends, one who lost a son to suicide and the other a husband. I imagine they would know exactly what Emily is writing about in these lines.

I feel lucky today that I can look out on the winter landscape and largely miss the shadows. To me, it’s still magical and full of wonder. Even the fog, it seems like the wrapping around a present that the sun will tear off to reveal more amazing things. How blessed am I? Today. How blessed are all of us who are enjoying winter. Today.

Robert Burns Knew Winter

As we get ready for the Winter Warlock to blow in (they say) 12″-24″ of snow to Spokane in the coming days, I have retreated to my conservatory. I can now sit in relative warmth and look out at the barn and horses, leafless trees, icey walk and…sun. Yes, sun. In fact, it’s very deceiving. You might think it’s actually warm out there and doubt the weatherman, but I know better. Before I sat down here to read and write, I had to walk out in it–bundled up, of course, to feed the horses and goats. When poets say the air bites, I know what they mean. Just that little bit of wind you stir by walking feels like thin ice whips across exposed skin. Ouch! To the Conservatory! God bless electricity and windows!

I don’t feature many male poets on my blog, but I’ve already established that I’m in love with Robert Burns so I turned to his lyrics to describe this late January cold. (His birthday is coming up in 9 days–January 25th–a holiday in Scotland.)

Winter: A Dirge by Robert Burns

The wintry west extends his blast,
And hail and rain does blaw;
Or the stormy north sends driving forth
The blinding sleet and snaw:
While, tumbling brown, the burn comes down,
And roars frae bank to brae;
And bird and beast in covert rest,
And pass the heartless day.

“The sweeping blast, the sky o’ercast,”
The joyless winter day
Let others fear, to me more dear
Than all the pride of May:
The tempest’s howl, it soothes my soul,
My griefs it seems to join;
The leafless trees my fancy please,
Their fate resembles mine!

Thou Power Supreme, whose mighty scheme
These woes of mine fulfil,
Here firm I rest; they must be best,
Because they are Thy will!
Then all I want—O do Thou grant
This one request of mine!—
Since to enjoy Thou dost deny,
Assist me to resign.