Tag Archives: Robert Burns

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.

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.

I Love Robert Burns

I mean, who wouldn’t love this man?

It’s not his looks, though he is handsome for an old, dead guy. It’s not his money, because you know poets can NEVER have any of that. (Their code of honor.)

It’s his words I love. They tell of a big heart, a broad mind, a good sense of humor and a sharp wit–which is why men and women everywhere, but especially in Scotland, revere Robert Burns.

Three of my creative projects converged this week in that one man: Music, Gardening and Poetry. My piano teacher, sensing that I was getting bored with two years of intense scale work, gave me a creative assignment–choose any key, Major and corresponding Minor, and compose a song. Later that day, I was reading through a number of garden poems and came across Burns’, To a Mountain Daisy–On Turning One Down with the Plough. I started to wonder if it could be turned into a decent modern song. Here it is in its original, then I’ll follow with the modifications I made to fit it into a song.



Wee modest crimson-tipped flower,
Thou’st met me in an evil hour;
For I maun crush amang the stour
Thy slender stem;
To spare thee now is past my power,
Thy bonnie gem.

Alas! it’s no thy neeber sweet,
The bonnie Lark, companion meet!
Bending thee ‘mang the dewy weet!
Wi’ speckled breast,
When upward springing, blithe to greet
The purplin east.

Cauld blew the bitter biting north
Upon thy early, humble birth;
Yet cheerfully thou glinted forth
Amid the storm,
Scarce reared above the parent earth
Thy tender form.

The flaunting flowers our gardens yield,
High sheltering woods and wa’s maun shield!
But thou, beneath the random bield
O’ clod or stane,
Adorns’t the histie stibble-field,
Unseen, alane.

There, in thy scanty mantle clad,
Thy snowy bosom sunward spread,
Thou lift’st thy unassuming head
In humble guise:
But now the share uptears thy bed,
And low thou lies!

Such is the fate of the artless maid,
Sweet flowret of rural shade!
By love’s simplicity betrayed,
And guileless trust;
Till she, like thee, all soiled, is laid
Low i’ the dust.

Such is the fate of the simple bard,
On life’s rough ocean luckless starr’d!
Unskilful he to note the card
Of prudent lore,
Till billows rage, and gales blow hard,
And whelm him o’er!

Such fate to suffering worth is given,
Who long with wants and woes has striven,
By human pride and cunning driven
To misery’s bring,
Till, wrenched of every stay but heaven,
He ruined sink!

Even thou who mourn’st the Daisy’s fate
That fate is thine—no distant date;
Stern ruin’s ploughshare drives clate,
Full on thy bloom,
Till crushed beneath the furrow’s weight
Shall be thy doom!


It’s a bit long for a song, so I cut it down to the first four stanzas with a chorus, and I placed it in C# Minor. At first, I kept six stanzas, but when the chorus was added, the song seemed too long. Also, it sounds a bit like something else I’ve heard, but I can’t pinpoint what. The chords go, C# minor to E to F# to C#. The minor chord makes it feel gloomy, but then the chorus starts to get upbeat. Also, the E has a feeling of rest at each second line–a little like what the poet accomplished with his four syllable lines. Here are the lyrics:

Modest Flower, C#
This is the evil hour, E
I must crush your slender stem F#
Among the stour. C# (Stour is an interesting word–in Scottish it is a term meaning stout and hardy. It’s also an english river and means turmoil and storm and conflict.)

There’s a sweet, sweet song, C#
Bending among the wheat, E
With feathery breast, F#
It flies to meet the purpling east. C#

Cold blew the bitter North, C#
Still you came forth, E
Barely rose amid the storm, F#
Such a tender form. C#

The garden flowers yield, C#
You have only woods to shield, E
Beneath the dirt and stone, F#
You come alone. C#


C# Soft beneath the stone, it rises
E Crushed beneath the clod.

C# I can find no power to save you,
E Still you will arise.

As softly as a feather, F#
As tender as a song. C#

So, here’s to Robert Burns–who cared enough to write about a poor Mountain Daisy about to be crushed by the plough. Reading his poem reminded me of my feelings for this wild flower that appeared a few weeks ago among the rocks–braving the cold–standing alone. How wonderful that a poet two hundred years ago saw, felt it, and kept it alive through song.