In Scotland once a year
The folk a’ tak’ their turns
Tae sit aroond the fireplace
And see how Rabbie Burns
[Dai Lowe, January 1972]
Aye, I’ve been churning out this shite for mony a decade the noo. That was a companion piece to:
In Wales, upon St David’s Day
The women hardly speak,
But the men all run round shouting,
“I’ve got to have a leek!”
My uni landlords had a couple of very Weegie (Glaswegian) friends. They were visiting, so I ran the Burns pome past them and the wife said, “I don’t understand. Should it no be who Rabbie Burns?”
But tonight is indeed Burns night, the time we celebrate the life of a guid-living, deep thinking and hard-drinking bard. Many English folk (and probably a fair few Scots) don’t seem to get him, putting him well behind the Bard of Avon in the literary or intellectual steeplechase, but I rate him verra high indeed. ‘Tis a great skill to be a maker of deceptively simple verse, a clever rhymer — and a perfect scanner (see what I did there, Burns fans?). And his comments on the human condition, from the need for the ‘giftie’ o’ seein’ ‘oorsels as ithers see us’ (To a Louse) to the acceptance that the best schemed lays of Micean men ‘gang aft agley’ (To A Mouse), are as wise and well put as anything in Shakespeare.
And he’s easy to pastiche. As long as you can find four words that rhyme and couple more to slip between them, you can run up a Burnsy versey like this …
To a Beverage
Fair fa’ your foamin’, sprinkled heid!
All ither drinks ye far exceed;
A pick-me-up in time o’ need;
Fresh-brewed an’ frothy!
When owerhung Jock wak’s up, haff-deid,
Gie him a coffee!
Indeed, as I was getting the last of my provisions for this evening’s lonely feast, I had to sit me doon in the supermarket to scribble this …
To a Swede
I bought masel’ a haggis wee,
A tattie, sized just richt tae be
Thumpit for ma Burns’ nicht tea,
Yet still I sit an’ weep:
Och, wad some pow’r mak’, just for me,
A Wullie-nae-mates neep!
But I feel, given the rising niggles of (some of) the Scots people over Westminster’s refusal to let this keenly pro Brexit nation, it’s time to trot out the old pome written for the 2013 first running of the Scottish Independence Neverendum, Salmond Chanted Evening. Maybe I can tweak it for the next one, on the off-chance the Scots remember, from their Arbroathian Declaration, that freedom is no just a cry by a blue-faced antisemitic American Aussie, but that which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
According to the Scottish Mail,
Yer jobs’re doomed, yer crops’ll fail,
Yer bairns will all end up in jail,
If youse vote ‘Aye’;
Yer teeth’ll rot, yer pies turn stale —
And then ye’ll die.
The ‘Salmond’ will replace the pound
(Wan hunnerd ‘Sturgeons’, I’ll be bound);
Its value, mair dire than its sound,
Will plunge in stages,
Till just tae buy yer pals a round
Tak’s three month’s wages.
If Darling’s pleas are a’ rejected,
Mandat’ry kilts will be inspected,
And men wi’ pants will be ejected
Frae this fair land.
If wily Alex gets elected,
Sex will be banned.
Och, swallow a’ this propaganda,
A’ this pathetic trumped-up slander,
Ye’d think this place the next Ruanda,
Wi’out a doot;
And even Embra’s baby panda
Wad get kicked oot!
But don’t assume the ither lot
Are ony better, ‘cos they’re not;
Wi’ their rose-tinted tommy-rot
An’ tartan shite.
What chance has puir wee Scotty got
Tae choose aright?
So I’m no saying ‘Aye’ or ‘Nae’,
Or tryin’ tae tell ye which damn way,
On thon braw, bricht September day,
Ye ought tae go;
It’s no fer Sassenachs tae say,
Based here or no.
But, Ah’m a man o’ Northern bent,
Whose folk them London pow’rs resent,
And offer no encouragement;
So please tek ‘eed:
Let yer new border be the Trent —
Not just the Tweed!
Och, enough o’ these wabbit parodies. This is how it should be done…
O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
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 bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ ’twere ten thousand mile!
… and so damn true (sob, sob)!
Happy Burn’s Night everyone.