Monday, 26 January 2015

Robert Bloody Burns

Now, I don't have anything against the poet Burns. I would like to stress that.

And I don't have any problem with Scottish people - or anybody else - liking him. And I'm happy with Scottish people being proud of him. A fun poet, a good lad. No doubt about it. Good old Robert Burns. Not Rab, nobody called him Rab. Not without him writing something viciously satirical about them.

But why are pubs in England celebrating him? I mean, he wasn't English. He wrote in the Scots dialect. Why would an English pub-owner put on an evening of Scottish dining in honour of some Scottish poet nobody in the pub has actually read? After all, we don't celebrate Voltaire Day, or Mark Twain fortnight.

I think it's that weird English thing where English people think they're the norm, while everybody else is rustic, interesting, ethnic and exotic. And it's not good enough. Wake up England! You have a Ptolemaic conception of England. We're all Copernicans now. England is just a place. A nice, funny, ironic place with a climate that is, on the whole, about as friendly as you get in this random world. But still just a place. Come on England! Our own poets and culture are worthy of celebration as well.

For starters, I propose we introduce Thomas Hardy Day.

On Thomas Hardy Day (2 June) we will drink West Country Cider. We will eat fried lights, and beef sandwiches without a plate. We will drop our glasses under waterfalls. And we will consider the cursed, futile nature of existence as we shake our fists at the empty sky.

Then we will read the Thomas Hardy poem, "Hap".

If but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky, and laugh: “Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
That thy love's loss is my hate's profiting!”

Then would I bear it, clench myself, and die,
Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;
Half-eased in that a Powerfuller than I
Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.

But not so.   How arrives it joy lies slain,
And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?
—Crass Casualty obstructs the sun and rain,
And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan. . . .
These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown
Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain.

Blimey. Tell you what, anyone fancy some haggis and a drop of whisky? Good old Rab Burns, eh? Hoots!


  1. Well, Burns was British, and he wrote this.

    O let us not, like snarling curs,
    In wrangling be divided,
    Till, slap! come in an unco loun,
    And wi' a rung decide it!
    Be Britain still to Britain true,
    Amang ourselves united;
    For never but by British hands
    Maun British wrangs be righted!
    No! never but by British hands
    Shall British wrangs be righted!

    Haven't a clue what it means, but I don't think the SNP can claim him.

    1. He also wrote-

      By yon Castle wa', at the close of the day,
      I heard a man sing tho' his head it was grey;
      And as he was singing, the tears doon came,
      There'll never be peace till Jamie comes hame.

      The Church is in ruins, the State is in jars,
      Delusions, oppressions, and murderous wars:
      We dare na weel say't, but we ken wha's to blame,
      There'll never be peace till Jamie comes hame.

      My seven braw sons for Jamie drew sword,
      But now I greet round their green beds in the yerd;
      It brak the sweet heart o' my faithful auld Dame,
      There'll never be peace till Jamie comes hame.

      Now life is a burden that bows me down,
      Sin I tint my bairns, and he tint his crown;
      But till my last moments my words are the same,
      There'll never be peace till Jamie comes hame.

      So a Britain United under the Scottish dynasty was what he had in mind. The SNP could probably live with having England as a colony.

  2. Another example of why Americans find the English endlessly entertaining. Please send more Fawlty Towers, Monty Python, Downton Abbey and 26th remakes of Sense and Sensibility. We just can't get enough.


Drop a thoughtful pebble in the comments bowl