Today is the birthday of poet Robert Burns (1759-1796), and if you are a lover of his poetry perhaps you may be inspired to host a Burns Supper tonight. You will have to make your own haggis from scratch, however (good luck with that), because apparently the importation of haggis to the United States remains forbidden, as are all food products made with lungs. (Mystifyingly, Spam, although of questionable provenance, can be purchased without a special license and is consumed in this country at the rate of 3.8 cans per second.) Along with sampling haggis, you may toast the poet and each other with whiskey, and when sufficiently inspired recite some of your favorite Burns poems.
In honor of Burns’ birthday I post a song (with a helpful glossary at the end) which I have sung many a time to my children as they drifted off to sleep. (You can listen to a far lovelier rendition by singer Anne Lewis here.) The sketch is actually from my Ireland sketchbook (gasp! don’t tell anyone), but the image seemed appropriate. For another Burns sketch, please see Move Yer Hurdies.
Ca’ the yowes to the knowes, Ca’ them where the heather grows, Ca’ them where the burnie rows, My bonnie dearie.
Hark! the mavis’ evening sang Sounding Clouden’s woods amang, Then a-faulding let us gang, My bonnie dearie.
We’ll gae down by Clouden side, Through the hazels spreading wide, O’er the waves that sweetly glide To the moon sae clearly.
Yonder Clouden’s silent towers, Where at moonshine midnight hours O’er the dewy bending flowers Fairies dance sae cheery.
Ghaist nor bogle shalt thou fear; Thou’rt to Love and Heaven sae dear, Nocht of ill may come thee near, My bonnie dearie.
Fair and lovely as thou art, Thou hast stown my very heart; I can die–but canna part, My bonnie dearie.
While waters wimple to the sea; While day blinks in the lift sae hie; Till clay-cauld death shall blin’ my e’e, Ye shall be my dearie.
—Robert BurnsA-faulding: Sheep-gathering Burnie: Small brook Gang: Go Knowes: Hills Mavis: Thrush Rows: Rolls Yowes: Ewes