Sunday, January 27, 2013

Robert Burns Night

Robert Burns 1759 - 1796, Gavin McNicoll
Burns Night Dinner (1/24/13), White Horse, Parsons's Green

Commander Kelly had the good fortune to attend his first Robert Burns Night celebration last week in London at the excellent White Horse Tavern pub in Parson's Green (  January 25th marks the official Burns night commemorating his birthday and is celebrated around the globe.

Robert Burns, Poet, Ploughman, Scot
Robert Burns ( was the Shakespeare of Scotland.  He was a  ploughman who turned to poetry.  He was a passionate man who loved women and fathered 12 children with at least five different women.  He is said to have over 600 direct descendants alive today!  Though he tragically only lived to age 37, he enjoyed great fame and honor in his own lifetime and is now widely acclaimed as the greatest Scot of all time.

It was Burns that wrote Auld Lang Syne, the song that ushers in every new year around the world.  The magnificently restored Cutty Sark in Greenwich (see earlier post, Cutty Sark, 5/4/12) is named after a Burns poem as well.

Burns has had numerous American admirers over the years.  President Abraham Lincoln is said to have committed his works to memory.  John Steinbeck borrowed the title Of Mice and Men's from a Burns poem titled To A Mouse.  The title of JD Salinger's famous novel Catcher in the Rye is from a Burns love poem.  Bob Dylan claims that Burns' song/poem Red, Red Rose had the biggest effect on his life.

Burns has had admirers on the left who were attracted to his egalitarianism and support for Republican ideals.  The Soviet Union used his image in a postage stamp in 1956.  His most famous political poem is A Man's a Man for A' That....

Is there for honest Poverty 
That hings his head, an' a' that; 
The coward slave-we pass him by, 
We dare be poor for a' that! 
For a' that, an' a' that. 
Our toils obscure an' a' that, 
The rank is but the guinea's stamp, 
The Man's the gowd for a' that. 

What though on hamely fare we dine, 
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that; 
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine; 
A Man's a Man for a' that: 
For a' that, and a' that, 
Their tinsel show, an' a' that; 
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor, 
Is king o' men for a' that. 

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord, 
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that; 
Tho' hundreds worship at his word, 
He's but a coof for a' that: 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
His ribband, star, an' a' that: 
The man o' independent mind 
He looks an' laughs at a' that. 

A prince can mak a belted knight, 
A marquis, duke, an' a' that; 
But an honest man's abon his might, 
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that! 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
Their dignities an' a' that; 
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth, 
Are higher rank than a' that. 

Then let us pray that come it may, 
(As come it will for a' that,) 
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth, 
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that. 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
It's coming yet for a' that, 
That Man to Man, the world o'er, 
Shall brothers be for a' that.

While those enamoured of Burke's peerage may have an issue with the ideals expressed by Burns, few American Conservatives, however, would object to Burns' advocacy for a brotherhood of man where "all men are created equal."
Haggis Presentation, White Horse, London
Burns wrote a poem Ode to a Haggis ("Great chieftain o' the puddin-race") which is traditionally recited at every Burns night celebration (see video below).  In an anecdote from the 19th century, the famous French chef Escoffier was preparing an encyclopedia of the world's cooking and had occasion to try the Scottish delicacy, Haggis.  He is reported to have said, "When I first saw Haggis, I thought it looked like s__t.  After I tasted it I wished that it were s__t."  Take a mud-soaked American football and put in the microwave for an hour on high and, presto, -- you have something very like Haggis!  Commander Kelly, however, enjoys a wee Haggis now and then.

On Burns night 2013 Commander Kelly was joined by my good friend Willam Funk (USMC Ret.) who is a poet too.  Here is a slightly scatological poem honouring the Scottish Bard that he composed the day after Burns night...

Burns Night

Ay' winna to the Burns Night
'twas three fella Studs 'n me.
The Scottish ale was flowin'
'N good as it cud be.

Laytuh Robbie verses
Read for all to hear
Thar wa' pipe 'n fiddle, food 'n drink
W' plenty 'o Scottish beer.

We 'ha scallops as a starter
Trailed by haigiss ravioli
Next the Scottish beef 'n haigiss
Made w'bits o'mystery

Well 'twas haigiss this 'n haigiss that
'N haigiss spirits all around
But the sheep today spared no mercy
When my feet hit the ground.

Everythin' was delightful
I enjoyed it quite a lot
That is to s'ay til mornin' came
'N I gave birth to a Scot!

M'landlord called to inquire
What was that loud explosion
I s'a it was nothin' more
Than Scottish haigiss in motion.

So 'eres to Robbie Burns
'N his fine poetry
I hope he heard in heaven
A cannon salute from me.

William Funk, 2013

Commander Kelly says, "Come all laddies and lassies, take a 'cup of kindness' and toast Rabbie Burns!"

Special thanks to Gavin McNicoll, William Funk, Ken Curtis, Ian Doleman and the staff of the White Horse pub.  Thanks also to Toby Knowles and Stuart Cail of Harviestoun Brewery ( who provided the excellent beers.

You can purchase signed copies of America Invades
or copies on Amazon...

1 comment:

Charles Searls Ridge said...

How did it go? My first (and only) RB Night Dinner was in Lima, Peru around 1975!!!!

Peace before us, peace behind us, peace under our feet.
Peace within us, peace over us, let all around us be peace.

Oh, forgot... I have neither had nor longed for Haggis since that evening!!