Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Happy Birthday Robbie Burns

Two hundred and fifty-one years ago today Scotland's Bard, Robbie Burns was born.  The following poem should be read by every young person in Scotland because it is as applicable today as it was the day it was written.

Epistle to a Young Friend

I LANG hae thought, my youthfu’ friend,
  A something to have sent you,
Tho’ it should serve nae ither end
  Than just a kind memento:
But how the subject-theme may gang,
  Let time and chance determine;
Perhaps it may turn out a sang:
  Perhaps turn out a sermon.

Ye’ll try the world soon, my lad;
  And, Andrew dear, believe me,
Ye’ll find mankind an unco squad,
  And muckle they may grieve ye:
For care and trouble set your thought,
  Ev’n when your end’s attained;
And a’ your views may come to nought,
  Where ev’ry nerve is strained.

I’ll no say, men are villains a’;
  The real, harden’d wicked,
Wha hae nae check but human law,
  Are to a few restricked;
But, Och! mankind are unco weak,
  An’ little to be trusted;
If self the wavering balance shake,
  It’s rarely right adjusted!

Yet they wha fa’ in fortune’s strife,
  Their fate we shouldna censure;
For still, th’ important end of life
  They equally may answer;
A man may hae an honest heart,
  Tho’ poortith hourly stare him;
A man may tak a neibor’s part,
  Yet hae nae cash to spare him.

Aye free, aff-han’, your story tell,
  When wi’ a bosom crony;
But still keep something to yoursel’,
  Ye scarcely tell to ony:
Conceal yoursel’ as weel’s ye can
  Frae critical dissection;
But keek thro’ ev’ry other man,
  Wi’ sharpen’d, sly inspection.

The sacred lowe o’ weel-plac’d love,
  Luxuriantly indulge it;
But never tempt th’ illicit rove,
  Tho’ naething should divulge it:
I waive the quantum o’ the sin,
  The hazard of concealing;
But, Och! it hardens a’ within,
  And petrifies the feeling!

To catch dame Fortune’s golden smile,
  Assiduous wait upon her;
And gather gear by ev’ry wile
  That’s justified by honour;
Not for to hide it in a hedge,
  Nor for a train attendant;
But for the glorious privilege
  Of being independent.

The fear o’ hell’s a hangman’s whip,
  To haud the wretch in order;
But where ye feel your honour grip,
  Let that aye be your border;
Its slightest touches, instant pause—
  Debar a’ side-pretences;
And resolutely keep its laws,
  Uncaring consequences.

The great Creator to revere,
  Must sure become the creature;
But still the preaching cant forbear,
  And ev’n the rigid feature:
Yet ne’er with wits profane to range,
  Be complaisance extended;
An atheist-laugh’s a poor exchange
  For Deity offended!

When ranting round in pleasure’s ring,
  Religion may be blinded;
Or if she gie a random sting,
  It may be little minded;
But when on life we’re tempest driv’n—
  A conscience but a canker—
A correspondence fix’d wi’ Heav’n,
  Is sure a noble anchor!

Adieu, dear, amiable youth!
  Your heart can ne’er be wanting!
May prudence, fortitude, and truth,
  Erect your brow undaunting!
In ploughman phrase, “God send you speed,”
  Still daily to grow wiser;
And may ye better reck the rede,
  Then ever did th’ adviser!


JRB said...



Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Were that he was alive today - the blogs would be on fire.

subrosa said...

I will JRB, that's certainly one for my Evernote. Many thanks.

subrosa said...

There have been quite a few mentions already today RA. Good to see.

Clarinda said...

I'm currently reading 'Burns the Radical' by Liam McIlvanney when the vigor and integrity of the then national debate based on Scottish society's broad knowledge and understanding of history spread by newsprint and robust narrative was impressive. Little wonder perhaps that Scottish history, language and voice has been so deliberately and inadvertently quelled. It is heartening to note a discernible but definite resurgence of the Scottish voice - note Subrosa's side link to NewsnetScotland where a series of articles will be published to demonstrate this heritage.

Give me the Red, Red Rose, Mouse or Parcel of Rogues any day compared with some once force-fed wandering cloud, wafting daffodil or wavering nightingale.

subrosa said...

Now that's a book I haven't yet read Clarinda so one for the library manager to order.

Unfortunately Newsnet had a problem earlier but it's resolved now. Being global has it's problems.

Auch there's something about Browning though. Maybe because he appears to have the slightly depressive Scots nature. ;)

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