The Ploughman Poet

The folks at Seven Trees are collectively adjusting to the New Year, and some of the recent change in our household and lives. It’s that time of year where the days are growing infinitesimally in length, but it’s hard to discern and winter has finally shown cold teeth. We are thankful for plenty of dry firewood in the shed on these three cat nights.

Neither of us has attended one, yet are always intrigued by “Burns Night”, which falls on or near Jan. 25th each year. This is the birth date of Robert Burns (year 1759), the national poet of Scotland, and is the day that Scots or anyone else who is a fan, celebrate him.

Robbie

Burns was a pioneer of the romantic movement in poetry and has inspired generations of artists.

He compiled folk songs including Auld Lang Syne, collecting the lyrics from far older verse, and in doing so preserved it, laying the way for a Scottish New Year’s custom that is followed the world over.

You can find all of his poetry at Burns Country. It includes an integrated glossary, which can be helpful with Scottish alliteration.

Or you can try and create your own Burns verse, or “Rhyme with Rabbie Burns” as they call it at Scotland.org.

A typical Burns Night unfolds as the guests gather and mingle, until the host gives the welcoming speech.

Once the guests are seated grace is said, typically the Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it;

But we hae meat, and we can eat,

And sae let the Lord be thankit.

Dinner is served in courses. The main course is Haggis, which is piped in by bagpipe as everyone attending stands. The host or a guest then recites, Address to a Haggis.

Everyone sits down to their meal. The evening carries on with alternating speeches, toasting, recitation of poetry, and singing of songs. This includes Auld Lang Syne, which is sung at the conclusion of the evening with joined hands.

BBC Burns Night, is a great site for learning more about this intriguing tradition.

Cauld blaws the wind frae east to west,

The drift is driving sairly;

Sae loud and shill’s I hear the blast

I’m sure it’s winter fairly.

Up in the morning’s no for me,

Up in the morning early;

When a’ the hills are covered wi’ snaw,

I’m sure it’s winter fairly.

The birds sit chittering in the thorn,

A’ day they fare but sparely;

And lang’s the night frae e’en to morn

I’m sure it’s winter fairly

Up in the morning’s no for me,

Up in the morning early;

When a’ the hills are covered wi’ snaw,

I’m sure it’s winter fairly.

~ Robert Burns

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