It’s Burns Night soon, the 25th to be precise, and this is a thing worthy of celebrating. Oh avoid the neeps and tatties by all means, especially the neeps in my humble opinion, and no one’s forcing you to eat haggis, although these days I think it’s rather good, especially the vegetarian version. Now I come to think of it, is there another poet who’s reputation has suffered from the vague belief that the reader has to eat certain foodstuffs before s/he can be appreciated? Not that I’m aware of, though it may be de riguer in certain circles to turn on the gas oven before reading Sylvia Plath for all I know.
No, forget all the toast to the haggis and piping the damn thing in nonsense, unless that’s the kind of thing you go in for in which case indulge yourself by all means, but instead consider the poetry itself.
All right, that can be a bit of a reach for those not up on lallands, aka the lowland Scots dialect, in which a number of the poems are written but it should not be too much of a problem for those used to picking their way through, say, T S Eliot’s The Wasteland. It’s really just a question of getting your ear in and not being shy to use a glossary if one is provided.
One of the more famous Burns’ poems is commonly known as Scots Wha Hae, which actually comes out in standard English as ‘Scots who have’ which is a compelling reason why it should not be
No, let us celebrate Burns because in the month that has seen Bob Diamond of Barclays tell Parliament that he believes that the banks no longer need to show remorse while the cabinet is made up almost exclusively of millionaires, this following poem is rather apposite:
A Man’s A Man For A’ That
And here’s the Corries doing a rather fine version of it: