Wednesday, January 25, 2006

25 January -- Burns Day



Our monarch's hindmost year but ane
Was five-and-twenty days begun,
'Twas then a blast o' Janwar' win'
Blew hansel in on Robin.


Today is the poet's 245th birthday and either today or on the closest free day Burns Suppers will be taking place in most parts of what remains of the civilised world. This means recitations of his poetry, toasts to the man himself, to the lassies, to the haggis, some music and sometimes dancing. This page has a bit more on the tradition. I played for one last Saturday and will play for another one on the coming Saturday, both for different branches of the RSCDS, so there was indeed dancing. And I discovered last Saturday that the plantar fasciitis, or however you spell it, has gone clean away and I can dance again, slowed down only a little bit by the wonky knee, the same one that makes kneeling for Holy Communion without an altar rail such an exciting proposition. Saturday should be great fun.

Did you know that Burns was also Private Robert Burns of the (Royal) Dumfriess Volunteers? I hadn't until I found this page. It sounds like a wonderful regiment: The Royal Dumfries Volunteers had agreed to serve His Majesty without payment for the duration of the war with France. However, it was also agreed that they were not obliged to march more than five miles from the town. A committee was formed to run the Corps, to be changed every three months; this comprised of all the officers plus eight other members. I think we can safely conclude that the pentagon was not involved. The gallant, although not particularly well-travelled, band was the cause of this stirring bit of business:

Does haughty Gaul invasion threat?
Then let the louns beware, Sir;
There's wooden walls upon our seas,
And volunteers on shore, Sir:
The Nith shall run to Corsincon,
And Criffel sink in Solway,
Ere we permit a Foreign Foe
On British ground to rally!
We'll ne'er permit a Foreign Foe
On British ground to rally!

O let us not, like snarling curs,
In wrangling be divided,
Till, slap! come in an unco loun,
And wi' a rung decide it!
Be Britain still to Britain true,
Amang ourselves united;
For never but by British hands
Maun British wrangs be righted!
No! never but by British hands
Shall British wrangs be righted!

The Kettle o' the Kirk and State,
Perhaps a clout may fail in't;
But deil a foreign tinkler loun
Shall ever ca'a nail in't.
Our father's blude the Kettle bought,
And wha wad dare to spoil it;
By Heav'ns! the sacrilegious dog
Shall fuel be to boil it!
By Heav'ns! the sacrilegious dog
Shall fuel be to boil it!

The wretch that would a tyrant own,
And the wretch, his true-born brother,
Who would set the Mob aboon the Throne,
May they be damn'd together!
Who will not sing "God save the King,"
Shall hang as high's the steeple;
But while we sing "God save the King,"
We'll ne'er forget The People!
But while we sing "God save the King,"
We'll ne'er forget The People!


Who will not sing "God save the King,"
Shall hang as high's the steeple;
But while we sing "God save the King,"
We'll ne'er forget The People!

I wonder did anyone ever put a tune to that?

And for another sample of the poet himself, why, you've only to visit Hilary's page this morning, which you were going to do anyway. Of course you were.