A TOAST (AND A ROAST) FOR ROBERT BURNS

Today, Scots from all over the world will honour the life of their national poet, Robert Burns. Born in Ayrshire in 1759, Burns’ poetry has survived as testament to the proud literary heritage of Scotland.

The first Burns Supper was held a few years after the poet’s death, by a group of his friends and acquaintances. Now, the events are celebrated annually on the 25th January – his date of birth. According to the Alexandria Burns Club, the centrepiece of any good Burns Supper menu is the iconic haggis, or as the bard himself described it, the ‘great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race.’ Whisky is the usual choice of drink, either malts or blends.

Burns’ sonnets are also recited throughout the evening, many of which require an excellent memory. Here’s one of our favourites:

Fourteen, a sonneteer thy praises sings;
What magic myst’ries in that number lie!
Your hen hath fourteen eggs beneath her wings
That fourteen chickens to the roost may fly.
Fourteen full pounds the jockey’s stone must be;
His age fourteen – a horse’s prime is past.
Fourteen long hours too oft the Bard must fast;
Fourteen bright bumpers – bliss he ne’er must see!
Before fourteen, a dozen yields the strife;
Before fourteen – e’en thirteen’s strength is vain.
Fourteen good years – a woman gives us life;
Fourteen good men – we lose that life again.
What lucubrations can be more upon it?
Fourteen good measur’d verses make a sonnet.
-‘A Sonnet upon Sonnets’ (1788)

Source: https://www.scotland.org/

Unfortunately, not everyone is impressed with the Scottish bard. In response to her son’s umpteenth Burns poetry recital, our Dundee-based editor – Caroline Cattrell – wrote a sardonic sonnet:

Ah help ma boab and michty me
I hate this time o year
When ma twa weans bring hame poems
I am forced tae hear
Wit gobsh*** are they spouting?
I cannae tak nae mair
I dinnae understand a word
And ma heid is affy sair

According to Caroline, Burns’ work ‘just isn’t my cup of tea…but he can’t be terrible or he wouldn’t have a night dedicated to him.’

Whether you’ll be toasting or roasting the poet, the Hallmark team wish you a jovial Burns Night.


Image rights:
BBC