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Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Robert Burns Day!

Today is the day that Scottish folks and poetry lovers celebrate the life and times of Scotland's celebrated native son, Robert Burns (duh).

Born in 1759, Burns is the man responsible for that lovely "Auld Lang Syne" we sing on New Years. He was also a Freemason, and named "Poet Laureate" of the Mason's Lodge in 1787. This probably explains why Masonic lodges are pretty much the only place you go for a "Burn's Supper" here in America.

Yes, a "Burn's Supper" is the traditional way to celebrate Robert Burn's day. These dinners are built around wearing kilts, reading poems, lots of toasts with Scotch Whisky, and to eat:

Haggis! (duh.)
Would you try this infamous mixture of sheep's heart, liver and lungs? I think I'll just stick to celebrating with the Whisky.

Small, crafty, cowering, timorous little beast,
O, what a panic is in your little breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With argumentative chatter!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering plough-staff.

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
And fellow mortal!

I doubt not, sometimes, but you may steal;
What then? Poor little beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.

Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse grass green!
And bleak December's winds coming,
Both bitter and keen!

You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.

That small bit heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter's sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

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