Saturday, January 29, 2011

Burns Baby Burns

Aye, it was a braw bricht moon licht nicht thon nicht.

On the birthday of one of the world’s most celebrated poets, Robert Burns, or Rabbie to his friends, people gather in almost every nation to deliver tribute to the Scottish Bard’s verses, sing songs in homage to well-deserved reputation, and of course, partake of the haggis and whiskey. Whether you’re in Scotland, the USA, Spain, Singapore or Turkey, “wherever ye may roam into the wild or the tame, the Bard he does remind us of the place we all call hame”.

On the eve of the commemoration I was invited to ‘Selma’s Diner’ to entertain the assembled masses with a performance of Burns’ poetry, and was honoured to slip into brogue and curl my tongue around the rolling Rs for a personally inspired Anglo-American interpretation of several of his best-loved pieces.

With a mother from the most violent wee town in the west
Or Greenock as they call it
And a father from Stirling where Wallace fought his battles
I lay claim to all his honour
So when you hear me speak of the dales
And reminisce in my blathering blether
Remember that tho’ to chill the bones it's blowin' gales
The icy rain does fall as sleet
And we dine most nights on simple stew
In my soul and through my blood
Scotland forever will run true.

Ross, in traditional dress, played a technically perfect version of Scotland the Brave on the bagpipes. Then Jacqui addressed the haggis with a rendition of Burns’ renowned poem before stabbing the mighty belly of the timorous wee beastie. It was a fabulous night that continued ‘til the wee hours with much revelry and hearty humour.

It is a shame that Rabbie is generally only recited on the occasion of his birthday, but then again, what man wishes to be reminded of his passing age more than once a year.

The highlands are astonishingly beautiful at this time of year, with the mist gathering along the hillsides and thistle grazing the legs of intrepid explorers to the upper reaches. Hiking through the glens and into the lush purple hills, breathing the brisk fresh air and scent of heather is a pleasure all should experience. It is one of the simple joys that will stay in the mind and gladden the cockles of the heart for all time.

Honest wealth is in the heart
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Follow the light in the eye
That window to the soul
For how far can real beauty go
If one’s vision of life began
By looking to the spirit
Rich as a deep blue sea
And recognise within that heart
The true essence of each man

I never tire of the scenery in Scotland, and were it not for the inclement climate would consider living there forever – but then again, were it not for the weather t’would no doubt be a mighty crowded place.

My empathy with the struggle for liberty in life is amongst the honest and friendly people who see rogues amongst us stealing the rightful place of noble ambition and watch in tired bemusement as titles and lands are handed out as honours for fools and slaves to the wicked. As my family motto, as engraved on the crest exclaims: Pro Libertate. A man is nought if not free. Liberty has been hard gained for so many, yet it is a constant battle against those who would oppress, to maintain that cause for liberty of thought and expression in this world today - just watch the news, as so many are still attempting to attain that right (for a right it is). In these difficult economic times when the material riches of this world that twinkle as so much tinsel are held aloft in false esteem by brigands and pompous pretenders as if in their insecurity of mind they must lord it over the poor and decent, then, understand good people, as Rabbie said:

You see yon ca’d a’ lord who struts and stares an a’ that
Though hundreds worship at this word
He’s but a coof for a’ that
For a’ that an’ a’ that
His riband his star an’ a’ that
The man o’ independent mind looks and laughs at a’ that.

On the Balearic Islands and the turquoise coast of the Aegean, over the past year I have wandered into ecstasy easily as a phantom to discover the meaning of life. I want so little more from life than to ramble along the beaches of this beautiful world in union with the sun, eat hamely fayre and share honest company with others who too dare to be free. With peace of mind to sleep beneath a starry sky beside a true love of gentle spirit and warm persuasion I feel as wealthy and welcome as the princes who once trod these distant and often mysterious lands.

Interestingly, Scottish beaches – especially those in the far north, are often of the purest white sand and dotted with palm trees due to the Gulf Stream waters that bring a little bit of the tropics to the high latitudes and create the illusion of warmth along the windswept coast of these magnificent Western Isles.

Only the sparkling cerulean seas and lochs that attract visitors from near and far to view the magnificent panoramic vistas match the clear blue skies of this magical land. Oh, to be in bonnie Scotland when my love, like a red red rose in the winter, is so very far from me.

Gie fools their silks and knaves their wine
A man’s a man for a’ that ..
The honest man tho’ e’er sae poor
Is king o’ men for a’ that
.. let us pray that come it may
(as come it will for a’ that)
That sense and worth o’er the earth
Shall bear the gree an a’ that
For a’ that an’ a’ that
It’s coming yet for a’ that
That man to man the world o’er
Shall brothers be for a’ that
Robert Burns

I am now looking forward to the first blossoms of spring, but enjoying the winter sunshine that keeps the spirit youthful and character strong. As I continue the adventure, learning and growing, friends around this world have given me reason to believe that a brighter day is dawning. Though I despair for the earth, I have faith in the spirit. While I see a bleak future for this world as it is going, individually I have hope in a better tomorrow.

So in raising a glass to toast the Scottish Bard, here’s to health and happiness wherever your head does lay, optimism is a better way to think it keeps the spirit bright, for only in this brief life can we expect such hardship and more often work than play.

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Read one of my Scottish dialect poems here. You can learn more about Robert Burns here, and this is Scotland's official tourist site. Thanks to Scott for the pic.