Burns’ Night

My grandfather’s copy of The Poetical Works of Robert Burns, passed to me by my grandmother, and some salmon flies from Scotland.

Tonight, and every January 25,  is “Burns’ Night”–the holiday honoring the great Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796).  Burns heralded the Romantic Age, when artists, writers, philosophers, and others would focus upon the “natural” world, not as an object of study, as it was for so many intellectuals during the Enlightenment, but rather as something to admire, to feel, and to celebrate.  Burns was also a poet for the common person, writing about the daily life of laborers and often doing so in the Scots language.  He was one of a very few poets in his time to write in a vernacular language and also gain wide-spread success.

Despite his love for nature, expressed in such well-known poems as “To a Mouse,” and despite the fact that he spent much of his life close to some of Scotland’s finer trout and salmon streams, Burns does not seem to have been a fisherman.  As far as I know, he mentioned trout in only one piece of work, a song titled “To Mr. Cunningham” (or “Song inscribed to Alexander Cunningham,” or “Now Spring has Clad the Grove[s] in Green).

As I did last year, I post that piece here, for your enjoyment.

Making my way to a trout stream in Scotland.

“To Alexander Cunningham”

Now spring has clad the groves in green,
And strew’d the lea wi’ flowers;
The furrow’d, waving corn is seen
Rejoice in fostering showers;
While ilka thing in nature join
Their sorrows to forego,
O why thus all alone are mine
The weary steps o’ woe!

The trout within yon wimpling burn
Glides swift, a silver dart,
And safe beneath the shady thorn,
Defies the angler’s art:
My life was ance that careless stream,
That wanton trout was I;
But Love, wi’ unrelenting beam,
Has scorch’d my fountain dry.

That little flow’ret’s peaceful lot,
In yonder cliff that grows;
Which, save the linnet’s flight, I wot,
Nae ruder visit knows,
Was mine; till Love has o’er me past,
And blighted a my bloom,
And now, beneath the withering blast,
My youth and joy consume.

The waken’d lav’rock warbling springs,
And climbs the early sky,
Winnowing blithe his dewy wings
In morning’s rosy eye;
As little reck’d I sorrow’s power,
Until the flowery snare
O’witching Love, in luckless hour,
Made me the thrall o care.

O had my fate been Greenland snows,
Or Afric’s burning zone,
Wi ‘man and nature leagu’d my foes,
So Peggy ne’er I’d known!
The wretch whase doom is, “Hope nae mair!”
What tongue his woes can tell!
Within whase bosom, save despair,
Nae kinder spirits dwell.

2 Responses to “Burns’ Night”

  1. Erin Block Says:

    I’ve marked this on my calendar for last year. Thank you for posting this poem….and that photo of Burns’ book and the salmon flies make for such a beautiful pairing.

    Like

  2. Kenov Says:

    Thank you, Erin. One of these days I’ll buy a tripod and a decent light (not to mention a light box), so that I can take decent pic’s.

    Few things are as much fun as a Burn’s Supper. I used to host one in PA, and I miss doing so.

    Like

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