January used to be a month of hunkering in and sleeping off the holidays. No more. Besides making hats and working on my classes, there are plenty of opportunities to get out and about. Wassailing the fruit trees (of which I’ve written about previously) and celebrating Robbie Burns Birthday.
Portland Revels has been hosting a Robbie Burns pub sing night for some time now focusing on Scottish songs and Burns poetry. It’s a fun evening out with fine songs and company.
So who was this guy and why should we care.
I think most adults have heard of Burns. Every New Year’s eve we sing Auld Lang’s Syne (loosely translated as days gone by) a Burns poem set to music. Burns is considered to be the greatest Scottish poet of all times (sorry news for those poets that came before, and after, him.)
Burns was born 25 January 1759 – and really lived only a short while, dying at age 37. A kind of an itinerant poet, Burns was also quite the ladies man (maybe it was the kilt?), married once to Jean Armour and having at least 2 additional romances. He had twelve children from those three relationships – he must of worked quickly given how long he lived.
Burns helped Scots keep in touch with their national identify even as the country was moving to more closely identify with England and feeling the effects of increasing industrialization and diminishing independence. Additionally, he often wrote in a Scot’s dialect further cementing his link to the country. His poetic output was quite diverse. He wrote love poems, songs, bawdy poems, satires and vernacular poetry. In addition to original works, Burns collected folk songs. Burns was a prolific poet given that he was also a farmer and Excise (tax) man. Don’t know when he had time for all of this!
One of the hallmarks of a Burns event is a toast to the lassies and a toast to the lads (a rejoinder). These are meant to be funny, often rather teasing, and edging toward doggerel. I’ve taken on the task of writing the Toast to the Laddies. It’s not meant to be the best poetry so do take it in the spirit offered.
A Toast to the Lads-2017
Sit down here me lassies and lend us your ears
We’ve come to praise the men with us whose lives we hold so dear
For what they do endears them (when not driving us mad)
listen up and join me in honoring our lads
Their natal intelligence propels an outlook immature
Not difficult to understand since their minds are fueled by beer
Perhaps at root is the little head that steers the big brain’s tred
They think they are in full control but are by instinct led
Let’s not forget the foibles that they foist upon the world
the man cave, the sports events, much more that seems absurd
we tear our hair in hearing them eschew direction aid
we throw our hands into the air, when they can’t a diaper change
The hidden dirt, so obvious accrues ever more dust
dishes, toilet bowls, the bed, how can they miss so much!
The songs they sing, the toys they buy, I marvel at this stuff
and wonder who, and where and how, some man makes all this up
and yet, and yet, in spite of all we cannot give them the boot
whatever shortcomings that they have are balanced by the good
The men who stand with all of us promoting womanhood.
We are jointly fortified, a fact well understood.
Humanity in each of us is further promulgated
When we together with our lads work toward the common greatness
So ladies and lassies both arise to take our toast today
to our men and laddies, together may we prevail.