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Life Arts    H4'ed 1/25/11

Burns Night

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The 25th of January is an important day in the Scottish calendar. It is day that the life and works of Robert (Rabbie) Burns are celebrated (it was his birthday).

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Scots and people of Scots descent all around the world will be celebrating today. This has even led to bizarre cases of haggis-smuggling into the USA.

Many of the works of this man have certainly smuggled their way into the language worldwide but people won't be sure of their origins. For example, "the best laid plans of mice and men' comes from a Burns poem. " Ae Fond Kiss " is a Burns poem as was "Auld Lang Syne'.

Unfortunately, as with other heroes, when days like this are celebrated nationally there is a tendency to remove the controversial works from the discourse and focus on the more conciliatory ones. This is why on MLK day in the USA the message of conciliation is stressed instead of some of the more radical things that he was saying.

There has been much talk of making St Andrews day -November 30th- into a proper national holiday in Scotland but I would prefer by far if we were to make the 25th of January the national holiday, for several reasons"

Firstly, no one in Scotland really gives a bollocks about St Andrew. There are some legends about what he supposedly did in Scotland but they are certainly not at the forefront of national consciousness and it is not only Scotland. He is a patron saint that is shared by several other countries as well (Greece, Romania and Russia).

Secondly, when it comes to Saints days as national days the Irish have the market cornered.

Third, Burns night already is celebrated all around the world by millions of expats and second, third and fourth generation Scots and others.

Fourth, the works of Burns are absolutely fantastic and have a communitarian and revolutionary air" try the last two verses of " Scots Wha Hae " for example..

By Oppression's woes and pains!
By your Sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins

But they shall be free!

Lay the proud Usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!-
Let us Do or Die!

The above poem was an imagined speech given by Robert the Bruce before the battle of Bannockburn when Scotland regained independence from England and was an unofficial national anthem of the country. The full thing is here .

So have a good whisky on the 25th this year -" a good one mind ( I shall be having several) and toast your friends and family and then have another one and toast for Scottish independence and a better society than we have now. Burns would have approved and would happily have devoured several whiskies of his own.


More Burns quotes -some slightly altered (to make them easier for people who don't speak Scots)"

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Scotland's Michael Greenwell has worked, at various times, as a university tutor, a barman, a DJ ("not a very good one," he clarifies), an office lackey, supermarket worker, president of a small charity, a researcher, a librarian, a volunteer worker in Nepal during the civil war there, and "some other things that were too tedious to mention." Nowadays, he explains, "I am always in (more...)
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