Because it is January 25th, Robbie Burns Day, I offer up this “Immortal Memory”.
I wrote it some years ago for friends at the National Yacht Club in Toronto.
As you will see I have worked my rhymes in between those of the Bard…
Just now I’ve taen the fit o’ rhyme,
My barmie noddle’s working prime,
My fancy yerkit up sublime, wi’ hasty summon
Hae ye a liesure-moment’s time to hear what’s comin?
I read these words and felt a grin gently spreading o’er my chin
If he can have such fun wi’ words, then maybe I’ll hae fun wi’ him
For when chill Jan’ury freezes up and Christmas’ done its turn
I get maudlin over Mauchline and broody over Burns.
So, sitting by my cozy fire wi’ volumes of his verse
It came to me, I’d tell his tale in rhyme; I could do worse!
I thought this was a canny plan, since much of Burns is hard to scan,
With some of him and some of me, you’d understand more poetry!
In books that I have lately read some authors are not very kind
Loud hints suggest a life debauched, but I am of another mind
Some say Burns was alcoholic, steeped as he was in life bucolic
Then who ran his farm, 200 acres, if he drank at Pousie Nancies?
And he rode an excise route two hundred miles each week
A toil that most of us would certainly not seek.
And still found time to write the epic tale of Tam o’ Shanter
Blazing pages bursting full of action and smart banter
Nae man can tether time or tide;
The Hour approaches Tam maun ride
That hour o’ night’s black arch and key stane
That dreary hour Tam mounts his beast in;
And sic a night he taks the road in
As ne’er poor sinner was abroad in.
And still outside the pub and taverns, Rabbie turned his skill to song
Awakening ancient Scottish ballads with lyrics stirring, woebegone
Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed!
Or to victory!
More likely then a workaholic, and his illness was no doubt
Due to that familiar ailment, that we call today, “Burnt Out”
Other writers tell it thus
Burns was mere ploughboy who wrote verse
But that is sure simplification
For one whose works stirred many nations.
For where pray tell are Shakespeare teas?
The Milton moments if you please?
What other poet's such a winner
He's celebrated with a dinner?
When I was just a wee young lass and living back in Fife
I had so little sense of what Burns meant to some in life
His name was often heard at school, his verses often quoted
But being wee they passed me by and were just barely noted.
It wasn’t till I heard the Mouse that my heart opened wide
And then I knew I’d heard a man whose words could make me cry.
“Wee sleekit cowering timourous beastie..
O what a panic’s in thy breastie
Thou needna start awa sae hasty wi’ bickering brattle
I wad be laith to rin and chase thee
Wi’ murderin’ pattle...
Thy wee-bit housie too in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s a strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane, O’ foggage green
An’ bleak December’s win’s ensuing baith snell and keen..
But mousie thou art no thy lane
In proving foresight may be vain
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain for promised joy.”
But I will try your patience, rambling on the whole night through
It is just that Burns inspired me to inscribe a line or two
So I’ll close with this fond message to the sailors gathered here
May God bless you and your friendships and may Burns live one more year!