Summer Solstice Arrives

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Robert Burns

As Scots and others who love the Bard of Scotland meet tonight to rightly celebrate a man whose poetry and at least one song is known the world round, I would like to share a bit of Rabbie that is dear to me as these writings show Burns to be as equally passionate about the sad state of affairs in the world, as he was passionate about the lasses he admired and pursued with great energy.

I am unable to find where the following passage occurs in his writings or where I once found it many, many years ago, but I think a person could do much worse in life than to let the following be a good guide to a life:

"No doubt I will have much to answer for,
Yet my philosophy is simple enough:
Whatever mitigates the wars or increases
the Happiness of others to whatsoever extent,
that is my criterion of Goodness.
Whatever injures Society as a whole, or
any one Person in it, that is my measure
of Iniquity.
And if I could, I would wipe all tears from all eyes."

And while we know of the songs of Robert Burns that touch upon many subjects from wee mice in the fields to love in hayricks, he also cast a fierce eye upon those in power who failed to strive to protect those under their oversight as the last stanza of his poem "Logan Braes" so eloquently declaims:

O wae be to you, Men o' State,
That brethren rouse to deadly hate!
As ye make mony a fond heart mourn,
Sae may it on your heads return!
How can your flinty hearts enjoy
The widow's tear, the orphan's cry?
But soon may peace bring happy days,
And Willie hame to Logan braes!

One of the best renderings of this wonderful ballad of a woman celebrating being married and then forced to lament for her husband gone to war is sung by the incomparable Jean Redpath, a true treasure of Scotland.

So raise a glass to the poet, warily contemplate the haggis if you have it, and do not forget the man who loved his fellow travelers so dearly.

Aye and Cheers!


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