Robert Burns "The Bard"
He was born in Alloway, Scotland, on January 25, 1759. He died in Dumfries, Scotland, on July 21, 1796.
He was a prolific bard (poet) and wrote many poems, lyrics and other pieces - and whilst the language may be a wee bit tricky for the non-native tongue, if you delve a little deeper into his works we can all find meaning in his words. He was in fact addressing many political and civil issues of the time, and that affect us to this very day. Some of my personal favourite works are ' A Mans a Man for A' That', and 'A Winter Night'. But for many more, including translations and a bit more on the meanings here is a great link www.robertburns.org
Perhaps his best known work is "Auld Lang Syne", which is sung at New Year's Eve celebrations in Scotland, parts of the United Kingdom, and other places around the world. Burns is one of Scotland's important cultural icons and is well known among Scottish expats or descendants around the world. He is also known as: "Rabbie Burns"; the "Bard of Ayrshire"; "Scotland's favourite son"; and in Scotland "The Bard".
Rabbie's acquaintances (or pals!) commerorated his death on July 21, the anniversary of his death, in Ayrshire, Scotland, in the late 1700s. The date was later changed to January 25, which marks his birthday and it became much more celebratory. Burns' suppers are now held by people and organisations with Scottish origins worldwide, particularly in Australia, Canada, England, and the United States.
In order to celebrate this occasion properly it is of course necessary to have three essential items; A Haggis, A bottle of Whisky and A Poem.... easy eh?
We have hosted many Burns Nights, and not all of them overly formal- one even missed the bagpipes out entirely and went with a slightly more eclectic musical accompianment- a ukelele and the pan pipe! But one of the most fun parts is people joining in, each reading, singing or sharing some of his work. Aart has addressed the haggis, with claymore and skean dhu (he was quite the Viking Warrior, all drama and flair with a bellowing "Rich, reekin , waaaarmmmm", and I warmed with the amber uisige beatha sang a faltering "My love is like a Red Red Rose".
i have also hosted more formal occasions with professional singers, all kilts and sashes, with willows a stripping and seargents a dashing, to the perfect notes of ceilidh bands. Huge halls bedecked in tartan and sporting pictures... but the end result in either case is much the same. People sharing warmth, music, song and debate.
Of course, on all occasions the highlight of the evening is indeed the Haggis... a humble, ugly beastie of a meal. I believe it originated in England, a peasant fayre that eventually made it's way north and then disappeared from the southern side. The Scots adopted it, embraced it's imperfection and perfected the recipe... i.e adding the whisky and the song! It has remained the staple of a good Burns night. (and can be found deep fried in batter of course in any fish n chip shop worth it's salt)
Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs) with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, encased in the animal's stomach and boiled for approximately three hours. Nowadays most haggis are prepared in a sausage casing...
The Larouse gastronomique (the chef's food bible) tectfully puts it thus: "Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour"
The haggis should be piped in, amid much fanfare, gasps of astonishment, maybe a cheer or two and a raising of the toast...
And then the theatrical, ceremonial and forever in my mind slightly viking address to the haggis:
Now here is the English translation.. (of verse one... there are 8 tantalising verses.....)
Fair and full is your honest, jolly face,
but the Scots one is so much more growly and resonant
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
For the full poem, and translation follow this link...
http://www.robertburns.org.uk/Assets/Poems_Songs/toahaggis.htm (you can also find all about the life of the noble wee haggis here..)
And finally a wee picture of my 'posh' haggis