25 Jan 2010

"For A' That" - by Robert Burns

Robert Burns Day, 25th January

Robert Burns was born on 25 January 1759, the first of William and Agnes Burns' seven children. From an early age Robert had to help his father on their small, impoverished farm in Ayrshire, in south-west Scotland.

Although he received little formal education, Burns was fluent in French and had a working knowledge of Latin and mathematics. He was a voracious reader across a range of literature, though he often liked to present himself as nothing more than a simple country poet.
When he was 15 he fell in love for the first time, supposedly with a girl with whom he was harvesting wheat. He promptly immortalised her - Helen was her name - in his maiden poem, "Handsome Nell".
In 1781 Burns became engaged to Elizabeth Gebbie, but her father disapproved of the match. The disappointed suitor took himself off to Irvine to learn the trade of flax-dressing, but had to return home a few months later when the flax shop burned down.
In 1785 Burns met Jean Armour at a dance in Mauchline. She became his wife and eventually bore him nine children. Burns also fathered at least four more offspring with other women, and had other romantic entanglements along the way.
He wrote his first collection of poetry - Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect - in order to raise money for a sea passage to Jamaica, Jean Armour's parents having initially opposed his prospective marriage to their daughter. The poems were an instant success, however, so Burns abandoned all thoughts of emigrating and moved to Edinburgh to pursue his literary career.
Burns signed up as an Excise officer in 1789, with a starting salary of £50 p.a. On one occasion he and his men captured a smuggler's vessel, the Rosamund, in the Solway Firth. Burns later purchased four of the ship's guns to donate to the French revolutionary cause.
Robert Burns wrote over 600 poems and songs in his relatively short life, though one of the most famous, "Auld Lang Syne", was not all his own work. A traditional ballad, Burns "took it down from an old man's singing" and reworked it. The tune itself dates back to the 17th century.
The poet died on 21 July 1796 in Dumfries, at the age of 37. The cause of death is thought to be the result of a streptococcal infection entering the bloodstream following the extraction of a tooth, though it has also been attributed to a freezing swim in the Solway Firth in a vain attempt to restore his failing health.
According to the Burns Society, the bicentenary of the poet's birth in 1996 was officially celebrated by more than a million people worldwide. A remarkable and enduring tribute to one of the world's greatest poets, whose passion, humour and love of the common man lives on in his work..
For A' That
Tho' women's minds, like winter winds,
May shift, and turn, an' a' that,
The noblest breast adores them maist-
A consequence I draw that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
And twice as meikle's a' that;
The bonie lass that I loe best
She'll be my ain for a' that.

Great love I bear to a' the fair,
Their humble slave, an' a' that;
But lordly will,
I hold it still A mortal sin to thraw that.
For a' that, &c.
But there is ane aboon the lave,
Has wit, and sense, an' a' that;
A bonie lass, I like her best,
And wha a crime dare ca' that?
For a' that, &c.
In rapture sweet this hour we meet,
Wi' mutual love an' a' that,
But for how lang the flie may stang,
Let inclination law that.
For a' that, &c.
Their tricks an' craft hae put me daft.
They've taen me in, an' a' that;
But clear your decks, and here's-"The Sex!"
I like the jads for a' that.
For a' that, &c..

To A Haggis
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

~Robert Burns~

Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish normally made with the following ingredients: sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal's stomach. It is traditionally served with neeps and tatties (turnip and potato).

Haggis is traditionally eaten at Burns Night on 25th January each year when the life and times of the poet

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