Once, in Scotland, I took the Robert Burns walking tour.
Actually, I took two guided tours when in Edinburgh. One was a nighttime
walking tour focusing on all the macabre stories in Edinburgh. It rained during
the nighttime tour which made it all the creepier. I looked over my shoulder
the whole time carrying my umbrella.
close, down the stair,
the story of Burke and Hare.
The story of Burke and Hare is very creepy, and a true
story. And, oh, there were so many more. Of course, walking tours are based on
history with a few ghosts tossed in to make it scary and fun.
I took the second tour the next day which turned out to be
bright and sunny, which is unusual for Scotland! There were twenty of us in the
group, laughing and chatting as we waited for our tour guide. When he arrived,
I think he took our breath away! He was a large man wearing an even larger cape
lined in red silk. I knew we were in for a great afternoon. He began with a history
of Robert Burns, and then as we walked, he stopped at small pubs, churches, and
back alleys to recite poetry. Inside one of the cathedrals, he recited My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose. It was
stunning and we all just stood there in awe after he finished.
I think I was a Burns fan long before my trips to Edinburgh,
but after that tour I was hooked on his life and his poetry. All across
Scotland there are statues of the Burns the Bard. In Celtic countries, like
England and Scotland, a Bard is a well-known storyteller. Shakespeare and Burns
fall into this category.
He certainly didn’t start out like that. When his father
died young, it was Robert who had to take over the farm for the family. It was
a chore that he did not enjoy, yet he felt responsible to his family. He worked
hard at it for several years all the while writing poetry on the side. He wrote
poetry for his own use as he played around with language. His own education was
very limited even though he did yearn to go to school. He tried to learn French
and Latin on his own, but failed at that.
In his young years, he also became a rebel to the politics
of Scotland and organized religion. He was out-spoken to anyone who would
listen to him, but he did it all best with his writings. In the summer of 1786,
he published his first book of poems, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. He carefully hand-picked the poetry
to go into this book. One of my very favorite poems, To a
Mouse, is in that
collection. His poetry appealed to all classes in Scotland and was well received.
Burns continued to farm and write poetry. He often took no
money for his poetry as he regarded his poetry to be a gift to Scotland. When
he died at the young age of 37, he left a full body of poetry and songs to his
To this day, we celebrate the poetry of Burns. Most of us
know how to recite, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose, and we all certainly know
the words and tune to Auld Lang Syne.
We also celebrate his poetry with a yearly tribute to him
known as Burns Night. The Burns supper is celebrated from Tokyo to New Deli,
from St. Petersburg to London. In the United States alone there are over 150
Burns Night festivities.
Well, we are not a registered Burns Night, but for our
celebration in this small town, I think we are forgiven. Once again (as I have
for many, many years) Burns Night will be celebrated in my town. This year we
are celebrating at the Caleo Café on Wednesday evening from 4-6. This includes
an open mic which is available to anyone wishing to read a poem, sing a song,
tell a story. This can be a tribute to Burns, or in our case, anything you
would like to read would be just wonderful. If you own a kilt or a bagpipe, now
would be the time to bring it along.
I will also bring a collection of Burns’ poetry, so you
could always peruse the poems, and choose one to read. My first poem? My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose.