Allan Takes Aim Blog

A tribute to Robert Burns

Posted on: 24 January 2013

Tomorrow, 25th January is Burns’ Day, a day that Scots around the world hold in reverence. As an Australian Scot to show what I mean let me quote the Roman Poet Horace, who said: “Coelum non animam mutant qui trans mare currunt: they change their skies and not their souls who voyage across the sea.”

However, in any tribute to Burns it would only be too easy to concentrate on his sex life rather than his poetry. Indeed, one could be tempted to say, as no doubt some worthies of his time did that, due to his dalliances with ladies too numerous to mention, it was surprising he lived for 37 years. I suspect they were jealous

So what kind of man was Burns?

He said of himself that he had “a strong appetite for sociability as well as from native hilarity as from a pride of observation and remark, a reputation for bookish knowledge, a certain wild, logical talent and a strength of thought something like the rudiments of good sense, made me a generally welcome guest.” Being endowed with the same kind of vanity, I hope that at the end of the blog you say the same of me.

Burns would also be at home in today’s world – but disappointed that the social issues he wrote about 250 years ago are still with us. Not drawing too long a bow I think Burns had an anarchist streak and that this showed in his attack on the English/Scottish parliamentary union with his poem a “parcel of rogues in a nation.”

As a reminder I give you the middle verse:

What force or guile could not subdue,
Thro’ many warlike ages,
Is wrought now by a coward few,
For hireling traitor’s wages.
The English stell we could disdain,
Secure in valour’s station;
But English gold has been our bane-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

Unfortunately despite many attempts since to dissolve that union it has remained
Indeed were Burns alive today I think he would be would be in the vanguard of Scots trying to achieve Independence.

At another level the more I study the poems of Burns and his letters the more I feel that Burns was schizophrenic or bipolar and that he suffered from depression. I am also of the view also that had Burns been exposed to examination by today’s psychiatrics or psychologists Burns Day might never have eventuated

He certainly lived a life of contradictions: at one and the same time he was a Jacobite and a Scottish Nationalist. Indeed, many think his condemnation of class inequality and his social ideas were the building blocks of the eighteenth century socialism that later influenced the Russian Revolution which perhaps accounts for Burns being held in high regard by the Russians. As for myself, while sympathetic to his anti-clericalism I doubt he was either atheist or agnostic.

I am also inclined to the view that Burns drank to excess in an effort to cure his depression that In today’s world would have been treated by drugs which, in all likelihood would have prevent him from expressing his thoughts. So credit to John Wilson and his 350 Kilmarnock Freemasons whose generosity stopped Burns from emigrating to Jamaica.

On the other hand, perhaps had he gone to Jamaica perhaps on Burns’ day a steel band would lead in a dish of Ackee and Saltfish, Jamaica’s national dish and wash it down with tots of rum, instead of piping in the Haggis,

Finally, let me end with a verse from one of Burns most famous songs.

Flow gently, sweet Afton,
amang thy green braes,
Flow gently, I’ll sing thee
a song in thy praise;
My Mary’s asleep
by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton,
disturb not her dream.

And, now, join me in a toast to the immortal memory of Scotland’s and one of the world’s greatest poets: “Robert Burns.”

Blog: Allan Takes Aim; web:;


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