"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Robert Burns, The Man's the Gold


From Find a Tartan ~ Top: McCartney Day / McCartney Night ~
Bottom: Carrick Day / Carrick Hunting
Don't worry, I realize that "Carrick" is not the same as "Carriker"
and that aside from some of the dark classic plaids, such as
Black Watch, the rest are latter day tourist inventions --
but still, they are fun, right? And mostly harmless!

If you want to see a lot of Scottish plaid, in the form of elaborate kilts and scarves, then you might want to attend a Robert Burns Birthday Dinner, which is what Gerry and I did last night, along with our friends Jack and Leta. These events are held annually throughout the UK and USA around this time of year in honor of the favored and favorite Scottish poet, who was born in 1759 on 25 January (British novelist and essayist Virginia Woolf was born on the same day, 123 years later: 25 January 1882). Sadly, Burns died young on 21 July 1796.

The 259th birthday celebration of Burns' birthday that we attended -- our first time ever! -- was being hosted for the 35th time by ~

The 42nd Royal Highlanders of Lafayette, Indiana
Band of Music ~ Bagpipes, Fifes and Drums

My favorite lines from Burns have always been the last two stanzas from his poem To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough (1785). During my teaching years, I would print these verses at the conclusion of every syllabus, not only as a way of introducing the Scottish English dialect of Robert Burns but also as a reminder to the students that, control being but an illusion, we were likely to deviate from the syllabus at any time:
But, Mousie, thou art
no thy lane, [not alone]

In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley, [go oft astray]
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my eye
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!
At the Burns Supper, however, the tone was lighter and more joyful. Never mind the existential angst of all creatures great and small! Instead, the opening poem is an ode to a haggis. Should you be unfamiliar with this unusually named menu item, think of a cross between a meatloaf and a pâté. Not necessarily your typical subject of introspective poetry, but here goes:

Address to the Haggis [click title for original Scots version]

All hail your honest rounded face
Great chieftain of the pudding race;
Above them all you take your place,
Beef, tripe, or lamb:
You're worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

The groaning trencher there you fill,
Your sides are like a distant hill
Your pin would help to mend a mill,
In time of need,
While through your pores the dews distil,
Like amber bead.

His knife the rustic goodman wipes,
To cut you through with all his might,
Revealing your gushing entrails bright,
Like any ditch;
And then, what a glorious sight,
Warm, welcome, rich.

Then plate for plate they stretch and strive,
Devil take the hindmost, on they drive,
Till all the bloated stomachs by and by,
Are tight as drums.
The rustic goodman with a sigh,
His thanks he hums.

Let them that o'er his French ragout,
Or hotchpotch fit only for a sow,
Or fricassee that'll make you spew,
And with no wonder;
Look down with sneering scornful view,
On such a dinner.

Poor devil, see him eat his trash,
As feckless as a withered rush,
His spindly legs and good whip-lash,
His little feet
Through floods or over fields to dash,
O how unfit.

But, mark the rustic, haggis-fed;
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Grasp in his ample hands a flail
He'll make it whistle,
Stout legs and arms that never fail,
Proud as the thistle.

You powers that make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare.
Old Scotland wants no stinking ware,
That slops in dishes;
But if you grant her grateful prayer,
Give her a haggis

According to tradition, the dinner continues with more feasting, more poetry, and various other readings. The conventional "Toast to the Lassies" and "Toast to the Laddies" may vary from venue to venue, depending on who has been nominated to deliver the address. I like the idea of choosing a poem by Burns to fill these slots on the program. How could you go wrong with this tender tribute, especially when sung by Andreas Scholl:

A Red, Red Rose

O my Luve is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.

So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!
And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my luve,
Though it were ten thousand mile.

The next poem, a fitting toast for lads and lasses alike, was written during the French Revolution and exemplifies the rising tide of democracy that informed the poetry of the time. Burns' words continue to inspire and express what we all crave -- to be known for our own worth:

A Man's A Man For A' That [click title for original Scots version]

Is there for honest poverty
That hangs his head, and all that?
The coward slave, we pass him by -
We dare be poor for all that!
For all that, and all that,
Our toils obscure, and all that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The man's the gold for all that.

What though on homely fare we dine,
Wear rough grey tweed, and all that?
Give fools their silks, and knaves their wine -
A man is a man for all that.
For all that, and all that,
Their tinsel show, and all that,
The honest man, though ever so poor,
Is king of men for all that.

You see that fellow called 'a lord',
Who struts, and stares, and all that?
Though hundreds worship at his word,
He is but a dolt for all that.
For all that, and all that,
His ribboned, star, and all that,
The man of independent mind,
He looks and laughs at all that.

A prince can make a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, and all that!
But an honest man is above his might -
Good faith, he must not fault that
For all that, and all that,
Their dignities, and all that,
The pith of sense and pride of worth
Are higher rank than all that.

Then let us pray that come it may
(As come it will for a' that)
That Sense and Worth over all the earth
Shall take the prize and all that!
For all that, and all that,
It is coming yet for all that,
That man to man the world over
Shall brothers be for all that.

It's only right that an evening - long tribute to the enduring legacy of Robert Burns should conclude with a rousing group rendition of his most beloved poem. Anyone who missed out in the early moments of the New Year is granted another chance here at the end of the month to sing -- for old time's sake -- of forgiveness for the past and congenial commitment to a kinder, gentler future:

Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind
Should old acquaintance be forgot
for the days of old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear
for auld lang syne
we'll take a cup of kindness yet
for auld lang syne.

And surely you'll buy your pint cup
and surely I'll buy mine
we'll take a cup of kindness yet
for auld lang syne,

And here's a hand my trusty friend
And put your hand in mine
We'll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear
for auld lang syne
we'll take a cup of kindness yet
for auld lang syne.

"Jack Frost" on the Garage Floor

Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, February 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Charming Pudding Pictures

Photo credit: thanks to Peter Bunder!
And thanks to Catherine R. DeLong for the vintage lidded pudding tin!
Catherine says: "So glad the mold is used!
Think how many families might have used it."
[You can also order a new one from amazon.]

It's never too late in the Season
to make a Figgy Pudding & wear your reindeer sweater!

Pudding Decorations, including mini - felt stocking

Pudding Gift Tag & Gift Bag

Beautiful Gisela Graham Pudding Ornament from Tina
and Sterling Silver Pudding ~ Charms from Catherine
This explanation for the charms comes from
The Jolly Hallowe'en Book by Dorothy Middlebrook Shipman

The Lucky Cake
A cake [or pudding] that's full of charms can be made on Hallowe'en
[or Christmas or Twelfth Night or Mardi Gras or Wedding Cake]
And it causes lots of fun as is very quickly seen.
Choose one that's quick to bake, made of any simple batter,
Let each girl help blend and stir in a merry din and chatter;
Trinkets wrapped in papers oiled must be stirred in at the last,
And whoever cuts one out, will her future find forecast.
She who finds the wedding ring will soon be a happy wife,
She who finds the wheel will wander far and wide through - out her life.
She who cuts the dime, cuts wealth, and the key unlocks all hearts,
But the thimble means the spinster from whom romance swift departs.
For the others naught is stated, but at least they have a treat
In a cake they have constructed that is very good to eat.


Previous Pudding Posts

"the green ivy and red holly made you feel so happy"

Love, the Gift, is On the Way

Fairy Tale

Happy Boxing Day

Twelfth Day ~ Twelfth Night

Christmas Quiz

Comfort & Joy Food

Magic Everyday

Santa Lucia

English Cottage Tea Cosy

Three Soups & Thirteen Desserts

One Morning, One Evening

Saying the Old Town's Name

Figgy Pudding

Christmas Cake


More ornaments from Gisela Graham / Tina
New this year, carried home safely across the Atlantic!

Next Fortnightly Post
Sunday, January 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT ~ "Magi & Fruitcake" ~ Mince Pies & Mistletoe"
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST ~ "Everything by Kent Haruf"
my running list of recent reading