Burns Nicht and Haggis

Robbie Burns Statue in Stanley Park, Photograph by Laurel Mae Hislop

I decided not to do a New Year’s piece this month, not because it’s shopworn and predictable, but because of the flu which laid me low for weeks. So, instead of turkey or ham, I’m giving a thumbs-up to haggis. Not that most of us want to eat the stuff—it’s concocted with minced sheep’s liver, heart, and lung, mixed with a slurry of oatmeal, onions, and stock. The hotchpotch is then packed into the stomach of the beast, dropped into a pot, and boiled. 

Here’s a fun youtube video, “Address to a Haggis” 

Performed by actor Gareth Morrison

January 25th is Robbie Burns Day, not a huge event in North America, but a cheery one. The man himself (Robert Burns Jan 25, 1759 to July 21, 1796) was a poet, and the fact that we celebrate his life is remarkable to us writers, poets, and artists. We are rarely lionised in the human pool of politicians, monarchs, despots, and hall-of-famers.

Imbibers around the world will tip pints of ale and draughts of whiskey on January 25th. Russians have a special fondness for the bard, because his writing sentiments leaned toward the plight of the commoner, plus he lived during, and supported, the French and American Revolutions. The Soviets once minted a stamp, paying tribute to the man. Here in Canada, pubs from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island take advantage of his moniker, which is linked with the love of drink. And in his native Scotland, the country comes alive with full-on raucous revelry. 

Burns died at 37, almost 224 years ago, and we still celebrate in his honour. No other poet has an International Day like this—not even Shakespeare. His poetry, penned largely in Scottish dialect, discombobulates the modern reader. But tell me, who here hasn’t started out the New Year singing “Auld Lang Syne?” He wrote that poem in 1778 and set it to the tune of a traditional folk song. And who can believe that a fellow of the eighteen century would have uttered the words in the following quote? It gives me a whole new appreciation and respect for Robbie Burns.

While Europe’s eye is fix’d on mighty things, The fate of empires and the fall of kings; While quacks of State must each produce his plan, And even children lisp the Rights of Man; Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention, The Rights of Woman merit some attention. Robert Burns

Robert Burns lived a short life, but he was a prolific writer. A cluster of historians say he suffered from manic depressive disorder and there is evidence to support that claim. My recent book, “f-Holes of Melancholia” tells the tale of an artist plagued by the same illness.

Check it out on my website @ https://mannamarkbooks.com

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