Thursday, February 03, 2005

Here's Tae Us; Wha's Like Us?...

...Damn few--and they're a' deid!!

Translation: "Here's to Us! Who is as good as us? Damn few--and they're all dead!"

That's my charming way of pretending that this is January 25th and celebrating Robert Burns' night. I cannot believe I missed it this year. Wow. That is a huge oversight. It would be like an American completely not noticing that it is President's Day or something. Or, maybe more like not noticing it is St. Patrick's Day. Either way, I missed this most holi of holidays.

With that in mind, I will first offer a wee rhyme which is not by Rabbie Burns but which helps get you further into the Scottish State of Mind (if you dare). The Irish, by contrast, have little aphorisms that bid the "road rise up to meet you" and all that good hearted stuff. This is a Scottish version:

"May those that love us love us;
and those that dinnae (don't) love us,
may God turn their hearts.
And if he cannae (can't) turn their hearts,
may he turn their ankles,
so we'll ken (know) them by their LIMPING."

Swweeeeeet!! Isn't that the greatest prayer ever offered up? Now you're feelin' the Scottish love. Amour ecossais. Amor escoc├ęs. And my personal favorite because it has the guttural qualities that the Scottish language requires: Schottische Liebe.

Okay, so now for a little Burns. This is a perfect night for this, actually. It is drizzly and cold outside and reminiscent of our Burns Night in Scotland when we all, miraculously at our young ages, memorized multiple Burns poems. My dad always did the "To A Haggis." Our role as the kids was to finish the line my dad would start. To this day, he will randomly just spout a half a line of Burns and look at me with those pleading eyes: "you've lost your accent and you wee Scottish chubby look, PLEASE don't lose your knowledge of Burns." Robert Burns looms large in my dad's life. To this day, he carries around a pocket sized book of Burns that I bought him when I was in St. Andrews. He loves it. Maybe because Burns speaks to the masses, to the My Dads of the world. He loves his women, feels bad when he plows through a mouse's nest in the field, salutes his haggis, and takes jerks to task for their sins. He also speaks universal truths:

"the best laid schemes o' mice and men gang aft agley..."

"Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
That sense and worth, o'er a' the earth,
May bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet, for a' that,
That man to man, the warld o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that."

This is the grace my family always says before meals when we are together:

Some hae meat and canna eat, (some have meat and cannot eat)
and some wad eat that want it, (some can eat but don't have it)
but we hae meat and we can eat, (but we have meat and we can eat)
and sae the Lord be thankit. (so let the Lord be thanked).

So I'm a little late, but I would still like to do a small online To A Haggis, in honor of Burns and all the Scotsmen who hold him dear. It's kind of like the Passover Seder. You haven't done it right without having covered certain critical elements of the Haggadah. Same here. Until you have said the words "great chieftain o the puddin race" you haven't done the honors. So please allow me:

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

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