Wednesday, 28 January 2009

robert burns

i think there was some sort of burns happening this week. which there is every year or, for that matter, really any time you fancy it. in fact, shocking as it may sound you don't even need the tatties and neeps far less the whisky (this in itself has to be a sort of scottish blasphemy), you could just pick up a book.

but no. we're scottish and we're not going to be doing anything prosaic as actually reading the bard (there i've said it, only the once, i shan't do it again). no, not unless we're school children, because we all know that most kids just love being force to speak poetry out loud in a dialect they don't speak, oh yes they do, and heaven forbid we'd actually memorise any of his work let alone sing it (having an eddi reader cd doesn't count)

and then there's that homecoming thing. naturally alex salmond, a batrachian fellow for whom the word 'fud' was surely created, is up for that. so rather than talk bout rbs, gaza, any of those things, he dribbles off to dumfries for a wee photo opportunity. there's a snp burns night here - the sort of thing that makes you want to walk in front of a bus (i should point out that other than the obvious vitriol i don't have anything specific against the snp but we don't appear to have a labour party in scotland any more). i have a look at the homecoming thing. there's burns, yup, i know it's him because some tit is dressed as him, with a feather and waving whisky, if only i could get him round the house to sponge off me, shag t, have an illegitimate child and abandon them i'd feel my nationhood fulfilled.

problem is that burns appears under the section labelled great minds and innovations. okay then, where are they at? i see tobias smollet's name (pop quiz fellow scots - three of smollet's books without googling) but no-one else. strange. maybe i'm missing something. so i look at the quiz, maybe it's there. except the first question - who is the lead singer of marillion. marillion! the bus seems like the easy option now.

what the scottish government diddies are forgetting is that their site is aimed at tourists. the sort of people who'll probably know who the likes of david hume, adam ferguson, adam smith robert fergusson and other contemporaries of burns are. and if they're german, probably speak some gaelic. not our folk, oh no. james clerk maxwell? no, man, marillion, man. while smoking a bong and drinking grouse....

bbc scotland did try. in the broadest sense of the word. no holds bard, a comedy about burns reading, was cringingly bad, the sort of thing that strips the tar from the road. the people who did this should be burned. andrew o'hagan, a man for whom i've fostered a long dislike, brought his lack of personality to bear with burns: the people's poet, which was at least in some way informative, even if you could actually hear o'hagan sucking the life out of his subject. the culture show did a spot featuring siobhan redmond, richard wilson and robert carlyle that, if nothing else, shows how different people twist burns to fit their own personal agenda. all should read ye jacobites. and i'm not talking about prince fecking charles. no i'm not

in the end if you take two scottish people and ask them about burns you'll probably get an argument, it being more likely the less they know. this in scotland, applies to pretty much any subject. that said, as with any good poet, burns lends himself to this multiplicity of readings, readings that gather depth when placed in the context of the scottish enlightenment. true, some of the language isn't the most obvious, but there's lots of good annotated versions about and failing that, there's plenty of spoken word material on the internet, and the eddi reader cd is good for the songs.

there's many ways to read burns. there's a wealth of material to read him in a critical context. and for all the nonsense a burns supper, no matter what day you have it on, is something that should be done at least once. but most important, just read burns. to a mouse, to a louse, red, red rose a man's a man, all those things are absolute classics that no-one should deny themselves the pleasure of reading.


Rachel Fox said...

So is there a Scottish speakers' corner? Or is this it?

swiss said...

lol! i could go on and on. and on and on. and then maybe a bit more!

Rachel Fox said...

Yes...I have a poem called 'And another thing'.