Thursday, January 22, 2009

burns, baby, burns

Oh, it's come to that time in Scotland when the place goes crazy for tartan, haggis, bagpipes and a drunken, misogynist, mason, a hack "poet" whom most of them have never read.

I am, of course, talking about the dreadful Robert Burns, whom I have read. Unlike most of the unthinking masses who will next week attend the grim event called a "Burns Supper", I understand the majority of the language Burns used - a curious cobbled-together mass of dialects from around the country, toned down with a lot of standard English to ensure his popularity beyond the realms of the country of his birth. I also understand the completely unfounded myth that he was a poor farm boy when he was, in fact, a fairly wealthy tenant farmer, with a good handful of "socialist" principles which he could afford to both espouse and ignore (his published correspondences include endless letters to dukes, bishops and the aristocracy in general).

It all adds up to a fine example of the hypocritical self-mythologising at which this country (Scotland) excels and which is exemplified nowhere more than in the pathetic and insulting "Homecoming" event, thought up by the Scottish executive to try and entice ex-pat Scots to return to the country of their roots.

I would not deny that "Tam O'Shanter" is fun; nor would I say that his output is universally poor, but the vast majority of it is certainly mediocre. The most curious thing about the ghastly "Burns Supper" is that it will feature a reading of the TURGID "To A Haggis". Should you want to read this woeful doggerel before you next eat a delicious haggis, you can find it at Gutenberg. I would forgo the poem and eat the haggis while it is still hot.