Monday 25 January 2016


I'm not sure if it is a Scotland wide thing but in Lanarkshire anyway,  there is a competition in the primary schools at this time of the year when every pupil is expected to be able to recite a Scottish poem in full, in front of their teachers and peers. In my day it was restricted to the work of the national Bard but these days it appears that as long as it is Scottish you are fine, Leo's poem this year was The Sair Finger by Walter Wingate. He may be a distant relation. I'm not sure if,  when I was a kid we had to recite in P3 like Leo as I only remember my Primary 7 effort, that may be because I was second and received a book token but felt agreived at not winning. In recent years I have wondered what made me pick a poem about a maimed animal that was on it's road out, it does seem like a kind of strange choice for an 11 year old.

On Seeing A Wounded Hare Limp By Me, Which a Fellow Had Just Shot

Inhuman man! Curse on thy barb'rous art,
and blasted by thy murder-aiming eye;
May never pity soothe thee with a sigh,
Nor ever pleasure glad thy cruel heart

Go live poor wanderer of the wood and field!
The bitter little of life that remains:
No more the thickening brakes and verdant plains
To thee shall home, or food or pastime yield.

Seek mangled wretch, some place of wonted rest;
No more of rest, than now of dying bed!
The sheltering rushes whistling o'er thy head,
The cold earth with thy bloody bosom prest.

Oft, as by winding Nith, I , musing, wait
The sober eve or hail the cheerful dawn;
I'll miss thee sporting o'er the dewy lawn
And curse the ruffian's aim, and mourn thy hapless fate.

No wonder I'm a miserable git!

I have a kind of ambivalent attitude towards Burns. From what I've read I don't really like the guy but I do however have a deep affinity with a lot of the poetry I have read, as a socialist "Is There For Honest Poverty" puts my case far more eloquently than I could and as an agnostic with more than a little contempt for the "good christians" who seem to be the first to condemn others I find Holy Willy's Prayer spot on. I am not however overly fond of the all male Burns Suppers or the way that the poetry was high-jacked by the Nationalists for their own ends or that the fact that Burns wanted to emigrate to Jamaica not to partake of the weed but to manage a slave plantation has been swept under the carpet, replaced by the lovable rogue persona.. But there is no getting away from the fact that the poetry is incredible and when put to music can be some of the most beautiful songs you are likely to hear and even my personal bard, Roddy Frame has never come up with anything as heart achingly gorgeous as Ae Fond Kiss.

Camera Obscura famously recorded a session of Burns song live at Peel acres for a Burn's Night  special in 2004.  The following year a couple of the tracks were re-recorded and released on an ep.

Camera Obscura - I Love My Jean

If you liked the Camera Obscura track, please donate a quid or what ever you can here to Carey's Just Giving page.

I will finish with the final verse of Is There For Honest Poverty which says it all really.

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


George said...

That was interesting Drew, about the Burns and primary school thing. I distinctly remember it in primary 5 in Broughty Ferry, but in our case we were all given the same poem, which we all had to learn then recite individually, and the best reciter won, well, I've no idea what. I think it was part of a Dundee school competition called the Laing medal. Hells teeth, this is 43 years ago. No idea if it was a Burns poem, as well, come to think of it, as it involved something about an egine going toot-toot. (a) I'm not making this up; (b) I'm not pished. But I do also recall that I absolutely bloody hated having to recite. Terrible memories. Thanks very much. I also remember the name of the girl in class who won the best reciter prize.

JC said...

Genuinely can't remember doing anything Burns related at primary or secondary schools in the east end of Glasgow. But then again, I went to Catholic schools and Burns not only kicked with the other foot but his rogueish like ways didn't sit well with the religious folk who ran the school.

I've grown to like a lot of the poetry but like you Drew hate how its has somewhat been hijacked for political purposes. Oh and as veteran of many a Burns Supper (all part of the day job) there is nothing worse than cod recitals by would be amateur thespians.

George said...

engine, not egine.

The Swede said...

I'm woefully ignorant of all things Burns related, so found the memories of George, JC and yourself fascinating and have been racking my brain to try to remember what I was getting up to at a similar age. I was a loud child (some might argue that's still the case), so I was often plucked from the pack to read at assembly and appear in school productions, I can't specifically recall any poetry being involved though.

Charity Chic said...

My nephew has been busy asking my brother if he grows horns when he drinks beer and my sister-in-law the same question re wine. Turns out he's doing Tam O'Shanter at school