The Literary Life

Home » Birthdays » Robert Burns Night

Robert Burns Night

Previous Posts

January 2017
S M T W T F S
« Nov   Feb »
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,603 other followers

January 25, 2017

burns-night

To commemorate Robert Burns’s birthday in The Literary Life here is one of the Scotch poet’s more humorous poems:

To a Louse: On Seeing One On A Lady’s Bonnet, At Church
1786
(Hover over the dialect words for definitions.)

Ha! whaur ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely,
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho’, faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn’d by saunt an’ sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her-
Sae fine a lady?
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.

Swith! in some beggar’s haffet squattle;
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle,
Wi’ ither kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Whaur horn nor bane ne’er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.

Now haud you there, ye’re out o’ sight,
Below the fatt’rels, snug and tight;
Na, faith ye yet! ye’ll no be right,
Till ye’ve got on it-
The verra tapmost, tow’rin height
O’ Miss’ bonnet.

My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an’ grey as ony groset:
O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I’d gie you sic a hearty dose o’t,
Wad dress your droddum.

I wad na been surpris’d to spy
You on an auld wife’s flainen toy;
Or aiblins some bit dubbie boy,
On’s wyliecoat;
But Miss’ fine Lunardi! fye!
How daur ye do’t?

O Jeany, dinna toss your head,
An’ set your beauties a’ abread!
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie’s makin:
Thae winks an’ finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

http://www.robertburns.org/works/97.shtml

Here’s what I said about “To a Louse” in my Historical Dictionary of Romanticism in Literature:

         Robert Burns wrote this poem in his familiar Standard Habbie stanza form. Since Burns rarely attended the common Scottish Presbyterian assemblies, this poem is his imagining of a church service with its hypocritical churchgoers. The speaker sits in a pew behind a respectable young lady during the service. She has dressed in her finery for Sunday church. The speaker notices a louse crawling in her hair. The fine lady is, of course unaware and would be utterly horrified to know someone had spotted lice in her hair. The poem’s obvious theme is that we seldom see ourselves as others see us.

The Standard Habbie stanza form perfected by Robert Burns, Burns adapted the stanza from the 17th-century Scottish poet Robert Sempill who used it in his ballad “The Life and Death of Habbie Simpson.” A Standard Habbie stanza consists of a six lines, or sestet, with three lines of iambic tetrameter rhyming aaa followed by an iambic dimeter line making the b rhyme. The last two lines are iambic tetrameter and iambic dimeter rhyming ab. Burns uses this stanza in other poems as “Address to a Haggis” (traditionally read tonight, “Holy Willie’s Prayer,” and “To a Mouse.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog Stats

  • 3,359 hits
Follow The Literary Life on WordPress.com

Goodreads

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Twitter

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,603 other followers

The Hoarding

On 19th-Century Literary Scholarship

cancer killing recipe

Just another WordPress.com site

MUDD iN YOUR FACE

from boredom to creativity

Proof Perfectly

Editing - Copywriting - Advice

deconstructingdoctor.com

a peek behind the curtain

The Long Victorian - c.1789 - 1914

The literary world of the Long Nineteenth Century, c.1789 - 1914

Under the Light of Western Skies

Intellectual Comfort from the American West

The Scene

Radical Poetics at the Zig Zag Edges

The Literary Life

A Site for Those for whom Serious Literature Matters

The Literary Counsellor

Mainly a book blog, with a bit of life thrown in for good measure.

A Poet's Double Life

For poets working outside the literary world.

Rosemary's Blog

A window into my world

Lizzy's Literary Life

Celebrating the pleasures of a 21st century bookworm

Let's Talk about Lit

Moving Poetry Out of Books and Into Life

Witty N Pretty

Dallas Fashion Blogger

%d bloggers like this: