Wednesday, February 03, 2010

For A' That an A' That...

I wasn't well enough to go out on Burns Night, and it occurred to me too late I could cook my own 'neeps and tatties' and buy in a haggis from Tesco- not that it would be the same, and the friend with whom I usually celebrate was also suffering from a cold. Now she's 80 years old, it's the sort of thing that keeps her indoors on a January night.

For my own celebration I re-read some of Robert Burns's poems in a handy booklet given away free by the Guardian, part of their series of 'Romantic Poets'.

It was an extra bonus when C sent me a set of commemorative stamps. Her local Post Office still had some left over from the 250th anniversary

There's a special meaning for my friend and ex-colleague, married to a Scotsman until she was widowed ten years ago. He proposed at Loch Lomond when she was a student teacher from France. Like her a lifelong left-winger, he was a great admirer of Burns's humanitarian sentiments.

The poem I read out at his funeral was not included in the Guardian selection, probably because it was political rather than romantic, although for him the two often went together. It's an expression of his belief that wealth, fine clothes and position are not what make a person human acccording to his definition. The last verse of 'For a' that an' a' that' is curiously optimistic about the ability of men to recognise their common humanity and seems very apt for modern times. One can't help hoping it's prophetic:

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 coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

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