Saturday, 13 September 2014

A Ballad to the Immortal Memory of Rabbie Burns

by Fergus "William" McGonigal

Ay! Hearken to some lines aboot
   Scotland’s best luved son.
For a’ ye caddie’s gathered here,
   Some scrievin’ has been done.

Ah! Rabbie Burns, the nicht we do,
  Salute ye and your work,
Ye Bard of Ayrshire, Ploughman’s friend,
   (Rebuked in Mauchline Kirk!).

Afore I spak anither line,
  There’s something ye should ken:
These words are nae original,
   They’re frae an English pen!

(Enough then, folks, of dialect,
    Both tricky and obscure,
Let’s stick to stick to Standard English,
   Or be a dreadful bore.)

Though born to wretched poverty,
  In Seventeen-Fifty-Nine,
Young Rabbie’s literary talent,
   Saw one day he would shine.

But not before he’d spent his youth,
   Labouring on a farm,
Work which left him with a stoop,
   Which did his health great harm.

One harvest-time, aged fifteen years,
   Young Rabbie spied a girl,
Nelly was the creature’s name,
   She’d put him in a whirl.

“O! Once I loved a Bonnie Lass”
    Our Rabbie did declare,
In writing down this poem, folks,
   He’d laid his talent bare.

One Ritchie Broun encouraged him,
   To make it as a bard,
And Rabbie’s work was subsequently
   Held in high regard.

His Scots-based verse was bought en masse,
   And lauded everywhere:
From Gretna Green to John O’Groats,
   From Aberdeen to Ayr.

To Edinburgh he took himself,
    Where those who knew all said,
He was the match of any scribe,
   (And far more widely read!).

His standing in society,
   Belied his humble birth,
The rich, the poor: all understood,
   His true poetic worth.

Our Rabbie had worked wonders with
   The state of Scottish poesy,
But in the world of Scottish song,
    Things were far from rosy.

A passionate supporter of
   This quickly-fading art,
He wrote a song or two or three,
   But that was just the start.

Hundreds of songs in all he wrote,
   While others he preserved.
Was triumph as a lyricist
   Ever more deserved?

But Rabbie saw such things atop
   His lofty reputation,
Which led him to a revolutionary
His bosses and his friends agreed:
    They didn’t like his stance,
But Rab’s support lay squarely with
   The goings-on in France.

As if he hadn’t done enough,
   In poems, words and song,
He stood beside the downtrodden,
   Denouncing what was wrong.

Which sealed forever, Rabbie’s place,
   As Scotland’s favourite son:
Now loved at home and loved abroad,
   Loved by everyone.
The gloomy night was gathering fast,
    Despondency now ailed him,
At thirty-seven, Rab breathed his last,
   As health completely failed him.

And so, tonight, let’s drink a dram –
   Though there’ll be no returns –
On this the day that he was born:
   Mr Rabbie Burns!

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