To paraphrase Laurie Colwin, the world divides unequally between those who love haggis (not too many) and those who loathe and fear it (most). Tomorrow is Robert Burns’s birthday, aka Burns Night, which is to say, probably the zenith of the haggis-eating year. Whether this strikes dread or delight into your hearts, I cannot say.
Burns—aka the Ploughman Poet, aka Robden of Solway Firth, aka the Bard of Ayrshire—was a poet, folklorist, lyricist, radical, bon vivant, womanizer, and, during his lifetime, certainly the greatest promoter of Scottish history and culture. Sir Walter Scott (no slouch himself in the mythologizing department) met the poet as a teenager in Edinburgh and later recalled,
His person was strong and robust; his manners rustic, not clownish, a sort of dignified plainness and simplicity which received part of its effect perhaps from knowledge of his extraordinary talents … I never saw such another eye in a human head, though I have seen the most distinguished men of my time.
The first Burns Supper was held in June 1802, not many years after the poet’s death at age thirty-seven. But, perhaps on the thinking that haggis and whiskey are best enjoyed in frigid weather, the celebration has for some time now been held on January 25. The traditional Burns Supper contains a number of prescribed steps, including the Selkirk Grace (allegedly penned by Burns for the Earl of Selkirk), a Toast to the Lassies, a Toast to the Laddies, speeches, “Auld Lang Syne,” and muckle, muckle piping. Read More