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Introduction -- Itinerary -- Sources -- Recipes


urns Supper Sources

from Burns Night: My Supper With Rabbie

Some books are lies frae end to end.

bagpipesTo find a poem, song, letter, epitaph, epigram, or epistle suitable for reading during a Burns Supper celebration, you need look no further than any complete Burns edition at your local library. It's all there - the entire breadth of human emotion and experience - distilled through the haze of 18th century English and archaic Lowland Scots. (Trust the text, trust the text, trust the text...)

Popular readings and song from the Burns canon include such favorites as: To a Mouse, A Bottle And Friend,Scotch Drink,Anna,A Red, Red Rose, Bruce's Address at Bannockburn, Address to a Haggis ,To a Louse, and of course, Tam o' Shanter .

But ours is a very loose Burns Night. We don't stick to the Bard of Ayr exclusively - it's his spirit we pay homage to, not his publisher - so anything that may be construed to be in the spirit of Robert Burns is acceptable and welcome at our celebration: Writings by other Scottish poets and authors, anecdotes about Burns or his era, and most especially, original works by us, his humble admirers, are heartily encouraged.

Sources for Burns Supper material may include (but are not limited to) works by:

  • Boswell and Johnson. Their Highland travel journals - the granddaddy of all travel literature - are a great contemporaneous source for accounts of Burns' Scotland.
  • George Gordon, Lord Byron - a great admirer of Burns, and not a bad poet himself. He was weaned in Scotland and shared the Bard's lust for life and his earthy sentiment. His poem Lachin Y Gair is a bit difficult, but makes a beautiful Burns Night reading.
  • Tobias Smollett. This early novelist's work predates Burns, with some uproarious depictions of Scottish society in Humphrey Clinker.
  • Sir Walter Scott. His novels are a good source for atmospheric depictions of Burns' Scotland.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson. Another great Scottish author whose novels Kidnapped and David Balfour are set soon after Burns' time, and are rich with Jacobite sentiment. His poem Heather Ale makes a nice Burns Night reading.
  • William McGonagall , poet and tragedian. My hand trembles as I type this... his work is perversely irresistible, even on Burns Night.
  • Robert W. Service . I'm particularly fond of his boisterous Yukon poetry (The Spell of the Yukon), but much more appropriate for Burns Supper is the inspirational - and nearly epic - The Haggis of Private McPhee, from Rhymes of a Red Cross Man (1916).
There are several Scottish literary anthologies, available in most libraries, that include works by the above mentioned authors, as well as many others. There are also recordings of Burns songs by various folk artists. (Ewan MacColl and Jean Redpath come to mind, as well as a multi-CD collection called The Complete Songs of Robert Burns, on Linn Records, and a collection of bawdy material called The Merry Muses, on Iona Records.) If you don't happen to have a pipey player on hand, use a recording of a pipey player for piping in the haggis, and any other magical moments you want to highlight. This may seem a bit tacky, but after a couple of whiskies, cueing up a recording can acquire an air of ritualistic importance. So have a listen, drink a gill of good single malt, and sing a song.

Introduction -- Itinerary -- Sources -- Recipes

All content copyright © Bennett Fischer 1999-2003

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