Monday, January 25, 2010

Happy Robert Burns's Birthday
Tom Smith


Today is Robert Burns's birthday, time for all of us who are Scots, part Scot, or wish we were, to celebrate the incredibly rich heritage the Scots have left to us.  It would be a long list, but let me just mention David Hume, Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment, a movement with which Burns was associated, not to mention the American Founding, and of course the great amelioration or at least temporary respite of the troubles of mankind that is Scots whiskey.

Here is one famous lyric of Burns, often called "For a' that, an a' that":

That hings his head, an' a' that; 
The coward slave-we pass him by, 
We dare be poor for a' that! 
For a' that, an' a' that. 
Our toils obscure an' a' that, 
The rank is but the guinea's stamp, 
The Man's the gowd for a' that. 

What though on hamely fare we dine, 
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that; 
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine; 
A Man's a Man for a' that: 
For a' that, and a' that, 
Their tinsel show, an' a' that; 
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor, 
Is king o' men for a' that. 

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord, 
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that; 
Tho' hundreds worship at his word, 
He's but a coof for a' that: 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
His ribband, star, an' a' that: 
The man o' independent mind 
He looks an' laughs at a' that. 

A prince can mak a belted knight, 
A marquis, duke, an' a' that; 
But an honest man's abon his might, 
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that! 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
Their dignities an' a' that; 
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth, 
Are higher rank than a' that. 

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.

I have no Scottish blood that I know of, though I suppose my WASP father and his ancestors might have had some Scottish blood unbeknownst to me.  My mother's sisters both married into Scotland by marrying, one after the other died, in fact, the descendant of an old Scottish pioneer family in Idaho, the Laidlaws, which went there to raise sheep and hell, not necessarily in that order.  My uncle Sandy then was the classic Scottish terrier of a man: small and, uh, peppery (to say the very least), he fought with Gen. Patton in the war and could probably have outcursed him. Boise's now lost and unlamented Cub Club allegedly banned him for foul language.  Family feuding and onerous death taxes forced him and his brothers to sell the ranch in the 1950's and by then his beloved eldest boy had been killed on a highway while herding sheep, which changed my uncle permanently, everybody said.  This was a real shame, as the family had been quite significant in the history of the sheep industry in the American West.  

His second wife, who pretty much smoked and drank herself to death at a young age, was my favorite aunt and I like to think, I her favorite nephew. Many was the scrape she got me out of with tyrannical nuns by concocting the most outrageous lies on my behalf.  I would entertain her by singing my version of Louis Armstrong songs.  Possibly the Scotch helped her find me funny.  She I should perhaps mention, was Irish, not Scottish.  In spite of smoking numberless packs of Camel unfiltered and a bottomless supply of Scotch (the empties of which he and his wife would drop off at Salvation Army donation booths) my uncle lived to old age.  When his father died, the ground had been frozen so solid in Muldoon they used dynamite to blast out a hole, and made one big enough to bury a pick up truck.  My uncle though is buried on Morris Hill near my father and other relatives.  Anyway, let's hear it for Scotland.

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Tom Smith


It was kin of mine who introduced golf to the area of Le Mars, Iowa.

Posted by: dearieme | Jan 27, 2010 2:50:23 PM

Happy bday to him....

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