Toasting Robert Burns

300px-Robert_burns January 25th was the 250th anniversary of the birth of the wonderful Robert Burns. I'm attending a Burns' Night this Saturday to commemorate. Alan Black in the San Francisco Chronicle:

He became Scotland's answer to Shakespeare. And that was a relief to the Scots. Those long incoherent English rambles confused many. And still do. And across the Atlantic Ocean in the colonies, American patriots were dumping tea in Boston's harbor, telling the Brits to pack their bags. Burns admired that. He had little time for British monarchy and its fine china. They had stolen Scotland's independence a generation before his time.

Burns was a modern rebel. Every Scot could recite his line, “Scots wha' ha'e wi' Wallace bled,” and everyone knew what it meant, including Mel Gibson in “Braveheart,” 200 years later.

Ironically, after his death, his poetic influence was spread by Scots taking their place at the vanguard of the British Empire. While the British were relieving countries of their art, taming the native chiefs with tea on the lawn and inflicting the odd massacre on their people, Burns was being read by revolutionaries everywhere. From Moscow to Havana, in China and beyond, anyone with a beef against a bully, or a cause worth fighting for, found Burns to be their poet of choice. His most eloquent call for equality came in his most famous poem of all – “A Man's a Man for 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 and a' that, It's coming yet for a' that, That Man to Man the world o'er, Shall brothers be for a' that.”

He had written “Imagine,” two centuries before John Lennon.

Tonight, thousands around the world will be attending Burns Suppers, listening to bagpipes, wearing kilts, getting sloshed and eating the most unknowable culinary invention known to mankind, the Scottish haggis, or as Burns called it, “the Great Chieftain o' the Puddin' race.”