Robert Burns

It’s that time of year again when Scotland celebrates Robert Burns with a Burns night or Burns supper, as they call it. These are typically held on the 25th January, the poet’s birthday, and each year school children are required to learn one of his poems as part of their education. Last year we had to rip all of Daniel’s teeth out to get him to memorise the poem which is appropriate given that this year he has to learn the poem, Address to the Toothache. This poem is even more challenging than last year’s and when you see it I’m sure you’ll understand why. And no, I don’t understand half the words either 🙂

Address to the Toothache

My curse upon your venom’d stang.
That shoots my tortur’d gums alang,
An thro my lug gies monie a twang
Wi gnawing vengeance,
Tearing my nerves wi bitter pang,
Like racking engines!

A’ down my beard the slavers trickle,
I throw the wee stools o’er the mickle.
While round the fire the giglets keckle,
To see me loup.
An raving mad, I wish a heckle
Were i’ their doup!

When fevers burn, or ague freezes,
Rheumatics gnaw, or colic squeezes,
Our neebors sympathise to ease us,
Wi pitying moan;
But thee! – thou hell o a’ diseases –
They mock our groan!

Of a’ the numerous human dools –
Ill-hairsts, daft bargains, cutty-stools,
Or worthy frien’s laid i’ the mools,
Sad sight to see!
The tricks o knaves, or fash o fools –
Thou bear’st the gree!

Whare’er that place be priests ca’ Hell,
Whare a’ the tones o misery yell,
An ranked plagues their numbers tell,
In dreadfu raw,
Thou, Toothache, surely bear’st the bell,
Amang them a’!

O thou grim, mischief-making chiel,
That gars the notes o discord squeel,
Till human kind aft dance a reel
In gore, a shoe-thick,
Gie a’ the faes o Scotland’s weal
A towmond’s toothache!

I told Daniel that one of his ancestors had the surname Burns, hoping that might motivate him a little, although I omitted the bit about this ancestor being a convict. I saw a few sparks light up on his face and he asked me whether I thought he looked like Robert Burns. To which I said, “possibly”.

14 responses to “Robert Burns”

  1. Poor lad. Seems typically pointless but what do I know. I rather hoped education made moved on to the marginally irrelevant by now. I can still recite useless poems we were force fed at school. Rather like algebra they havent proved their worth in my life. Oops. Am i allowed to admit that on this blog!!!!?

    1. No, you’re not allowed to say that on my blog! Wash your mouth out with soap and water!

      Daniel thinks it’s rather pointless too and keeps arguing with me about what use it is for him to memorise a poem and then he tries to say that he’s not good at poems.

      1. It was rather bold talk from someone who owes their very nic to trigonometry!

  2. Just glad he’s no’ a wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie!

  3. That’s a long poem for a youngster to learn! I couldn’t do it.
    I remember last year’s post about Daniel – but can’t believe it’s a year already!
    If it’s any help, when my kids had boring stuff like this to do, I’d get them to read it in funny accents – but I don’t think that’s going to work here, as it is already too weird! 🙂
    Good Luck Daniel!

  4. Being in Aberdeen, Daniel needs to stuff that linguistic fraud Burns back into his attic and learn some proper Doric!

    1. Are there any good poems in Doric?

      1. Apparently (according to Wikipedia; there are links) there’s a fair literature that continues to be added to. There’s a variety here and there on-line, but also at your local library.

        Of course I was kidding about the fraud, but interestingly the written dialect Burns used was somewhat invented for literary purposes, although from what I can gather wasn’t far off from the central dialect Burns actually spoke. Edinburgh being called some centuries back the Athens of Scotland, its dialect was for a time referred to as Attic, leaving the northeast dialect to be termed Doric (associated with bumpkins in ancient Greek, mainly Athenian, literature). Attic didn’t stick, Doric did.

        I notice that the incomprehensible young suitor in Brave spoke Doric. Apparently Pixar wanted to just throw in a bunch of nonsense words to make sure it couldn’t be understood, but the actor, who hails from Aberdeen and apparently puts on a creditable American accent on Grey’s Anatomy, convinced them otherwise with a demonstration of Doric (using a broad accent just to make sure, I expect).

  5. I have tough time understanding even simpler poems. This one is far beyond my cognitive abilities.

  6. I feel for Daniel for having to memorize this and wish him good luck 🙂

    1. Thanks, Chait. I’ll let him know 🙂

  7. Sounds like an excellent way to get kids to like Robbie Burns. Perhaps if there’s a Robbie Burns poetry app, Daniel will do better. I’m thinking of his spelling experiences. 🙂

    1. Maybe. I’ll have to see whether I can find one.

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