Burns: Scottish poet’s lonely glens, tim’rous beastie, homage to haggis

Wee tim’rous beastie: wouldn’t you be with that bird of prey in pursuit? As Burns Night beckons, what better occasion to savour some of his poetry.

Celebrations to mark the birth of Robert Burns are held in venues from eastern Scotland’s Glamis Castle to the Birmingham Whisky Club 7 hours south.

Then there’s the homage to the haggis by the tenant farmer who went on to become Scotland’s national poet…

“A Winter Night”

Poetry can open all sorts of doors to us – from the simple delight in a choice of words, spare and distilled, to the solace of associations the poem conjures up.

Ae night the storm the steeples rocked

Remember that feeling, when it’s blowing a gale outside and you’re warm, dry and safe from harm?

(“Batten down the hatches” – a Colombian colleague got to savour that expression, too, when I worked in Spain.)

Also, from the same poem, these lovely lines:

That, in the merry months o’ spring,

Delighted me to hear thee sing,

Burns goes on to write of a “bird, wee, helpless thing”.

In a tree local to me – who knows why that tree and not another – sparrows gather and twitter to their hearts’ content. Or so it seems.

(Tortured soul among the sparrow huddle? Now there’s a thought…)

Gnarly and stressed

That happens to us all, now and again. Walking under that tree is almost guaranteed to help me put things in perspective.

I’ve just read that poem again. Do I understand it all? No, but that’s fine. All the more reason to go back and delve in again before long.

Talking of our friends of flight: ever a delight to see a robin red breast when out amongst it… An invitation, or a gift if you prefer,  the opportunity to   s l o w   d o w n   and savour the moment.

Aye, there’s plenty of work to do. Before getting back to the screen and the phone, those Excels and that tax return, a minute to relish the company of the winter songster? I’m in.

“Address to the Devil”
Here’s another poem I’ll be glad to invest some more time in, and reap the rewards.
I’ve heard my rev’rend graunie say,
In lanely glens ye like to stray;

I can still picture my grannies – one had a lovely collection of stylish hats – but they left us when I was too young to remember their favourite turns of phrase.

Now there’s a question for me to ask their children, a generation closer…

“To a Mouse”

Mice divide opinion, it’s fair to say.

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,

O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

Sleekit seems to be the spelling now, meaning crafty or deceitful. All due respect to the beasties, mice probably need to be wily to survive.

Fancy having an owl as a predator when you’re the size of a mouse? I too would cultivate all the cunning I could.


Poetry, mashed swede and potatoes, a dram or two of whisky and traditional dancing. All hail the haggis too?

Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin race!

So wrote Rabbie in his “To a haggis,” poem, an homage to the offal-rich Scottish dish.

A tradition to make you tim’rous at the table – or a beastie at the feast for the accompanying ‘neeps ‘n’ tatties’?


(Images: comfreak, craighunter & suju on Pixabay, Andrew Alexander on Unsplash; poem excerpts from the Poetry Foundation; celebration venues from The Independent.)

*What’s your favourite poetry, Burns or otherwise? Do you prefer to read a line or two here and there… or enjoy a poem from start to finish?
Please do leave a comment.*

4 comments on “Burns: Scottish poet’s lonely glens, tim’rous beastie, homage to haggis

    • Brian McGee on

      Thanks a lot for your comment Alison, grand to hear that you enjoyed the blog. Glencoe? You’re right! I hope to see it with my own eyes before long…

  1. Lorraine Forrest-Turner on

    Wow! What an amazing photo of the owl and the mouse! How did someone capture that? Fabulous piece of writing, Brian. I will be doing an all-female Burns Supper tomorrow night and am grateful for your insight. I’m a pretty rubbish Scot. And well done on recognising Glencoe, Alison. I clearly haven’t spent enough time there in recent years. 🙂

    • Brian McGee on

      Thanks a lot for your very kind comment, Lorraine. I hope the Burns supper is a lot of fun. I’ve not been to one (yet) so I must put that right.


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