Celebrating a Scottish poet

Place Des Art will be holding a celebration of the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns on Jan. 27.

The event will include a supper featuring Tatties and Neeps, a Cranachan Sundae, among other Scottish dishes. Host Edward Mornan will recite Burns’ Address to a Haggis which will promptly be piped in afterwards.

The event also offers a concert with a guest piper, Place des Arts faculty member and fiddler Rosie Carver and the Celtic band Blackthorn, with renditions of Scottish jigs, reels and ballads.

A Scottish love at heart

Brian Shannon, a recent graduate from Simon Fraser University (SFU) who finished his English Honours degree focusing on eighteenth-century Scottish literature, enthusiastically talks about his knowledge of his idol – Robbie Burns.

Burns lived during the Lowland Clearances (1760–1830). It was a revolution that mobilized thousands of farmers from their homes in the advent of an industrial Scotland, says Shannon.

Fiddler Rosie Carver and the Celtic band Blackthorn | Photo courtesy of Place des Arts

“A forerunner of the Romanticism literary movement in Britain, much of Burns’ work promotes ideas of liberty and freedom for all, coupled with an acute awareness of the subjective experience,” says Shannon. “Burns’ themes of liberty, subjectivity, and the pains of uprooting a community are expressed in his poem ‘To a Mouse,’ in which the narrator, a farmer, accidentally ruins a mouse’s nest with his plough.”

Many of Burns’ most appreciated pieces include “To a Mouse,” “Halloween,” “Address to the Deil,” and “The Cotter’s Saturday Night,” Shannon says. It was his first book of poems, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, which reaped a lot of interest from English antiquarians who dubbed him `The Ploughman Poet.’

All that glitters and gold doesn’t ease Burns from his tragedy.

“Burns was often neglected as a serious writer, and his poetic persona was mistaken for his true identity. He nonetheless had a tremendous impact on the subsequent Romantic literary movement, influencing writers such as William
Wordsworth, John Keats, Sir Walter Scott and many others,” says Shannon.

Shannon adds that Burns’s poetry is often associated with the local Scottish dialect and illustrates an example in “Tam O’ Shanter”:

This truth fand honest Tam o’ Shanter,

As he frae Ayr ae night did canter,

(Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a town surpasses

For honest men and bonie lasses.)

According to Shannon, Burns’ literary works are widely known to withhold and celebrate his local culture. He urges Burns’ readers to read the original work instead of the translated versions to enjoy its finest form of language.

A toast to remember

Robbie Burns died in 1796 at the age of 37, leaving a large legacy to this day.

“Every year on January 25, Burns Suppers are held all over the world featuring traditional Scottish foods like Haggis, Scottish music such as bagpipes, performances of Burns’ poems and songs such as “Auld Lang Syne,” and many toasts,” Shannon says. “Statues of Burns are seen all over the world, including one in Vancouver’s Stanley Park!”

Shannon shares his tip to readers on how to understand and enjoy Burns’ poetry.

“One trick to understand the poem for the non Scots reader is to recite Burns’ poetry out loud in your best Scottish accent!” he says enthusiastically. “Much of the time, doing so clarifies confusion and livens the poetry.”

The Celtic band Blackthorn will feature some musical traditions of Scotland with a special focus on Burns’ songs.

“The Celebration of Robbie Burns is one of our most popular events and generally sells out each year, so folks are wise to book tickets early,”says Kate Lancaster, communications coordinator at Place des Arts.

For more information, please visit www.placedesarts.ca.