Sunday, January 25, 2009

Celebrating That Scottish Poet Who Knocked Up a Whole Bunch of Girls

I had never heard of Burns Night before coming to Maine, but last night--on the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's favorite poet son--there I was, celebrating his birthday and wearing a traditional tartan and being welcomed to supper by the call of bagpipes.

Burns Night--a big to-do in the state of Maine--celebrates the fame, exploits, and poetry of Robert Burns, the man responsible for gems like "Auld lang Syne" and "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose."

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He was a dandy, a cad, a man with VD. He slept with every barmaid he laid eyes on and fathered fourteen children--most of which were illegitimate. He loved Scotland and loved the ladies, and he wrote rhymes for both of them.

And last night we gathered to praise his poetry and insatiable appetite. And Burns Night celebrations aren't casual gatherings with some hodgepodge of food, some cluster of cheap beer and wine. No, they are carefully choreographed nights where most of the time is spent at the dinner table watching the pageant.

First, there is the presentation of the haggis. After all, what Scottish celebration would be complete without some leftover cuts of sheep that have been boiled in sheep stomach for a couple hours? Our haggis came decorated:

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After the presentation of the haggis comes the toasting and the homage to scotch, which is passed around the table in giant decanters. Then, dinner. And after dinner, the traditional toast to the lassies is given by the men. Ours was read by a man with a thick Scottish accent who began like so: God bless you lassies, with your breasts and your assies. Throughout the poem, which had been worked up that day, the lassies were compared to many things--the most literary, perhaps, being big-bossomed butterflies. And after every stanza, the men, appropriately moved by the charms of the lassies, would loft their glasses and yell, God bless you lassies!

Let me tell you this: there were a whole lot of drunk people in that room.

And then, after the lassies were appropriately praised, we toasted the laddies. After the laddies were coddled, the floor opened for spontaneous Burns readings. Whoever felt like he was sober (or drunk) enough to get up and raise his glass and do a few stanzas of Burns's odes to his mistresses, his wife, or his bastard children--who, in fact, he called just that--graced us with his poetic stylings.

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We left the table as the clock was nearing midnight. Desserts--oh, the shortbread--were served while we sang a couple traditional Scottish tunes and handed out a ceremonial cup to the best reader of the night.

And that--all the haggis and scotch and poetry, all the kilts and toasts and giggling--is exactly how a bunch of English nerds party. Don't let anyone ever tell you we don't know how to have a good time, how to rip-roar with the best of them.

3 comments:

Joshua said...

This dude sounds heroic.

Come On In! said...

You might find this just IMPOSSIBLE to believe (hahaha), but Robert Burns is my great-great-great grandfather!

Come On In! said...

I forgot to add that, luckily, I am not a bastard greatx3 grandchild, I'm actually descended from a lassie that he decided to marry. Whew, what a relief.