Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Robert Burns and Haggis; Latin Quiz


Some have meat and cannot eat,
Some cannot eat that want it:
Bu we have meat and we can eat
Sae let the Lord be thankit

- Robert Burns
The Kirkudbright Grace (1790), also known as The Selkirk Grace

Today is Robbie Burns Day. It is the 252nd anniversary of the birth of the great bard of Scotland.  The day of his birth celebrated throughout the world as Burns Night with Burns Suppers, poems and songs.

Robert Burns was born on January 25, 1759 at Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland, the eldest of the seven children of William Burnes, a poor tenant farmer, and Agnes Broun (Robert spelled his name “Burnes” until 1784). Much of his youth was spent working on his father’s farm. Although poor, Robert was well-read. His father, a self-educated man, schooled his children in reading, writing, arithmetic, history and geography. William insisted that young Robert receive a good education and sent him and his younger brother, Gilbert, to a tutor named John Murdoch. Murdoch taught the boys Latin, French and mathematics.
As a teen, Robert wrote his first verse, My Handsome Nell, an ode to his first love. It begins with the line “O, once I lov’d a bonnie lass, Aye and I love her still”. His inspiration was Nelly Kirkpartrick, the daughter of a blacksmith and his companion in the labours of the harvest field.
He eventually left the farm and settled in Edinburgh where he associated with artists and writers. Burns was accepted by the cream of the Edinburgh literati and gained popularity.  The first edition of his poetry was published in 1786.  It was entitled Poems and was witten mainly in the Scottish dialect.  It sold out within a month.

In 1788, Robert married Jean Armour. She bore nine children, only three of whom lived to adulthood. Sadly, Robert Burns lived only until the age of 37. He suffered from ill health, possibly a rheumatic heart condition, and died on July 21, 1796. His funeral occurred on the very day that Jean gave birth to their last son, Maxwell. Jean lived on until 1834.

Two of Robert Burns’ most well known poems are Auld Lang Syne and Ode to a Haggis. Ode to a Haggis is a paean to Scotland’s national dish.

A kind of sausage, haggis consists of sheep’s entrails minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock. It is traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for about three hours, although most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a casing instead of the actual stomach of the animal. Haggis is served as the main course at Robbie Burns suppers. Haggis is usually served with “neeps” and “tatties” (turnips and mashed potatoes).

I have to admit that I have only tried Haggis once and I didn’t particularly like it. To be fair though, I was probably influenced by its rather unappetizing description.


A final note about Robbie Burns.  The government of Scotland is making his poetry easily accessible to the Facebook generation.  It recently unveiled a free new iPhone application for Burns fans.  The app contains a searchable data base of every poem written by Scotland's favourite son.  It also includes a brief summary of facts about the great poet.


How’s your Latin?  Here are ten Latin phrases. Can you translate them into English?

1. Carpe diem

2. Pax vobiscum

3. Ad astra per aspera

4. Semper fidelis

5. A mari usque ad mare

6. Aurora borealis

7. Tempus fugit

8. Amor vincit omnia

9. Facta non verba

10. Vox populi

11.  Fiat lux!


1. Carpe diem – Seize the day

2. Pax vobiscum – Peace be with you

3. Ad astra per aspera – To the stars through adversity (motto of the state of Kansas)

4. Semper fidelis – Always faithful (motto of the United State Marine Corps.)

5. A mari usque ad mare – From sea to sea (motto of Canada)

6. Auora borealis – Northern lights

7. Tempus fugit – Time flees or Time flies

8. Amora vincit omnia – Love conquers all

9. Facta non verba – Deeds, not words (Actions speak louder than words)

10. Vox populi – Voice of the people

11.  Fiat lux - Let there be light!

- Joanne

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