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Bob Holman & Margery Snyder

Burns Night: Quoting and Ranking Favorite Poems

By January 25, 2012

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It’s Burns Night, and the Scottish bard’s poems are being declaimed all over the world. Scottish first minister Alex Salmond naturally chose this date to launch his government’s “consultation” on a 2014 referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom, quoting from Burns’ great “hymn to equality,” “A Man’s a Man for a’ That.” Burns was also quoted by many of the Scottish MPs who spoke following Salmond’s announcement, and while they were talking in Edinburgh, MP Eleanor Laing and Prime Minister David Cameron traded their own Burns quotations in the English Parliament in London, during Prime Minister’s questions:

from The Scotsman:
Scottish independence: MPs gripped by the question: was Rabbie Burns a Nat or a Unionist?,” by David Maddox
“A battle emerged in Westminster yesterday over which argument in the independence debate Scotland’s Bard Rabbie Burns would have supported as both sides tried to claim him as their own.... it was clear that, in an appeal to Scottish sentiment, both wanted a signifcant figure from Scotland’s past to help boost their support.... The day after SNP First Minister Alex Salmond declared in a major speech in London that Burns was a ‘great Nationalist and Internationalist,’ Conservative Scottish MP Eleanor Laing declared that he was a Unionist.”

In the meantime, Scots not so wrapped up in the political implications of Burns’ poems have been polled for their favorites for this Burns Night:

from EdinburghGuide.com:
Tam o’Shanter Tops Survey of Favourite Burns Poems
“Tonight, Scots around the world celebrate the birth of Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns 227 years ago, feeding spirit and mind with a traditional Scottish meal of haggis, tatties, and neeps (washed down with a dram or two) and poetry. The words of the customary ‘Address to A Haggis,’ written in 1786, will be recited at dinner tables from Cardiff to Canada and Melbourne to Mexico City. While treating poems like a horse race adds little to one’s appreciation, it’s interesting to note that a recent poll found ‘Tam o’Shanter’ (which features a racing horse) was Scotland’s favourite poem by the ‘ploughman poet’ for Burns Night.”

Other favorite Burns poems ranked in this Scottish survey were, in order:

More on Robert Burns
Biographical Profile of Burns
Library: Poems by Burns


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