Burns Night

Hail, Poesie! thou Nymph reserv’d!
In chase o’ thee, what crowds hae swerv’d
Frae common sense, or sunk enerv’d
’Mang heaps o’ clavers:
And och! o’er aft thy joes hae starv’d,
’Mid a’ thy favours!

—Robert Burns, Poem on Pastoral Poetry (excerpt), 1791

Ye sons of Scotland, my heart often mourns
When I think of the treatment of Robert Burns;
Because, while he was living, . . . .
The people unto him were seldom giving.

Alas, by the people, you were neglected,
Which caused your spirits to be dejected,
And made thee in agony, for to groan
With hunger and sorrow, sad and forlorn.

Oh, pity the sorrows of a poor poet
When in want of bread;
And help him while living,
For he requires no help when he’s dead.

—William McGonagall, An Ode to the Immortal Bard of Ayr, Robert Burns (excerpt), Ayrshire Post, 24 April 1897

One morning while serving tea to General Roberts, he woke him up with the following: ‘The best laid plans of mice and men oft gang aglae.’ Roberts sat up and said, ‘Do you like Burns?’ McGonagall nodded, whereupon General Roberts stuck a red-hot poker up his nose.

—Spike Milligan and Jack Hobbs, William McGonagall: The Truth at Last (Penguin, 1976, p. 31), one of my favourite books as a kid.

25 January 2016 · UK Culture