May 13: Burns's Hardworking White People

I know, I shouldn't get political, but I love a good hook, and Burns's idealization of the honest yeomanry is as good as any (I'm not translating Burns's slang -- no one translated it for me, goddamn it):

They’re no sae wretched’s ane wad think.
Tho’ constantly on poortith’s brink,
They’re sae accustom’d wi’ the sight,
The view o’t gives them little fright.
Then chance and fortune are sae guided,
They’re aye in less or mair provided:
An’ tho’ fatigued wi’ close employment,
A blink o’ rest’s a sweet enjoyment.
The dearest comfort o’ their lives,
Their grushie weans an’ faithfu’ wives;
The prattling things are just their pride,
That sweetens a’ their fire-side.
An’ whiles twalpennie worth o’ nappy
Can mak the bodies unco happy:

See, tho' poor, they have the pleasures of life that we latte-sipping people with our books and Netflix subscriptions to "The Wire" don't have. I have to say that this Burns poem didn't bug me as much as I thought it was going to, although it does bug me that this is the 4th time I've been assigned him. I don't quite get the big love of Burns, or any of the poetry selections, really. In this sense there really is a great divide between now and then. But this one was okay, because it was more like a newspaper column or something -- just two dogs talking about the difference between the upper-crust folk and the common folk. And, as all newspaper columnists are required to do, even now, Burns takes the side of the little people and not the fancy swells who can afford things like newspapers:

At operas an’ plays parading,
Mortgaging, gambling, masquerading:
Or maybe, in a frolic daft,
To Hague or Calais takes a waft,
To mak a tour an’ tak a whirl,
To learn bon ton, an’ see the worl’.

France, even! Like John Kerry. It's no wonder that Burns concludes:

For Britain’s guid! for her destruction!


And Burns was dead on, for Britain's empire had a mere one hundred and sixty-two years left! I'm all for the need of being versed in country things, myself, and I'm convinced that honor among the governing class is at an all-time low, but when you read something like this you realize that Burns's fellow Scotsman, Adam Smith, was closer to the truth -- there is a great deal of ruin in a nation. Just because some well-off idiots go around gambling (and taking mortgages!), something good is going on at the same time.

Note: I am not a dog person so the adorableness of two dogs concluding "humans is the craziest people" is lost on me. YMMV.

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