Happy Birthday, Robert Burns!

Twelve score years and ten today, January 25, 2009, the great Scottish bard and social commentator Robert Burns was born. I once asked the late David Faison what would the poet be if he lived today? “A rock star!” he replied. Few realize how much Burns’s sayings and quotations are part of daily use in the English language. Steinbeck‘s book Of Mice And Men takes its title from Burns’s great poem, To a Mouse (where the emphasis is on the “and”, by the way). Burns’s Auld Lang Syne is sung throughout the world the moment each new year is rung in, but few have any idea what it means; it’s what it does mean that has kept it in this unique position of highest honor for over 200 years (more of which, on another occasion). People around the world on this night celebrate Burns’s birth with a Burns Supper, a great festive occasion where poems are read, whisky is drunk (and often so are the drinkers), and haggis is eaten. There may well be a celebration near you – perhaps next year . . .

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