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Note: Burns Night is when Scotland’s most important bard, Robert Burns (1759-1796), is celebrated, usually with the recitation of Burns’ poems, the eating of haggis, and the drinking of whisky. It occurs on January 25, Burns’ birthday.

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An English Sonnet for
the Scottish Bard

for Burns Night

Tonight, I’m lured by Rabbie’s red, red rose.
His crowlin ferlie calls me to the charms
Of Nessie, lochs, and bagpipes in the throes
Of Auld Lang Syne as kilted kin link arms.
I’ll raise a peaty whisky To a Louse,
Eat haggis, snaking steam, piped in with glee.
I’ll lift a Rusty Nail up To a Mouse—
tim’rous beastie blest, compar’d wi’ me!
I’ll tell of Tam o’ Shanter riding hard
From wanton witches. Oh, that cutty-sark
Diaphanous enough to spur a bard
To steer some saucy stanzas through the dark.
To all who have a heart and gut to nourish,
Come revel in some luscious Gaelic flourish!

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crowlin ferlie – tiny oddity  
Rusty Nail – whisky and Drambuie cocktail (2:1) 
cutty-sark – skimpy nightdress  

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Susan Jarvis Bryant has poetry published on Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, Light, Sparks of Calliope, and Expansive Poetry Online. She also has poetry published in TRINACRIA, Beth Houston’s Extreme Formal Poems anthology, and in Openings (anthologies of poems by Open University Poets in the UK). Susan is the winner of the 2020 International SCP Poetry Competition, and has been nominated for the 2022 Pushcart Prize.


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35 Responses

  1. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Some of the essences of Scotland I recognize including poetry through the eyes of Robert Burns. This poem is a delicious, if less than nutritious romp, although I do not know if haggis qualifies one way or the other. Of course, the taste of alliteration remains on the tongue and tantalizes the senses like “steer some saucy stanzas…” I am always drawn to your poems with great admiration and am always rewarded.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Roy, I’m glad you enjoyed my Burns Night offering and I’m smiling over your haggis observation. I love haggis. I’ve eaten it in the Highlands of Scotland with tatties (potatoes) and (neeps) turnips with a whisky cream sauce and a wee dram of Glenfiddich and I’ve eaten it every year since… I’ve even introduced Mike to it. He loves it too… but draws the line at black pudding. Mike calls it blood pudding, which might be why he refuses to eat it. I will admit to never having a craving for this British breakfast treat myself. Roy, thank you for your lovely comment.

      Reply
  2. David John Etchell

    usual brilliance Sue, helped by knowing Burns very well. We once visited his farm Ellisland. in Dumfries– what a genius.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Dave, it’s lovely to see you here, and thank you very much for your comment. What a treat to visit Ellisland Farm – a place I wish I’d gone to. I love Scotland and have spent many a wonderful holiday in the Highlands. I found the landscape wild and daunting… I think it prepared me for Texas. 🙂 Rabbie was indeed a genius!

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Paul, thank you very much for your wonderful comment. It’s thoroughly appreciated.

      Reply
  3. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, a Scottish friend of mine will be roaming the streets tomorrow night, practising the ancient martial art of “Seeyoutoo,” otherwise known as, “The Glasgow Kiss” on anyone called “Jimmy.” The rest of Old England will be turning Celtic for one night of fun, neeps, tatties and a wee dram or two. I hope your wonderful poem blows all over America tomorrow. Thank you for an extra special piece of writing.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, thank you for your marvellous comment… a comment that’s taken me skipping hand in hand through heathered glens with Russ Abbott in ginger-jock mode!! LOL A priceless moment – thank you!

      Reply
  4. Brian A Yapko

    Wonderful poetry, Susan, which is so skillfully infused with Scottish references that it has revived my strong desire to see Edinburgh and other parts of Scotland. Thank you for the introduction to some unfamiliar Gaelic terms. I’m going to go eat some shortbread and listen to some bagpipes now in honor of your honoring Burns.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Brian, thank you very much. I thoroughly recommend a log cabin in the Scottish Highlands… the scenery is breathtaking… and those castles! Magnificent! Listening to bagpipes while eating shortbread is a little bit of Gaelic heaven. Bagpipes played on heather-swathed moors sound hauntingly beautiful… book that vacation! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Norma Pain

    Great fun and clever poem to celebrate Robbie Burns birthday. Thank you Susan.

    Reply
  6. Joseph S. Salemi

    Some advice for anyone walking home tonight through Edinburgh, after having drunk too many toasts to Burns:

    Dinnae drink thy heid unricht
    Or daunder throu the street at nicht
    But keep thine een wide wauken, do —
    Fur ane wicht cryand “Gardyloo!”

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Tonight, after my rusty nail, I will call upon the ghost of Rabbie to reveal the magic secret of this lilting linguistic lovely before embarking upon my treacherous journey to bed. Joe, thank you! And a happy Burns Night to you!

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        It’s not in Rabbie Burns. It’s by me, writing in Lallans Scots. Here’s the standard English:

        Don’t drink until your head’s unclear
        Or go dawdling through the street at night
        But keep your eyes wide awake
        For anyone crying “Gardyloo!”

        In old Edinburgh, people cried out “Gardyloo!” before dumping their slop pots (filled with urine and excrement) out the window and into the street below. It’s from the French “Garde a l’eau!” (watch out for the water).

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Joe, I love this… it has me smiling at the English tales I was told as to why the ladies always walked on the inside and the gentlemen on the outside. In the days of the chamber pot, chivalry reigned supreme. Your Lallans Scots poem (which looks very German in places) is wonderful read aloud.

  7. Sally Cook

    Dear Susan –

    Thanks for reminding us once more, of those things we never should have forgotten –among them, a great poet and his works. Love the spritelyness of your poem !

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Sally, it’s always lovely to hear from you and I’m with you all the way on keeping great poets and their works alive. I hope you are going to raise a wee dram to the Scottish bard tonight. Thank you, my friend.

      Reply
  8. James Sale

    The ultimate compliment to you, Susan: tonight I have a Burns dinner party going on at my house for exclusive guests – I shall read your poem out loud and not pretend it’s mine! Bravo! It’ll certainly go down well with the whiskey!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      James, I’m thrilled to hear this… a wonderful compliment indeed. Here’s wishing you a magnificent evening. I trust you’ve practiced your highland fling and dusted your sporran off for the occasion. Just one question… why the “e” in whisky? I hope you’re not partaking in a Texan variety… although, I’m sure Rabbie would approve. James, thank you and have fun!!

      Reply
      • James Sale

        Mea Culpa – most people in England seem not to know the difference; I do, but got lazy. Yep – though tee-total, I drank some whisky for medicinal purposes. And we had a great time – the haggis was superb and someone tried to upstage me reading your poem with a ukulele performance spoofing Burns! However, your poem was massively admired and a great time was had by all. I can say that if the event had been recorded and put on social media, it would have been a sensation, though sadly it might have provoked a Woke invading-Scottish army coming into England and heading for Derby for the first time since 1745. Discretion is the better part of valour so that video won’t be appearing (and was never made!). Greetings post-Burns!

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        James, what a wild night you’ve had! I’m thrilled my poem went down well… I can only begin to imagine the strains of the ukulele in the absence of bagpipes… a little kinder on the ear in close quarters, methinks. And for the ‘e’ or not to ‘e’ question… a wee dram by whatever name would taste as sweet. Wonderful!!

  9. Joshua C. Frank

    Susan, this is great! I love the old songs (in fact, folk songs as a genre are one of my poetic influences), so I’m familiar with Robert Burns and the like… though it’s hard to understand some of the Scottish words, so thank you for the footnotes. Your poem makes me realize, I really should look into his work some more…

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Josh, I’m thrilled to hear this poem has whetted your appetite for a helping of Burns. He’s wild and wonderful and you may need to read the translations to get the full impact of his poetry… poetry that I’m surprised is celebrated in this fickle age of harm to the sensibilities. Thank you very much!

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      I appreciate your words, Cynthia. Thank you! I had a lot of fun writing this one.

      Reply
  10. C.B. Anderson

    I sometimes drink whiskey, but most of the time I stick to whisky. I’m an Anderson, after all. I’ve never had haggis, but I tend to like organ meats, so it’s probably a go for me. I recently watched a video on how the stuff is made, and it turned me sheepish — nothing better than a portion of good lamb.

    Reply
  11. Janice Canerdy

    Your skillfully-composed, lively sonnet celebrates some of Burns’s best known lines~~and employs creative rhyming in the process.

    Reply
  12. Shaun C. Duncan

    Although born in Glasgow, my grandmother was extremely proud of her Ayrshire roots, so Burns is a particular favourite of mine. None could match the sheer musicality of his verse and I can’t think of anyone writing today better suited to pay tribute to him than yourself. Your work is always a pleasure to read and this is no exception.

    Reply
  13. Satyananda Sarangi

    Greetings Susan ma’am!

    You better be ready at home this weekend! Burns may pay you a visit after reading this

    Reply

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