Friday, 23 January 2009

Reclaiming Rabbie the radical

Sunday marks the 250th birthday of Robert Burns who, according to a new biography, was a staunch republican and admirer of the French Revolution. And one of Scotland's finest contemporary poets, Jackie Kay, claims that Burns was 'a sophisticated political thinker about representation, the origin and limits of political authority, and the need for liberty and equality', whose most famous poem, sung at the opening of the Scottish parliament in 1999, 'could just as easily have been sung on 20 January 2009 in Washington'.

My ties to Scotland are rather remote - my ancestors were Jacobite Aberdeenshire farmers who migrated to England in the early nineteenth century  - and I probably shan't be lured by the Scottish government's appeal to 'come home' this year. But I'm tempted to pour a glass of Glenmorangie on Sunday to toast, not the kitsch shortbread-and-tartan image of popular memory, but a great radical poet and son of the Enlightenment.

1 comment:

Brigada Flores Magon said...

I agree that Crawford's biography does a lot to restore the radical Burns after two centuries of his being presented as an Establishment figure [something that surely could never have survived a good rendering of 'Is there for honest poverty...']. And I commend your choice of malt.