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Attention Burns scholars

weerover 19 Jan 09 - 03:27 PM
weerover 19 Jan 09 - 04:42 PM
Ebbie 19 Jan 09 - 05:52 PM
Jack Campin 19 Jan 09 - 07:59 PM
Jim McLean 20 Jan 09 - 06:52 AM
weerover 20 Jan 09 - 02:48 PM
Teribus 20 Jan 09 - 03:12 PM
Jim McLean 20 Jan 09 - 05:19 PM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 21 Jan 09 - 10:33 AM
weerover 21 Jan 09 - 02:23 PM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 24 Jan 09 - 11:35 AM
Jim McLean 24 Jan 09 - 05:58 PM
Folkiedave 25 Jan 09 - 05:16 AM
Jim McLean 25 Jan 09 - 06:50 AM
Bonnie Shaljean 25 Jan 09 - 02:10 PM
Jim Carroll 26 Jan 09 - 02:59 AM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 26 Jan 09 - 05:29 AM
Jim McLean 26 Jan 09 - 07:55 AM
Folkiedave 26 Jan 09 - 07:58 AM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 26 Jan 09 - 11:05 AM
Jim McLean 26 Jan 09 - 12:17 PM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 27 Jan 09 - 02:45 PM
Jim McLean 27 Jan 09 - 06:13 PM
Jim McLean 27 Jan 09 - 06:35 PM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 29 Jan 09 - 02:44 PM
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Subject: Attention Burns scholars
From: weerover
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 03:27 PM

I am trying to find out which to which event Burns's 'On Thanksgiving for a National Victory' refers. One collection of his works says it was the Battle of Ushant, but several sources date the poem as 1793 and Ushant was ist June 1794. Any authorities out there?

wr.


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: weerover
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 04:42 PM

...and of course that should read "...1st June...".

wr


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: Ebbie
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 05:52 PM

It had been a long time since I'd read Burns's bio- I had forgotten that he died at the age of 37. How do some people pack so much into such a short life. It is mind boggling.


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Jan 09 - 07:59 PM

Who dated it? The editors of the Canongate Burns say nobody had a definite date for it (even his authorship isn't certain).


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: Jim McLean
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 06:52 AM

If the date is correct and Burns did write the lines and it was about the battle of Ushant, there were alread two battles named Ushant in 1778 and 1781. If he also, in 1793, wrote the poem praising Admiral Rodney's victory which took place in 1782 it would follow that Burns didn't necessarily write to praise or castigate a contempory battle.


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: weerover
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 02:48 PM

Thanks Jim, but for me the lines convey a sense of immediacy.

wr


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: Teribus
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 03:12 PM

Very little seems to have happened as far as Britain was concerned in 1793 - In Revolutionary France the year marked the start of the "Reign of Terror".


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: Jim McLean
Date: 20 Jan 09 - 05:19 PM

Weerover, reading Burns's letters written in 1793/4 you see how volatile he was. One minute a revolutionary and another apologising for his words and behaviour to protect his liveliyhood. The lines in question were written on a pane of glass which shows a spontaneity, an expression of his humanity and anger at all things warlike. I can't find a naval battle of 1793. His poem celebrating Rodney's victory of 1782 reads as if the battle had just taken place although it was 11 years old.
We'll never know.


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 21 Jan 09 - 10:33 AM

wee rover, do the lines you have in mind begin,

"Ye hypocrites, are these your pranks..."?

If so, I think the four lines in question have been dated to the 1740s, that is, before the Bard was born (I don't have access to any books at present, but if necessary - and if these be the lines - I could find a precise reference in Kinsley's edition from the 1960s)


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: weerover
Date: 21 Jan 09 - 02:23 PM

Yes ABCD, that's the one. I have it in several Burns collections with no attribution to any other source.

wr.


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 24 Jan 09 - 11:35 AM

All right, here goes; first, my memory was at fault in several ways, in that I thought I'd read about an earlier version of the lines in question in James Kinsley's three-volume edition of Burns's Poems and Songs (with a Critical Apparatus), and that these lines dated from the 1740s. As far as I can see from the one-volume edition I have, Kinsley doesn't include the verse (though I think, in the full three-volume edition, there is a section of pieces "ascribed to Burns" by various earlier editors). Secondly, I'd thought the earlier version was from the 1740s, and that it was a riposte to a Day of Thanksgiving for the defeat of the legitimate House of Stuart on Drumossie Moor in 1746. Apologies made, here's the information:


First, the words seem to have been first published by Allan Cunningham in his "Works of Robert Burns", 1834. In the second edition, 1835, page 335, No. LVII, he entitles it:
"Lines written on a pane of glass, on the occasion of a National Thanksgiving for a Naval Victory" (without any further information; now, AC is a notoriously unreliable source - I think it was FB Snyder who referred to his "inventive mendacity" - but there's something in the precision of "naval victory" which gives an impression of authenticity, and AC did know a good deal of "traditional" lore about Burns from conversations with contemporaries. On the other hand, it may be just a guess; were there any victories in the 1780s and 1790s other than naval ones?). Cunningham's version is:

"Ye hypocrites! are these your pranks?
To murder men, and gie God thanks!
For shame! gie o'er, proceed no further ---
God won't accept your thanks for murther."


In two later editions, those of Robert Chambers (revised by William Wallace), and of Henley and Henderson, both published for the Centenary of 1896, though of course Dr Chambers' edition was earlier, the words are substantially the same as Cunningham's, except for the third line. I give the version in H&H, Volume II, p.255:

Ye hypocrites! are these your pranks?
To murder men, and give God thanks?
Desist for shame! Proceed no further:
God won't accept your thanks for Murther.

(Ch/W has just a comma in line one, not an exclamation-mark; in line two, there is not a comma; in line three, Ch/W has "Desist, for shame!", everything else being the same)

Now, in Ch/W, Volume IV, p317, there is a footnote: "Adapted from lines 'on the Thanksgiving Day for Perth and Preston, 17th June 1716 (Maidment's Scottish Pasquils, 1868). The victory Burns celebrated was doubtless Howe's, off Ushant, 1st June 1794."


H&H agree with the proposed identification of the victory as Ushant in 1794, and in their notes, Vol II p442, give more detail:

"The thing itself is artlessly adapted either from a pasquinade on Thanksgiving Day after the Ryehouse Plot, 1683; or from its derivative, 'Four lines Put into the Basin of the Tron Church on the Thanksgiving Day for Perth and Preston, 17th June 1716' (in Maidment's Scotish Pasquils, 1868)

'Did ever men play such pranks
As for murder to give thanks:
Hold, damned preachers; goe no furder,
God accepts not thanks for murder'"


So there's a rude, unpolished version of the thought and indeed the rhymes; it might, incidentally, be worthwhile checking whether Burns ever uses the words "prank" or "pranks" elsewhere. While the origin is not his, the thoughts are characteristic. In one of his later verses, he's a humorous pacifist; part of it goes,

"The Deities that I adore
Are Social Peace and Plenty-
I'm better pleased to MAKE one more
Than be the Death of Twenty".

Finally, one of the best pieces of Eighteenth-Century Irony I know is his response to a request for a toast regarding the War against Revolutionary France:
"May our success in the present war be equal to the justice of our cause".
As he put it himself in a letter about the incident - a certain Captain Dods took exception to the wording, knowing Burns's politics but not recognising the skilful ambiguity - there is nothing in the form of words used to which even the most perfervid patriot could legitimately take exception. Of course, the implication is pretty clear. I only hope someone, amidst all the carefully structured commercialisation of the current Scottish celebrations of the 250th anniversary of RB's birth, has both the knowledge and the courage to use this toast; as so often, Burns's words are as relevant now as they were two centuries ago.


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: Jim McLean
Date: 24 Jan 09 - 05:58 PM

Thanks for all that, ABCD.
My favourite quote from Burns is:
A fig for those by law protected
Liberty's a glorious feast,
Courts for cowards were erected,
Churches buit to please the priests.


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: Folkiedave
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 05:16 AM

I interviewed a Burns expert for my radio programme (and very good he is too) and when I suggested that Burns was a socialist he laughed saying that Burns's politics could be interpreted in different ways.

You can find it here.


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: Jim McLean
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 06:50 AM

The last line in my previous posting should have been:
Churches built to please the priests.
Sorry!


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 02:10 PM

Just for info, there's a programme on him tonight (Sunday) on BBC4 television which lasts for an hour and a half, starting at 9:00 pm UK time.


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 02:59 AM

"Burns's politics could be interpreted in different ways."
The programme Bonnie mentions did a good job on this side of Burns' character - he came over as a revolutionary and humanist driven by the necessity of earning a living - hence the contradictions. Basically good programme, the Achilles Heel being in the odd choice of music and song used - what's new!
Wild thread creep; it was preceeded by an excellent programme on American folk music (BBC 4) which is repeated on Friday night along with several others, including one on Guthrie. There are a couple of others on the same channel this week - famine or feast, it seems.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 05:29 AM

Re. folkiedave's Radio Programme: I couldn't get access to it in the local Library, but with regard to "socialism", this term with anything like its modern meaning(s) really only dates from the fourth and fifth decades of the nineteenth century (and, incidentally, I only mentioned that Burns was a "humorous pacifist" above in connection with the sentiments in the verse which was the subject of weerover's original post). That Burns was, in the terminology of his own day, a "radical" there can be no doubt; although political discussion properly belongs in the "BS" section, here's a quotation from a letter of 1793 to John Erskine of Mar (who had expressed sympathy and offered support on learning of RB's troubles with the Excise over his political opinions): I'm quoting from memory, by the way, so there will likely be inaccuracies --

"Does anyone tell me that it does not belong to someone in my humble station to meddle in the concerns of a Nation? The uninformed mob may swell its bulk and the titled, tinsel, Courtly throng may be its feathered ornament, but it is those who are elevated enough to reason, yet low enough to keep clear of the venal contagion of a Court, who are a Nation's strength"

Before anyone leaps on that reference to "the uninformed mob", I'm pretty sure that the man himself would have agreed that "Education, Education, Education" is a valuable and necessary thing - and have been more sincere about such an "aspiration" than the current crop of British politicians.


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: Jim McLean
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 07:55 AM

I saw the Scottish news the other day (BBC Scotland on Freesat) and both Tory and Labour politicians claimed that Burns would have been one of them. Alec Salmond, when asked, said Burns would have indeed been in all the parties but would have left them eventually!


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: Folkiedave
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 07:58 AM

The radio programme with Dr. Hamish Matheson talking aobut Burns seems to be OK to me.

There are two shows - 1000 - 1100 and 1100 - 1200.

Hamish appears in the first one i.e. the first half of the programme.


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 11:05 AM

I can't see Burns having anything to do with any of the various "Unionist" parties in Scotland; there's one of his letters (I think to Mrs Dunlop) where he asks, "What (or, "where") are all the boasted advantages of Union...". Salmond, many years ago, when he must still have been in his twenties, on a BBC current affairs programme, ran rings around the senior Labour minister Denis Healey, who had to take refuge in the typical Public Schoolboy trick of merely sneering derisively; I wish I'd put money on Salmond becoming the leader of the Scottish National Party.


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: Jim McLean
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 12:17 PM

Unfortunately, ABCD, Burns gives hostage to fortune with his song Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat when he writes:

Be Britain still to Britain true
Amang oursels united
For never but by British hands
Maun British wrangs be righted!

I'm sure he wrote this to protect himself from the anti French Revolution feelings at that time but it is sufficient for Tories to quote to prove he was a Unionist. He of course makes contrary comments elsewhere hence Alex Salmonds comments that he, Burns, would not have been a life long member of any party. I would like to think he would have been a member of the SNP lastly!


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 02:45 PM

Yes, you're quite right re. "The Dumfries Volunteers" (i.e. "Does haughty Gaul...", which Burns wrote for the volunteer corps of which he was a member) and the necessity of back-pedalling from his earlier position re. the Revolution, when he was "an enthusiastic votary", at least until France annexed Savoy and Piedmont, according to a letter the recipient of which I can't recall (I could check it if you like). However, notice the ironic implication even in the lines you quote; he refers, incautiously perhaps, to "British wrongs". Hmmmm! And, while he calls for those who will not sing 'God Save the King' to be hung "as high's the steeple"--

"Yet while we sing 'God Save the King',
We'll ne'er forget The People".

Again, a pretty dangerous sentiment to express at the time (even though, as you'll see both from my earler posting citing his reference to "the uninformed mob", it's not a call for the kind of "Democracy" we now claim to have, where every adult is entitled to vote). As you state, the Tories will indeed quote those lines to claim that RB was a Unionist; but, if the De'il can cite Scripture for His purpose, it's nae wonder that His "subordinate Imps" will dae the same kind of thing. By the way, although "The Dumfries Volunteers" was published to an air specially composed by Stephen Clarke, Burns originally set it to "Push About the Jorum"; and, also for this air, he composed a remarkable parody of polite eighteenth-century Pastoral, a copy of which he then sent to George Thomson in Edinburgh. Thomson's comment was, "What a pity this is not publishable". The song begins, "When maukin bucks..." (i.e. male rabbits). If you can't find the verses, I'll add them later.

Best wishes,

RG (ABCD)


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: Jim McLean
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 06:13 PM

Thanks for that, ABCD, I have the poem 'Ode to Spring', it's qite a send up.


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: Jim McLean
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 06:35 PM

PS, ABCD, the tune I have for Ode to Spring is The Tither Morn (in Johnson's SMMM, number 345, Volume 4).


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Subject: RE: Attention Burns scholars
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 29 Jan 09 - 02:44 PM

Thanks for this additional information ("fair exchange is no robbery"); I don't know where I got the suggested other air, but probably it was J Barke and S G Smith's edition of "The Merry Muses", c. 1960. I know the air of "The tither morn, when I forlorn aneath an aik sat moaning...", and it does fit very well the "Ode to Spring", not only in that the structure of the verses is the same, complete with internal rhymes, not only in that it's a Pastoral and therefore a good choice for the parody, but in that the flourish near the end of each verse is particularly suitable for the words, "then westwards fli-i-ies", "the echoes ra-a-ang", and, of course, the words of the third verse (especially if the singer ratchets up the Tempo). At least this is a song with a ready-made excuse if you end up singing "out of tune, Sir".


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