"A Man's a Man for all that!" - Rabbie Burns

"Religion? No thanks. I prefer not to outsource my brainwashing." - Bunc
Trying to get your average Joe creationist to understand the phrase scientific theory is as hard as getting a fish to enjoy mountaineering. Its an unimagined world for them - it requires a complete reversal of their normal modes of thinking and being. The fact that humans could explain the complexities of this world without a creating God is a world view they cannot grasp. It's like asking a tuna if it appreciates the view from the top of Mount Everest. Bunc

Jan 25, 2009

Tam O'Shanter by Robert Burns

The epic poem Tam O'Shanter by Robert Burns is full of drinking carousing characters and is set in the old Scots town of Ayr. The story is set in the late 18th century and the characters include Tam, his friend Souter (Cobbler) Johnnie and Tams horse Maggie while Tam's long suffering wife Kate is "Gathering her brows like gathering storm, nursing her wrath to keep it warm".

It's a poem that has humour, horror and social commentary. If you want to hear the poem recited while you read then right click the post title to hear a recitation of the poem.

Tam O'Shanter

When chapman billies leave the street, [peddlers]
And drouthy neibors, neibors, meet; [thirsty neighbours]
As market days are wearing late,
And folk begin to tak the gate, [take]
While we sit bousing at the nappy, [boozing/drinking ]
An' getting fou and unco happy, [fou= full = drunk unco/uncou=very]
We think na on the lang Scots miles, [na=not lang=long]
The mosses, waters, slaps and stiles, [slaps = steps]
That lie between us and our hame, [home]
Where sits our sulky, sullen dame, [the wife !]
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

This truth fand honest Tam o' Shanter, [fand = found]
As he frae Ayr ae night did canter: [frae = from]
(Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses, [whom]
For honest men and bonie lasses).

O Tam! had'st thou but been sae wise, [so]
As taen thy ain wife Kate's advice!
She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum, [skellum= wastrel/waster]
A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum; [blethering= rambling talk blellum= boaster]
That frae November till October,
Ae market-day thou was na sober; [Ae = each]
That ilka melder wi' the Miller, [instead of milling with the...]
Thou sat as lang as thou had siller; [silver]
That ev'ry naig was ca'd a shoe on [naig=horse]
The Smith and thee gat roarin' fou on; [got roarin drunk on]
That at the Lord's house, ev'n on Sunday,
Thou drank wi' Kirkton Jean till Monday,
She prophesied that late or soon,
Thou wad be found, deep drown'd in Doon, [would Doon=a local river]
Or catch'd wi' warlocks in the mirk, [caught by ...in the murk]
By Alloway's auld, haunted kirk. [kirk=church]

Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet, [makes me cry]
To think how mony counsels sweet,
How mony lengthen'd, sage advices,
The husband frae the wife despises!

But to our tale: Ae market night, [Ae = One]
Tam had got planted unco right, [seated just right]
Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely, [right by the fireplace]
Wi reaming saats, that drank divinely; [creamy ale]
And at his elbow, Souter Johnie,
His ancient, trusty, drougthy crony: [drougthy=thirsty]
Tam lo'ed him like a very brither; [brother]
They had been fou for weeks thegither.
The night drave on wi' sangs an' clatter;
And aye the ale was growing better:
The Landlady and Tam grew gracious,
Wi' favours secret, sweet, and precious:
The Souter tauld his queerest stories;
The Landlord's laugh was ready chorus:
The storm without might rair and rustle, [roar]
Tam did na mind the storm a whistle.

Care, mad to see a man sae happy,
E'en drown'd himsel amang the nappy.
As bees flee hame wi' lades o' treasure,
The minutes wing'd their way wi' pleasure:
Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious, [blessed]
O'er a' the ills o' life victorious!

But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white - then melts for ever;
Or like the Borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place; [flit=move]
Or like the Rainbow's lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm. -
Nae man can tether Time nor Tide, [tie/hold down]
The hour approaches Tam maun ride; [must]
That hour, o' night's black arch the key-stane, [keystone]
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in;
And sic a night he taks the road in, [such]
As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.

The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last; [as though it had]
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallow'd;
Loud, deep, and lang, the thunder bellow'd:
That night, a child might understand,
The deil had business on his hand. [devil]

Weel-mounted on his grey mare, Meg, [well]
A better never lifted leg,
Tam skelpit on thro' dub and mire, [rushed/raced]
Despising wind, and rain, and fire;
Whiles holding fast his gude blue bonnet, [good]
Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots sonnet,
Whiles glow'rin round wi' prudent cares,
Lest bogles catch him unawares; [ghosts]
Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh,
Where ghaists and houlets nightly cry. [ghosts and owls]

By this time he was cross the ford,
Whar in the snaw the chapman smoor'd; [where ...snow ...peddlar ...gt smothered]
And past the birks and meikle stane, [nirch treees...big stone]
Where drunken Charlie brak's neck-bane; [broke his]
And thro' the whins, and by the cairn, [whines=thorns cairn=monument]
Where hunters fand the murder'd bairn; [found ....child/baby]
And near the thorn, aboon the well, [above]
Where Mungo's mither hang'd hersel'. [mother]
Before him Doon pours all his floods,
The doubling storm roars thro' the woods,
The lightnings flash from pole to pole,
Near and more near the thunders roll,
When, glimmering thro' the groaning trees,
Kirk-Alloway seem'd in a bleeze, [Alloway church ...in a blaze]
Thro' ilka bore the beams were glancing, [through every gap]
And loud resounded mirth and dancing.

Inspiring bold John Barleycorn! [john barleycorn = whisky]
What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
Wi' tippenny, we fear nae evil; [with drink]
Wi' usquabae, we'll face the devil! [whisky(gaelic) ]
The swats sae ream'd in Tammie's noddle, [the drink so ran in his head]
Fair play, he car'd na deils a boddle, [he cared nothing for any devils]
But Maggie stood, right sair astonish'd,
Till, by the heel and hand admonish'd,
She ventur'd forward on the light;
And, wow! Tam saw an unco sight! [incredible sight]]

Warlocks and witches in a dance:
Nae cotillon, brent new frae France,
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.
A winnock-bunker in the east, [window seat/cove]
There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast;
A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large, [shaggy]
To gie them music was his charge:
He screw'd the pipes and gart them skirl, [made the skirl]
Till roof and rafters a' did dirl. - [ring/sound out]
Coffins stood round, like open presses, [a press=a cupboard]
That shaw'd the Dead in their last dresses;
And (by some devilish cantraip sleight) [cantraip=magic]
Each in its cauld hand held a light. [cauld=cold]
By which heroic Tam was able
To note upon the haly table, [holy]
A murderer's banes, in gibbet-airns; [bones]
Twa span-lang, wee, unchristened bairns;
A thief, new-cutted frae a rape,
Wi' his last gasp his gab did gape; [mouth did gape]
Five tomahawks, wi' blude red-rusted: [blood]
Five scimitars, wi' murder crusted;
A garter which a babe had strangled:
A knife, a father's throat had mangled.
Whom his ain son of life bereft,
The grey-hairs yet stack to the heft; [stuck to the shaft]]
Wi' mair of horrible and awfu', [more..awful]
Which even to name wad be unlawfu'. [would]
Three lawyers tongues, turned inside oot,
Wi' lies, seamed like a beggars clout, [clout=cloth]
Three priests hearts, rotten, black as muck,
Lay stinkin, vile in every neuk. [nook]

As Tammie glowr'd, amaz'd, and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious;
The Piper loud and louder blew,
The dancers quick and quicker flew,
The reel'd, they set, they cross'd, they cleekit,
Till ilka carlin swat and reekit, [every witch sweated and stank]
And coost her duddies to the wark, [cast her clothes on the ground]
And linkit at it in her sark! [danced in her underwear]

Now Tam, O Tam! had they been queans, [queens]
A' plump and strapping in their teens!
Their sarks, instead o' creeshie flainen, [greasy linen]
Been snaw-white seventeen hunder linen!- [snow white expensive linen]
Thir breeks o' mine, my only pair, [breeks = trousers]
That ance were plush o' guid blue hair,
I wad hae gien them off my hurdies, [woudl have ... hurdies=buttocks]
For ae blink o' the bonie burdies! [one sight of those pretty girls]]
But wither'd beldams, auld and droll, [withered hags]
Rigwoodie hags wad spean a foal, [ugly enough to suckle a foal!]
Louping an' flinging on a crummock. [leaping]
I wonder did na turn thy stomach.

But Tam kent what was what fu' brawlie: [knew what was what]
There was ae winsome wench and waulie [one pretty winsome girl ]
That night enlisted in the core,
Lang after ken'd on Carrick shore;
(For mony a beast to dead she shot, [many]
And perish'd mony a bonie boat,
And shook baith meikle corn and bear,
And kept the country-side in fear);
Her cutty sark, o' Paisley harn, [underwear of paisley cloth]
That while a lassie she had worn,
In longitude tho' sorely scanty, [ a bit scanty in length]
It was her best, and she was vauntie. [vauntie=proud]
Ah! little ken'd thy reverend grannie,
That sark she coft for her wee Nannie, [bought for]
Wi twa pund Scots ('twas a' her riches), [two pounds]
Wad ever grac'd a dance of witches!

But here my Muse her wing maun cour, [ my tale must stoop]
Sic flights are far beyond her power; [such]
To sing how Nannie lap and flang, [nannie leaped and kicked]
(A souple jade she was and strang), [supple youth ...strong]
And how Tam stood, like ane bewithc'd, [one bewitched]
And thought his very een enrich'd: [een=eyes]
Even Satan glowr'd, and fidg'd fu' fain, [figeted full of lust]
And hotch'd and blew wi' might and main';
Till first ae caper, syne anither, [then another]
Tam tint his reason a thegither, [lost his reason altogether]
And roars out, "Weel done, Cutty-sark!"
And in an instant all was dark:
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied.
When out the hellish legion sallied.

As bees bizz out wi' angry fyke, [angry wrath]
When plundering herds assail their byke; [hive]
As open pussie's mortal foes, [wild hare]
When, pop! she starts before their nose;
As eager runs the market-crowd,
When "Catch the thief!" resounds aloud;
So Maggie runs, the witches follow,
Wi' mony an eldritch skreich and hollow. [unearthly scream]

Ah, Tam! Ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin! [get whats coming]
In hell, they'll roast thee like a herrin! [herring]
In vain thy Kate awaits thy comin!
Kate soon will be a woefu' woman! [woefull]
Now, do thy speedy-utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stone o' the brig; [[bridge]
There, at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare na cross. [dare not]
But ere the keystane she could make,
The fient a tail she had to shake!
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle; [ furious aim/intent]
But little wist she Maggie's mettle!
Ae spring brought off her master hale,
But left behind her ain grey tail:
The carlin claught her by the rump, [witch ]
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

Now, wha this tale o' truth shall read,
Ilk man and mother's son, take heed: [each man]
Whene'er to Drink you are inclin'd,
Or Cutty-sarks rin in your mind, [underwear runs in your mind]
Think ye may buy the joys o'er dear; [ too dearly]
Remember Tam o' Shanter's mare.


Looney said...

So Rabbie Burns was a moralizer? Hearing the poem recited made me feel like he was speaking a foreign language.

rummuser said...

I so wanted to hear the Scottish Brogue. Alas, right clicking does not turn on the audio! Lovey to read though! Thanks.

Incidentally, I have been to Scotland a number of times and have visited Ayr too. I worked for a Scottish company for almost a quarter of a century. Part of the reason that I visit this blog. The other part is that I have genuine Scotland born, half Scot nephews. I love everything about Scotland and its people. During my drinking days, which was over a decade ago, I would not be caught dead with anything else but Single Malts.

Bunc said...

I am not sure why the audio link doesn't work for you Rum. It works for me in both IE and Firefox - both by right clicking and by just a straightforward click.

Aulyin said...

Hi Bunc,
What do you think the effect on tourism would be if Prestwick Airport were to change its name to The ROBERT BURNS INTERNATIONAL Prestwick Airport? Not just in Ayrshire but Dumfries and Galloway as well. Tam o'Shanter to the Globe Inn via Poosie Nancies.

Bunc said...

Hi Aulyin,
Prestwicks current Motto is "pure dead brilliant" - which to those not versed in the local lingo must translate something like "completely dead wonderful" which sounds like something youd put on the headstone if someone you didnt like who had passed away.

Changing the name to Robert Burns International Airport woudl be a big improvement and then they could adopt a better motto - maybe " a mans a man for all that".

(Though maybe the feminists would object to that one.)

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