Haggis and whisky come out for Scottish bard Burns

Mon Jan 25, 2010 8:28am EST
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By Ian MacKenzie

EDINBURGH (Reuters Life!) - Scotland's national poet Robert Burns is probably unique in world literature in having his birthday on January 25 marked annually by thousands of festive dinners and recitations of his works around the world.

Glasses of whisky are raised to toast the "Immortal Memory" of the poor farmer's son born in Ayrshire in southwest Scotland in 1759 whose poetry is read and loved over 250 years later.

Burns, who died aged only 37, is renowned not only for some of the most beautiful love poems in the English language, but also for folk songs, political satire and ribaldry, his sense of fellowship and his devotion to democracy and the common man.

There was also good news at the weekend for American fans of Burns -- and for Scottish farmers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to lift restrictions on the import of one of the key ingredients for a Burns feast: haggis.

Scottish haggis, made from the internal organs of sheep mixed with oatmeal and boiled in the lining of a sheep's stomach, fell foul of a U.S. ban on the importation of animal products during a 1989 cattle disease crisis in Britain.

Why is Burns so internationally popular?

Robert Crawford, professor of modern Scottish literature at St. Andrew's University, said in the introduction to his award-winning biography of Burns that the bard had achieved his successes "not with transcendental illumination but with daftness, deftness, warmth and humor, and a sometimes painful sense of his own vulnerability."

"I think he really was able to connect with different traditions...cultures," Crawford, himself a poet, also told Reuters.   Continued...

<p>Simon Crouch dressed as Robert Burns stands outside the Alloway cottage in which poet Robert Burns was born, January 24, 2001. REUTERS/Jeff J Mitchell</p>