My good friends, now that you've had your share of haggis - but not your fill of whisky, poetry, and blether - we can get on with the merry business of the evening. It is wonderful to see you here tonight, 2XX years after the birth of Robert Burns, to pay homage to the Bard's memory, and to celebrate his art and spirit. Thank you for your company. I am sure that Burns himself would enjoy the good fellowship and jolly spirits at this supper tonight.
It was a pleasure to write the address for this occasion; to dwell for a while in the land of Burns; to ruminate on the art of Scotland's Bard and greatest poet - one of history's greatest poets - a man whose work has been translated into more languages then that of any other poet, save Shakespeare and the Bible, and whose work, like theirs, has become so deeply imbedded in the human vernacular.
Through Burns's poetry we share a universal, and personal, experience. Doesn't it feel good to sing Auld Lang Syne among a group of friends? To share the warm feelings and sentiment of that wonderful song? I'm always amazed by To a Mouse; the philosophical juxtaposition between man and animal that Burns describes, and eloquent expression "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley."
In For A' That And A' That, Burns, the son of the Enlightenment, and leveller of social class tells us "The rank is but the guinea stamp, the man's the gowd for a' that.” In To a Louse Burns bursts the bubble of social and religious pretence.
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An foolish notion:
What airs in dress an gait wad lea'es us,
An ev'n devotion!
In Holy Willie's Prayer, as in Address to the Unco Guid, or the Rigidly Righteous, Burns is the satirist, exposing pious self-righteousness and hypocrisy: "O ye wha are sae guid yoursel, sae pious and sae holy, ye've nought to do but mark and tell your Neebour's fauts and...