Monday, 27 January 2020

The Independent Mind of Rabbie Burns. 1759 – 2020




The man o' independent mind – he looks and laughs at aa that”.

The genius of Scotland's immortal bard has appealed to many folks for many different reasons. He had an exceptional ability to deeply understand humanity and to express his observations through his advanced skills in verbal and written communication. He was able to reach people from a wide range of social, political, religious and philosophical backgrounds.

Hardly surprising then that people with contrasting views and ethics seek to embrace him as one of their own. What is it about this 18th Century bard that still makes his life and works so relevant in this present day?



Those who do not fully comprehend all the complexities of Burns believe that he was a mere happy-go-lucky chancer with an extreme passion for whiskey and women. The same people miss the extent of his sincerity in his love for the women.

He poignantly addresses the personal pain of his broken heart in The Winter It Is Past, The Lament, and Bonnie Doon. In The Mauchline Belles he highlights his devoted wife, Jean Armour, as “the jewel of them aa”.

The numerous letters exchanged between himself and Mrs Dunlop demonstrate his friendship and respect for women beyond the physical and Ae Fond Kiss, one of his most beautiful and heartfelt love songs was penned as a result of a platonic relationship with 'Clarinda'.

Burns was a patriot: a Scottish and a British patriot: but not at any cost, and just as important, he was an internationalist who advocated for the Rights of Man, and the Rights of Woman, the world o'er.

The let us pray that come it may, as come it will for aa that
   That man tae man the warld o'er shall brithers be for aa that.”

He had supported the ideals of the French and American Revolutions of his lifetime where he challenged the regimes of those nations that restricted the democratic rights, sovereignty and liberty of the people.

His 'Ode for General Washington's Birthday', 'Tree of Liberty', 'A Man's A Man' and his 'Rights of Woman' are among his finest works that demonstrate his cosmopolitan outlook and his support for universal liberty.

His cosmopolitan and universal outlook however was not in contradiction to his belief in democracy and sovereignty.

Be Britons still to Britain true, among oorsels united. 
  For never but by British hands must British wrangs be righted.”

Nor did his British patriotism interfere with his concern for the rights of the People.

But while we sing God Save The King, we'll ne'er forget the people.”

Burns was a Presbyterian who challenged the hypocrisy of the elite of the kirk: the virtue signalling of the "Rigidly Righteous and the Unco Guid": If burns was around today no doubt he would easilly find other virtue signalling elites to take a swipe at, with lines like:

O wud some power the Giftie gie us tae see oorsels as ithers see us.”

And such lines as: 
“ Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord wha struts an stares and aa that 
  Tho hunners worship at his word, he's but a cuif for aa that. 
  The man o independent mind, he looks and laughs at aa that”. 
- still have much relevance today.

Those who do not understand Burns think he was inconsistent in his values: merely in pursuit of personal monetary gain. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was faithful and loyal to his kirk and state: but not at any cost.

He was a democrat who supported the rule of law and the authority of the democratically elected government while openly challenging aspects of the system. He did not blindly bow in devotion to the establishment: he queried and challenged the status quo. He had a keen interest in the politics of his time but was not a member of a political party.

While we sing God Save the King, we'll ne'er forget the people.”
[This line is worth repeating. It is from his song, 'Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat,' written when he was a part-time soldier with the Dumfries Volunteers]

In 2020 it still seems difficult for some people to understand that he was an independent free-thinker who was genuinely open-minded and that his support for any cause came with conditions..

His 'A Parcel of Rogues in a Nation' was indeed an assault on the Scottish elite, of the early 18th Century, who he reckoned capitulated to tyrants and were bought and sold for English gold. In the early 21st Century he could easily direct the same sentiments at political elites who are being bought and sold for the gold of the global tyrants.

In January 2020 people from a wide range of backgrounds will gather across the world to celebrate the bard: the man and his works. They will include loyalists, republicans, monarchists, Jacobites, Williamites, nationalists, internationalists, unionists, liberals, democrats, conservatives, communists, socialists, capitalists, Presbyterians, humanitarians, Freemasons, farmers, civil servants, entrepreneurs, soldiers and peace makers.

 They will each focus on what Rabbie Burns means to them. And that is all good because Burns did have the uncanny ability to connect with all those types of people on some level.

It is difficult for many to get their heads around this and at the same time understand that he was a man of clarity who steadfastly stood for his principles.

Burns was also NOT many things. He was a not a sycophant who could be bought and sold for anyone's gold. He was “naebody's lord” but he would be “slave tae naebody”.

 He was a “man o independent mind who looks and laughs at aa that”.


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