To A Louse, or “To see oursels as ithers see us” - Happy Burns Day on the 25th.

Ha! whaur ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely,
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho', faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn'd by saunt an' sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her-Sae fine a lady?
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.

Swith! in some beggar's haffet squattle;
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle,
Wi' ither kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Whaur horn nor bane ne'er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.

Now haud you there, ye're out o' sight,
Below the fatt'rels, snug and tight;
Na, faith ye yet! ye'll no be right,
Till ye've got on it-
The verra tapmost, tow'rin height
O' Miss' bonnet.

My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an' grey as ony groset:
O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I'd gie you sic a hearty dose o't,
Wad dress your droddum.

I wad na been surpris'd to spy
You on an auld wife's flainen toy;
Or aiblins some bit dubbie boy,
On's wyliecoat;
But Miss' fine Lunardi! fye!
How daur ye do't?

O Jeany, dinna toss your head,
An' set your beauties a' abread!
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie's makin:
Thae winks an' finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!

Robert Burns eh? He is as close to Scots can get to a proper figure head that we can all love – Wallace was a mercenary and Charlie was a bit of a cheat, but Burns? He was a lovely fellow wasn’t he, with his poems and his songs… well not really – he fathered 14 illegitimate children and wrote letters of unrequited love to a married woman, the sly devil, but overall I really like a lot of what he wrote, especially the above “To a Louse”, written about a mouse he saw playing on a woman whilst sitting in church on a Sunday.

For our American, English and other nationalities that are reading this, it might be a good time to have a Scot read the poem out.

Dawn Steele might put a little of a harsh Glasgow accent to it… and maybe pushes the words out a little more profoundly and drunkenly than it should be… but it gives you idea of the way it is pronounced. But the line picked out is this:

“To see oursels as ithers see us!”

The most quoted line from the poem is brilliant Burns, but has more resonance if you flip it – what about as ourselves see others? Recently, trading with the resident Americans in the different in our cultures has been the main topic of conversation, regarding guns mostly, but also Football / Football and others, but why the condition to find more about a foreign country? Why the need to know about lands that we may never reach?

I think it is a precondition of the human being to have to know – that’s what intelligence gives us, the curiosity to work out the many problems facing us. Infact, the most common theory for our intelligent survival is that problem, the biggest one the world can give us – the Ice Age. In meeting its hurdles hominids passed the test and were able to problem solve their way out of certain doom, and indeed to the place we are now. It is plain to see that ever since that passage in our past we have strived to find out more about everything.

And I can imagine that no matter who you are there is a tendency to want to know. There are people who are ignorant, who don’t profess any general knowledge that is worth a damn, and these people are ignorant, but they choose not to know, or don’t have the means to know, but I think that they still have the instinctive hunger to learn, even when they cannot and don’t.

Anyway, happy Burns night on Sunday, I’ll be having haggis, but I don’t think I’ll read out Address to a Haggis just yet.