Senior Sem Journal: Spring Break… with a Scottish Accent

Our next Senior Seminar journal entry reveals that Danielle Johnson (’12) spent her spring break in the company of the late great Scottish poet Robert Burns. (Check her previous entry in the series, on differing approaches to the history of national identity.)

Over spring break, I engaged in some of the most enjoyable primary research I have conducted in a while. This research included reading poems of Robert Burns, who is  sometimes more affectionately referred to as “Rabbie” Burns. “Scots Wha Hae” was a poem that was particularly relevant to my study. Burns composed it in the late 18th century; set to a traditional Scottish tune, it recalls the memory of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce opposing the English and Edward II.  It has remained popular in Scottish culture, and is currently the party song of the Scottish Nationalist Party.  I of course found many difference of this song, and to the joy of my roommates ears, have been practicing my own skills in singing in Scots (much to the joy of my roommates).

Robert Burns
Robert Burns (1759-1796) - Wikimedia

Reading Scots, the common (but slowly fading) Scottish speech of Burns’ day, has been one of the most interesting parts of my research.  I had to look up English translations for some of the poems to make sure I was actually reading the right words.

Scotland, my auld, respected mither!
Tho whiles ye moistify your leather,
Till whare ye sit on craps o heather,
                      Ye tine your dam ;
Freedom and whisky gang thegither!
                       Tak aff your dram.

Though it sometimes was a bit confusing, I enjoyed reading Burns’ poems in their original Scots, not only because I like to try and pronounce it, but because it seems to reveals that Burns was maintaining some Scottish identity and uniqueness from England by choosing write in a language unique to Scotland.

-Danielle Johnson

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