Robert Burns – The First Rapper

It’s Burns night this week. (Friday 25th January). But for those who don’t know Burns here’s a quick summary: he was the greatest!!!

Robert Burns was a Scottish rapper, poet and song-writer of the eighteenth century, now loved across the world by millions. He invented so many famous words and sayings: ‘whatever’ and ‘so what?’ are two of the ones he didn’t invent. But those he did invent include ‘faint heart never won fair lady’; ‘always try for intimacy at the first possible opportunity’; ‘the best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft aglay (go often astray)’; ‘man’s inhumanity to man makes countless millions mourn’ and of course he wrote that song you can never remember the words of on New Year’s Eve, ‘Should auld acquaintance be forgot (Auld Lang Syne)’. Burns was the king of the one-liners. He was a head taller than any other man.

He was the perfect bit of rough. He was the poet of the people, a revolutionary upstart in Edinburgh. The Scottish establishment have always tried to tone down his image – nice man in kilt on biscuit tin, they make him seem like Daniel O’Donnell. But he was the Tom Paine of Scotland.

He also wrote one of the great protest songs of all time, ‘The Slave’s Lament’. I recommend the version by Jean Redpath.

Bill Smith aka Latest Bill

It was in sweet Senegal
That my foes did me enthral
For the lands of Virginia, -ginia, O!
Torn from that lovely shore,
And must never see it more,
And alas! I am weary, weary, O!
All on that charming coast
Is no bitter snow and frost,
Like the lands of Virginia, -ginia, O!
There streams for ever flow,
And the flowers for ever blow,
And alas! I am weary, weary, O!
The burden I must bear,
While the cruel scourge I fear,
In the lands of Virginia, -ginia, O!
And I think on friends most dear
With the bitter, bitter tear,
And alas! I am weary, weary, O!

If you want to know more about Burns I recommend Catherine Carswell’s biography.

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