On this day: The Bard of Ayrshire

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day in 1759, Robert Burns was born in South Ayrshire, Scotland.

Burns was not Catholic, but a famous copy of his poems belonged to Dr. John Geddes, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dunkeld, who "took an interest in the poet's work, and was responsible for getting 5 Catholic Seminaries, including that of the Scots College at Valladolid, of which he had once been Rector to subscribe to the Edinburgh Edition of 1787. Burns took Geddes's own copy, bound with blank sheets at both ends, with him on his Highland tour, and delayed returning it for almost 2 years."

When he finally returned it, he had written additional poems in it. Click here for the subsequent history of the book.

Tonight, some will celebrate the Bard's birthday at Burns Suppers, singing his songs, eating haggis and drinking whisky.

Others will mark the day by reading a favorite Burns poem, perhaps "The Twa Dogs", in which Caesar, a laird's dog, and Luath, a poor farmer's collie, have a discussion. Click here for a translation into standard English.

Click here to see Sir Edwin Landseer's painting of The Twa Dogs.

The Penguin Classics edition of Selected Poems has notes, beginning on page 191, explaining the poems and providing the tunes for some of them.

This statue of Burns and Luath is in Boston.

Luath was a "favourite dog of Burns's, killed while wandering. The poet immortalised him in 'The Twa Dogs'. Luath was the name of Cuchullin's dog in Ossian's Fingal.

"Burns described his Luath as a 'gash and faithfu' tyke.'"

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