Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Grave of Burns

                                                           And I have then thy bones so near,
                                                           And thou forbidden to appear?
                                                           As if it were thyself that's here
                                                            I shrink with pain;
                                                           And both my wishes and my fear
                                                           Alike are vain.

If you're familiar with Scottish poetry you might recognise the metre and rhyme scheme above as being typical of Robert Burns but there again you might notice that you haven't once had to dip into a glossary to find out what any of the words mean. They were in fact written by William Wordsworth in 1803 and are only 6 lines of 84 celebrating his visit to the graveside of Burns, in St Michael's churchyard in Dumfries, with his sister Dorothy. He had a great deal of difficulty finding the grave by all accounts. For all Burns' funeral was quite a substantial affair his nearly final resting place (above) in 1796 was very modest indeed. Shortly after his death it was thought fitting that he should have a grander grave and in 1815 the poet's remains were moved to the new Mausoleum that had been built for him with funds raised from public subscription (including a contribution from the Prince regent who went on to be George IV.) This is where you must go now if you want to be near his bones as Wordsworth was.

You can't get into the mausoleum unless you are considerably more important than I am, so I had to content myself with trying to take a few photos with my phone camera through the glass, but as you can see inside it has been been fitted with a table and visitors book and, most appropriately a couple of red roses. And of course a radiator - it wouldn't do for the great man's mortal remains to get chilly now.
The gravestone within the mausoleum is in the style of any other Scottish gravestone of the time........

........although most Scottish graves don't have a statue of the incumbent - this one is slightly later than the mausoleum itself (1836) as the original was found to deteriorating badly.

 Just outside the graveyard is a recent statue to Jean Armour, his wife who must have been a woman of great patience for allowing her husband to live long enough to die of natural causes. She had 9 children to Robert (who never ever signed his name Rabbie - please take note rest of the world), who had another 4 children to other women before and after he was married. After Burns' death she found herself on the poverty line which attracted national attention and a charitable fund was set up to look after her and her Children

Above, not far from his grave is the house where he spent the last few years of his life and where he died. These days it's been set up as a museum but, as can be expected, wasn't open when I passed.

Well it would seem a bit off to write a blog about Robert Burns and not includes a few lines from him especially since old Billy Wordsworth has already had his say at the beginning. You can of course find his words to mice, haggis and cautionary tales about riding home on stormy nights under the influence under just about any stone you turn over but there are people noting the appearance of certain commodities within this blog. To my knowledge, he never wrote To a Nice Cup Of Tea but I have found the following ditty called Gude Ale Keeps the Heart Aboon. He was a great collector of tunes and the chorus from this is indeed much older than the verses which he wrote.

                                                 O gude ale comes and gude ale goes,
                                                 Gude ale gars me sell my hose,
                                                 Sell my hose and pawn my shoon, -
                                                 Gude ale keeps my heart aboon !

                                             I had sax owsen in a pleugh,
                                            And they drew a' weel enough;
                                             I sell'd them a just ane by ane, -
                                            Gude ale keeps my heart aboon !

                                                 O gude ale comes, etc

                                            Gude ale hauds me bare and busy,
                                            Gars me moop wi' the servent hizzie,
                                            Stand i' the stool when I hae done,-
                                            Gude ale keeps my heart aboon!

                                               O gude ale comes, etc


Laoch of Chicago said...

Fine post.

Rocket Man said...

We have several old tombs that are climate controlled. I hope the bones appreciate the modern conveniences, especially since central heat and A/C didn't exist when the esteemed persons were alive.

The Glebe Blog said...

My Dad who lived for 30 odd years up the Bankend road first took me to St Michaels about thirty years ago.It was a miserable day and pouring rain,but he insisted on reciting 'A Man's A Man For A' That'.He could recite 'Tam O' Shanter' as long as his wine glass was kept topped up.
Good to see you got the sun shining Sandy.

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

"...a woman of great patience for allowing her husband to live long enough to die of natural causes." A great line which I shall (I hope) get a lot of mileage out of with my good woman. Good post.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Very interesting, I've had a look at a lot of the Burns trail but I've not seen the Mausoleum (how did i miss it?)

Sandy's witterings said...

Thank you all for you comments.

Jim, I was in Dumfries for an hour and a half - it might well have been sunny while I was at St Michael's but normal service resumed shortly after that and it was chucking it down by the time I caught my bus. Tam O' Shanter is definately a two glass poem.

Juliet, if you got as far as his house in Dumfries you were only two minutes from the Mausoleum and the man himself - fortunately he's not going anywhere soon and should still be there if you're passing again.