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Seasons dancing, life advancing

Sunday, 16 February, 2014

The transcendence of love over the limits imposed by season and time is a constant motif in the poetry of Robert Burns. His other great theme is Scotland. The country in which he lived was in flux and the great debates of the day revolved around identity. Should Scotland adopt English manners, or should it strive to establish a Scottish alternative? It was an academic debate, of course, because English cultural and linguistic hegemony had begun in 1603 with the Union of the Crowns when James VI of Scotland became James I of England and Ireland, and it continued in 1707 with the merging of the Scottish and English Parliaments.

Although Burns wrote in English, he dreamed in Scots and one could imagine him saying “Aye” on 18 September in answer to the question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” Whatever the outcome, Burns will endure.

My Bonie Bell

The smiling Spring comes in rejoicing,
And surly Winter grimly flies;
Now crystal clear are the falling waters,
And bonie blue are the sunny skies.
Fresh o’er the mountains breaks forth the morning,
The ev’ning gilds the ocean’s swell;
All creatures joy in the sun’s returning,
And I rejoice in my bonie Bell.

The flowery Spring leads sunny Summer,
The yellow Autumn presses near;
Then in his turn comes gloomy Winter,
Till smiling Spring again appear:
Thus seasons dancing, life advancing,
Old Time and Nature their changes tell;
But never ranging, still unchanging,
I adore my bonie Bell.

Robert Burns (1759 — 1796)

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