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What would Burns have done?

Monday, 8 September, 2014

Born in 1759 in Alloway, Robert Burns died in 1796 in Dumfries. Because of the Acts of Union of 1707, both places are now part of the United Kingdom. But for how long more? The national poet of Scotland savaged the Scottish aristocrats who had been bribed by the English to agree to that 1707 Union of Parliaments in “Such A Parcel of Rogues in A Nation“:

What force or guile could not subdue,
Thro’ many warlike ages,
Is wrought now by a coward few,
For hireling traitor’s wages.
The English steel we could disdain,
Secure in valour’s station;
But English gold has been our bane —
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

Despite this, Burns recognized that there were good sides to the Union, and he saw that an alliance of all the British peoples offered Scotland considerable advantages. He had his loyalist, royalist moments, too, and one imagines that today’s news from Clarence House would have pleased the man who penned “Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat:”

“… For never but by British hands
Maun British wrangs be righted!”
Burns was even prepared to toast the monarch:
The next in succession I’ll give you’s the King!
Whoe’er would betray him, on high may he swing!

The same poem contains the couplet: “O let us not, like snarling curs / In wrangling be divided.” Depending on how one reads Burns, and when, and where, he can be construed as an “Aye” and a “Nae”.


Filed in: Britain, History, Poetry

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