City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Tam O'Shanter Tops Survey of Favourite Burns Poems


By edg - Posted on 25 January 2012

Chinese schoolchildren perform Tam O'Shanter

Tonight, Scots around the world celebrate the birth of Scotland's national poet Robert Burns 227 years ago, feeding spirit and mind with a traditional Scottish meal of haggis, tatties, and neeps (washed down with a dram or two) and poetry.

The words of the customary Address to A Haggis, written in 1786, will be recited at dinner tables from Cardiff to Canada and Melbourne to Mexico City.

While treating poems like a horse race adds little to one's appreciation, it's interesting to note that a recent poll found Tam o'Shanter (which features a racing horse) was Scotland's favourite poem by the "ploughman poet" for Burns Night.

The online You Gov survey asked 1011 adults across the country to select their favourite Robert Burns poem for Burns Night from a list of options. Almost a quarter (23 per cent) chose Tam O'Shanter the verse written by Burns in 1790, which tells the story of a man who witnessed a disturbing vision after an evening's carousing.

A Man's a Man for A' That came second, with 17 per cent of respondents rating the poem - famous for its liberal ideas of society in the 19th century - as their number one choice.

Following closely in third place is the Address to a Haggis, which devotes a full poem to Scotland's famous dish, with 16 per cent of Scots rating it tops for Burns Night.

"Robert Burns is Scotland's greatest cultural icon, recognised and celebrated all around the world," said Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop.

"My personal favourite is Mary Morrison, a simple yet very romantic poem about longing. It was the poem I recited during my final year at Alloway Primary School to win the Burns Recital Prize. That was a great honour and to this day I still find the poem very moving."

For Scotland's Makar, Liz Lochhead, To a Mouse is number one. Noting its strong and vivid imagery that continues to resonate, she said: "Impossible choice. So here's my first favourite, best and dearest. At eight, I already loved that 'wee, sleeket, cowran, tim'rous beastie' being told, with perfect plain sincerity, 'I'm truly sorry Man's Dominion/ has broken Nature's social union'. A tiny trembling creature standing in for our whole laid-waste and abused planet."

Ms Hyslop continued: "Burns remains the people's poet and his legacy is of immense value to Scotland and the country's image abroad. His vast collection of work has inspired generations across the globe and the Year of Creative Scotland 2012 is the perfect time to celebrate all that is great about our culture and creativity both past and present."

Burns Night marks the end of Scotland's Winter Festivals. Events include the Scottish Government funded Big Burns Supper in Dumfries; Burnsfest at the Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh; Celtic Connections Burns Related Events; and National Museum of Scotland series of Burns events.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) have a programme of events for Burns Night with many events taking place at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum (video).

Picture: Chinese schoolchildren perform Tam O'Shanter for the First Minister