To A Poet On His Birthday

Originally published January 22, 2006

January 25 is Robbie Burns (1759-1793) Day. It will be the 247 celebration of his birthday! This is the day we serve Haggis – or a more palatable substitute (read sausage and mash with neeps – turnip.) We read: To A Mouse, To A Louse (has nothing to do with dead beat husbands) and address the Haggis or palatable substitute. We read: I Love My Jean – not jeans, Highland Mary and My luv is like a red, red rose – time not to smell the roses and for those devotees among us, the very special poetry people, we read Tam O’ Shanter – in whole or in part.

We do not knit, unless it is to knit some ancient pattern from some obscure corner of the Scottish universe in homage to a man, a poet, who sought to preserve for all posterity, the language and culture of the common man, as he spoke, lived and loved in the land that gave us Shetland wool, fair isle and Auld Lang Syne!

I love Robbie Burns. He set out to preserve, the song, the poetry, the lyrics and the lyrical, all that is wonderful about an old language, an old dialect and an ancient life style. He immortalized the words (from To A Louse):

“O wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us.” 

and the lines that are spoken daily at Infiknit (from To A Mouse) 

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley,
an’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain
For promis’d joy.” 

and the wonderful – “Cutty sark” or short skirt worn by the winsome wraith in Tam O’ Shanter whence cometh the phrase, “Well done, Cutty sark!” or “Bravo”. The clipper ship of same followed, with sails like short shirts, and the Scotch flowed – er- followed later.

Here are my knitted offerings on Robbie Burns day. Plaid Tidings of great joy – stolen from the name of Branksome Hall’s winter event – any alumni here?

I was experimenting with plaid in this fair isle sweater that I knit quite a long time ago for my daughter. If I were to do it again, I would not reverse the colour placement in the middle section. I would just have it as one repetition of the starting and ending sequence. The edges are from a mosaic pattern done in 4 colours and the sides are joined together by picking up stitches along the under arm and sides of the garment, knitting a row or two of garter stitch and then doing a 3 needle bind off.

The idea was to be able to make the sweater bigger as the child grew, by unravelling the bind off and adding rows.

Another without the middle experiment and some hats. Pulling these from bins and storage boxes under the stairs, remembering how I struggled at times with the pattern and the structure of the garments, also finding the odd moth hole reminded me of a poem that I think is a lovely image of Robert Burns’ work. The poem addresses a “highland lass” who is singing, as the poet suggests, of “old forgotten far off things and battles long ago.”

Two skeins of organic cotton to the first person who can post in the comments the title of the poem and its author. Hint: it is not Robert Burns. 

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top