Sometimes, Burns Night falls on the second New Moon, And that marks a brand New Year – So the neeps and the cock-a-leekie share the serving spoon As the beansprouts and riceballs appear. From the docks of Kowloon to the mists of Brigadoon, It all goes in the haggis, and the bamboo pipes the tune – As we all sup together, from Scotland Yard to Scone, In a typhoon of tartan cheer. Now me, I am just a Sassenach poltroon From the billabongs of Perth to the snows of Saskatoon – But a shortbread in my green tea on a global afternoon, And the paddy-fields of glens are very near.
Can I just say what a wonderfully weird experience it is to hear someone read Address to the Haggis in an unapologetically RP accent ?
Through the village of Longbourn, the undead shuffle, The unemployed and the destitutes. The Luddites who moan in a rustic muffle, Back from Napolean without any boots. Mr Bennett says he can’t even hear them, So alien is his world to theirs, But they’re getting restless, threatening mayhem – What if it spreads to the staff downstairs ? Don’t worry, Lizzie, here’s bold Mr Darcy With his wealth stripped from the backs of the poor, He knows how to stop the rabble getting arsey, Put them back down when they dare ask for more. Crush their groups, and deport the whole crew, This seething horde of the unwashed masses. Best to wipe them out like we did at Peterloo – Before the balls are overrun with jumped-up underclasses.
Women have answered to ‘Jenny’ far longer than ‘Jennifer’, Whether they’re maidens or maids – A pet form of Janet, Joanna, or even Siobhan, She’s really a jack-of-all-trades. Old English had a few Jinifers, sure, But those weren’t Guiniveres, those were Junipers – Then, from nowhere, Jennifer came – From Cornwall, and from a parallel universe.
As the Twentieth Century progressed, The Jennies were pressed into service And switched their allegiance to Jennifer only, And rode her success to over-abundance – Then into the downward curve of redundancy, No longer heroines, neighbours, or queens – But surely we’ll always remember the Jennies, As wrens, or as donkeys, or spinning machines.
The Impressionists, they started it – The deliberate eschewing of the details of the waterlilies, Slapping on the sunflowers, slacking and half-arsing it, The barmaid blurred by beer-goggles, shorn of intimates and frillies. The Modernists just loved the concept, Loved the new permissiveness to never bother with the hard parts, Far too busy writing manifestos, or just overslept, To ever stoop to spend the years to learn the graft behind the arts. Ah, I guess they have their fans, these Abstract-ists of vapour – And not just money-launderers or the Commie-fighting CIA – Some might look alright in advertising, or as wallpaper, When tossed-off in an afternoon of dribbles, nudes, and squelching clay. But then, the public never get to choose who shall be fruitful, For we must take whichever trends the critics shall annoint. It’s just…I want my art as something rare and something beautiful, And not a random find, or shocking ugly, just to make a point.
Little wasp, little wasp, Laying eggs upon the tree – Sting the one who would be king, And sting him once again for me. Little worm, little worm, Wriggling in your swollen gall – Bite the one who’s cowering, And bite him twice for one and all.
But oh !, you’ve gone and birthed a hornet, Let loose on us worker bees – And king or queen, or brutal drone, They sting the same – just ask the trees ! To rid us of a coronet Will always leave behind a gall. The buttocks mould to fit the throne – The canker ripens, warts and all.
White men ran the slave trade, true, And I’m a man and also white – But don’t charge me for grievance due, I played no part in the blight. While others wreaked this tragedy, It’s not me, mate, and not my folks – I come from village farmhands, see, From ordinary blokes. While others banked the whole affair, Or clapped the chain or cracked the whip, We never owned a single share, Nor crewed a single ship. So don’t try laying on the guilt For crimes my bloodline never did – The damnable at which you tilt Were not my fam’ly, kid. I bear no blemish on my name, I bear no once-and-future sin – Don’t think that you can judge my blame By the colour of my skin. It’s not me mate, and not my genes, My hands are clean, my soul is light – So spare your wrath for dukes and queens, Not me, mate – get it right ! My ancestors were starved and bruised, And sometimes even outright killed – They all were wage-slaves, much abused By the lords whose lands they tilled. And so were yours – I get it, I do, But they’re not you and they’re not me. But even if my blood were blue, My conscience still blooms free – For the faults of our great-great-grands back when Have died with them, and have passed away – Look, nobody alive back then Is still alive today. For none of us in here’s a slaver, No-one’s whitewashing the trade – So please, just do us all a favour, And find a new crusade.
Gentle Francis Willughby, To best of his ability Has written us a thriller – see, The History of Fish ! Illustrated lib’rally, Meticulous and jibber-free – No charlatan or fibber, he, But honest, if not swish. The Royal-dubbed Society Have praised his work most high and free, And published with propriety His dense and hearty dish – Examining their parity And countless similarity, To classify with clarity Each finble, scule and gish. His work will lead inex’rably To Karl Linné’s complexity And Darwin’s sexy theory That the bishops try to squish – Yet mocked in perpetuity, His book an incongruity, For lacking the acuity Of Newton’s masterpiece – His grandiose Principia, That makes the heavens trippier And gravity much nippier, Is straining for release. But things are tight financially, With profits down substantially And Newton sees his chances flee Despite the Fellows’ wish – They cannot foot the bill, you see, The budget’s blown on Willughby – But don’t show Frank hostility, He’s not so queer a fish.