Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ale, Offal, and Adultery - Robert Burns and the Stool of Repentance

Robert Burns was born on January 25th, 1759. Saturday the Northwest St. Andrew's Society is holding a Burns' Night Dinner in his honor. If you've got a hankering for some haggis, this is your chance!

So here's some fine beer poetry from Burns in his honor. Prost!

From The Works of Robert Burns, vol 3 (p. 244)

Gude ale comes and gude ale goes;
Gude ale gars me sell my hose,
Sell my hose, and pawn my shoon—
Gude ale keeps my heart aboon !

I HAD sax owsen in a pleugh,
And they drew a' weel eneugh:
I sell'd them a' just ane by ane—
Gude ale keeps the heart aboon 1
0 gude ale comes, &c.

Gude ale hauds me bare and busy,
Gars me moop wi' the servant hizzie,
Stand i' the stool when I hae dune—
Gude ale keeps the heart aboon!
0 gude ale comes, &c.

The bulk of this song is by Burns, although a line here and there belongs to an older strain of even less delicacy. The closing verse has reference to the old ecclesiastical mode of punishing a certain class of offences by placing the culprit on a "cutty stool" before the congregation in church. The air to which it is sung is very effective, and goes by the jolly title, "The bottom o' the punch-bowl."
A Dr. Adair of Harrowgate narrated an August 1787 trip with Burns (cited here, p. xxv) and eludicates the indelicate class of offenses for which the stool might be merited:
At Dunfermline we visited the ruined abbey, and the abbey-church, now consecrated to Presbyterian worship. Here I mounted the cutty stool, or stool of repentance, assuming the character of a penitent for fornication; while Burns from the pulpit addressed to me a ludicrous reproof and exhortation, parodied from that which had been delivered to himself In Ayrshire, where he had, he assured me, once been one of seven who mounted the seat of shame together.
So I think we know into what class of behavior "mooping" falls!

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