Sunday, January 27, 2013

Robert Burns Wasn't the Only Scottish Bard

No, he had many contemporaries.

From a piece on the Guardian...

In a slightly peevish strain, Sir Walter Scott wrote in the Edinburgh National Register of 1808 that "the success of Burns had the effect of exciting general emulation among all of his class in Scotland that were able to tag a rhyme. Poets began to chirp like grasshoppers in a sunshine day. The steep rocks poured down poetical goatherds, and the bowels of the earth vomited forth rhyming colliers". The reception Burns received from the Edinburgh literati – even their compliments and critical praises – had stressed a generation beforehand that he was something of a lusus naturae, that for a ploughman to write such poetry he must be "heav'n-taught", a minor form of miracle. But the truth is rather different. Scott deigns to mention only one similar poet, James Hogg, the "Ettrick Shepherd", who was a friend, a source for ballads and a rival. But there were a great many poets who were not from the monied classes at the times of Burns and in the decades thereafter, and it might be worthwhile this Burns Night to reflect on them. The valorisation of Burns as a unique, unrepeatable phenomenon of a writer obscures even further their achievements.

The Scott Monument has 16 busts of other Scottish poets surrounding the marble statue of Scott, including both Hogg and Burns (odd to think there was a time when the self-evident "national bard" was Scott, not Burns).

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