Sunday, 25 January 2015

Poem and whisky for Burn's Night: Tam O'Shanter

Tam O' Shanter

When chapman billies leave the street,
And drouthy neibors neibors meet;
As market days are wearing late,
And folk begin to tak the gate,
While we sit bousing at the nappy,
An' getting fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps and stiles,
That lie between us and our hame,
Where sits our sulky, sullen dame,
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

This truth fand honest Tam o' Shanter,
As he frae Ayr ae night did canter:
(Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses,
For honest men and bonie lasses).

O Tam! had'st thou but been sae wise,
As taen thy ain wife Kate's advice!
She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,
A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum;
That frae November till October,
Ae market-day thou was na sober;
That ilka melder wi' the Miller,
Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;
That ev'ry naig was ca'd a shoe on
The Smith and thee gat roarin fou on;
That at the Lord's house, ev'n on Sunday,
Thou drank wi' Kirkton Jean till Monday;
She prophesied that late or soon,
Thou wad be found, deep drown'd in Doon,
Or catch'd wi' warlocks in the mirk,
By Alloway's auld, haunted kirk.

Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet,
To think how mony counsels sweet,
How mony lengthen'd, sage advices,
The husband frae the wife despises!

But to our tale: - Ae market night,
Tam had got planted unco right,
Fast by the ingle, bleezing finely,
Wi' reaming swats that drank divinely;
And at his elbow, Souter Johnie,
His ancient, trusty, drouthy crony:
Tam lo'ed him like a very brither;
They had been fou for weeks thegither.
The night drave on wi' sangs an' clatter;
And aye the ale was growing better:
The Landlady and Tam grew gracious,
Wi' favours secret, sweet and precious:
The Souter tauld his queerest stories;
The Landlord's laugh was ready chorus:
The storm without might rair and rustle,
Tam did na mind the storm a whistle.

Care, mad to see a man sae happy,
E'en drown'd himsel amang the nappy.
As bees flee hame wi' lades o' treasure,
The minutes wing'd their way wi' pleasure:
Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious,
O'er a' the ills o' life victorious!

But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white - then melts for ever;
Or like the Borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the Rainbow's lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm. -

Nae man can tecther Time nor Tide,
The hour approaches Tam maun ride;
That hour, o' night's black arch the key-stane,
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in;
And sic a night he taks the road in,
As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.

The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last;
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallow'd;
Loud, deep, and lang the thunder bellow'd:
That night, a child might understand,
The deil had business on his hand.

Weel-mounted on his grey mare Meg,
A better never leg,
Tam skelpit on thro' dub and mire,
Despising wind, and rain, and fire;
Whiles holding fast his gude blue bonnett,
Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots sonnet,
Whiles glow'rin round wi' prudent cares,
Lest bogles catch him unawares;
Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh,
Where ghaists and houlets nightly cry.

By this time he was cross the ford,
Where in the snaw the chapman smoor'd;
And past the birks and meikle stane,
Where drunken Charlie brak's neck-bane;
And thro' the whins, and by the cairn,
Where hunters fand the murder'd bairn;
And near the thorn, aboon the well,
Where Mungo's mither hang'd hersel'.
Before him Doon pours all his floods,
The doubling storm roars thro' the woods,
The lightnings flash from pole to pole,
Near and more near the thunders roll,
When, glimmering thro' the groaning trees,
Kirk-Alloway seem'd in a bleeze,
Thro' ilka bore the beams were glancing,
And loud resounded mirth and dancing.

Inspiring bold John Barleycorn!
What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
Wi' tippeny, we fear nae evil;
Wi' usquabae, we'll face the devil!
The swats sae ream'd in Tammie's noddle,
Fair play, he car'd na deils a boddle,
But Maggie stood, right sair astonish'd,
Till, by the heel and hand admonish'd,
She ventur'd forward on the light;
And wow! Tam saw an unco sight!

Warlocks and witches in a dance:
Nae cotillon, brent new frae France,
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.
A winnock-bunker in the east,
There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast;
A tousie tyke, black, grim, and large,
To gie them music was his charge.
He screw'd the pipes and gart them skirl,
Till roof and rafters a' did dirl. -
Coffins stood round, like open presses,
That shaw'd the Dead in their last dresses;
And (by some devilish cantraip sleight)
Each in its cauld hand held a light.
By which heroic Tam was able
To note upon the haly table,
A murderer's banes, in gibbet-airns;
Twa span-lang, wee, unchristened bairns;
A thief, new-cutted frae a rape,
Wi' his last gasp his gab did gape;
Five tomahawks, wi' blude red-rusted:
Five scimitars, wi' murder crusted;
A garter which a babe had strangled:
A knife, a father's throat had mangled,
Whom his ain son of life bereft,
The grey hairs yet stack to the heft;
Wi' mair of horrible and awfu',
Which even to name was be unlawfu'.

As Tammie glowr'd, amaz'd, and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious;
The Piper loud and louder blew,
The dancers quick and quicker flew,
They reel'd, they set, they cross'd, they cleekit,
Till ilka carlin swat and reekit,
And coost her duddies to the wark,
And linkit at it in her sark!

Now Tam, O Tam! had they been queans,
A' plump and strapping in their teens!
Their sarks, instead o' creeshie flainen,
Been snaw-white seventeen-hunder linen! -
Thir breeks o' mine, my only pair,
That aince were plush, o' guid blue hair,
I wud hae gien them off my hurdies,
For ae blink o' the bonie burdies!
But wither'd beldams, auld and droll,
Rigwoodie hags wad spean a foal,
Louping an' flinging on a crummock,
I wonder did na turn thy stomach.

But Tam kent what was what fu' brawlie:
There was ae winsome wench and waulie
That night enlisted in the core,
Lang after ken'd on Carrick shore
(For mony a beast to dead she shot,
And perish'd mony a bonie boat,
And shook baith meikle corn and bear,
And kept the country-side in fear);
Her cutty sark, o' Paisley harn,
That while a lassie she had worn,
In longitude tho' sorely scanty,
It was her best, and she was vauntie.
Ah! little ken'd thy reverend grannie,
That sark she coft for her wee Nannie,
Wi' twa pund Scots ('twas a' her riches),
Wad ever grac'd a dance of witches!

But here my Muse her wing maun cour,
Sic flights are far beyond her power;
To sing how Nannie lap and flang
(A souple jade she was and strang),
And how Tam stood, like ane bewitch'd,
And thought his very een enrich'd:
Even Satan glowr'd, and fidg'd fu' fain,
And hotch'd and blew wi' might and main:
Till first ae caper, syne anither,
Tam tint his reason a' thegither,
And roars out, "Weel done, Cutty-sark!"
And in an instant all was dark:
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied,
When out the hellish legion sallied.

As bees bizz out wi' angry fyke,
When plundering herds assail their byke;
As open pussie's mortal foes,
When, pop! she starts before their nose;
As eager runs the market-crowd,
When "Catch the thief!" resounds aloud;
So Maggie runs, the witches follow,
Wi' mony an eldritch skreich and hollo.

Ah, Tam! Ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin!
In hell they'll roast thee like a herrin!
In vain thy Kate awaits thy comin!
Kate soon will be a woefu' woman!
Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stane o' the brig;
There, at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare ne cross.
But ere the key-stane she could make,
The fient a tail she had to shake!
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle;
But little wist she Maggie's mettle!
Ae spring brought off her master hale,
But left behind her ain grey tale:
The carlin claught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

Now, wha this tale o' truth shall read,
Ilk man, and mother's son, take heed:
Whene'er to Drink you are inclin'd,
Or Cutty-sarks rin in your mind,
Think ye may buy the joys o'er dear;
Remember Tam o' Shanter's mare.


Burns Night 2015: 11 best whiskies
Our pick of the whiskies to toast the life and work of Scotland's national poet on January 25

Will Dean and Samuel Muston
Thursday 22 January 2015

Mark Burns Night in suitable style: with a dram of one of these whiskies, all hailing from the British Isles - with one exception for renegade celebrators.

1. Lagavulin 16-year-old single malt
The pride of Islay, Lagavulin’s standard single malt is a consistent winner of high scores in the whisky ratings world, winning double gold medals for four consecutive years in the mid aughts in the San Francisco World Spirits awards. It’s also the sip of choice of one of the best whisky drinkers on television, Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson. No better endorsement than that.

2. Glenlivet 12-year-old
A fine go-to single malt for the casual supper - always worth having in the cabinet. It’s not for no good reason that the famous Scottish distillery’s 12-year-old remains one of the world’s top sellers. A smooth, golden, oaky Scottish drop that’s great post-dinner or as a toast for Rabbie himself.

3. Bushmills 16-year-old

Tricky to get hold of - and with good reason - the giant of Irish whisky making’s 16-year-old treasure is matured in a combination of barrels. This three-wood approach sees one whisky matured in a bourbon barrel, another in a Spanish Oloroso sherry butt before the two are combined in a port cask. The result of this concoction. A sweet, nutty taste of malt heaven.

4. Talisker Port Ruighe

Like the Bushmills 16, this peaty, smoky whisky from Talisker is matured in separate oak casks - one normal oak, the other charred - before being finished in port casks, giving it that lovely, slightly amber glow. Perfect for a cold night by the fire.

5. Caol Ila 12-year single malt
Also on Islay is the Caol Ila distillery (its name means “Sound of Islay”). The 12-year single malt is one of the island’s lighter whiskies and rather smooth on the the tastebuds, though it retains a signature smokiness.

6. Balblair 2003
So good is Balblair’s offering that we have included two of their whiskies. Bottled in 2013, this 10-year-old malt number is long on honey and citrus flavours co-mingled with a touch of the floral. It is an absolute cracker. Worth a tipple for its long, sweet finish alone.

7. Bowmore Black Rock

Burnt orange, peat smoke and treacle - this sherry-cask matured single malt has all things you want on a cold winter evening. It’s real draw, though, is the fact that it deftly balance smokiness with richness, and even has a touch of sea salt-flavour to it. A reliable every-day drinker.

8. Old Pulteney 17-Year-Old
This teenager scooped a gold medal for top-notch quality at the 2014 International Wine and Spirit Competition. The fact that it was matured in Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry casks shines through in the tasting: it has a complex sweetness to it that runs from peach to raisin.

9. Glen Grant 10 Year Old

This is best described as a ‘subtle’ single malt. It won’t dance a can-can on your tongue, by any means, but there is a reason it is a stalwart of Jim Murray’s whisky bible and won gold at the San Francisco World Spirit competition. It’s easy-going with a touch of peat to it, along with lots of vanilla sweetness.

10. Balblair 1990

Balblair has been slaking the nations thirst for Scotch since 1790 – and you can see all their sure-footed brilliance in this 25-year-old. It is matured in both American oak bourbon and Spanish sherry casks, giving it a warm amber hue and a rich chocolate and raisin palate and cocoa-ish finish.

11. Suntory Whisky The Hakushi Single Malt
Ok, so this isn’t from Scotland – the distillery is in the foothills of Mount Kaikomagatake, Japan -- but it most definitely wouldn’t have the Bard of Ayrshire rolling in his grave. Both heavy and lightly peated malts have been used in this to give a complex character with not a little of the herbaceous about it. Very good in a Highball.

For your Burns Night toast, our pick of the nips is Balblair'sspectacular 2003 offering. If you're after a spirit-cupboard staple, keep a bottle of Glenlivet 12-year-old on the shelf.

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