Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Twa Dogs

In honor of Robert Burns birthday (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796), I am posting the beginning of his poem The Twa Dogs (the remainder and modern English translation of which can be found at the link – you’re welcome). Mr. Burns wrote the poem in honor of his beloved dog, Luath, who was killed the night before Burns’ own father died.  He wanted to memorialize his friend as he knew best.

A Tale

'Twas in that place o' Scotland's isle, 
That bears the name o' auld King Coil,

Upon a bonnie day in June,

When wearin' thro' the afternoon,

Twa dogs, that were na thrang at hame,

Forgather'd ance upon a time.

The first I'll name, they ca'd him Caesar, 
Was keepit for 'his Honor's' pleasure:

His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs,

Shew'd he was nane o' Scotland's dogs;

But whalpit some place far abroad,

Whare sailors gang to fish for cod.

His locked, letter'd, braw brass collar 
Shew'd him the gentleman an' scholar;

But tho' he was o' high degree,

The fient a pride, nae pride had he;

But wad hae spent an hour caressin,

Ev'n wi' a tinkler-gipsy's messin;

At kirk or market, mill or smiddie,

Nae tawted tyke, tho' e'er sae dudie,

But he wad stan't, as glad to see him,

An' stroan't on stanes an' hillocks wi' him.

The tither was a ploughman's collie, 
A rhyming, ranting, raving billie,

Wha for his friend an' comrade had him,

And in his freaks had Luath ca'd him,

After some dog in Highland sang,

Was made lang syne - Lord knows how lang.

He was a gash an' faithfu' tyke,

As ever lap a sheugh or dyke.

His honest, sonsie, baws'nt face

Ay gat him friends in ilka place;

His breast was white, his tousie back

Weel clad wi' coat o' glossy black;

His gawsie tail, wi' upward curl,

Hung owre his hurdies wi' a swirl.

Nae doubt but they were fain o' ither, 
And unco pack an' thick thegither,

Wi' social nose whyles snuff'd an' snowkit;

Whyles mice an' moudieworts they howkit;

Whyles scour'd awa' in lang excursion,

An' worry'd ither in diversion;

Till tir'd at last wi' monie a farce,

They sat them down upon their arse,

An' there began a lang digression

About the 'lords o' the creation'.

The remainder of the poem (found here) is a dialogue between Caesar, a laird’s dog, and Luath, a ploughman’s collie, through which Burns reveals his thoughts on the differences between the character of the gentry and that of the working man.  I’ll give you a hint: the gentry don’t come off looking too good, and the common man, smelling like a red, red rose.

This is my favorite passage from Caesar, discussing how while the gentry don’t suffer from hunger or cold, they tend to make up their own crises:

It's true, they need na starve or sweat, 
Thro' winter's cauld, or simmer's heat; 
They've nae sair wark to craze their banes, 
An' fill auld-age wi' grips an granes:
But human bodies are sic fools, 
For a' their colleges an' schools, 
That when nae real ills perplex them; 
They mak enow themsels to vex them;

I felt certain that such a poem had some artwork associated with it.  Again, I was delighted to find this statue of Burns and his dog, Luath, not only existed, but more significantly, was right here in my own backyard

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