Since beginning this blog, I've written each Halloween about different aspects of the Hallowe'en festival. Today, I'm harkening back to my teens when I studied some of Robert Burns poetry. I vaguely remember reading back then that Robert Burns' famous poem Tam O ' Shanter (1790) wasn't his first attempt to portray the Eve of all Hallows. I studied Tam O' Shanter in depth for my O Grade, or maybe it was my Higher English Exam, and loved it but I didn't, at that time, read the earlier poem named Halloween.
In 1785, he wrote Halloween in 28 stanzas which gave an idea of what the folk of the parish just might be doing on the night of Halloween. It a great poem, though not in my opinion anything like as exciting as Tam O Shanter. Halloween is quite tricky to understand but I find reading it aloud helps me, even when the actual meaning is obscure because the poem refers to long lost agricultural practices. It's also one of his longer poems, so you need to have some time to absorb it!
BUT...this is where the internet is fabulous. There are a number of sites which do a great job of explaining Burn's poetry. I've copied the poem below from my own Collins (publisher) copy of the works of Robert Burns- the Souvenir Edition edited by James Barke- and have included his translations. But to give even clearer depth to the poem, and to add a huge amount to the translation of the poem, I suggest you click this link to read the Footnotes created by Burns himself. They're a fascinating read and a glimpse into the farming communities among whom he lived.
|My Robert Burns plate|