Thursday, 9 July 2015

Rabbie Burns spurned my attentions!

I had a day out with Coline while in Scotland, and one of the places we went to was Aberfeldy in Perthshire. This lies on the upper River Tay, and is a pleasant spot indeed. It has a well-known bookshop, and we had lunch there, then tackled the Birks of Aberfeldy. This was in essence a steepish, deeply-incised wooded valley - I should say glen - pretty with trees and ferns, into which a lot of little (and not so little) waterfalls cascaded. There were bluebell glades, rocky outcrops, and, at the top end, a glimpse of the beautiful Perthshire hills. We came on a hot, sunny day, and were glad of the cool shade. But we still had a yummy ice-cream afterwards!

The idea was that you walked up one side of the glen to the top - I'd say the east side, the one we took, was the better option - and then down again on the other side. The path was not suitable for wheelchairs, but otherwise it was an easy stroll requiring no great effort, although in places steep enough to make you puff. Stout wooden bridges spanned the cascades, giving any photographer plenty of positions from which to take classic pictures of white water splashing onto splendid rocks.

It was very beautiful, and despite the general wildness of the water, very civilised. A civic procession - Lord Mayor and entourage in full red robes and gold regalia - could have tackled it without loss of dignity. We were but simple tourist folk, virtually commoners, and could be as daft and undignified as we liked. We almost had the place almost to ourselves, encountering very few other persons. The only untidy note was the amount of wood strewn about - tree trunks and so on, from further upstream - which if not removed would lead to dangerous damming. It also hinted at the awful power of these streams, when fed by winter rain and melted snow.

As the photo of the notice board above suggested, there was a connection with Scotland's National Poet, Robert Burns. He came here in 1787 on a tour of the Highlands with a friend, and he was so inspired by the place - especially the Falls of Moness high up in the glen - that he wrote The Birks Of Aberfeldy - or is it more properly Birks O' Aberfeldy? - which became the lyrics for a traditional love song still performed. This is it:

Now simmer blinks on flow'ry braes,
And o'er the crystal streamlet plays,
Come, let us spend the lightsome days
In the birks of Aberfeldie!
Bonnie lassie, will ye go,
Will ye go, will ye go,
Bonnie lassie, will ye go
To the birks of Aberfeldie?

The little birdies blithely sing,
While o'er their heads the hazels hing;
Or lightly flit on wanton wing
In the birks of Aberfeldie!
Bonnie lassie, will ye go…

The braes ascend like lofty wa's,
The foaming stream, deep-roaring, fa's,
O'er-hung wi' fragrant spreading shaws,
The birks of Aberfeldie.
Bonnie lassie, will ye go…

The hoary cliffs are crown'd wi' flowers,
White o'er the linns the burnie pours,
And, rising, weets wi' misty showers
The birks of Aberfeldie.
Bonnie lassie, will ye go…

Let Fortune's gifts at random flee,
They ne'er shall draw a wish frae me,
Supremely blest wi' love and thee
In the birks of Aberfeldie.
Bonnie lassie, will ye go… 

Robert Burns

Well, not being a poet in any shape, manner or form - only a happy snapper - I'm entirely unable to judge the artistic merit of this ode. But, of course, the Aberfeldy tourist board, who know fine verse when they see it, had made the most of the Burns connection, encouraging you to find the very spot where The Poet stood transfixed in rapture, clutching at his very heart, so ravished was he at the beauty and majesty of the scene before him; and where, quill in trembling hand, he scribbled on a handy parchment the immortal words that his fevered brain invented on the spot, ere he swooned.

We both curtsied on seeing this plaque.

But this wasn't the only Burnsian thing to confront us. Just on the edge of the car park was an array of posts, each topped by a little bust of The Poet. Even Coline, the Thinking Woman's photographer, couldn't resist a shot. A true professional.

If that were not sufficient, a bench seat came into view, apparently occupied at one end by a quiet man sitting very still.

Clearly he'd been sitting there for so long that he'd become part of the seat. Closer inspection revealed him to be in eighteenth-century dress. Who could this be?

By Jingo! The man himself! Robert Burns, no less! But he seemed to be in a reverie of some kind, a finger poised motionless over a line of verse.

'Hello, Mr Burns!' I said, in merry greeting. Silence. Nary a response. Not a flicker of acknowledgement. Nothing to show he'd even noticed my presence. Clearly I needed to woo him from his trance. I became coquettish, playful, insinuating, seductive.

Finally, I punched him on the jaw... no avail. Such was the intensity of his concentration, his total oblivion to all else once in thrall to his muse. 

'Rabbie!' I cried, 'It's your bonnie wee lassie!' 

But it was no good. Then Coline had a go, using all her feminine wiles - and another technique, which I hadn't thought of, that involved getting behind him and pushing him off the seat, to make him snap out of it.  

But that didn't work either. He wouldn't budge. Such is the power of poetry. In the end we both gave up and walked on. Cold poets or cold ice cream? Guess which won that contest!


  1. Lucy, I was just looking at a few of the images from that day out moments before I checked your Blog! Looks like we had a fun day out.

  2. You two're both so lucky. How I wish I could have been with two of my favorite bloggers!

    Thanks for sharing this, Lucy!


  3. What a lovely place! You two are a couple of characters, that is for sure.


This blog is public, and I expect comments from many sources and points of view. They will be welcome if sincere, well-expressed and add something worthwhile to the post. If not, they face removal.

Ideally I want to hear from bloggers, who, like myself, are knowable as real people and can be contacted. Anyone whose identity is questionable or impossible to verify may have their comments removed. Commercially-inspired comments will certainly be deleted - I do not allow free advertising.

Whoever you are, if you wish to make a private comment, rather than a public one, then do consider emailing me - see my Blogger Profile for the address.

Lucy Melford