A Burns Flute Cycle

A Burns Flute Cycle


Click the links below to hear the pieces in the book.

1. A Man’s A Man For A’ That
2. A Rosebud By My Early Walk
3. The Gard’ner Wi’ His Paidle
4. To A Mouse

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In his poetry, Robert Burns (1759-1786) depicts mundane scenes with wit, salient perceptiveness and sweet tenderness. Although steeped in his time, Burns’ poems have a universal beauty and poignancy that are timeless. Clara, my daughter, and I always choose a different poem to read on Burns’ Night. We connect especially with their sylvan charm and faunal characters.
‘A Man’s a Man for a’ That’ is particularly special to me. I read it at my father’s memorial service, as he had the qualities advocated by Burns: a character of ‘gowd’ (gold), an honesty devoid of ‘tinsel show’, and he was a ‘man o’ independent mind’ whose mission in life was to bring some ‘Sense and Worth o’er a’ the earth’.
The pastoral imagery of ‘A Rose-Bud by my Early Walk’ expresses tender, I would say parental, love. Burns lyrically depicts a linnet (small finch) who ‘shall see her tender brood, The pride, the pleasure o’ the wood, [in] beauteous blaze upon the day’. As a keen bird-watcher, I particularly enjoy the avian metaphor.
‘The Gard’ner wi’ his Paidle’ conjures an idyllic, bucolic imagery in spring. Burns takes us on an enchanting walk ‘When rosy May comes in wi’ flowers’; where ‘the chrystal waters gently fa’’; and ‘the purple morning starts the hare’.
In the final poem, ‘To a Mouse’, Burns, the poet-farmer, apologises sorrowfully to a ‘tim’rous beastie’ (field mouse) for destroying its little house as ‘crash! the cruel coulter past’. Despite Mousie’s ‘mony a weary nibble’ to construct its home, the ‘poor beastie’ faces a bleak, cold Scottish winter without shelter. Burns, the empathetic poet-philosopher, laments that ‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, Gang aft agley’ (often go awry). Yet it’s more Burns as the compassionate animal-lover and campaigner who moves me: ‘I’m truly sorry man’s dominion, Has broken nature’s social union […] Which makes thee startle At me, thy poor, earth-born companion, An’ fellow-mortal!’

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