Burns Night? It’s Looking a Little Different This Year…

  25 Jan '21   |  Posted by: Birlinn

A Poem for Burns Night by Alexander McCall Smith

Give us your hand – here’s ours:

All Scotland, though a little quieter now,

Is a bit happier in your company,

A bit wiser from your words.

As we celebrate the life, work and lasting impact of the poet Robert Burns on 25 January, we are doing so with Covid restrictions firmly in mind: we can’t gather together this year for haggis and whisky and whirling kilts but we can join in a live, virtual Burns Night celebration with the Scotsman newspaper and their popular podcast, Scran. Familiar faces to look out for? Our Whisky expert Blair Bowman, on hand to guide us to best of the grain and…

Our own Alexander McCall Smith has written a poem for the occasion and will read it live online. For more information see the Scotsman website.

Missing you already by Alexander McCall Smith

What’s two hundred and twenty-five years

In any full-blooded scale of things?

Not all that much really –

There are some who still feel,

Against all the literary evidence,

That Homer sat down to the Iliad

Not all that long ago,

Or at least not so long

That we’ve forgotten the gist

Of what he said about windy Troy –

Poets have a way of persisting

Long after their lyres

Have lost their strings

And been put away in the cupboard;

Their voices have a way

Of lingering, reminding us,

At unexpected times of why it was

That we were initially so struck

By what they had to say to us.


You are certainly still there,

As real as the day before yesterday,

Saying all those familiar things

That seem every bit as important

As they were when you

First said them, reminding us

To be human first of all, and then, if we can,

To delight, in our individual ways,

In the ordinary doings of folk

And the ways of nature, to look

With your eyes and your humour,

Your passions, too, at those around us;

To share your vision of what

It is that makes this life

So precious, so amusing,

And so poignant – all of that.


We still need you, you know,

And you might be surprised

To hear just how deep and lasting

That need has turned out to be;

Especially now, when so much

Of what you wrote about

Seems a bit of a distant memory –

Fellowship in some inn somewhere

A rural dance, time in the company

Of friends – things you put into song

That we think we remember

And that we’d like to experience again.


Of course, we can do that, with you

As our companion, Robert Burns,

The party is taking place, the warmth is there

To be felt; the lights are on again.

Give us your hand – here’s ours:

All Scotland, though a little quieter now,

Is a bit happier in your company,

A bit wiser from your words.

Join Alexander reading from this poem at a live Burn’s Night celebration with the Scotsman and Scran podcast.

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