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Not my bard?

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6.8


If you are waking up in a cloud of haggis and whisky fumes, chances are you were celebrating the "immortal memory" of Scotland's national bard - Robert Burns - last night. Such carry-on is frowned upon in morally discerning circles. Yet while a certain weakness of moral character and lapses in self-control may indeed be levelled against Burns, to cast him as an anti-Christian libertine - as some seem determined to do - does not do justice to his legacy.


Poems such as Holy Willie's Prayer and A Cottar's Saturday Night suggest that Burns retained deep respect for honest reverence of the "man from Nazareth" and for humble devotion to his teaching of both moral and spiritual affairs. His opposition was towards those who parade their religion and hold others in judgment against standards they do not keep themselves. In objecting to such hypocrisy, he was not alone!


Even the cursory, annual glance which is all many of us afford to Burns reveals the secret of his enduring appeal: he turns a fine phrase! So how to avoid lapsing into ignorant sentimentality, gross over indulgence, or - just as bad - prudish rejection of this Caledonian icon, who may be controversial but won't go away? Take a closer look and allow his searing insight, so evocatively expressed, to guide you into healthy self-reflection and be touched by his attentiveness to the simple treasures of life and where to find them - whether in nature or among fellow human beings...

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