Now Westlin Winds
Where to start with sampling the wonderful music of Robert Burns? One of his most beautiful songs is "Now Westlin Winds", written quite early in his career with the first ever draft of it appearing in his notebook in 1783.
Here is Burns as an observer of nature but not in the remote Byron or Wordsworth style but as one who made his living from the land. This was a man who clearly had soil beneath his fingernails. He takes a swipe at the sporting slaughter of his beloved wildlife as well as giving us a most tender of love songs.
Burns at this point in his life was besotted with Jean Armour, but her father who greatly disapproved of Burns forbade the match. So here Burns pens his song to "Peggy". This was Peggy Thomson who was the most beautiful girl in his school class and distracted Rabbie from his studies! But be in no doubt that this song was penned for Jean Armour. The first draft of the song in his notebook has the line "An’ the moon shines bright when I rove at night, To muse on *. That asterisk was his code in his writing for Jeannie Armour.
Of course with Burns there is always the ambiguity in his prose. Is this Burns as an admirer or a seducer? You decide.
Here it is sung by the great folk singer,Dick Gaughan who does ample justice to this most poignant of songs.
A Man's a Man...
A man's a man for aw that
As I am posting this on the weekend of St Andrew's Day we should acknowledge Burns "A man's a man".
The message in the uncanny directness and simplicity of this song is one of universal fraternity. It openly exemplifies Burn's sympathy with the Masonic notion of Brotherhood (Burns became a Freemason in 1781). Written in 1795, it also symbolises, in line with the radical spirit of Thomas Paine's `Rights of Man', Burns' almost revolutionary support for the idea of general social reform. In the simplest terms, this enduring song is Burns' cri-de-coeur for the universal recognition of talent, wit and intelligence over bloated rank and privilege. It still speaks of a Scotland to which we aspire.
Performed here by the incomparible Corries.
The Night Mail
A treat for those of a certain age! This film was made in 1936 to promote the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. It was set to the poem written especially by WH Auden and narrated by John Grierson. A bygone age.
Evocative in every way for steam travel, Auden's poetry and Stuart Legg and John Grierson's fine voices.