Friday, January 24, 2014

A Burns Night poem by “The Rustic Bard” of Windham, New Hampshire

Over the weekend, on January 25th, is the night usually set aside to celebrate the Scots poet Robert Burns at dinners known as “Burns Night”. The whiskey and the poetry recitations flow at these occasions.  Haggis is served, and pipes are played, and there are multitudes of wordy toasts.  Here in New Hampshire the poems of Burns are sometimes mixed with the poems of Robert Dinsmore, Nutfield’s own Scots poet.

Robert Dinsmore (1757 – 1836) was born in Windham, New Hampshire, the son of Scots Irish immigrants.  He was a simple farmer, and also known as “The Rustic Bard.”  His poetry reflected not only the landscape of New Hampshire, it also was written in the Scots dialect similar to Robert Burns. 

The following poem was written when Dinsmore crushed a sparrow’s nest while plowing his field.  Read it aloud and see if it doesn’t remind you of Burns, too.  John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a book Old Portraits and Modern Sketches, and included this poem as one that most reminded him of the Scots poet Robert Burns.

The Sparrow

Poor innocent and hapless Sparrow
Why should my mould-board gie thee sorrow!
This day thou'll chirp and mourn the morrow
Wi' anxious breast;
The plough has turned the mould'ring furrow
Deep o'er thy nest!

"Just I' the middle o' the hill
Thy nest was placed wi' curious skill;
There I espied thy little bill
Beneath the shade.
In that sweet bower, secure frae ill,
Thine eggs were laid.

"Five corns o' maize had there been drappit,
An' through the stalks thy head was pappit,
The drawing nowt could na be stappit
I quickly foun';
Syne frae thy cozie nest thou happit,
Wild fluttering roun'.

"The sklentin stane beguiled the sheer,
In vain I tried the plough to steer;
A wee bit stumpie I' the rear
Cam' 'tween my legs,
An' to the jee-side gart me veer
An' crush thine eggs.

"Alas! alas! my bonnie birdie!
Thy faithful mate flits round to guard thee.
Connubial love!--a pattern worthy
The pious priest!
What savage heart could be sae hardy
As wound thy breast?

"Ah me! it was nae fau't o' mine;
It gars me greet to see thee pine.
It may be serves His great design
Who governs all;
Omniscience tents wi' eyes divine
The Sparrow's fall!

"How much like thine are human dools,
Their sweet wee bairns laid I' the mools?
The Sovereign Power who nature rules
Hath said so be it
But poor blip' mortals are sic fools
They canna see it.

"Nae doubt that He who first did mate us
Has fixed our lot as sure as fate is,
An' when He wounds He disna hate us,
But anely this,
He'll gar the ills which here await us
Yield lastin' bliss.

Poems of Robert Dinsmoor, by Leonard Allison Morrison,1898, available at the Internet Archive at this link: https://archive.org/details/poemsofrobertdin00dins

Old Portraits and Modern Sketches, by John Greenleaf Whittier,   Click at this link to read his chapter on Robert Dinsmore: http://www.readbookonline.net/read/8397/20772/

The Song Sparrow Nest photo is from Wikimedia, Tony Alter, from Newport News, VA, USA, 2010,  licensed under Creative Commons.

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Copyright 2014 ©, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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