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Robert Burns Lives!
On Finding A Battered Copy of Burns’ Poems by Stephen A. Hammock

Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA

Last week I had the privilege of introducing you to Stephen Hammock, a young man who is working on his doctorate at England’s Oxford University. Stephen is an engaging individual with a great future ahead of him, and it has been a joy getting to know him while attending monthly meetings at our Burns Club of Atlanta and through email since he moved to study abroad. There are many good reasons to like Stephen and, suffice it to say, he is a gentleman and a scholar and will succeed at whatever field of work he chooses after his days at Oxford have been completed two years from now.

One of his outstanding features is his love of Robert Burns as most young people today are not so inclined. I look forward to more meetings with him, sharing emails, and enjoying conversations as we both journey down the “Burnsian Path” in the years ahead.

Before leaving for Oxford last fall, he told a brief story at one of our Burns Club meetings during the introduction of members and their guests and also read a poem he had written. I was impressed with both and later asked him to share them with me in order for me to share them with our readers. Here is the story and the poem for your enjoyment. (FRS: 4.22.13)

On Finding A Battered Copy of Burns’ Poems…

Stephen at Cross College, Oxford

Stephen A. Hammock, RPA
DPhil Candidate
Institute of Archaeology
St. Cross College
University of Oxford
St. Giles, Oxford OX1 3LZ
United Kingdom

“I was attending New York University (NYU) as an undergraduate studying literature and languages, and was walking back to my room one night about dusk when I saw a book on the sidewalk next to Grace Church - a truly beautiful church on Broadway in the eastern part of Greenwich Village. I walked over and picked it up, and was excited to see a battered, early twentieth century edition of Burns' poems.

Now, I was raised on Burns from the time I was a child, since my mother had always been a great lover of literature and poetry, and especially of Burns, and to say that I was overjoyed and that my heart lifted that night as I stood there on the sidewalk would be an understatement. Mother had more than passed her passion for poetry on to me, and I revere no lyric poet as high as I do Burns. Homer excels all others in epic poetry, Dante in ecclesiastical verse, and Shakespeare in dramatic verse. But Burns eclipses them all by far in lyric poetry.

When I returned to my room and had leafed through the volume for a while, I was still so overjoyed that I was inspired to write this poem, which I completed the following day. Some time passed, and around 1995 I attended the Stone Mountain Highland Games in Atlanta and struck up a conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Tommy Warren at tent of the Burns Club of Atlanta. He invited me to attend a Burns Club meeting as his guest, and I eagerly accepted with the intention of reading my poem at the meeting.

But when Mr. Warren introduced me at the meeting and said I had a poem to read, I was just too shy to do so. It took me another degree, and more than a decade before I made my way back to the Burns Club of Atlanta. This time Dr. James Flannery, with whom I had been corresponding about the Scots-Irish, the topic of my M.A. thesis, invited me and again I accepted. I knew immediately that I could not miss another opportunity to gather with like-minded lovers of all things Burnsian, and when asked if I would be interested in joining the club, I knew the answer was yes. I also knew what I would read at my induction!

This time I did read the poem, and events that occurred in New York City in February 1992 at long last saw fruition when I was inducted as an official member of the Burns Club of Atlanta twenty years later in September 2012. Here is the poem inspired by finding that volume of poems by Robert Burns - "By far my elder Brother in the muse."

On Finding A Battered Copy of Burns’ Poems Next to Grace Church at the Corner of Ninth and Broadway in New York City on the Evening of February 10, 1992

Three cheers let fly for Bobbie Burns,
The Best of a’ the Bardies –
Three cheers ‘til a’ mankind relearns
How Love is shown;
It ain’t through bein’ me-concerned
Or livin’ lone –
But by smilin’ eyes and honesty
We hit the mark;
We live to love and with simplicity
Love lives in day or dark!
So Bobbie might say, and say it well
In Scotia’s tongue and manner –
We Scots, though of blood diluted as hell
Live under Romance’s Banner!

© Stephen Hammock, February 11, 1992

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