On the fourth day the mist finally lifted, and gave way to a squally succession of huge black clouds and brief bright intervals, moving rapidly across the land from the west. There were frequent showers of rain mixed with icy hail, and in one such outburst Algy decided to take cover under a large fir tree. Perching comfortably on a convenient log, he looked out at the weather passing by. The forecasters were saying that another big Atlantic storm would blast the West Highlands in the middle of the week, and then it would get much colder.

As Algy sheltered under the tree, he thought of Robert Burns’ famous poem about the winter, and of all his friends in Europe and beyond who were experiencing unusually harsh winter weather at the moment.

Algy hopes that you will all be able to find shelter and keep warm in these severe conditions – and will take care of his little feathered friends too! He sends you all lots of extra fluffy hugs, just in case! xoxo

When biting Boreas, fell and doure,
Sharp shivers thro’ the leafless bow’r;
When Phoebus gies a short-liv’d glow’r,
        Far south the lift,
Dim-dark’ning thro’ the flaky show’r,
        Or whirling drift:

Ae night the storm the steeples rocked,
Poor Labour sweet in sleep was locked,
While burns, wi’ snawy wreeths upchoked,
        Wild-eddying swirl,
Or thro’ the mining outlet bocked,
        Down headlong hurl.

List’ning, the doors an’ winnocks rattle,
I thought me on the ourie cattle,
Or silly sheep, wha bide this brattle
        O’ winter war,
And thro’ the drift, deep-lairing, sprattle,
        Beneath a scar.

Ilk happing bird, wee, helpless thing!
That, in the merry months o’ spring,
Delighted me to hear thee sing,
        What comes o’ thee?
Whare wilt thou cow’r thy chittering wing
        An’ close thy e’e?

[Algy is quoting some of the verses of the poem A Winter Night by the 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns… who wrote in the Scots language 🙂 ]

On 25th January, Scots traditionally hold a supper to celebrate the life and works of the national bard, Robert Burns. Today, Algy was thinking particularly of his friends in northern America who are suffering from an exceptionally severe winter, so he decided to recite one of his favourite and most appropriate Burns poems: Up in the Morning Early.

Algy wishes you all a happy Burns Night, and hopes that you will very soon see the spring, and feel like getting up in the morning early again 🙂

          Cauld blaws the wind frae east to west,
          The drift is driving sairly;
          Sae loud and shill’s I hear the blast,
          I’m sure it’s winters fairly.

          Up in the morning’s no for me,
          Up in the morning early;
          When a’ the hills are cover’d wi’ snaw,
          I’m sure it’s winter fairly.

          The birds sit chittering on the the thorn,
          A’ day they fare but sparely;
          And lang’s the night frae e’en to morn,
          I’m sure it’s winter fairly.

          Up in the morning’s no for me,
          Up in the morning early;
          When a’ the hills are cover’d wi snaw,
          I’m sure it’s winter fairly.

For anyone unfamiliar with the sound of the Scots language, Algy recommends these readings of the poems.

[Robert Burns wrote in the language of Lowland Scotland, Scots or Lallan, which is an ancient form of the English language, but is not related to Gaelic.]

Cold Blows The Wind

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The north wind was vicious and the sunlight was feeble and cold. Algy didn’t feel like getting up in the morning, but the days were much too short now to be wasted. So he fluffed up his feathers and flew down to the sea with a book of poetry under his wing. Tucked into a sheltered corner among the rocks, Algy read happily in the cool light reflecting off the water all around him, listening to the sounds of the Sea of the Hebrides (audio post below) as the wind drove the waves spitting and surging onto the beach beside him.

         Cauld blows the wind frae north to south,
         And drift is driving sairly ;
         The sheep are couring in the heugh,
         Oh sirs! it’s winter fairly.
         Now up in the morning’s no’ for me,
         Up in the morning early ;
         I’d rather gae supperless to my bed,
         Than rise in the morning early.

         Loud rairs the blast amang the woods,
         The branches tirling barely,
         Amang the chimley taps it thuds,
         And frost is nippin sairly.
         Now up in the morning’s no’ for me,
         Up in the morning early ;
         To sit a’ the night I’d rather agree,
         Than rise in the morning early.

         The sun peeps o’er the southlan’ hill,
         Like ony tim’rous carlie;
         Just blinks a wee, then sinks again,
         And that we find severely.
         Now up in the morning’s no’ for me,
         Up in the morning early ;
         When snaw blaws into the chimley cheek,
         Wha’d rise in the morning early.

         Nae linties lilt on hedge or bush,
         Poor things, they suffer sairly ;
         In cauldrife quarters a’ the night,
         A’ day they feed but sparely.
         Now up in the morning’s no’ for me,
         Up in the morning early ;
         Nae fate can be waur, in winter time,
         Than rise in the morning early.

[Algy is reading Cold Blows The Wind, a lesser-known Scots poem by John Hamilton, published in Walter de la Mare’s anthology Come Hither.]