Included herein is the Address to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns delivered at the Robert Burns Club of Milwaukee 1999 Burns Night dinner by Shevie Kader. Shevie and his wife Pete Kucik have been past Club officers and have been generous in opening their home for the conducting of the majority of regular Club meetings.
My God! I thought they’d never ask me! You all better switch to water!
I did not encounter Robert Burns as a child. I began to learn of him and his work when I joined the robert Burns Club of Milwaukee. What a revelation! The scope of his work, the beauty of his thought, the delicacy of his hand at time of love or sorrow, the strength of his writing on matters of patriotism and injustice. What an all-encompassing mind! And, on top of that, a fellow whom both men and women found to be good company and a lively wit.
All of these things go into making a person of immortal memory.
Certainly, his love songs are the best known and most often heard of his works. In Green Grow the Rashes, O, he tells us how he loves and treasures the time spent with the lasses. It is natural that a large part of his work is on that subject, yet he does not neglect the more unsettling sides of life--so that one can say that the immortal memory is not only the memory of himself as a poet, but the immortal memory of the times in which he lived and of those who touched his life.
The fact of his humble birth should not surprise us. Many great men have started out behind a plow. Look at our own Abraham Lincoln. What makes a man like Robert Burns stand out is his native wit, his personal genius at bending the language to a point where he can effect the images and emotions in the minds of people born 200 years after him and half a world away.
In my years of research into medieval cultures, I have found that all warrior nations loved a bard. What is the sense of doing deeds of valor if there is no one to sing of them and tell the stories of your courage? And so it is logical that Burns should come from a people with a great martial tradition. If Robert Burns is the poet laureate of love, he is also the poet laureate of valor.
Yet his interest did not stop at his own front door. He defended people and causes he admired, and was willing to speak for others--not only causes, but individuals. He sympathized with the low of creation and was not blinded by the high and self-important--truly a universal thinker and a spokesperson for all humanity.
Well, then, he is immortal because his interests were universal. He appeals to all people at all times. Because of this, he will continue to be immortal and we will count him as our special spokesperson.
So raise your glasses--
I give you--the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns!