Literary Daybook, Jan. 25

Real and imaginary events of interest to readers.

Published January 25, 2002 8:00PM (EST)

Today in fiction

On Jan. 25, Dr. Kim Reggis appears in the same courtroom before the same judge.
-- "Toxin" (1998)
by Robin Cook

From "The Book of Fictional Days"
Know when something that did not really happen
occurred? Send it to

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Today in Literary History

On this day in 1759, Robert Burns was born in Alloway, Scotland, and on this night around the world, lovers of Burns or Scotland or conviviality will gather to celebrate the fact. Burns' literary reputation rests on his "Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect" (1786; revised 1787 and 1793), and on the hundreds of songs he wrote or adapted to traditional Scottish airs. Though some poems are philosophical and political -- the famous "Ode to a Mouse," for example -- many are on the Highlands-lassies-wee dram themes. The legendary details of the ploughman-poet's life -- his years as a poor tenant farmer; his enthusiasm for women (15 children, six born out of wedlock); a patriotism that would not allow him to take money for his songs; his death at 37 -- elevated Burns to national hero in his lifetime, and cult figure soon afterward. Amid much piping and toasting and auld-lang-syne-ing, those who gather this evening will hear "Ode to a Haggis," in which Burns first trashes "French ragout/Or olio that wad staw a sow/Or fricassee that wad mak her spew," and then triumphs that "Great Chieftan o' the pudding-race":

"But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed --;
The trembling earth resounds his tread!
Clap in his walie nieve a blade
He'll mak it whissle;
An' les, an' arms, an' heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill e' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!"

-- Steve King

To find out more about "Today in Literary History," e-mail Steve King.

By the Salon Books Editors

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