Saturday, 6 September 2008


This is my 1000th post to Grapes 2.0, which would have been reached months ago had I been more diligent, more thoughtful, more outward-looking.

I thought I'd mark it with something memorable, but not of my own, since I seem to be incapable these days of forming an idea in my idea that's strong enough to survive until I reach the keyboard, and it's right here in front of me most of the time.

I'm right now in a mood of melancholy Scottishness, which will be familiar to other exiles (change nationality as applicable). French calls it dépaysé, which means literally uncountried -- uprooted is precisely the idea in English. That comes upon you from time to time if you've left your people behind, and cosmopolite that I am, I still believe we all have a place and a people where we belong. It's exacerbated by doing things like watching clips of Eddi Reader on YouTube.

Then yesterday I got news that my old friend Alex Scott has died. He was an exile in Brussels when we were drinking buddies in about 1987 until he left in about 1990-91 to go to Barcelona, and add another layer of exile to his life. He married his Catalan woman, they adopted, they broke up, he stayed to have contact with their child. He went downhill, and drank and smoked himself into the grave.

The words of Robert Burns' poem Ae Fond Kiss are about a lover leaving forever. It's reputed to be addressed to Agnes McLehose, a married woman he knew as Nancy. They had an affair from December 1787 to January 1792, when she left to go to the West Indies, in the most cruel of ironies, to be reconciled with the husband from whom she had been estranged since before she even met Burns.

Burns, no stranger to producing adaptations of traditional verses he picked up in his travels, was clearly heavily influenced by the following poem, The Parting Kiss, by Robert Dodsley, publisher of Dr Johnson and of Thomas Gray. Dodsley died when Burns was only five.

The Parting Kiss

One kind wish before we part,
Drop a tear, and bid adieu:
Though we sever, my fond heart,
Till we meet, shall pant for you.

Yet, yet weep not so, my love,
Let me kiss that falling tear;
Though my body must remove,
All my soul will still be here.

All my soul and all my heart,
And every wish shall pant for you;
One kind kiss, then, ere we part,
Drop a tear, and bid adieu.

A similar sentiment to that of Burns, but nothing like the aching resignation that parting is forever. Here is Burns' version:

Ae Fond Kiss

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, alas, for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.

Who shall say that Fortune grieves him,
While the star of hope she leaves him?
Me, nae cheerful twinkle lights me;
Dark despair around benights me.

I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy,
Naething could resist my Nancy:
But to see her was to love her;
Love but her, and love for ever.

Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
Never met-or never parted,
We had ne'er been broken-hearted.

Fare-thee-weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare-thee-weel, thou best and dearest!
Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
Peace, Enjoyment, Love and Pleasure!

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!
Ae fareweel, alas, for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.

And here is the great Eddi Reader, wringer of hearts, singing it: