Robert Burns


A Toast to Canada

Our adopted Homeland from Auld Scotia
Jack Whyte

We gather here with purpose clear
In honour of our Bard each year
We toast his works with wine and song
Each several year that comes along

As Janwar' days are wearin' late
And folk begin tae tak' the gate
Throughout the old world and the new
Brave Rabbie's Star comes shinin' through

Tonight I shall propose the toast
To our adopted Homeland host
To multitudes of every race
Assembled on the world's great face

This country huge, alive and free
And bountiful to you and me
And any man who wants to stand
Unfettered in a growing land

Where to begin? I pondered long
This country where we now belong
Demands so much of writer's skill
I might write for a month and still
not touch on some important part
Of Canada, so where to start?

Here is a task which might indeed
Make e'en our Rab Burns scratch his heid
But takin' thought, I made the choice
Of ordering my mind and voice
To underline and emphasize
The contributions, great in size
That came straight from Auld Scotia's hand
To cultivation of this land
Making of it, from coast to coast
A home of which strong men can boast

Our ancestors of auld lang syne
Lived free 'mongst Scotland's heath and pine
Till the cruel blast of England's power
Deprived them in one evil hour
Of croft and shieling, loch and glen
Calling them cattle, less than men
And shipped them off beyond the seas
To die or flourish as they pleased

But the Sassenach was ne'er too bright
When it came doon tae seein' the light
For centuries they'd ca'ed us thievers
Bandits, despoilers, cattle-rievers

They didna ken they'd lose the lot
Tae the hard-working, dour auld Scot
That when their Empire they had built
It would be guarded by the kilt

That when they cam' tae count their gowd
It would be earned by Scotsmen, proud
And fierce and sometimes skittish
That men should call the Empire 'British'

Alas, poor England ne'er was tell't
She owed her Empire to the Celt
How strange the world should be impressed
By men proud Albion dispossessed!

Aye. Dispossession. Let us now
Return to these sad days and how
Our forefathers, sea-sick and sore
Were landed on a foreign shore

They looked around them, stretched their legs
Shook the wrinkles from their philabegs
And straightway started to command
This country they called 'New Scotland'

From Nova Scotia, round the Banks
Of Newfoundland, the Scottish ranks
Spread inwards, aye, and westwards, till
They crossed one last majestic hill

Ane wow! they saw an unco sight
The great Pacific stretched its might!
Thousands of miles they'd made their way
Across this land, our home today

Now, some might think I make too much
Of the effect that Scotia's touch
Had on proud Canada's demesne
But it can be heard, felt and seen

Just let the doubter take a look
At place-names on a trip he took
Or let him ask of one who knows
MacGregors who are Eskimos

The Frazer and Mackenzie proud
Selkirk, Calgary, Fort Macleod
Banff, Airdrie and Barrhead, now these
Names hardly could be called Chinese!

But influence is reciprocal
And Scots' reaction typical
For though in heart and soul he hold
Heritage and tradition old

The Scot is ably born somehow
To love the land he lives in now
To grow with it, uphold its name
And work to bring it wealth and fame

To mix with folk from other lands
To build a nation new and grand
So Nova Scotians, proud Acadians
Take honour in the name 'Canadians'

Oh Rab, Oh Rab, could ye but see
This mighty and superb country
I think your Muse maun cower her heid
Sae great wad be your bardic need

To capture, with an image terse
A different scene in every verse
For here's a country that demands
Fair play, Rab, frae the poet's hands

Great fields sae big, Sir, that your plough
Wad be worn out ere you were through
Great, empty wastes barren and bare
As puir auld Holy Willie’s Prayer

Huge, vasty waters, inland seas
And forests, Sir, wi' michty trees
That rooted and were growin' lang
Afore ye heard the blackbird's sang

And up tae now I've said nae word
About the creatures, beast and bird
That mak' their hames in this new land
That ne'er were seen on Scottish strand

Great horned beasties, weird and droll
Wild animals wad spean a foal
Beasts few men see, names all men know
Wolf, beaver, bear and buffalo

Elk, cougar, coyote, caribou
And others would mean naught to you
Though you micht fear for your ain hoose
On seein' a Canadian moose

They've all roamed here since time began
Together with the Indian
Proud peoples of the plains and woods
And Innuit in fur-lined hoods

Aye, here's a land, Rab, which the Lord
Has sculptured with a Divine sword
A land where man and beast and clime
Conjoin to give new life to time

A land of lands, a place whose worth
Has no peer anywhere on Earth
A land to have, a land to hold
A land more dear than Pluto's gold

What mair tae say? What mair tae dae?
I maun propose the toast
To this land where we are today
This land that is our host

Each lad and lass, tak' up your glass
And let your mind's eye roam
Across this country, proud and vast
Our Canada. Our Home.


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