“Rantin ‘, rovin’, Robin” is an autobiographical song written by Robert Burns as a celebration of his 28th birthday (25 January 1787), also known under the title “There was a lad“.
Burns describes in joking terms his own birth in the presence of a midwife who predicts his destiny. A sort of fairy-tale in which the old woman next to the cradle is a kind of fairy-godmother who dispenses the gift of Poetry to the future Bard.
The cottage that saw his birth is located in Alloway in the district of Kyle, Ayr county and was built by his father William Burness (the name of the family at the origins), a cottage of straw and clay for a family of small sharecroppers (now Robert Burns Birthplace Museum)
Rantin’ rovin’ Robin
Shortly after his death (aged only 37), a group of friends dined together to commemorate him. It was 1802 and the dinners have become part of the Scottish tradition, and the song is among the favorites in the Burns’ Supper.
RANTIN’, ROVIN’, ROBIN *
There was a lad was born in Kyle (1),
But whatna day o’ whatna style,
I doubt it’s hardly worth the while
To be sae nice wi’ Robin.
Robin was a rovin’ boy,
Rantin’, rovin’, rantin’, rovin’,
Robin was a rovin’ boy,
Rantin’, rovin’, Robin!
Our monarch’s hindmost year but ane(2)
Was five-and-twenty days begun,
‘Twas then a blast o’ Janwar’ win’
Blew hansel(3) in on Robin.
The gossip keekit(4) in his loof(5),
Quo’ scho(6), “Wha lives will see the proof,
This waly(7) boy will be nae coof(8):
I think we’ll ca’ him Robin.
He’ll hae misfortunes great an’ sma’,
But aye(9) a heart aboon(10) them a’,
He’ll be a credit till us a’-
We’ll a’ be proud o’ Robin.”
“But sure as three times three mak nine,
I see by ilka(11) score and line,
This chap will dearly like our kin’,
So leeze(12) me on thee! Robin.”
“Guid(13) faith,” quo’, scho, “I doubt you gar(14)
The bonie lasses lie aspar(15);
But twenty fauts (16) ye may hae waur(17)
So blessins on thee! Robin.”
* english translation
1) The cottage is in the village of Alloway in Ayrshire, now Robert Burns Birthplace Museum Burns’ start in life was a humble one. He was born the son of poor tenant farmers and was the eldest of seven children
2) hindmost year but one=January 25, 1759.The strong wind that blew in those days destroyed part of the house, so his mother with the little one in her arms preferred to challenge the storm to take refuge from the neighbor.
4) keekit=peered – glanced. Allan Connochie notes “The “gossip” was the midwife, family friend or godparent telling the baby’s future”
5) loof=the palm, the hand outspread and upturned
6) said she: It is said that his father met the woman while he was crossing the river at the ford, but the river was in flood and the woman was in trouble, so Robert’s father helped her and took her home; the woman in exchange made a prophecy about the child.
8) coof=fool – dolt
9) aye= always
12) leeze=commend; blessings on thee; I am fond of you
13) guid= good
14) gar= make
15) asprar= wide apart