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The Parritch and the Partridge: The Reception of Robert Burns in Germany

A History- 2nd Revised and Augmented Edition


Rosemary Anne Selle

This book sets out to explore the reception of Scotland’s best-loved writer Robert Burns in Germany, beginning with Burns’s contemporaries in a German state and at a time when instant international fame of foreign writers was yet to develop. The author traces Burns’s growing popularity and, for instance, demonstrates how a single line from a foreigner’s poem could become the motto of a generation of German revolutionists. Many of Burns’s well-known poems do not only figure in this first part but are also the subject of specific case studies in the second. Here works such as «Tam O’ Shanter» or «A red, red rose» are analysed in translation through the ages. The author’s comprehensive work is complemented by a short research update on the reception of Burns.


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Author’s Preface (1981)


I am nae Poet, in a sense, But just a Rhymer like by chance, An hae to Learning nae pretence, Yet, what the matter? Whene’er my Muse does on me glance, I jingle at her. Your Critic-folk may cock their nose, And say, ‘How can you e’er propose, ‘You wha ken hardly verse frae prose, ‘To mak a sang?’ But by your leaves, my learned foes, Ye’re maybe wrang. I have found the German “Critic-folk” often “wrang” in their estimation of Burns and more than likely to “cock their nose” at the poetry of a man more at home in Scottish rhythms than in classical scansion. I have traced the course of his German reception, both by the “Critic-folk” and the general reading public, and have explored ways in which German expectations, British attitudes and the work of translation have affected that reception. It has been an absorbing and instructive task, and has provided me with as many fresh insights into German language and literature as into English and Scottish. I have also discovered for myself the poetry of Pierre Jean de Béranger and Sándor Petöfi in the course of my work on Burns. My thanks go particularly to my first German teacher, Frau Friedel Nutto von Stetten, and to my university teachers and tutors: to Professor Elizabeth Wilkinson, Dr. Geoffrey Butler, Professor Eberhard Lämmert, Professor Gert Kaiser, Professor Peter Michelsen, Professor Horst Meller, Dr. Klaus Weimann. I am also grateful to the fellow-students who...

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