Burns and the Belle


Burns Burns and the Belle
by Paul Statt
Only an Old Amherst Boy could have made this curious connection.
Thank you Connie and Patrick, our hosts, and Bennett, our Burns Supper chairman.
Honored friends of Robert Burns, I rise tonight because "to be great is to be misunderstood." And Robert Burns is a great poet.
Other speakers, erudite and learned, have praised Robert Burns tonight as a Scot and as a man. But I come to laud Robert Burns as a poet qua poet. A fact both curious and strange is at the root of my talk this evening, an odd paragraph I read recently:
"Burns, and the sentimental folk-songs he made popular, became at one time almost a second language to her, so that she phrased a few passages of tender feeling in the Scottish dialect."
The curious poet is Emily Dickinson.
Emily Dickinson and Robert Burns never met. If they had, it does seem that it would be something like the bad blind date from hell: surely Dickinson and Burns represent a chasm not to be bridged. The virgin and "rantin rovin Robbie." The muse of "guid Scotch drink" and she who "tastes a liquor never brewed." "The Recluse of Amherst" and "The Ploughman Poet." But both suffer quotation marks at the hands of the mythologists. Robbie was not merely the rake, nor Emily the spinster.
Dickinson, as a poet, actually had much in common with Burns: an intense passionate love for the home land, a rebellious awe at a stern and unforgiving church, the King James Bible, a sharp satiric wit, images drawn from the simple home life and nature, and not least a poetic form that was lyrical in the true sense: both wrote songs that we now know as poems. These are the posts and beams of which great poetry is constructed.
And yet there is also such a thing as genius. Dickinson, herself an untutored poetic genius, said she knew it was poetry when it made the hair stand up on the back of her neck. She recognized Burns' genius and imitated him: in poetry as in all else the greatest compliment. Burns inspired her, as he still must inspire every true poet. A very early poem of hers-number 2 in her ouevre, and one of only a handful she ever published, includes this clear imitation:
Good bye Sir, I am going
imageMy country calleth me
Allow me Sir, at parting
imageTo wipe my tearing e'e
In token of our friendship
imageAccept this "Bonnie Doon"
And when the hand that pluck'd it
imageHath passed beyond the moon
The memory of my ashes
imageWill consolation be
Then farewell Tuscarora
imageAnd farewell Sir, to thee.
Note that "e'e" and "Bonnie Doon."
These passages of tender feeling are fascinating to the Dickinson scholar; but their charms may be too slight for a Burns Supper. I will not trouble you with her morbidly self-conscious Puritan response to Tam O' Shanter. But here is a shorter Dickinson verse and part of the slightly longer Burns original that inspired it:
Poor little heart!
Did they forget thee?
imageThen dinna care! Then dinna care!
Proud little heart!
Did they forsake thee?
imageBe debonair! Be debonair!
Frail little heart!
I would not break thee:
imageCould'st credit me? Could'st credit me?
Gay little heart!
Like morning glory
imageThou'll wilted be; thou'll wilted be.
"Then dinna care! Then dinna care."
Here's to thy healt,h, my bonie lass!
imageGuid night and joy be wi' thee!
I'll come nae mair to thy bower-door
imageTo tell thee that I lo'e thee.
O dinna think, my pretty pink,
imageBut I can live without thee:
I vow and swear I dinna care
imageHow lang ye look about ye!
So here's to your health, you bonnie belle of Amherst, and yours, you birkie bletherin' Bard of Caledonia: "Guid night and joy be wi thee."

Delivered at a Burns' Night Supper January 2000

The Motley-sandaled Girl


(after Anacreon)


You played it, Love, you dirty blonde

And tossed the purple ball in May

And sent a pretty girl my way

With hair as bright and rich as bronze.


She went her way in motley sandals.

I won’t be drowned in those green eyes.

She yawns at my gray hair, a beauty

All agape for a girl all her own.


Anacreon, a poet from Teos in Asia Minor, lived and worked in Athens, Samos and Thessaly lived around 500 B.C. He wrote mainly about love and wine, and invented a poetic form of verse called anacreonic.

Metamorphoses, Spring 2005 

The Enemy, Time

(“Wanderers Nachtlied,” after Goethe)


The enemy, time,

Will be your only ally.

Your way will be dark until day.

The moon will set, and the Pleiades.

Small birds will have nothing to say.

The wind will die in the trees.

And you will wander lonely

And silent, and wait.

Writing samples for Paul Statt


• Review of François Mitterrand: The Last French President (Amherst, fall 2000)



Review of Joseph Stiglitz’s Globalization and its Discontents (Amherst, fall 2002)



Profile of Phil Simmons, author of Learning to Fall (Amherst, spring 2002)



Profile of beer importer and philosopher Dan Shelton (Amherst, winter 2003)



More samples are available in printed copies.

Paul S. Statt

Paul S. Statt

160 Triangle St.

Amherst, Massachusetts 01002




Accomplished senior communications officer, advisor, editor, and strategist with 15 years of experience developing, producing, implementing, and maintaining integrated communications practices for academic institutions. Background includes message development and strategy; highest quality content development and placement; institutional reputation, branding, and re-branding; media, community and government relations; issues management; public affairs; and internal communications.

Key Skills

Print and electronic writing and editing Strategic image planning and development

Public speaking and media appearances Executive media counsel

Media and academic research Fluent in English and German

Professional Experience

Media Relations Director 1999-present

Amherst College, Amherst, Mass.

Responsible for the creation and development of the first comprehensive media relations strategy in the 186-year history of Amherst College, one of the leading selective private liberal arts schools in the country.

• Designed and implemented a media strategy that effectively communicated Amherst College’s initiative to seek out and welcome low-income students.

• Shifted a traditional institutional culture that was modest and suspicious of any interaction with the media.

• Advised and counseled the new college president in effective use of the media, including broadcast training and interview techniques.

• Researched and wrote press releases about the college’s changing image, and about faculty activities, including their scholarship and research.

• Placed stories with national print and broadcast media.

• Edited and placed opinion pieces and responded to media inquiries.

• Represented the college to diverse public audiences, including the media, government, alumni, trustees, and prospective students and faculty.

• Represented the college in public speaking engagements in the community and with alumni.

• Wrote features, news, and reviews for Amherst, the college alumni magazine; helped shape magazine strategy.

• Maintained the college’s growing interactive news presence on the Web.

• Managed media crises.

Senior Media Relations Consultant 1993-1999

Campus Crossroads, Keene, N.H.

Responsible for the national media strategy for six to eight regional private colleges and universities that were developing a national audience.

• Collaborated with public relations officers at regional private colleges and universities to develop a national media strategy.

• Researched and wrote background press material by visiting campuses and interviewing key faculty and administrators.

• Placed stories with national print and broadcast media.

• Ghost-wrote and edited opinion pieces for faculty.

• Responded to media inquiries.

Editor, MacWorld Communications 1984-1993

Macworld Communications, Peterborough, N.H.

Responsible, in progressively senior positions, for creating content for consumer magazines, including the design, layout, and online presence, as well as written materials.

Senior Editor, MacComputing Magazine (1993)

• Planned and strategized editorial direction.

• Assigned articles to authors.

• Edited features.

• Worked with design department.

• Wrote a monthly opinion column.

• Represented the magazine in public speaking engagements.

• Wrote features, news, and reviews.

Senior Editor, A+ Magazine (1990-1992)

• Planned and strategized editorial direction.

• Assigned articles to authors.

• Edited features.

• Worked with design department.

• Wrote a monthly opinion column.

• Represented the magazine in public speaking engagements.

• Wrote features, news, and reviews.

Technical Editor, A+ Magazine (1988-1990)

• Wrote a monthly technical advice column.

• Edited all features for technical accuracy.

• Wrote a monthly opinion column.

• Represented the magazine in public speaking engagements.

• Wrote features, news, and reviews.

Review Editor, inCider Magazine (1984-1988)

• Wrote a monthly opinion column.

• Chose products and assigned reviewers.

• Wrote features, news, and reviews.

News Editor, jr Magazine (1984-1985)

• Wrote features, news, and reviews.

English and math instructor 1979-1984

The Derryfield School, Manchester, N.H.


University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass., graduate study of mathematics, 1979

Amherst College, Amherst, Mass., B.A. in European Studies with concentration in Greek and German, 1978

Universität Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany, classics, German language and history, 1976

Other skills

I am skilled with the most popular desktop publishing software.

I have designed, edited, and maintained Web sites.