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Dirty Mondays: Cock up yer Beaver

Beavers – the aquatic, tree-felling, dam-building rodent – are currently being reintroduced to Scotland, as related in a long article in this Sunday’s Observer, and not without controversy. The article’s author, Tim Adams, notes that the anti-Beaver parties might take their rallying cry from Robert Burns’ 1792 call to arms Cock up yer Beaver.

A beaver in this context refers of course to a hat, probably but not exclusively made from beaver pelt. Burns’ air is an exhortation to the brave Johnie to set such a hat straight and have a go at the English, but it more than raises a smile on a grey Monday morning, whichever way you take it.

Cock Up Yer Beaver

When first my brave Johnie lad came to this town,
He had a blue bonnet that wanted the crown,
But now he has gotten a hat and a feather –
Hey, brave Johnie lad, cock up yer beaver!

Cock up your beaver, and cock it fu’ sprush!
We’ll over the border and gie them a brush:
There’s somebody there we’ll teach better behavior –
Hey, brave Johnie lad, cock up yer beaver!

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796)

If you’d like to hear the poem in the original Scots, the BBC has a recording read, appropriately, by Alan Cumming.

Beaver shot by Paul Stevenson, used under Creative Commons.

Posted December 7, 2009 by James Bridle. Comments Off on Dirty Mondays: Cock up yer Beaver
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