AT A time when farming is under the eco-microscope for everything from polluting the air, to destroying nature, to fighting blanket afforestation – the soothsayers' saviour of the earth? – it's comforting to know that Robert Burns had the desk-top eco-warrior's measure in 'Address to the unco guid':

The Rigid Righteous is a fool,

The Rigid Wise ... anither:

The cleanest corn that ere was dight

May hae some pyles o' caff in;

So ne'er a fellow-creature slight

For random fits o' daffin.

Which means, none are right and none are wrong, but all have a part to play. It's as eloquent today as it was when it was written by the Ploughman Bard, who was born 261 years ago on this very day.

So, as the knife cuts the 'chieftain' up 'wi ready slicht' on many households, suppers and clubs this evening, think on Burns' attachment to the land, how he was melded to it and what it meant to him. Many of his poems were produced by simple observation, by knowledge gained from lore and learning and an admiration for fellow creatures, born of a simple humanity.

Maybe it really is time for us all to get a bit more at one with nature; take time out from the car or tractor seat, or the milking parlour and lambing shed, to enjoy the simple pleasures of the countryside. And to admire them.

If we can do that and use the experience to make a better world for flora and fauna, as well as the 'yieldometer', then it will have been worth the effort. The brain that admired and wrote so eloquently of the 'startled' moose, the 'ugly, creeping' louse and the 'modest, crimson-tipped' mountain daisy, would maybe have been aghast at modern farming's ambivalence to the creatures that inhabit the same space nowadays.

Burns was pragmatic enough, though, to see that the countryside was not some Utopia, but a living, breathing dying, troubled place. He could admire the great tectonic plates of nature which could reap havoc, as well as bounty:

The wintry west extends his blast,

And hail and rain does blaw;

Or the stormy north sends driving forth

The blinding sleet and snaw:

While, tumbling brown, the burn comes down,

And roars frae bank to brae;

And bird and beast in covert rest,

And pass the heartless day.

adding that ...

Let others fear, to me more dear

Than all the pride of May:

The tempest's howl, it soothes my soul,

My griefs it seems to join.

Maybe – as in the words of another great poet, WH Davies:

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows

But Burns should get the last say:

The moorcock springs on whirring wings

Amang the blooming heather:

Now waving grain, wide o'er the plain,

Delights the weary farmer...