My old friend Kakha from Georgia was visiting us last week, and at one point I asked him whether Rabbie Burns was well-kent in Georgia.
“Absolutely, we love the song about the man and his hat,” replied Kakha.
“The man and his hat?!?”
“Yes, you know: კაცი ვარ და ქუდი მხურავს (‘I am a man and I’m wearing a hat’),” said Kakha. He started to sing: “კაცი ვარ და ქუდი მხურავს // ქედს არ ვუხრი არავის. // არც არავის ვემონები // არც ვბატონობ არავის.” (“Ḳaci var da kudi mxuravs // keds ar vuxri aravis. // Arc aravis vemonebi // arc vbaṭonob aravis.”)
I managed to find a YouTube clip of Georgians singing this:
At first I couldn’t find any poem by Burns that matched the lyrics, but the line “არც ვბატონობ არავის” (“and I don’t rule over anybody”) gave me a clue. It must be “I hae a wife o’ my ain“:
I Hae a wife of my ain, I’ll partake wi’ naebody; I’ll take Cuckold frae nane, I’ll gie Cuckold to naebody. I hae a penny to spend, There — thanks to naebody! I hae naething to lend, I'll borrow frae naebody. I am naebody’s lord, I’ll be slave to naebody; I hae a gude braid sword, I’ll tak dunts frae naebody. I’ll be merry and free, I’ll be sad for naebody; Naebody cares for me, I care for naebody.
Georgians love this song — they feel it describes them. It’ll never cease to amaze me how Burns was able to write songs that reach out to people from all countries at all times.