The Return of Robbie Burns

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There is a deep-rooted excitement that wraps itself around my heart when I stare at an uncharted bookshelf. Every volume stares back at me, bellowing, entreating, and challenging me to recklessly launch myself into their pages. But a book is far more than an adventure to be had, remembered fondly, and forgotten. A book is a companion. I do not stand before these shelves as a judge, to decree which books have merit and which do not. I stand as a king, choosing which knights he wishes to serve him. These volumes do not abandon me after I finish hearing what they have to say. They join me, protect me, they comfort me, and fight alongside me as I ride forward into the world. Some books join me as a companion, sticking with me through troubled times, and suffering with me through hardship. They unflinchingly assert truths and defend my Camelot. Others exist as dissenters, who challenge my long held customs, uprooting the false ideas and treacherous dealings that often plague the courts of men. Still more help me assault the enemy, striking powerful blows into the ranks of my cruel assailants. Some exist as ambassadors, who state what I know to be false, but serve to help me better understand and deal with those who threaten me. To choose a book is to choose a knight, a soldier, a friend. To choose a book is to have a book swear fealty to me.

This duty, to seek out good books for my company of knights, was the very duty I sought to fulfill, as I stood in a little Charleston used bookstore. My eyes began to practice discernment, as they scanned the binding of hundreds of eager swords. I struck away those who seemed unfitting of serving in my court with little pity. My unwavering search landed on a curious sight. One book stood out from the rest. This book was not arrayed in the splendid armament of a knight; rather he sat in an unassuming brown cover, beaten with use and time. He did not bear the standard of any house or king, but stared challengingly at me with no trappings. Often the greatest knights rise from humble beginnings. Hopeless farm-boys, without a drop of royal blood flowing through their bodies, can become the greatest of heroes.

Without warning, a romantic thought seized me. This book was inviting me to dance a dance of mystery. I wanted to pluck this unmarked book from its shelf, redeem it from its keeper, and walk out of the store with a mystery. I wanted to read a book I knew nothing about, a book that was as much of a mystery to me as I was to it. As my mind flooded with resolve, I snatched the masked volume, and began to head out of the room. I grabbed fortune by the hand and followed her, deep into the chasm of uncertainty. But much to my chagrin, curiosity clumsily crashed into my adventure, destroying my hopes of mystery.

My thumb and pointer grasped the front cover, and I recklessly flung aside the beaten brown disguise. Shock, horror, and disgust struck my weary eyes as I thanked my curiosity. Staring back at me was the title “The Collected Works of Robert Burns.” Robbie Burns had again attempted to infiltrate my ranks. His bawdy filth first attempted to scale my walls with promises of Scottish heroism, now he even would stoop to cheap disguises and guile! I could hear the pages cursing their defeat as Mordred slunk back into his shadowed crack. To allow Burns into my confidence would be to expose my mind, my heart, and my soul to his shameful songs. To Robbie Burns, I offer this line from the far nobler Scottish poet, Sir Walter Scott.

Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to decieve!


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