"From whose bourn no traveller returns."
Burn is a Scots word for stream or river.
We can find it in Robert Burns' famous poem Auld Lang Syne - 1788.
Although the first verse was merely transcribed by Burns,
the remaining text is thought to be his creation, including the fourth verse:
We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
sin' auld lang syne.
- Even Burns uses the burn (river) to represent time:
- the passage of morning to evening.
- the water image as the concept of distance through time: "seas between us."
Shakespeare uses the term traveler; certainly, paddling a boat in a stream is a means of travel."
What comes to my mind is more the concept of current.
Water (and electricity) is linear - just like time.
Don't worry, I'm not a physicist, lol.
But even the commonest groundling would relate to the river current idea.
The idea of the outgoing tide can be metaphoric for death.
Specifically, the image of Arthur's body going out to sea to find Avalon
strikes me as another example of current.
Certainly, a groundling would understand even the most basic concept of an undertow.
So, there we have an argument for the Scottish "burn," or river, for one of Shakespeare's original meaning.
- Gary Betsworth