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Robert Burns

The best-known portrait of Burns
Born 25 January 1759(1759-01-25)
Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland
Died 21 July 1796 (aged 37)
Dumfries, Scotland
Occupation Poet, lyricist, farmer, excise man
Nationality Scottish
Literary movement Romanticism
Notable work(s) Auld Lang Syne, To a Mouse, A Man's A Man for A' That, Ae Fond Kiss, Scots Wha Hae, Tam O'Shanter

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) (also known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland's favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, the Bard of Ayrshire and in Scotland as simply The Bard[1][2]) was a Scottish poet and a lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a "light" Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these pieces, his political or civil commentary is often at its most blunt.

He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement and after his death became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism. A cultural icon in Scotland and among the Scottish Diaspora around the world, celebration of his life and work became almost a national charismatic cult during the 19th and 20th centuries, and his influence has long been strong on Scottish literature. In 2009 he was voted by the Scottish public as being the Greatest Scot, through a vote run by Scottish television channel STV.

As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. His poem (and song) Auld Lang Syne is often sung at Hogmanay (the last day of the year), and Scots Wha Hae served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of the country. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well-known across the world today include A Red, Red Rose; A Man's A Man for A' That; To a Louse; To a Mouse; The Battle of Sherramuir; Tam o' Shanter, and Ae Fond Kiss.



Burns Cottage in Alloway, Scotland
The statue of Robert Burns erected by Clement Wilson at Eglinton Country Park, North Ayrshire.
Inside the Burns Cottage Museum in Alloway.


Burns was born two miles (3 km) south of Ayr, in Alloway, South Ayrshire, Scotland, the eldest of the seven children of William Burness (1721-1784) (Robert Burns spelled his surname Burness until 1786), a self-educated tenant farmer from Dunnottar, The Mearns, and Agnes Broun (1732-1820), the daughter of a tenant farmer from Kirkoswald, South Ayrshire.

He was born in a house built by his father (now the Burns Cottage Museum), where he lived until Easter 1766, when he was seven years old. William Burness sold the house and took the tenancy of the 70-acre Mount Oliphant farm, southeast of Alloway. Here Burns grew up in poverty and hardship, and the severe manual labour of the farm left its traces in a premature stoop and a weakened constitution.

He had little regular schooling and got much of his education from his father, who taught his children reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and history and also wrote for them A Manual Of Christian Belief. He was also taught by John Murdoch (1747-1824), who opened an 'adventure school' in Alloway in 1763 and taught Latin, French, and mathematics to both Robert and his brother Gilbert (1760-1827) from 1765 to 1768 until Murdoch left the parish. After a few years of home education, Burns was sent to Dalrymple Parish School during the summer of 1772 before returning at harvest time to full-time farm labouring until 1773, when he was sent to lodge with Murdoch for three weeks to study grammar, French, and Latin.

By the age of 15, Burns was the principal labourer at Mount Oliphant. During the harvest of 1774, he was assisted by Nelly Kilpatrick (1759-1820), who inspired his first attempt at poetry, O, Once I Lov'd A Bonnie Lass. In the summer of 1775, he was sent to finish his education with a tutor at Kirkoswald, where he met Peggy Thomson (b.1762), to whom he wrote two songs, Now Westlin' Winds and I Dream'd I Lay.


At Whitsun, 1777, William Burness removed his large family from the unfavourable conditions of Mount Oliphant to the 130-acre (0.53 km2) farm at Lochlea, near Tarbolton, where they stayed until William Burness' death in 1784. Subsequently, the family became integrated into the community of Tarbolton. To his father's disapproval, Robert joined a country dancing school in 1779 and, with Gilbert, formed the Tarbolton Bachelors' Club the following year. His earliest existing letters date from this time, when he began making romantic overtures to Alison Begbie (b. 1762). In spite of four songs written for her and a suggestion that he was willing to marry her, she rejected him.

In December 1781, Burns moved temporarily to Irvine, North Ayrshire to learn to become a flax-dresser, but during the New Year celebrations of 1781/1782 the flax shop caught fire and was sufficiently damaged to eventually send him home to Lochlea farm.

He continued to write poems and songs and began a Commonplace Book in 1783, while his father fought a legal dispute with his landlord. The case went to the Court of Session, and Burness was upheld in January 1784, a fortnight before he died.


Robert and Gilbert made an ineffectual struggle to keep on the farm, but after its failure they moved to the farm at Mossgiel, near Mauchline in March, which they maintained with an uphill fight for the next four years. During the summer of 1784, Robbie came to know a group of girls known collectively as The Belles of Mauchline, one of whom was Jean Armour, the daughter of a stonemason from Mauchline.

Robert Burns was initiated into Lodge St David Tarbolton on 4 July 1781, when he was 22. He was passed and raised on 1 October 1781. Later his lodge became dormant and Burns joined Lodge St James Tarbolton Kilwinning number 135. The location of the Temple where he was made a Freemason is unknown, but on 30 June 1784, the meeting place of the lodge became the “Manson Inn” in Tarbolton, and one month later, on 27 July 1784, Burns became Depute Master, which he held until 1788, often honoured with supreme command.[citation needed])

Although regularly meeting in Tarbolton, the “Burns Lodge” also removed itself to hold meetings in Mauchline. During 1784 he was heavily involved in Lodge business, attending all nine meetings, passing and raising brethren and generally running the Lodge. Similarly, in 1785 he was equally involved as Depute Master, where he again attended all nine lodge meetings amongst other duties of the Lodge. During 1785 he initiated and passed his brother Gilbert being raised on 1 March 1788. He must have been a very popular and well-respected Depute Master, as the minutes show that there were more lodge meetings well attended during the Burns period than at any other time.[citation needed])

At a meeting of Lodge St. Andrew in Edinburgh in 1787, in the presence of the Grand Master and Grand Lodge of Scotland, Burns was toasted by the Grand Master, Francis Chateris. When he was received into Edinburgh Lodges, his occupation was recorded as a “poet”.[citation needed]) In early 1787, he was feted by the Edinburgh Masonic fraternity and named the Poet Laureate of the lodge - a title which has since been accepted by Freemasonry in general.[3] The Edinburgh period of Burns's life was of great consequence, as further editions of the Kilmarnock Edition were sponsored by the Edinburgh Freemasons, ensuring that his name spread around Scotland and subsequently to England and abroad.[citation needed])

During his tour of the South of Scotland, as he was collecting material for The Scots Musical Museum, he visited lodges throughout Ayrshire and became an honorary member of a number of them. On 18 May 1787, he arrived at Eyemouth, Berwickshire, where a meeting was convened of Royal Arch and Burns became a Royal Arch Mason.[citation needed]) On his journey home to Ayrshire, he passed through Dumfries (where he later lived).

On 25 July 1787, after being re-elected Depute Master, he presided at a meeting where several well-known Masons were given honorary membership. During his Highland tour, he visited many other lodges. During the period from his election as Depute Master in 1784, Lodge St James had been convened 70 times. Burns was present 33 times and was 25 times the presiding officer. His last meeting at his mother lodge, St James Kilwinning, was on 11 November 1788.[citation needed])

He joined Lodge Dumfries St Andrew Number 179 on 27 December 1788. Out of the six Lodges in Dumfries, he joined the one which was the weakest. The records of this lodge are scant, and we hear no more of him until 30 November 1792, when Burns was elected Senior Warden. From this date until his final meeting in the Lodge on 14 April 1796, it appears that the Lodge met only five times. There are no records of Burns' visiting any other Lodges.[citation needed])

On 28 August 1787, Burns visited Stirling and passed through Bridge of Allan on his way to the Roman fort at Braco. In 1793, he wrote his poem "By Allan Stream" [4].

Love affairs

His casual love affairs did not endear him to the elders of the local kirk and created for him a reputation for dissoluteness amongst his neighbours. His first child, Elizabeth Paton Burns (1785-1817), was born to his mother’s servant, Elizabeth Paton (1760-circa 1799), while he was embarking on a relationship with Jean Armour who bore him twins in 1786. Although Armour's father initially forbade their marriage, they were eventually married in 1788.[5] Armour bore him nine children in total, but only three survived infancy.

Jean Armour first became pregnant in March 1786. Burns signed a paper attesting his marriage to Jean, but her father "was in the greatest distress, and fainted away". To avoid the disgrace her parents sent her to live with her uncle in Paisley. Burns was in financial difficulties, and to make enough money to support a family he took up a friend's offer of work in Jamaica, at a salary of £30 per annum.[6][7] The position that Burns accepted was as a bookkeeper on a slave plantation. This seems inconsistent with Burns' egalitarian views as typified by his writing of The Slave's Lament six year later, but in 1786 there was little public awareness of the abolitionism movement which began about that time.[8][9]

At about the same time, Burns had fallen in love with Mary Campbell (Highland Mary) (1763-1786), who he had seen in the church while he was still living in Tarbolton. She was born near Dunoon and had lived in Campbeltown before moving to work in Ayrshire. He dedicated the poems The Highland Lassie O, Highland Mary and To Mary in Heaven to her. His song "Will ye go to the Indies. my Mary, And leave auld Scotia’s shore?" suggests that they planned to emigrate to Jamaica together. Their relationship has been the subject of much conjecture, and it has been suggested that on 14 May 1786 they exchanged Bibles and plighted their troth over the Water of Fail in a traditional form of marriage. Soon afterwards Mary Campbell left her work in Ayrshire, went to the seaport of Greenock, and sailed home to her parents in Campbeltown.[6][7]

Kilmarnock Edition

Title page of the Kilmarnock Edition

As Burns lacked the funds to pay for his passage to the West Indies, Gavin Hamilton suggested that he should "publish his poems in the mean time by subscription, as a likely way of getting a little money to provide him more liberally in necessaries for Jamaica". On 3 April Burns sent proposals for publishing his "Scotch Poems" to John Wilson, a local printer in Kilmarnock, who published these proposals on 14 April 1786, on the same day that Jean Armour's father tore up the paper in which Burns attested his marriage to Jean. To obtain a certificate that he was a free bachelor, Burns agreed on 25 June to stand for rebuke in Mauchline kirk for three Sundays. He transferred his share in Mossgiel farm to his brother Gilbert on 22 July, and on 30 July wrote to tell his friend John Richmond that "Armour has got a warrant to throw me in jail until I can find a warrant for an enormous sum ... I am wandering from one friend's house to another".[10]

On 31 July 1786 John Wilson published the volume of works by Robert Burns, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish dialect.[11] Known as the Kilmarnock volume, it sold for 3 shillings and contained much of his best writing, including The Twa Dogs; Address to the Deil; Hallowe'en; The Cotter's Saturday Night; To a Mouse; and To a Mountain Daisy, many of which had been written at Mossgiel farm. The success of the work was immediate, and soon he was known across the country.

Burns postponed his proposed emigration to Jamaica on 1 September, and was at Mossgiel two days later when he learnt that Jean Armour had given birth to twins. On 4 September Thomas Blacklock wrote a letter expressing admiration for the poetry in the Kilmarnock volume, and suggesting an enlarged second edition.[11] A copy of it was passed to Burns, who later recalled, "I had taken the last farewell of my few friends, my chest was on the road to Greenock; I had composed the last song I should ever measure in Scotland–'The Gloomy night is gathering fast'–when a letter from Dr Blacklock to a friend of mine overthrew all my schemes, by opening new prospects to my poetic ambition. The Doctor belonged to a set of critics for whose applause I had not dared to hope. His opinion that I would meet with encouragement in Edinburgh for a second edition, fired me so much, that away I posted for that city, without a single acquaintance, or a single letter of introduction."[12]

In October, Mary Campbell (Highland Mary) and her father sailed from Campbeltown to visit her brother in Greenock. Her brother fell ill with typhus, which she also caught while nursing him. She died of typhus on 20 or 21 October 1786, and was buried there.[7]


Burns by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787

On 27 November 1786, Burns borrowed a pony and set out for Edinburgh. On 14 December William Creech issued subscription bills for the first Edinburgh edition of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish dialect, which was published on 17 April 1787. Within a week of this event, Burns had sold his copyright to Creech for 100 guineas.[11] In Edinburgh, he was received as an equal by the city's brilliant men of letters and was a guest at aristocratic gatherings, where he bore himself with unaffected dignity. Here he encountered, and made a lasting impression on, the 16-year-old Walter Scott, who described him later with great admiration:

His person was strong and robust; his manners rustic, not clownish, a sort of dignified plainness and simplicity which received part of its effect perhaps from knowledge of his extraordinary talents. His features are presented in Mr Nasmyth's picture but to me it conveys the idea that they are diminished, as if seen in perspective. I think his countenance was more massive than it looks in any of the portraits ... there was a strong expression of shrewdness in all his lineaments; the eye alone, I think, indicated the poetical character and temperament. It was large, and of a dark cast, and literally glowed when he spoke with feeling or interest. I never saw such another eye in a human head, though I have seen the most distinguished men of my time.

— Walter Scott

His stay in the city resulted in some lifelong friendships, among which were those with Lord Glencairn, and Frances Anna Dunlop (1730-1815), who became his occasional sponsor and with whom he corresponded for many years until a rift developed. He embarked on a relationship with the separated Agnes 'Nancy' McLehose (1758-1841), with whom he exchanged passionate letters under pseudonyms (Burns called himself 'Sylvander' and Nancy 'Clarinda'). When it became clear that Nancy would not be easily seduced into a physical relationship, Burns moved on to Jenny Clow (1766-1792), Nancy's domestic servant, who bore him a son, Robert Burns Clow in 1788. His relationship with Nancy concluded in 1791 with a final meeting in Edinburgh before she sailed to Jamaica for what transpired to be a short-lived reconciliation with her estranged husband. Before she left, he sent her the manuscript of Ae Fond Kiss as a farewell to her.

Ellisland farm in the time of Robert Burns.

In Edinburgh, in early 1787, he met James Johnson, a struggling music engraver and music seller with a love of old Scots songs and a determination to preserve them. Burns shared this interest and became an enthusiastic contributor to The Scots Musical Museum. The first volume of this was published in 1787 and included three songs by Burns. He contributed 40 songs to volume 2, and would end up responsible for about a third of the 600 songs in the whole collection, as well as making a considerable editorial contribution. The final volume was published in 1803.


The River Nith at Ellisland Farm.
Burns House in Dumfries, Scotland
Statue of Burns in Dumfries town centre.

Ellisland Farm

On his return to Ayrshire on 18 February 1788, he resumed his relationship with Jean Armour and took a lease on the farm of Ellisland near Dumfries on 18 March (settling there on 11 June) but trained as a Gauger, or in English, an exciseman; should farming continue to prove unsuccessful. He was appointed duties in Customs and Excise in 1789 and eventually gave up the farm in 1791. Meanwhile, he was writing at his best, and in November 1790 had produced Tam O' Shanter. About this time he was offered and declined an appointment in London on the staff of the Star newspaper, and refused to become a candidate for a newly-created Chair of Agriculture in the University of Edinburgh, although influential friends offered to support his claims.


After giving up his farm he removed to Dumfries itself. Burns described the Globe Inn (still running today) on the High Street as his "favourite howff" (or "inn").

It was at this time that, being requested to write lyrics for The Melodies of Scotland, he responded by contributing over 100 songs. He made major contributions to George Thomson's A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice as well as to James Johnson's The Scots Musical Museum. Arguably his claim to immortality chiefly rests on these volumes which placed him in the front rank of lyric poets. Burns described how he had to master singing the tune before he composed the words:

My way is: I consider the poetic sentiment, correspondent to my idea of the musical expression, then chuse my theme, begin one stanza, when that is composed - which is generally the most difficult part of the business - I walk out, sit down now and then, look out for objects in nature around me that are in unison or harmony with the cogitations of my fancy and workings of my bosom, humming every now and then the air with the verses I have framed. when I feel my Muse beginning to jade, I retire to the solitary fireside of my study, and there commit my effusions to paper, swinging, at intervals, on the hind-legs of my elbow chair, by way of calling forth my own critical strictures, as my, pen goes.

—Robert Burns

Burns also worked to collect and preserve Scottish folk songs, sometimes revising, expanding, and adapting them. One of the better known of these collections is The Merry Muses of Caledonia (the title is not Burns'), a collection of bawdy lyrics that were popular in the music halls of Scotland as late as the 20th century. Many of Burns' most famous poems are songs with the music based upon older traditional songs. For example, Auld Lang Syne is set to the traditional tune Can Ye Labour Lea, A Red, Red Rose is set to the tune of Major Graham and The Battle of Sherramuir is set to the Cameronian Rant.

Failing health and death

Robert Burns Mausoleum at St. Michael's churchyard in Dumfries.
The death room of Robert Burns

As his health began to give way, Burns began to age prematurely and fell into fits of despondency. The habits of intemperance (alleged mainly by temperance activist James Currie[citation needed]) are said to have aggravated his long-standing possible rheumatic heart condition.[13] His death followed a dental extraction in winter 1795.

On the morning of 21 July 1796, Robert Burns died in Dumfries at the age of 37. The funeral took place on Monday 25 July 1796, also the day that his son Maxwell was born. He was at first buried in the far corner of St. Michael's Churchyard in Dumfries; however, his body was eventually moved in September 1815 to its final resting place, in the same cemetery, the Burns Mausoleum. Jean Armour was laid to rest with him in 1834.[14]

His widow, Jean, had taken steps to secure his movable estate, partly by liquidating two promissory notes amounting to fifteen pounds sterling (about 1,100 pounds at 2009 prices).[15] The family went to the Court of Session in 1798 with a scheme to support his surviving children by publishing a four volume edition of his complete works and a biography written by Dr James Currie. Subscriptions were raised to meet the initial cost of publication, which was in the hands of Thomas Cadell and William Davies in London and William Creech, bookseller in Edinburgh [16]Hogg records that fund-raising for Burns' family was embarrassingly slow, and it took several years to accumulate significant funds through the efforts of John Syme and Alexander Cunningham. [17]

Burns was posthumously given the freedom of the town.[citation needed] Hogg records that Burns was given the freedom of the Burgh of Dumfries on 4 June 1787, years before his death, and was also made an Honorary Burgess of Dumfries.[18]

Literary style

Burns' poetry drew upon a substantial familiarity and knowledge of Classical, Biblical, and English literature, as well as the Scottish Makar tradition.[citation needed] Burns was skilled in writing not only in the Scots language but also in the Scottish English dialect of the English language. Some of his works, such as Love and Liberty (also known as The Jolly Beggars), are written in both Scots and English for various effects.[citation needed]

His themes included republicanism (he lived during the French Revolutionary period) and Radicalism which he expressed covertly in Scots Wha Hae, Scottish patriotism, anticlericalism, class inequalities, gender roles, commentary on the Scottish Kirk of his time, Scottish cultural identity, poverty, sexuality, and the beneficial aspects of popular socialising (carousing, Scotch whisky, folk songs, and so forth).[citation needed]

The strong emotional highs and lows associated with many of Burns' poems have led some, such as Burns biographer Robert Crawford,[19] to suggest that he suffered from manic depression—a hypothesis that has been supported by analysis of various samples of his handwriting. Burns himself referred to suffering from episodes of what he called "blue devilism". However, the National Trust for Scotland has downplayed the suggestion on the grounds that the evidence is not sufficient to support the claim.[20]


Scotland and England

He is generally classified as a proto-Romantic poet, and he influenced William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Percy Bysshe Shelley greatly. His direct literary influences in the use of Scots in poetry were Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) and Robert Fergusson. The Edinburgh literati worked to sentimentalise Burns during his life and after his death, dismissing his education by calling him a "heaven-taught ploughman". Burns would influence later Scottish writers, especially Hugh MacDiarmid, who fought to dismantle what he felt had become a sentimental cult that dominated Scottish literature.


An example of the Burns literary influence in America is the novelist John Steinbeck, who took the title of his 1937 novel Of Mice and Men from a line contained in the second-to-last stanza of "To a Mouse": "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley". Burns' influence on American vernacular poets such as James Whitcomb Riley and Frank Lebby Stanton has been acknowledged by their biographers.[21]When asked for the source of his greatest creative inspiration, singer songwriter Bob Dylan selected Burns's 1794 song "A Red, Red Rose", as the lyric that had the biggest effect on his life.[22][23]


Burns became the "people's poet" of Russia. In Imperial times, the Russian aristocracy were so out of touch with the peasantry that Burns, translated into Russian, became a symbol for the ordinary Russian people. In Soviet Russia, Burns was elevated as the archetypal poet of the people. A new translation of Burns, begun in 1924 by Samuil Marshak, proved enormously popular, selling over 600,000 copies.[24] Russia was the first country in the world to honour the man with a commemorative stamp in 1956. The poetry of Burns is taught in Russian schools alongside their own national poets. Burns was a great admirer of the egalitarian ethos behind the French Revolution, and that was an additional reason for the Communist regime to endorse him as a "progressive" artist. However, he has remained popular in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union as well.[25]


Landmarks and organisations

Ellisland Farm c. 1900.

Burns clubs have been founded worldwide. The first one, known as The Mother Club, was founded in Greenock in 1801 by merchants born in Ayrshire, some of whom had known Burns. The club set its original objectives as "To cherish the name of Robert Burns; to foster a love of his writings, and generally to encourage an interest in the Scottish language and literature." The club also continues to have local charitable work as a priority.[26]

Burns' birthplace in Alloway is now a public museum, as is his house in Dumfries. Significant 19th-century monuments to him stand in Alloway, Edinburgh and Dumfries. An early 20th century replica of his birthplace cottage belonging to the Burns Club Atlanta stands in Atlanta, Georgia. These are part of a large list of Robert Burns memorials and statues around the world.

Organisations include the Robert Burns Fellowship of the University of Otago in New Zealand, and the Burns Club Atlanta in the United States. Towns named after Robert Burns include Burns, New York, and Burns, Oregon.

In the suburb of Summerhill, in Dumfries, the majority of the streets have names with Burns connotations. A BR Standard Class 7 steam locomotive was named after him, along with a later British Rail Class 87 electric locomotive, No.87035.

On 24 September 1996, class 156 diesel unit 156433 was named "The Kilmarnock Edition" by Jimmy Knapp, General Secretary of the RMT union, at Girvan Station to launch the new 'Burns Line' services between Girvan, Ayr and Kilmarnock, supported by Strathclyde Passenger Transport (SPT). In the vestibule behind the cycle racks there was a poster explaining the significance of the naming.

Several streets surrounding the Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.'s Back Bay Fens in Boston, Massachusetts were designed with Burns connotations. A life size statue was dedicated in Burn's honor within the Back Bay Fens of the West Fenway neighborhood in 1912. It stood until 1972 when it was relocated downtown, sparking protests from the neighborhood, literary fans, and preservationists of Olmsted's vision for the Back Bay Fens.

The Friends of Ellisland maintain Ellisland Farm as a museum and interpretation centre.

Stamps and currency

Russia was the first country in the world to honour Burns with a commemorative stamp, in 1956.

The Royal Mail has issued postage stamps commemorating Burns three times. In 1966, two stamps were issued, priced fourpence and 1 shilling and threepence, both carrying Burns' portrait. In 1996, an issue commemorating the bicentenary of his death comprised four stamps, priced 19 p, 25 p, 41 p and 60 p, and included quotes from Burns' poems. On 22 January 2009, two stamps were issued by the Royal Mail to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Burns' birth.

Burns is pictured on the £5 banknote (since 1971) of the Clydesdale Bank, one of the Scottish banks with the right to issue banknotes.[27] On the reverse of the note there is a vignette of a field mouse and a wild rose which refers to Burns' poem "to a mouse". In September 2007, the Bank of Scotland redesigned their banknotes, and Robert Burns' statue is now portrayed on the reverse side of new £5. [28]

In 2009, the Royal Mint issued a commemorative two pound coin featuring a quote from "Auld Lang Syne".[29]

Musical tributes

In 1996, a musical called Red Red Rose won third place at a competition for new musicals in Denmark. The musical was about Burns' life, and he was played by John Barrowman. On 25 January 2008, a musical play about the love affair between Robert Burns and Nancy McLehose entitled "Clarinda", premiered in Edinburgh before touring Scotland. [30]

Burns suppers

Burns Night, effectively a second national day, is celebrated on 25 January with Burns suppers around the world, and is still more widely observed than the official national day, Saint Andrew's Day. The first Burns supper in The Mother Club in Greenock was held on what they thought was his birthday on 29 January 1802, but in 1803 they discovered from the Ayr parish records that the correct date was 25 January 1759.[26] The format of Burns suppers has not changed since. The basic format starts with a general welcome and announcements, followed with the Selkirk Grace. After the grace, comes the piping and cutting of the haggis, where Burns' famous Address To a Haggis is read and the haggis is cut open. The event usually allows for people to start eating just after the haggis is presented. This is when the reading called the "immortal memory", an overview of Burns' life and work, is given; the event usually concludes with the singing of Auld Lang Syne.

Greatest Scot

In 2009, STV ran a television series and public vote to decide who should be named as being the Greatest Scot. On St Andrew's day, STV revealed the results of the public vote, and Robert Burns was voted as being officially the Greatest Scot of all time, narrowly beating William Wallace, Scottish Patriot and Independence campaigner, for the title.

See also


  1. ^ Andrew O'Hagan, "The People's Poet", The Guardian, 19 January 2008.
  2. ^ "Scotland's National Bard". Robert Burns 2008. Scottish Executive. 25 January 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  3. ^ "A successor to Robert Burns; crowning the Poet-Laureate of Freemasonry". New York Times. December 18, 1884. p. 2. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  4. ^ Stream, Allan. "Rabbie Burns". Kilronan House. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  5. ^ "Mauchline kirk session records, National Archives of Scotland". 'The Legacy of Robert Burns' feature on the National Archives of Scotland website. National Archives of Scotland. 1 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  6. ^ a b Burns 1993, p. 19
  7. ^ a b c "Highland Mary (Mary Campbell)". Famous Sons and Daughters of Greenock. Nostalgic Greenock. Retrieved 2010-01-17. 
  8. ^ "Feature on The Poet Robert Burns". Robert Burns History. 2004-01-13. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  9. ^ "Folkin' For Jamaica: Sly, Robbie and Robert Burns". The Play Ethic. 2009-01-01. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  10. ^ Burns 1993, pp. 19–20
  11. ^ a b c Burns 1993, p. 20
  12. ^ edited by Robert Chambers; the Rev. Thos. Thomson (1856). "Significant Scots - Thomas Blacklock". Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen. Blackie and Son. Retrieved 2010-01-17. 
  13. ^ Hogg, Patrick Scott (2008). Robert Burns. The Patriot Bard. Edinburgh : Mainstream Publishing. ISBN. 978-1-84596-412-2. p. 321.
  14. ^ Hogg, Patrick Scott (2008). Robert Burns. The Patriot Bard. Edinburgh : Mainstream Publishing. ISBN. 978-1-84596-412-2. p. 321.
  15. ^ "Testament Dative and Inventory of Robert Burns, 1796, Dumfries Commissary Court (National Archives of Scotland CC5/6/18, pp. 74-75)". ScotlandsPeople website. National Archives of Scotland. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  16. ^ "Appointment of judicial factor for Robert Burns' children, Court of Session records (National Archives of Scotland CS97/101/15), 1798-1801". 'The Legacy of Robert Burns' feature on the National Archives of Scotland website. National Archives of Scotland. 1 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  17. ^ Hogg, Patrick Scott (2008). Robert Burns. The Patriot Bard. Edinburgh : Mainstream Publishing. ISBN. 978-1-84596-412-2. p. 321.
  18. ^ Hogg, Patrick Scott (2008). Robert Burns. The Patriot Bard. Edinburgh : Mainstream Publishing. ISBN. 978-1-84596-412-2. p. 154.
  19. ^ Rumens, Carol (2009-01-16). "The Bard, By Robert Crawford". Books (The Independent). Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  20. ^ Watson, Jeremy (2009-06-07). "Bard in the hand: Trust accused of hiding Burns' mental illness". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  21. ^ See, e.g., Paul Stevenson, "Stanton—the Writer with a Heart" in Atlanta Constitution, 1925 January 18, p. 1; republished by Perry, L.L.; Wightman, Melton F. (1938), Frank Lebby Stanton: Georgia's First Post Laureate, Atlanta: Georgia State Department of Education., p. 8-14 
  22. ^ "Bob Dylan names Scottish poet Robert Burns as his biggest inspiration". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2009-07-13. "Bob Dylan has named his own greatest inspiration as the Scottish poet Robert Burns. The American singer-songwriter was asked to say which lyric or verse has had the biggest effect on his life. He selected the 1794 song "A Red, Red Rose", which is often published as a poem, penned by the man regarded as Scotland's national poet." 
  23. ^ "Bob Dylan: Robert Burns is my biggest inspiration". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-06-11. "Dylan has revealed his greatest inspiration is Scotland's favourite son, the Bard of Ayrshire, the 18th-century poet known to most as Rabbie Burns. Dylan selected A Red, Red Rose, written by Burns in 1794." 
  24. ^ "Burns Biography". 1990-01-27. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  25. ^ Trew, Jonathan (10 April 2005). "From Rabbie with love". Heritage & Culture. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  26. ^ a b "Congratulation Greenock Burns Club". The Robert Burns World Federation Limited. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  27. ^ "Current Banknotes : Clydesdale Bank". The Committee of Scottish Clearing Bankers. Retrieved 2008-10-15. 
  28. ^ "Current Banknotes : Bank of Scotland". The Committee of Scottish Clearing Bankers. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  29. ^ "The 2009 Robert Burns £2 Coin Pack". Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  30. ^ "Clarinda - The Musical - No woman shunned Robert Burns' advances, until he met Clarinda !". Retrieved 2009-06-10. 


  • Burns, Robert (1993). Bold, Alan. ed. Rhymer Rab: An Anthology of Poems and Prose. London: Black Swan. ISBN 1-84195-380-6. 
  • Burns, Robert (2003). Noble, Andrew; Hogg, Patrick Scott. eds. The Canongate Burns: The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns. Edinburgh: Canongate Books. ISBN 1-84195-380-6. 
  • This article incorporates public domain text from : Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London, J. M. Dent & Sons; New York, E. P. Dutton. (p.57)
  • Dietrich Hohmann: Ich, Robert Burns, Biographical Novel, Neues Leben, Berlin 1990 (in German)

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Robert Burns.

Robert Burns (January 25, 1759 – July 21, 1796) was a poet and pioneer of the Romantic movement and after his death became an important source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland.



  • Beauty's of a fading nature
    Has a season and is gone!
    • Will Ye Go and Marry Katie? (1764)
  • Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
    O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
    Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
    Wi' bickering brattle!
  • I'm truly sorry man's dominion
    Has broken Nature's social union.
    • To a Mouse, st. 2 (1785)
  • The best laid schemes o' mice and men
    Gang aft a-gley;
    And leave us naught but grief and pain
    For promised joy.
    • To a Mouse, st. 7 (1785)
  • Nature's law,
    That man was made to mourn.
    • Man Was Made to Mourn, st. 4 (1786)
  • Man's inhumanity to man
    Makes countless thousands mourn.
    Man was made to Mourn.
    • Man was Made to Mourn (1786)
  • He wales a portion with judicious care;
    And "Let us worship God" he says, with solemn air.
    • The Cotter's Saturday Night, st. 12 (1786)
  • From scenes like these, old Scotia's grandeur springs,
    That makes her loved at home, revered abroad:
    Princes and lords are but the breath of kings,
    "An honest man's the noblest work of God."
    • The Cotter's Saturday Night, st. 19 (1786)
  • Gie me ae spark o' Nature's fire,
    That's a' the learning I desire.
    • First Epistle to J. Lapraik, st. 13 (1786)
  • The social, friendly, honest man,
    Whate'er he be,
    'Tis he fulfills great Nature's plan,
    And none but he!
    • Second Epistle to J. Lapraik, st. 15 (1786)
  • On ev'ry hand it will allowed be,
    He's just—nae better than he should be.
    • A Dedication to Gavin Hamilton (1786)
  • It's hardly in a body's pow'r,
    To keep, at times, frae being sour.
    • Epistle to Davie, st. 2 (1786)
  • Misled by fancy's meteor ray,
    By passion driven;
    But yet the light that led astray
    Was light from heaven.
    • The Vision, II, st. 18 (1786)
  • His lockèd, lettered, braw brass collar
    Showed him the gentleman an' scholar.
    • The Twa Dogs, st. 3 (1786)
  • An' there began a lang digression
    About the lords o' the creation.
    • The Twa Dogs, st. 6 (1786)
  • O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as others see us!
    It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
    An' foolish notion.
    What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us
    An' ev'n Devotion
  • Wee, modest, crimson-tippèd flow'r,
    Thou's met me in an evil hour;
    For I maun crush amang the stoure
    Thy slender stem:
    To spare thee now is past my pow'r,
    Thou bonie gem.
    • To a Mountain Daisy, st. 1 (1786)
  • Stern Ruin's plowshare drives elate,
    Full on thy bloom.
    • To a Mountain Daisy, st. 9 (1786)
  • Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
    Perhaps turn out a sermon.
    • Epistle to a Young Friend, st. 1 (1786)
  • I waive the quantum o' the sin,
    The hazard of concealing:
    But, och! it hardens a' within,
    And petrifies the feeling!
    • Epistle to a Young Friend, st. 6 (1786)
  • An atheist-laugh's a poor exchange
    For Deity offended.
    • Epistle to a Young Friend, st. 9 (1786)
  • There's nought but care on ev'ry han',
    In every hour that passes, O:
    What signifies the life o' man,
    An' then she made the lasses, O.
    • Green Grow the Rashes, O, st. 1 (1787)
  • Auld Nature swears, the lovely dears
    Her noblest work she classes, O:
    Her prentice han' she tried on man,
    An' then she made the lasses, O.
    • Green Grow the Rashes, O, st. 5 (1787)
  • Green grow the rashes, O;
    Green grow the rashes, O;
    The sweetest hours that e'er I spend
    Are spent among the lasses, O.
    • Green Grow the Rashes, O, chorus (1787)
  • Some books are lies frae end to end.
    • Death and Dr. Hornbook, st. 1 (1787)
  • I was na fou, but just had plenty.
    • Death and Dr. Hornbook, st. 3 (1787)
  • John Barleycorn got up again,
    And sore surprised them all.
    • John Barleycorn, st. 3 (1787)
  • The heart benevolent and kind
    The most resembles God.
    • A Winter Night (1787)
  • Ye're aiblins nae temptation.
    • Address to the Unco Guid, st. 6 (1787)
  • Then gently scan your brother man,
    Still gentler sister woman;
    Tho' they may gang a kennin wrang,
    To step aside is human.
    • Address to the Unco Guid, st. 7 (1787)
  • If naebody care for me,
    I'll care for naebody.
    • I Hae a Wife o' my Ain (1788)
  • Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
    And never brought to min'?
    Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
    And days o' auld lang syne?
  • For auld lang syne, my dear,
    For auld lang syne,
    We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
    For auld lang syne!
    • Auld Lang Syne, chorus (1788)
  • Flow gently, sweet Afton! amang thy green braes,
    Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise.
    My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
    Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.
    • Sweet Afton, st. 1 (1789)
  • This day, Time winds th' exhausted chain,
    To run the twelvemonth's length again.
    • New Year's Day, st. 1 (1790)
  • The voice of Nature loudly cries,
    And many a message from the skies,
    That something in us never dies.
    • New Year's Day, st. 3 (1790)
  • When Nature her great masterpiece designed,
    And framed her last, best work, the human mind,
    Her eye intent on all the wondrous plan,
    She formed of various stuff the various Man.
    • To Robert Graham, st. 1 (1791)
  • Suspense is worse than disappointment.
    • Letter to Thomas Sloan, September 1, 1791.
  • While Europe's eye is fix'd on mighty things,
    The fate of empires and the fall of kings;
    While quacks of State must each produce his plan,
    And even children lisp the Rights of Man;
    Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention,
    The Rights of Woman merit some attention.
    • The Rights of Woman, st. 1 (1792)
  • She is a winsome wee thing,
    She is a handsome wee thing,
    She is a lo'esome wee thing,
    This sweet wee wife o' mine.
    • My Wife's a Winsome Wee Thing, chorus (1792)
  • The golden Hours on angel wings
    Flew o'er me and my Dearie;
    For dear to me as light and life
    Was my sweet Highland Mary.
    • Highland Mary, st. 2 (1792)
  • But, oh! fell death's untimely frost,
    That nipt my flower sae early.
    • Highland Mary, st. 3 (1792)
  • O whistle, and I'll come to you, my lad:
    Tho' father and mither and a' should gae mad.
    • Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad, chorus (1793)
  • If there's a hole in a' your coats,
    I rede you tent it;
    A chield's aman you takin' notes,
    And faith he'll prent it.
    • On the Late Captain Grose's Peregrinations Thro' Scotland, st. 1 (1793)
  • Some hae meat and cann eat,
    And some wad eat that want it;
    But we hae meat, and we can eat,
    And sae the Lord be thankit.
    • The Selkirk Grace (1793)
  • O Mary, at thy window be!
    It is the wished, the trysted hour.
    • Mary Morison, st. 1 (1793)
  • Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
    Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
    Welcome to your gory bed
    Or to Victorie!

    Now's the day, and now's the hour;
    See the front o' battle lour!
    See approach proud Edward's power—
    Chains and slaverie!
    • Scots Wha Hae, st. 1, 2 (1794)
  • Lay the proud usurpers low!
    Tyrants fall in every foe!
    Liberty's in every blow—
    Let us do or die!
    • Scots Wha Hae, st. 5 (1794)
  • The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
    The man's the gowd for a' that.
    For a' that an a' that.
    • A Man's A Man For A' That, st. 1 (1795)
  • A prince can mak a belted knight,
    A marquis, duke, and a' that;
    But an honest man's aboon his might,
    Guid faith, he mauna fa' that.
    • A Man's A Man For A' That, st. 4 (1795)
  • For a' that and a' that,
    It's coming yet, for a' that,
    That man to man the world o'er
    Shall brothers be for a' that.
    • A Man's A Man For A' That, st. 5 (1795)

Johnson's The Scots Musical Museum (1787-1796)

  • A gaudy dress and gentle air
    May slightly touch the heart;
    But it's innocence and modesty
    that polished the dart.
    • Handsome Nell (1773) (also known as "My Handsome Nell"), st. 6
  • Oh, my Luve is like a red, red rose,
    That's newly sprung in June.
    O, my Luve is like the melodie,
    That's sweetly played in tune.
  • Contented wi' little and cantie wi' mair.
    • Contented wi' Little, st. 1
  • Ye banks and braes o' bonny Doon,
    How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?
    How can ye chant, ye little birds,
    And I sae weary fu' o' care!
    Thou'll break my heart, thou warbling bird,
    That wantons thro' the flowering thorn!
    Thou minds me o' departed joys,
    Departed never to return.
    • The Banks o' Doon, st. 1
  • Chords that vibrate sweetest pleasure
    Thrill the deepest notes of woe.
    • Sensibility How Charming, st. 4
  • Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
    Ae farewell, alas, forever!
    • Ae Fond Kiss, And Then We Sever, st. 1
  • But to see her was to love her;
    Love but her, and love for ever.
    Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
    Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
    Never met—or never parted,
    We had ne'er been broken-hearted.
    • Ae Fond Kiss, And Then We Sever, st. 2
  • It was a' for our rightfu' King
    We left fair Scotland's strand.
    • It Was A' for Our Rightfu' King, st. 1
  • Now a' is done that men can do,
    And a' is done in vain.
    • It Was A' for Our Rightfu' King, st. 2
  • He turn'd him right and round about
    Upon the Irish shore;
    And gae his bridle reins a shake,
    With adieu forevermore,
    My dear—
    And adieu forevermore!
    • It Was A' for Our Rightfu' King, st. 3
  • John Anderson, my jo, John,
    When we were first acquent,
    Your locks were like the raven,
    Your bonie brow was brent;
    But now your brow is beld, John,
    Your locks are like the snaw,
    But blessings on your frosty pow,
    John Anderson, my jo!
    • John Anderson, My Jo, st. 1
  • My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
    My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
    A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,
    My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.
    • My Heart's in the Highlands, st. 1

Tam o' Shanter (1793)

  • Where sits our sulky, sullen dame,
    Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
    Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.
    • Line 10
  • Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet
    To think how monie counsels sweet,
    How monie lengthened, sage advices,
    The husband frae the wife despises!
    • Line 33
  • His ancient, trusty, drouthy crony:
    Tam lo'ed him like a vera brither—
    They had been fou for weeks thegither.
    • Line 43
  • Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious,
    O'er a' the ills o' life victorious.
    • Line 57
  • But pleasures are like poppies spread—
    You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed;
    Or like the snow falls in the river—
    A moment white—then melts forever.
    • Line 59
  • Nae man can tether time or tide.
    • Line 67
  • That hour, o' night's black arch the keystane.
    • Line 69
  • Inspiring bold John Barleycorn!
    What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
    Wi' tippenny, we fear nae evil;
    Wi' usquabae, we'll face the devil!
    • Line 105
  • As Tammie glow'red, amazed, and curious,
    The mirth and fun grew fast and furious.
    • Line 143
  • Her cutty sark, o' Paisley harn,
    That while a lassie she had worn,
    In longitude tho' sorely scanty,
    It was her best, and she was vauntie.
    • Line 171
  • "Weel done, Cutty Sark!"
    • Line 189
  • Ah, Tam! Ah! Tam! Thou'll get thy fairin!
    In hell they'll roast you like a herrin!
    • Line 201

Posthumous Pieces (1799)

  • For a' that, and a' that
    An' twice as muckle 's a' that,
    I've lost but ane, I've twa behin',
    I've wife eneugh for a' that.
    • The Jolly Beggars, chorus
  • God knows, I'm no the thing I should be,
    Nor am I even the thing I could be.
    • To The Reverend John M'Math, st. 8
  • If there's another world, he lives in bliss;
    If there is none, he made the best of this.
    • Epitaph on William Muir
  • In durance vile here must I wake and weep,
    And all my frowsy couch in sorrow steep.
    • Epistle from Esopus to Maria
  • It's guid to be merry and wise,
    It's guid to be honest and true,
    It's guid to support Caledonia's cause
    And bide by the buff and the blue.
    • Here's a Health to Them That's Awa', st. 1

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Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Robert Burns
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
From Ultima Thule.

I see amid the fields of Ayr
A ploughman, who, in foul and fair,
Sings at his task
So clear, we know not if it is
The laverock's song we hear, or his,
Nor care to ask.

For him the ploughing of those fields
A more ethereal harvest yields
Than sheaves of grain;
Songs flush with Purple bloom the rye,
The plover's call, the curlew's cry,
Sing in his brain.

Touched by his hand, the wayside weed
Becomes a flower; the lowliest reed
Beside the stream
Is clothed with beauty; gorse and grass
And heather, where his footsteps pass,
The brighter seem.

He sings of love, whose flame illumes
The darkness of lone cottage rooms;
He feels the force,
The treacherous undertow and stress
Of wayward passions, and no less
The keen remorse.

At moments, wrestling with his fate,
His voice is harsh, but not with hate;
The brushwood, hung
Above the tavern door, lets fall
Its bitter leaf, its drop of gall
Upon his tongue.

But still the music of his song
Rises o'er all elate and strong;
Its master-chords
Are Manhood, Freedom, Brotherhood,
Its discords but an interlude
Between the words.

And then to die so young and leave
Unfinished what he might achieve!
Yet better sure
Is this, than wandering up and down
An old man in a country town,
Infirm and poor.

For now he haunts his native land
As an immortal youth; his hand
Guides every plough;
He sits beside each ingle-nook,
His voice is in each rushing brook,
Each rustling bough.

His presence haunts this room to-night,
A form of mingled mist and light
From that far coast.
Welcome beneath this roof of mine!
Welcome! this vacant chair is thine,
Dear guest and ghost!

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ROBERT BURNS (1759-1796), Scottish poet, was born on the 25th of January 1759 in a cottage about 2 m. from Ayr. He was the eldest son of a small farmer, William Burness, of Kincardineshire stock, who wrought hard, practised integrity, wished to bring up his children in the fear of God, but had to fight all his days against the winds and tides of adversity. "The poet," said Thomas Carlyle, "was fortunate in his father - a man of thoughtful intense character, as the best of our peasants are, valuing knowledge, possessing some and open-minded for more, of keen insight and devout heart, friendly and fearless: a fully unfolded man seldom found in any rank in society, and worth descending far in society to seek.. .. Had he been ever so little richer, the whole might have issued otherwise. But poverty sunk the whole family even below the reach of our cheap school system, and Burns remained a hard-worked plough-boy." Through a series of migrations from one unfortunate farm to another; from Alloway (where he was taught to read) to Mt. Oliphant, and then (1777) to Lochlea in Tarbolton (where he learnt the rudiments of geometry), the poet remained in the same condition of straitened circumstances. At the age of thirteen he thrashed the corn with his own hands, at fifteen he was the principal labourer. The family kept no servant, and for several years butchers' meat was a thing unknown in the house. "This kind of life," he writes, "the cheerless gloom of a hermit and the unceasing toil of a galley-slave, brought me to my sixteenth year." His naturally robust frame was overtasked, and his nervous constitution received a fatal strain. His shoulders were bowed, he became liable to headaches, palpitations and fits of depressing melancholy. From these hard tasks and his fiery temperament, craving in vain for sympathy in a frigid air, grew the strong temptations on which Burns was largely wrecked, - the thirst for stimulants and the revolt against restraint which soon made headway and passed all bars. In the earlier portions of his career a buoyant humour bore him up; and amid thickcoming shapes of ill he bated no jot of heart or hope. He was cheered by vague stirrings of ambition, which he pathetically compares to the "blind groping of Homer's Cyclops round the walls of his cave." Sent to school at Kirkoswald, he became, for his scant leisure, a great reader - eating at meal-times with a spoon in one hand and a book in the other, - and carrying a few small volumes in his pocket to study in spare moments in the fields. "The collection of songs," he tells us, "was my vade mecum. I pored over them driving my cart or walking to labour, song by song, verse by verse, carefully noting the true, tender, sublime or fustian." He lingered over the ballads in his cold room by night; by day, whilst whistling at the plough, he invented new forms and was inspired by fresh ideas, "gathering round him the memories and the traditions of his country till they became a mantle and a crown." It was among the furrows of his fat:her'slfields that he was inspired with the perpetually quoted wish "That I for poor auld Scotland's sake Some useful plan or book could make, Or sing a sang at least." An equally striking illustration of the same feeling is to be found in his summer Sunday's ramble to the Leglen wood, - the fabled haunt of Wallace, - which the poet confesses to have visited "with as much devout enthusiasm as ever pilgrim did the shrine of Loretto." In another reference to the same period he refers to the intense susceptibility to the homeliest aspects of Nature which throughout characterized his genius. "Scarcely any object gave me more - I do not know if I should call it pleasure - but something which exalts and enraptures me - than to walk in the sheltered side of a wood or high plantation in a cloudy winter day and hear the stormy wind howling among the trees and raving over the plain. I listened to the birds, and frequently turned out of my path lest I should disturb their little songs or frighten them to another station." Auroral visions were gilding his horizon as he walked in glory, if not in joy, "behind his plough upon the mountain side"; but the swarm of his many-coloured fancies was again made grey by the atra cura of unsuccessful toils.

Burns had written his first verses of note, "Behind yon hills where Stinchar (afterwards Lugar) flows," when in 1781 he went to Irvine to learn the trade of a flax-dresser. "It was," he says, "an unlucky affair. As we were giving a welcome carousal to the New Year, the shop took fire and burned to ashes; and I was left, like a true poet, without a sixpence." His own heart, too, had unfortunately taken fire. He was poring over mathematics till, in his own phraseology, - still affected in its prose by the classical pedantries caught from Pope by Ramsay, - "the sun entered Virgo, when a charming fillette, who lived next door, overset my trigonometry, and set me off at a tangent from the scene of my studies." We need not detail the story, nor the incessant repetitions of it, which marked and sometimes marred his career. The poet was jilted, went through the usual despairs, and resorted to the not unusual sources of consolation. He had found that he was "no enemy to social life," and his mates had discovered that he was the best of boon companions in the lyric feasts, where his eloquence shed a lustre over wild ways of life, and where he was beginning to be distinguished as a champion of the New Lights and a satirist of the Calvinism whose waters he found like those of Marah.

In Robert's 25th year his father died, full of sorrows and apprehensions for the gifted son who wrote for his tomb in Alloway kirkyard, the fine epitaph ending with the characteristic line "For even his failings leaned to virtue's side." For some time longer the poet, with his brother Gilbert, lingered at Lochlea, reading agricultural books, miscalculating crops, attending markets, and in a mood of reformation resolving, "in spite of the world, the flesh and the devil, to be a wise man." Affairs, however, went no better with the family; and in 1784 they migrated to Mossgiel, where he lived and wrought, during four years, for a return scarce equal to the wage of the commonest labourer in our day. Meanwhile he had become intimate with his future wife, Jean Armour; but the father, a master mason, discountenanced the match, and the girl being disposed to "sigh as a lover," as a daughter to obey, Burns, in 1786, gave up his suit, resolved to seek refuge in exile, and having accepted a situation as book-keeper to a slave estate in Jamaica, had taken his passage in a ship for the West Indies. His old associations seemed to be breaking up, men and fortune scowled, and "hungry ruin had him in the wind," when he wrote the lines ending unnatural element. He stooped to beg for neither smiles nor favour, but the gnarled country oak is cut up into cabinets in artificial prose and verse. In the letters to Mr Graham, the prologue to Mr Wood, and the epistles to Clarinda, he is dancing minuets with hob-nailed shoes. When, in 1787, the second edition of the Poems came out, the proceeds of their sale realized for the author 40o. On the strength of this sum he gave himself two long rambles, full of poetic material - one through the border towns into England as far as Newcastle, returning by Dumfries to Mauchline, and another a grand tour through the East Highlands, as far as Inverness, returning by Edinburgh, and so home to Ayrshire.

In 1788 Burns took a new farm at Ellisland on the Nith, settled there, married, lost his little money, and wrote, among other pieces, "Auld Lang Syne" and "Tam o' Shanter." In 1789 he obtained, through the good office of Mr Graham of Fintry, an appointment as excise-officer of the district, worth £50 per annum. In 1791 he removed to a similar post at Dumfries worth £70. In the course of the following year he was asked to contribute to George Thomson's Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs with Symphonies and Accompaniments for the Pianoforte and Violin: the poetry by Robert Burns. To this work he contributed about one hundred songs, the best of which are now ringing in the ear of every Scotsman from New Zealand to San Francisco. For these, original and adapted, he received a shawl for his wife, a picture by David Allan representing the "Cottar's Saturday Night," and L5! The poet wrote an indignant letter and never afterwards composed for money. Unfortunately the "Rock of Independence" to which he had proudly retired was but a castle of air, over which the meteors of French political enthusiasm cast a lurid gleam. In the last years of his life, exiled from polite society on account of his revolutionary opinions, he became sourer in temper and plunged more deeply into the dissipations of the lower ranks, among whom he found his only companionship and sole, though shallow, sympathy.

Burns began to feel himself prematurely old. Walking with a friend who proposed to him to join a county ball, he shook his head, saying "that's all over now," and adding a verse of Lady Grizel Baillie's ballad "O were we young as we ance hae been, We sud hae been galloping down on yon green, And linking it ower the lily-white lea, But were na my heart light I wad dee." His hand shook; his pulse and appetite failed; his spirits sunk into a uniform gloom. In April 1796 he wrote - "I fear it will be some time before I tune my lyre again. By Babel's streams I have sat and wept. I have only known existence by the pressure of sickness and counted time by the repercussions of pain. I close my eyes in misery and open them without hope. I look on the vernal day and say with poor Fergusson" Say wherefore has an all-indulgent heaven Life to the comfortless and wretched given."On the 4th of July he was seen to be dying. On the 12th he wrote to his cousin for the loan of Rio to save him from passing his last days in jail. On the 21st he was no more. On the 2 5th, when his last son came into the world, he was buried with local honours, the volunteers of the company to which he belonged firing three volleys over his grave.

It has been said that" Lowland Scotland as a distinct nationality came in with two warriors and went out with two bards. It came in with William Wallace and Robert Bruce and went out with Robert Burns and Walter Scott. The first two made the history, the last two told the story and sung the song."But what in the minstrel's lay was mainly a requiem was in the people's poet also a prophecy. The position of Burns in the progress of British literature may be shortly defined; he was a link between two eras, like Chaucer, the last of the old and the first of the new - the inheritor of the traditions and the music of the past, in some respects the herald of the future.

The volumes of our lyrist owe part of their popularity to the fact of their being an epitome of melodies, moods and memories that had belonged for centuries to the national life, the best" Adieu, my native banks of Ayr,"and addressed to the most famous of the loves, in which he was as prolific as Catullus or Tibullus, the proposal" Will ye go to the Indies, my Mary."He was withheld from his project and, happily or unhappily, the current of his life was turned by the success of his first volume, which was published at Kilmarnock in June 1786. It contained some of his most justly celebrated poems, the results of his scanty leisure at Lochlea and Mossgiel; among others" The Twa Dogs,"- a graphic idealization of Aesop, -" The Author's Prayer,"the" Address to the Deil," The Vision "and" The Dream," Halloween," The Cottar's Saturday Night,"the lines" To a Mouse "and" To a Daisy, "Scotch Drink," "Wan was made to Mourn," the "Epistle to Davie," and some of his most popular songs. This epitome of a genius so marvellous and so varied took his audience by storm. "The country murmured of him from sea to sea." "With his poems," says Robert Heron, "old and young, grave and gay, learned and ignorant, were alike transported. I was at that time resident in Galloway, and I can well remember how even plough-boys and maid-servants would have gladly bestowed the wages they earned the most hardly, and which they wanted to purchase necessary clothing, if they might but procure the works of Burns." This first edition only brought the author £20 direct return, but it introduced him to the literati of Edinburgh, whither he was invited, and where he was welcomed, feasted, admired and patronized. He appeared as a portent among the scholars of the northern capital and its university, and manifested, according to Mr Lockhart, "in the whole strain of his bearing, his belief that in the society of the most eminent men of his nation he was where he was entitled to be, hardly deigning to flatter them by exhibiting a symptom of being flattered." Sir Walter Scott bears a similar testimony to the dignified simplicity and almost exaggerated independence of the poet, during this annus mirabilis of his success. "As for Burns, Virgilium vidi tantum, I was a lad of fifteen when he came to Edinburgh, but had sense enough to be interested in his poetry, and would have given the world to know him. I saw him one day with several gentlemen of literary reputation, among whom I remember the celebrated Dugald Stewart. Of course we youngsters sat silent, looked, and listened.. .. I remember. .. his shedding tears over a print representing a soldier lying dead in the snow, his dog sitting in misery on one side, on the other his widow with a child in her arms. His person was robust, his manners rustic, not clownish.. .. His countenance was more massive than it looks in any of the portraits. There was a strong expression of shrewdness in his lineaments; the eye alone indicated the poetic character and temperament. It was large and of a dark cast, and literally glowed when he spoke with feeling or interest. I never saw such another eye in a human head. His conversation expressed perfect self-confidence, without the least intrusive forwardness. I thought his acquaintance with English poetry was rather limited; and having twenty times the abilities of Allan Ramsay and of Fergusson he talked of them with too much humility as his models. He was much caressed in Edinburgh, but the efforts made for his relief were extremely trifling." Laudatur et alget. Burns went from those meetings, where he had been posing professors (no hard task), and turning the heads of duchesses, to share a bed in the garret of a writer's apprentice, - they paid together 3s. a week for the room. It was in the house of Mr Carfrae, Baxter's Close, Lawnmarket, "first scale stair on the left hand in going down, first door in the stair." During Burns's life it was reserved for William Pitt to recognize his place as a great poet; the more cautious critics of the North were satisfied to endorse him as a rustic prodigy, and brought upon themselves a share of his satire. Some of the friendships contracted during this period - as for Lord Glencairn and Mrs Dunlop - are among the most pleasing and permanent in literature; for genuine kindness was never wasted on one who, whatever his faults, has never been accused of ingratitude. But in the bard's city life there was an inspirations of which have passed into them. But in gathering from his ancestors Burns has exalted their work by asserting a new dignity for their simplest themes. He is the heir of Barbour, distilling the spirit of the old poet's epic into a battle chant, and of Dunbar, reproducing the various humours of a halfsceptical, half-religious philosophy of life. He is the pupil of Ramsay, but he leaves his master, to make a social protest and to lead a literary revolt. The Gentle Shepherd, still largely a court pastoral, in which "a man's a man" if born a gentleman, may be contrasted with "The Jolly Beggars" - the one is like a minuet of the ladies of Versailles on the sward of the Swiss village near the Trianon, the other like the march of the maenads with Theroigne de Mericourt. Ramsay adds to the rough tunes and words of the ballads the refinement of the wits who in the "Easy" and "Johnstone" clubs talked over their cups of Prior and Pope, Addison and Gay. Burns inspires them with a fervour that thrills the most wooden of his race. We may clench the contrast by, a representative example. This is from Ramsay's version of perhaps the best-known of Scottish songs, "Methinks around us on each bough A thousand Cupids play; Whilst through the groves I walk with you, Each object makes me gay.

Since your return - the sun and moon With brighter beams do shine, Streams murmur soft notes while they run As they did lang syne." Compare the verses in Burns "We twa hae run about the braes And pu'd the gowans fine; But we've wandered mony a weary foot Sin auld lang syne.

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." Burns as a poet of the inanimate world doubtless derived hints from Thomson of The Seasons, but iR his power of tuning its manifestation to the moods of the mind he is more properly ranked as a forerunner of Wordsworth. He never follows the fashions of his century, except in his failures - in his efforts at set panegyric or fine letter-writing. His highest work knows nothing of "Damon" or "Musidora." He leaves the atmosphere of drawing-rooms for the ingle or the ale-house or the mountain breeze.

The affectations of his style are insignificant and rare. His prevailing characteristic is an absolute sincerity. A love for the lower forms of social life was his besetting sin; Nature was his healing power. Burns compares himself to an Aeolian harp, strung to every wind of heaven. His genius flows over all living and lifeless things with a sympathy that finds nothing mean or insignificant. An uprooted daisy becomes in his pages an enduring emblem of the fate of artless maid and simple bard. He disturbs a mouse's nest and finds in the "tim'rous beastie" a fellow-mortal doomed like himself to "thole the winter's sleety dribble," and draws his oft-repeated moral. He walks abroad and, in a verse that glints with the light of its own rising sun before the fierce sarcasm of "The Holy Fair," describes the melodies of a "simmer Sunday morn." He loiters by Afton Water and "murmurs by the running brook a music sweeter than its own." He stands by a roofless tower, where "the howlet mourns in her dewy bower," and "sets the wild echoes flying," and adds to a perfect picture of the scene his famous vision of "Libertie." In a single stanza he concentrates the sentiment of many Night Thoughts "The pale moon is setting beyond the white wave, And Time is setting wi' me, 0." For other examples of the same graphic power we may refer to the course of his stream "Whiles ow'r a linn the burnie plays As through the glen it wimpled," &c., or to "The Birks of Aberfeldy" or the "spate" in the dialogue of "The Brigs of Ayr." The poet is as much at home in the presence of this flood as by his "trottin' burn's meander." Familiar with all the seasons he represents the phases of a northern winter with a frequency characteristic of his clime and of his fortunes; her tempests became anthems in his verse, and the sounding woods "raise his thoughts to Him that walketh on the wings of the wind"; full of pity for the shelterless poor, the "ourie cattle," the "silly sheep," and the "helpless birds," he yet reflects that the bitter blast is not "so unkind as man's ingratitude." This constant tendency to ascend above the fair or wild features of outward things, or to penetrate beneath them, to make them symbols, to endow them with a voice to speak for humanity, distinguishes Burns as a descriptive poet from the rest of his countrymen. As a painter he is rivalled by Dunbar and James I., more rarely by Thomson and Ramsay. The "lilt" of Tannahill's finest verse is even more charming. But these writers rest in their art; their main care is for their own genius. The same is true in a minor degree of some of his great English successors. Keats has a palette of richer colours, but he seldom condescends to "human nature's daily food." Shelley floats in a thin air to stars and mountain tops, and vanishes from our gaze like his skylark. Byron, in the midst of his revolutionary fervour, never forgets that he himself belongs to the "caste of Vere de Vere." Wordsworth's placid affection and magnanimity stretch beyond mankind, and, as in "Hart-leap-well" and the "Cuckoo," extend to bird and beast; he moralizes grandly on the vicissitudes of common life, but he does not enter into, because by right of superior virtue he places himself above them. "From the Lyrical Ballads," it has been said, "it does not appear that men eat or drink, marry or are given in marriage." We revere the monitor who, consciously good and great, gives us the dry light of truth, but we love the bard, nostrae deliciae, who is all fire - fire from heaven and Ayrshire earth mingling in the outburst of passion and of power, which is his poetry and the inheritance of his race. He had certainly neither culture nor philosophy enough to have written the "Ode on the Recollections of Childhood," but to appreciate that ode requires an education. The sympathies of Burns, as broad as Wordsworth's, are more intense; in turning his pages we feel ourselves more decidedly in the presence of one who joys with those who rejoice and mourns with those who mourn. He is never shallow, ever plain, and the expression of his feeling is so terse that it is always memorable. Of the people he speaks more directly for the people than any of our more considerable poets. Chaucer has a perfect hold of the homeliest phases of life, but he wants the lyric element, and the charm of his language has largely faded from untutored ears. Shakespeare, indeed, has at once a loftier vision and a wider grasp; for he sings of "Thebes and Pelops line," of Agincourt and Philippi, as of Falstaff, and Snug the joiner, and the "meanest flower that blows." But not even Shakespeare has put more thought into poetry which the most prosaic must appreciate than Burns has done. The latter moves in a narrower sphere and wants the strictly dramatic faculty, but its place is partly supplied by the vividness of his narrative. His realization of incident and character is manifested in the sketches in which the manners and prevailing fancies of his countrymen are immortalized in connexion with local scenery. Among those almost every variety of disposition findsitsfavourite. The quiet households of the kingdom have received a sort of apotheosis in the "Cottar's Saturday Night." It has been objected that the subject does not afford scope for the more daring forms of the author's genius; but had he written no other poem, this heartful rendering of a good week's close in a God-fearing home, sincerely devout, and yet relieved from all suspicion of sermonizing by its humorous touches, would have secured a permanent place in literature. It transcends Thomson and Beattie at their best, and will smell sweet like the actions of the just for generations to come.

Lovers of rustic festivity may hold that the poet's greatest performance is his narrative of "Halloween," which for easy vigour, fulness of rollicking life, blended truth and fancy, is unsurpassed in its kind. Campbell, Wilson, Hazlitt, Montgomery, Burns himself, and the majority of his critics, have recorded their preference for "Tam o' Shanter," where the weird superstitious element that has played so great a part in the imaginative work of this part of our island is brought more prominently forward. Few passages of description are finer than that of the roaring Doon and Alloway Kirk glimmering through the groaning trees; but the unique excellence of the piece consists in its variety, and a perfectly original combination of the terrible and the ludicrous. Like Goethe's Walpurgis Nacht, brought into closer contact with real life, it stretches from the drunken humours of Christopher Sly to a world of fantasies almost as brilliant as those of the Midsummer Night's Dream, half solemnized by the severer atmosphere of a sterner clime. The contrast between the lines "Kings may be blest," &c., and those which follow, beginning "But pleasures are like poppies spread," is typical of the perpetual antithesis of the author's thought and life, in which, at the back of every revelry, he sees the shadow of a warning hand, and reads on the wall the writing, Omnia mutantur. With equal or greater confidence other judges have pronounced Burns's masterpiece to be "The Jolly Beggars." Certainly no other single production so illustrates his power of exalting what is insignificant, glorifying what is mean, and elevating the lowest details by the force of his genius. "The form of the piece," says Carlyle, "is a mere cantata, the theme the half-drunken snatches of a joyous band of vagabonds, while the grey leaves are floating on the gusts of the wind in the autumn of the year. But the whole is compacted, refined and poured forth in one flood of liquid harmony. It is light, airy and soft of movement, yet sharp and precise in its details; every face is a portrait, and the whole a group in clear photography. The blanket of the night is drawn aside; in full ruddy gleaming light these rough tatterdemalions are seen at their boisterous revel wringing from Fate another hour of wassail and good cheer." Over the whole is flung a half-humorous, half-savage satire - aimed, like a two-edged sword, at the laws and the law-breakers, in the acme of which the graceless crew are raised above the level of ordinary gipsies, footpads and rogues, and are made to sit "on the hills like gods together, careless of mankind," and to launch their Titan thunders of rebellion against the world.

"A fig for those by law protected; Liberty's a glorious feast; Courts for cowards were erected, Churches built to please the priest." A similar mixture of drollery and defiance appears in the justly celebrated "Address to the Deil," which, mainly whimsical, is relieved by touches of pathos curiously quaint. "The effect of contrast," it has been observed, "was never more happily displayed than in the conception of such a being straying in lonely places and loitering among trees, or in the familiarity with which the poet lectures so awful a personage," - we may add, than in the inimitable outbreak at the close "O would you tak a thought an' men'." Carlyle, in reference to this passage, cannot resist the suggestion of a parallel from Sterne. "He is the father of curses and lies, said Dr Slop, and is cursed and damned already. I am sorry for it, quoth my Uncle Toby." Burns fared ill at the hands of those who were not sorry for it, and who repeated with glib complacency every terrible belief of the system in which they had been trained. The most scathing of his Satires, under which head fall many of his minor and frequent passages in his major pieces, are directed against the false pride of birth, and what he conceived to be the false pretences of religion. The apologue of "Death and Dr Hornbook," "The Ordination," the song "No churchman am I for to rail and to write," the "Address to the Unco Guid," "Holy Willie," and above all "The Holy Fair," with its savage caricature of an ignorant ranter of the time called Moodie, and others of like stamp, not unnaturally provoked offence. As regards the poet's attitude towards some phases of Calvinism prevalent during his life, it has to be remarked that from the days of Dunbar there has been a degree of antagonism between Scottish verse and the more rigid forms of Scottish theology.

It must be admitted that in protesting against hypocrisy he has occasionally been led beyond the limits prescribed by good taste. He is at times abusive of those who differ from him. This, with other offences against decorum, which here and there disfigure his pages, can only be condoned by an appeal to the general tone of his writing, which is reverential. Burns had a firm faith in a Supreme Being, not as a vague mysterious Power; but as the Arbiter of human life. Amid the vicissitudes of his career he responds to the cottar's summons, "Let us worship God." "An atheist's laugh's a poor exchange For Deity offended" is the moral of all his verse, which treats seriously of religious matters. His prayers in rhyme give him a high place among secular Psalmists.

Like Chaucer, Burns was a great moralist, though a rough one. In the moments of his most intense revolt against conventional prejudice and sanctimonious affectation, he is faithful to the great laws which underlie change, loyal in his veneration for the cardinal virtues - Truth, Justice and Charity, - and consistent in the warnings, to which his experience gives an unhappy force, against transgressions of Temperance. In the "Epistle to a Young Friend," the shrewdest advice is blended with exhortations appealing to the highest motive, that which transcends the calculation of consequences, and bids us walk in the straight path from the feeling of personal honour, and "for the glorious privilege of being independent." Burns, like Dante, "loved well because he hated, hated wickedness that hinders loving," and this feeling, as in the lines - "Dweller in yon dungeon dark," sometimes breaks bounds; but his calmer moods are better represented by the well-known passages in the "Epistle to Davie," in which he preaches acquiescence in our lot, and a cheerful acceptance of our duties in the sphere where we are placed. This philosophie deuce, never better sung by Horace, is the prevailing refrain of our author's Songs. On these there are few words to add to the acclaim of a century. They have passed into the air we breathe; they are so real that they seem things rather than words, or, nearer still, living beings. They have taken all hearts, because they are the breath of his own; not polished cadences, but utterances as direct as laughter or tears. Since Sappho loved and sang, there has been no such national lyrist as Burns. Fine ballads, mostly anonymous, existed in Scotland previous to his time; and shortly before a fe y: authors had produced a few songs equal to some of his best. Such are Alexander Ross's "Wooed and Married," Lowe's "Mary's Dream," "Auld Robin Gray," "The Land o' the Leal" and the two versions of "The Flowers o' the Forest." From these and many of the older pieces in Ramsay's collection, Burns admits to have derived copious suggestions and impulses. He fed on the past literature of his country as Chaucer on the old fields of English thought, and "Still the elements o' sang, In formless jumble, right and wrang, Went floating in his brain." But he gave more than he received; he brought forth an hundredfold; he summed up the stray material of the past, and added so much of his own that one of the most conspicuous features of his lyrical genius is its variety in new paths. Between the first of war songs, composed in a storm on a moor, and the pathos of "Mary in Heaven," he has made every chord in our northern life to vibrate. The distance from "Duncan Gray" to "Auld Lang Syne" is nearly as great as that from Falstaff to Ariel. There is the vehemence of battle, the wail of woe, the march of veterans "red-wat-shod," the smiles of meeting, the tears of parting friends, the gurgle of brown burns, the roar of the wind through pines, the rustle of barley rigs, the thunder on the hill - all Scotland is in his verse. Let who will make her laws, Burns has made the songs, which her emigrants recall "by the long wash of Australasian seas," in which maidens are wooed, by which mothers lull their infants, which return "through open casements unto dying ears" - they are the links, the watchwords, the masonic symbols of the Scots race. (J. N.) The greater part of Burns's verse was posthumously published, and, as he himself took no care to collect the scattered pieces of occasional verse, different editors have from time to time printed, as his, verses that must be regarded as spurious. Poems chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, by Robert Burns (Kilmarnock, 1786), was followed by an enlarged edition printed in Edinburgh in the next year. Other editions of this book were printed - in London (1787),(1787), an enlarged edition at Edinburgh (2 vols., 1793) and a reprint of this in 1794. Of a 1790 edition mentioned by Robert Chambers no traces can be found. Poems by Burns appeared originally in The Caledonian Mercury, The Edinburgh Evening Courant, The Edinburgh Herald, The Edinburgh Advertiser; the London papers, Stuart's Star and Evening Advertiser (subsequently known as The Morning Star), The Morning Chronicle; and in the Edinburgh Magazine and The Scots Magazine. Many poems, most of which had first appeared elsewhere, were printed in a series of penny chap-books, Poetry Original and Select (Brash and Reid, Glasgow), and some appeared separately as broadsides. A series of tracts issued by Stewart and Meikle (Glasgow, 1796-1799) includes some Burns's numbers, The Jolly Beggars, Holy Willie's Prayer and other poems making their first appearance in this way. The seven numbers of this publication were reissued in January 1800 as The Poetical Miscellany. This was followed by Thomas Stewart's Poems ascribed to Robert Burns (Glasgow, 1801). Burns's songs appeared chiefly in James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum (6 vols., 1787-1803), which he appears after the first volume to have virtually edited, though the two last volumes were published only after his death; and in George Thomson's Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs (6 vols., 1793-1841). Only five of the songs done for Thomson appeared during the poet's lifetime, and Thomson's text cannot be regarded with confidence. The Hastie MSS. in the British Museum (Addit. MS. 22,307) include 162 songs, many of them in Burns's handwriting; and the Dalhousie MS., at Brechin Castle, contains Burns's correspondence with Thomson. For a full account of the songs see James C. Dick, The Songs of Robert Burns now first printed with the Melodies for which they were written (2 vols., 1903).

The items in Mr W. Craibe Angus's Printed Works of Robert Burns (1899) number nine hundred and thirty. Only the more important collected editions can be here noticed. Dr Currie was the anonymous editor of the Works of Robert Burns; with an Account of his Life, and a Criticism on his Writings ... (Liverpool, 1800). This was undertaken for the benefit of Burns's family at the desire of his friends, Alexander Cunningham and John Syme. A second and amended edition appeared in 1801, and was followed by others, but Currie's text is neither accurate nor complete. Additional matter appeared in Reliques of Robert Burns ... by R. H. Cromek (London, 1808). In The Works of Robert Burns, With his Life by Allan Cunningham (8 vols., London, 1834) there are many additions and much biographical material. The Works of Robert Burns, edited by James Hogg and William Motherwell (5 vols., 1834-1836, Glasgow and Edinburgh), contains a life of the poet by Hogg, and some useful notes by Motherwell attempting to trace the sources of Burns's songs. The Correspondence between Burns and Clarinda was edited by W. C. M`Lehose (Edinburgh, 1843). An improved text of the poems was provided in the second "Aldine Edition" of the Poetical Works (3 vols., 1839), for which Sir H. Nicolas, the editor, made use of many original MSS. In the Life and Works of Robert Burns, edited by Robert Chambers (Edinburgh, 4 vols., 1851-1852; library edition, 1856-1857; new edition, revised by William Wallace, 1896), the poet's works are given in chronological order, interwoven with letters and biography. The text was bowdlerized by Chambers, but the book contained much new and valuable information. Other well-known editions are those of George Gilfillan (2 vols., 1864); of Alexander Smith (Golden Treasury Series, London, 2 vols., 1865); of P. Hately Waddell (Glasgow, 1867); one published by Messrs Blackie & Son, with Dr Currie's memoir and an essay by Prof. Wilson (1843-1844); of W. Scott Douglas (the Kilmarnock edition, 1876, and the "library" edition, 18 771879), and of Andrew Lang, assisted by W. A. Craigie (London, 1896). The complete correspondence between Burns and Mrs Dunlop was printed in 1898.

A critical edition of the Poetry of Robert Burns, which may be regarded as definitive, and is provided with full notes and variant readings, was prepared by W. E. Henley and T. F. Henderson (4 vols., Edinburgh, 1896-1897; reprinted, 1901), and is generally known as the "Centenary Burns." In vol. iii. the extent of Burns's indebtedness to Scottish folk-song and his methods of adaptation are minutely discussed; vol. iv. contains an essay on "Robert Burns. Life, Genius, Achievement," by W. E. Henley.

The chief original authority for Burns's life is his own letters. The principal "lives" are to be found in the editions just mentioned. His biography has also been written by J. Gibson Lockhart (Life of Burns, Edinburgh, 1828); for the "English Men of Letters" series in 1879 by Prof. J. Campbell Shairp; and by Sir Leslie Stephen in the Dictionary of National Biography (vol. viii., 1886). Among the more important essays on Burns are those by Thomas Carlyle (Edinburgh Review, December 1828); by John Nichol, the writer of the above article (W. Scott Douglas's edition of Burns); by R. L. Stevenson (Familiar Studies of Men and Books); by Auguste Angellier (Robert Burns. La vie et les oeuvres, 2 vols., Paris, 1893); by Lord Rosebery (Robert Burns: Two Addresses in Edinburgh, 1896); by J. Logie Robertson (in In Scottish Fields, Edin., 1890, and Furth in Field, Edin., 1894); and T. F. Henderson (Robert Burns, 1904). There is a selected bibliography in chronological order in W. A. Craigie's Primer of Burns (1896).

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[[File:|thumb|right|Robert Burns]] Robert Burns (January 25, 1759) - (1796) was a famous poet born in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland.[1] Some of his most famous poems include To A Mouse, Auld Lang Syne, and Tam O'Shanter. Burns is seen as the national poet of Scotland. Much of his work is written in Lowland Scots, rather than English. His poem and song A Man's A Man For A' That was sung at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.


  1. "Robert Burns". Academy of American Poets. Retrieved 2008-12-23. 


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