Robert burns
Burns’s Literary Work
Category: englishenglish

Robert Burns

1. Robert burns



The greatest poets of the 18th century was
Robert Burns. His popularity in Scotland is
immense. The Scottish bard was born in a
clay cottage in the village of Alloway. His
father was a poor farmer, but a man who
valued knowledge. It was from his father that
Robert received his learning and his love for
books. His mother had a beautiful voice and
taught Robert old Scottish songs and ballads
which he later turned into his best poems.



Robert Burns had no regular schooling. But
when Robert was seven, his father engaged a
teacher to educate him and his brother
Gilbert. John Murdoch, an eighteen year-old
scholar, was a very enthusiastic teacher. He
taught Robert, who was his favourite, many
subjects, French and literature among them.



However, Robert could not afford much time
for his studies. His father wanted to try his
hand in farming and Robert had to help him
on the farm. At the age of thirteen he had to
take over from his father most of the work on
the farm as his father was growing old.Those
were hard times for Robert, and he had to
leave school. Nearly all life Robert Burns
worked on his small piece of land.


At fifteen he did most of the work on the
farm, his father’s health being very poor. And
as Burns followed the plough he whistled and
sang. He made up his own words to the old
folk tunes of Scotland that he knew so well. In
his songs he spoke of what he saw — of the
woods and fields and valleys, of the deer and
the skylark and the small field-mouse, of the
farmer’s poor cottage.


Burns wrote his first verses when he was
fifteen. Very soon his poems became popular
among his friends and acquaintances. In 1785
he met a girl, who became the great love of
all his life and inspirer of his numerous of his
numerous lyrical verses. Jean had a wonderful
voice and knew a lot of old melodies to which
Burns composed his songs.


In 1786 Burns published his first book under
the title of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish
Dialect.The book was a great success. He was
invited to Edinburgh. He conquered the
Edinburgh society by his wit and manners as
much as by poetry. In Edinburgh he was often
advised to write in standard English on noble
themes, but he refused. He wanted to write
poetry about the people and for the people.



While in Edinburgh Burns got acquainted
with some enthusiasts of Scottish songs and
ballads and became engaged in collecting the
treasures of the Scottish folklore. He travelled
about Scotland collecting popular songs


After his father’s death he did not give up
farming and worked hard to earn his living. In
1791 Burns got the post of excise, officer and
moved to Dumfries.The last years of his life
were very hard. The hard daily work on the
farm, the constant starvation and privations
finally undermined Burns’s health.


On July 21, 1796, at the age of 37, Burns died.
His body rests in a Mausoleum in Dumfries.
The house in Alloway, where he was born, has
now been restored. Every year thousands of
people from all over the world come there to
pay homage to the great poet.

14. Burns’s Literary Work

Robert Burns’s poetry was inspired by his deep
love for his motherland, for its history and
folklore. His beautiful poem My Heart’s in the
Highlands, full of vivid colourful descriptions, is a
hymn to the beauty of Scotland’s nature and to
its glorious past. He admires the green valleys,
“mountains high covered with snow, and wild
hanging woods”. He calls his country “the
birthplace of valour, the country of worth”.
In Burns’s poems nature forms part of people’s
life, though he does not personify it.



Address to Edinburgh is a hymn to the
common Scottish people.
Burns’s poetry is closely connected with the
national struggle of the Scottish people for
their liberation from English oppression, the
struggle that had been going on in Scotland
for many centuries. His favourite national
hero is William Wallace (1270—1305), the
leader of the uprising against the English


The Scottish people led by William Wallace
and Robert Bruce (1274—1329), King of
Scotland, overthrew the English army in the
battle at Bannockburn (a burn is a small
stream) in 1314 and secured Scottish
independence. Bruce at Bannockburn is one
of the best poems by Burns. It is the poet’s
call to his people to keep up the freedomloving spirit of their fathers.


Robert Burns is a true son of the Scottish
peasantry. His poems express their thoughts
and hopes, their human dignity, and their
love of freedom and hatred for all oppressors.
In his poem A Man’s A Man For A’That Burns
says that it is not wealth and titles, but the
excellent qualities of man’s heart that make
“a man for a’that” (=all that).



The poet praises the healthy, happy, wise
Scottish peasant, who in his shabby clothes is
worth a score of lords, however fine. Titles
and riches are not enough to make people


Many verses of the poet were inspired by the
French Revolution which he supported with
all his heart. In his poem The Tree of Liberty
Burns praised the French revolutionaries who
planted “The Tree of Liberty” in their country.
In this poem Burns expresses his belief that
the time will come when all the people will be
equal and happy.


In spite of his poverty, hunger and never-
ceasing toil, Burns was an optimist. He
enjoyed life as few of his contemporaries did.
The poem John Barleycorn expresses Burns’s
optimism. It tells of the way people prepare



The poem is symbolic in its meaning. John
Barleycorn personifies the strength of the
common people which is immortal and
cannot be done away with. Three kings
wanted to kill John Barleycorn. However, all
their efforts were in vain.John Barleycorn was
not dead, as his joyful spirit was alive in those
who had a chance “to taste his blood”.


Burns was a remarkable lyric poet. His lyrical
poems are known for their beauty,
truthfulness, freshness, depth of feelings and
lovely melody. Many of Burns’s lyrical poems
have been put to music and are sung by all
English-speaking people. One of them is Auld
Lang Syne , a beautiful song of brotherhood
and friendship.


Burns’s wit, humour, contempt for falsehood
and hypocrisy are best revealed —short four
line satirical verses in which he attacks lords,
churchmen, persons of rank. The biting satire
of his epigrams was greatly admired by the
common people. In his epigrams Burns shows
the ignorance of the nobility, the falsehood of
priests and his hatred of the rich.


Once Burns was invited by a nobleman to see
his magnificent library. Observing a
splendidly bound, but uncut and worm-eaten
copy of Shakespeare on the table, the poet
left the following lines in the volume:
Through and through the inspired leaves.


Ye maggots, make your windings;
But, oh! Respect his lordship’s taste,
And spare the golden bindings.
Someone remarked that he had seen falsehood
in the very look of a certain priest. The poet
That there is falsehood in his looks
I must and will deny;
They say their master is a knave —


And sure they do not lie.
The following lines were addressed to the coach
of a very rich lady:
If you rattle like your mistress’s tongue,
Your speed will outrival the dart;
But a fly for your load, you’ll break down on the
If your stuff be as rotten’s her heart.
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