Biography of Robert Burns
Burns, sometimes known as the 'ploughman poet', was the eldest son of a poverty-stricken farmer. Though his father had moved to Ayrshire, where Burns was born, in order to attempt to improve his fortunes, he eventually died as a bankrupt - after taking on first one farm and then, unsuccessful, moving to another - in 1784. Robert, who had been to school since the age of six, and was also educated at home by a teacher, had, by the age of fifteen, already become the farm's chief labourer. He had also acquired a reading knowledge of French and Latin and had read Shakespeare, Dryden, Milton and the Bible. After his father's death, he and his brother continued farming together, working now at Mossigiel.
The poverty of Burns' early life, though far from being overcome, had produced in him a supporter of the French Revolution and a rebel against both Calvinism and the social order of his time. His rebellious nature soon became evident in his acts. Burns' first illegitimate child was borne to him by Elizabeth Paton in 1785. Two sets of twins later followed, and various amorous intrigues, from Jean Amour, whom he afterward married.
It was also during this period that Burns' first achieved literary success. Though he had thought of emigration to Jamaica as a possible way to avoid his mounting problems, he published his Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect on July 31 1786 at Kilmarnock. This volume contained, among others, 'The Cotter's Saturday Night', 'To a Mouse', 'To a Mountain Daisy' and 'The Holy Fair', all of which were written at Mossigiel. The volume brought him immediate success.
After 1787 Burns, married in 1788 and having moved to Ellisland with his bride, worked chiefly for James Johnson, whom he met in Edinburgh, and, later, for George Thomson. It was for these men that Burns compiled and added to the two great compilations of Scottish songs: Thomson's Scott's Musical Museum and Johnson's Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice. Alongside this work, which Burns did on an unpaid basis, he also worked, from 1791 onward, as an Excise Officer. This allowed him to give up farming and move to the Dumfries. He died from rheumatic fever just five years later, having also published, again in 1791, his last major work, a narrative poem entitled 'Tom O'Shanter'.
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Robert Burns Poems
A Red, Red Rose
O my Luve's like a red, red rose That's newly sprung in June; O my Luve's like the melodie That's sweetly play'd in tune.
A Fond Kiss
A fond kiss, and then we sever; A farewell, and then forever! Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee, Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.
A Man's a Man for A' That
Is there for honesty poverty That hings his head, an' a' that; The coward slave - we pass him by, We dare be poor for a' that!
A Winter Night
When biting Boreas, fell and doure, Sharp shivers thro' the leafless bow'r; When Phœbus gies a short-liv'd glow'r, Far south the lift,
To A Mouse
Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie, O, what a panic's in thy breastie! Thou need na start awa sae hasty, Wi' bickering brattle!
Auld Lang Syne
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And auld lang syne!
A Bottle And Friend
There's nane that's blest of human kind, But the cheerful and the gay, man, Fal, la, la, &c.
My Heart's In The Highlands
Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North, The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth; Wherever I wander, wherever I rove, The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.
Address To A Haggis
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the puddin-race! Aboon them a' ye tak your place, Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Guid-Mornin' to our Majesty! May Heaven augment your blisses On ev'ry new birth-day ye see, A humble poet wishes.
Address to the Devil
O thou! whatever title suit thee,-- Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie! Wha in yon cavern, grim an' sootie, Clos'd under hatches,
A Bard's Epitaph
Is there a whim-inspired fool, Owre fast for thought, owre hot for rule, Owre blate to seek, owre proud to snool, Let him draw near;
Ah, Woe Is Me, My Mother Dear
Ah, woe is me, my mother dear! A man of strife ye've born me: For sair contention I maun bear;
Flow gently, sweet Afton, among 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.
John Anderson My Jo
John Anderson my jo, John,
When we were first acquent,
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bonny brow was brent;
But now your brow is bled, John,
Your locks are like the straw,
But blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson my jo!