Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) 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.
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 wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to min'?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne?
"Burns is Scotland as mountain, loch and moor can never be; he is Scotland incarnate in genius and character; Scotland, pathetic with the tragedy of hard conditions and stern toil and austere poverty; Scotland, victorious in the unbending will, the regal state of the unconquerable spirit, the power of second sight, the vision touching the rugged landscape of work and care with a beauty beyond that which sometimes makes those lowering western skies glorious as the gates of Heaven; Scotland, vital with the humor that springs out of the sense of man's blunders and trivialities against the background of his immortality? the laughter, born of faith and courage and tears, that has been the refuge of Scotland in many a tragic year."
"The eighteenth-century adaptation of sentiment to comedy, as well as the Scottish vernacular tradition, afforded Robert Burns ample precedent for his humorous love poetry. He was obviously interested in examining the comic spirit, as random comments in his letters indicate; yet he apparently elaborated no critical manifesto of his own to explain his practice."
On Burns Night, 25 January, Scots at home and abroad celebrate the Bard's life, songs and poetry.
Burns, however, has been viewed as the beginning of another literary tradition: he is often called a pre-Romantic poet for his sensitivity to nature, his high valuation of feeling and emotion, his spontaneity, his fierce stance for freedom and against authority, his individualism, and his antiquarian interest in old songs and legends. The many backward glances of Romantic poets to Burns, as well as their critical comments and pilgrimages to the locales of Burns's life and work, suggest the validity of connecting Burns with that pervasive European cultural movement of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries which shared with him a concern for creating a better world and for cultural renovation.
As a poet he recorded and celebrated aspects of farm life, regional experience, traditional culture, class culture and distinctions, and religious practice and belief in such a way as to transcend the particularities of his inspiration, becoming finally the national poet of Scotland.
In 1789 he began work as an Excise Officer in Dumfries (an irony not lost on him) and resumed his relationship with wife Jean. His increasingly radical political views influenced many of the phenomenal number of poems, songs and letters he continued to pen, including such famous works as "For a' that and a' that".
He fathered twins with eventual wife Jean Armour, but a rift in their relationship nearly led to Burns emigrating to the West Indies with lover Mary Campbell. Mary's sudden death and the sensational success of his first published collection of verse kept him in Scotland. At just 27, Burns had already become famous across the country with poems such as "To a Louse", "To a Mouse" and "The Cotter's Saturday Night".
The son of William Burnes, an Ayrshire tenant farmer, and Agnes Broun, Robert Burns was born in Alloway on January 25th, 1759. Burns’s father ensured the poet’s education, and from 1765, John Murdoch taught Burns and his brother Gilbert in a school founded by their father and neighbours. Murdoch introduced Burns to the works of Alexander Pope, schooling him in English, French and Latin. In 1774, Burns wrote his first song, ‘Handsome Nell’, for Nellie Kilpatrick.