Burns, the National Bard of Scotland, was born in 1759, the son of an Ayrshire
cottar*. He apparently developed an
early interest in literature. Between 1784 and 1788, whilst farm-laboring,
he wrote much of his best poetry, including "Halloween", "The Cottar's
Saturday Night" and the skillful satires "Death and Dr. Hornbrook" and
"Holy Willie's Prayer". In 1786 the "Kilmarnock" edition of Robert
Burns' early poems was published, bringing with it fame and fortune, and
the second edition, published by William Creech, brought him enough financial
security to marry his mistress Jean Armour. From 1787, Burns concentrated
on song writing, making substantial contributions to James Johnson's "The
Scots Musical Museum", including "Auld Lang Syne" and "A Red, Red Rose".
In 1796 at the age of 37, he died, his health undermined by rheumatic fever.
The picture most usually seen of Burns is from an engraving of a portrait by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787. Today, many thousands of Scots around the world celebrate Burns night on his birthday, January 25th. Burns night has even been commemorated in the Kremlin. Burns night consists of having a meal of tatties (mashed potatoes), neeps (turnips) and haggis. There is usually quite a bit of whisky drunk at these occasions too, particularly as Burns was a well known drinker. Usually someone makes a speech remembering Burns and how his thoughts and poems are timeless and as relevant today as they were when they were written. Then there's a "reply from the lassies" where it is usual to point out the other side of Burns and how he left many women broken hearted.
Probably Burn's most famous tune is Auld
Lang Syne, however most people do not sing either the right words or the
original tune. A lot of people erroneously insert the words "the
sake of" in the chorus - this was not written by Burns. The tune
is a bit confused too. Burns originally wrote the words to a tune
which his publisher did not like, so he then put the words to a tune most
*cottar - Scots word for a tenant occupying a cottage with or without land attached to it or a married farmworker who has a cottage as part of his contract, the word dates from the 15th century.
|AULD LANG SYNE
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
We twa hae run aboot the braes,
We twa hae paidl'd i' the burn,
And there's a hand, my trusty freen,
And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
|O MY LUVE'S LIKE A RED, RED ROSE
O my luve's like a red, red rose,
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And fare the well, my only luve!
|SCOTS WHA HAE
Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Now's the day and now's the hour;
Wha will be a traitor's knave?
What for Scotland's King and law
By oppression's woes and pains!
Lay the proud usurpers low!
|[Back to Stories Page]|