Robert Burns


January 25, 1759: Birth of Robert Burns

I find this particular sculpture less than inspiring: the man looks as if he's about to swoon. But let’s ignore the statue and concentrate on it subject, Robert Burns (1759-1796), Scotland’s national poet. His birthday, January 25th, is celebrated in Scotland as “Burns Night,” with a centerpiece of haggis (calf or sheep organ meat boiled in the animal’s stomach) and a reading of Burns' "Address to a  Haggis."

You’re probably familiar with Burns’ poem about a louse, and you may be aware that “Auld Lang Syne” is his work as well. Below are a few that are less well known, at least in the United States.

Remember that you can’t get the full effect of poetry unless you hear it read aloud.

 “A Red, Red Rose” (1794)

 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.

 As fair art thou, my bonie lass, 
So deep in luve am I; 
And I will luve thee still, my dear, 
Till a' the seas gang dry.

 Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear, 
And the rocks melt wi' the sun; 
And I will luve thee still, my dear, 
While the sands o' life shall run.

 And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve! 
And fare-thee-weel, a while! 
And I will come again, my Luve, 
Tho' 'twere ten thousand mile!

Epigram On Rough Roads (1786)

I'm now arrived--thanks to the gods!--
Thro' pathways rough and muddy, 
A certain sign that makin roads 
Is no this people's study: 
Altho' I’m not wi' Scripture cram'd, 
I'm sure the Bible says 
That heedless sinners shall be damn'd, 
Unless they mend their ways. 

Inscription For An Altar Of Independence

At Kerroughtree, the Seat of Mr. Heron (1795)

Thou of an independent mind, 
With soul resolv'd, with soul resign'd; 
Prepar'd Power's proudest frown to brave, 
Who wilt not be, nor have a slave; 
Virtue alone who dost revere, 
Thy own reproach alone dost fear-- 
Approach this shrine, and worship here. 

Ae Fond Kiss, and Then We Sever

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.

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.
Chorus.-My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.
Farewell to the mountains, high-cover'd with snow,
Farewell to the straths and green vallies below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods,
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

Further Reading