- Slides: 9
Robert Burns Scottish heritage
- Robert Burns’ biography - Literary works
Robert Burns’ biography Burns was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, January 25, 1759. He was the eldest of seven children born to William Burness, a struggling tenant farmer, and his wife, Agnes Broun. Although poverty limited his formal education, Burns read widely in English literature and the Bible and learned to read French. He was encouraged in his selfeducation by his father, and his mother acquainted him with Scottish folk songs, legends, and proverbs. Arduous farm work and undernourishment in his youth permanently injured his health, leading to the rheumatic heart disease from which he eventually died. He went in 1781 to Irvine to learn flax dressing, but when the shop burned down, he returned home penniless. He had, meanwhile, composed his first poems. The poet's father died in 1784, leaving him as head of the family. He and his brother Gilbert rented Mossgiel Farm, near Mauchline, but the venture proved a failure. In 1784 Burns read the works of the Edinburgh poet Robert Fergusson. Under his influence and that of Scottish folk tradition and older Scottish poetry, he became aware of the literary possibilities of the Scottish regional dialects. During the next two years he produced most of his best-known poems, including "The Cotter's Saturday Night, " "Hallowe'en, " "To a Daisy, " and "To a Mouse. " In addition, he wrote "The Jolly Beggars, " a cantata chiefly in standard English, which is considered one of his masterpieces. Several of his early poems, notably "Holy Willie's Prayer, " satirized local ecclesiastical squabbles and attacked Calvinist theology, bringing him into conflict with the church. Burns further angered church authorities by having several indiscreet love affairs. In 1785 he fell in love with Jean Armour, the daughter of a Mauchline building contractor. Jean soon became pregnant, and although Burns offered to make her his wife, her father forbade their marriage. Thereupon (1786) he prepared to immigrate to the West Indies. Before departing he arranged to issue by subscription a collection of his poetry.
Published on July 31 in Kilmarnock in an edition of 600 copies, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect was an immediate success. In September Burns abandoned the West Indies plan; the same month Jean became the mother of twins. He moved in the fall of 1786 to Edinburgh, where he was lionized by fashionable society. Charmed by Burns, the literati mistakenly believed him to be an untutored bard, a "Heavens-taught Plowman. " He resented their condescension, and his bristling independence, blunt manner of speech, and occasional social awkwardness alienated admirers. While Burns was in Edinburgh, he successfully published a second, 3000 -copy edition of Poems (1787), which earned him a considerable sum. From the proceeds he was able to tour (1787) the English border region and the Highlands and finance another winter in Edinburgh. In the meantime he had resumed his relationship with Jean Armour. The next spring she bore him another set of twins, both of whom died, and in April Burns and Armour were married. In June 1788, Burns leased a poorly equipped farm in Ellisland, but the land proved unproductive. Within a year he was appointed to a position in the Excise Service, and in November 1791 he relinquished the farm. Burns's later literary output consisted almost entirely of songs, both original compositions and adaptations of traditional Scottish ballads and folk songs. He contributed some 200 songs to Scots Musical Museum (6 vol. , 1783 -1803), a project initiated by the engraver and music publisher James Johnson. Beginning in 1792 Burns wrote about 100 songs and some humorous verse for Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs, compiled by George Thomson. Among his songs in this collection are such favorites as "Auld Lang Syne, " "Comin' Thro' the Rye, " "Scots Wha Hae, " "A Red, Red Rose, " "The Banks o' Doon, " and "John Anderson, My Jo. "
After the outbreak of the French Revolution, Burns became an outspoken champion of the Republican cause. His enthusiasm for liberty and social justice dismayed many of his admirers; some shunned or reviled him. After Franco-British relations began to deteriorate, he curbed his radical sympathies, and in 1794, for patriotic reasons, he joined the Dumfriesshire Volunteers. Burns died in Dumfries, July 21, 1796. A memorial edition of Burn's poems was published for the benefit of his wife and children. Its editor, the physician James Currie, a man of narrow sympathies, represented the poet as a drunkard and a reprobate, and his biased judgment did much to perpetuate an unjustly harsh and distorted conception of the poet.
Literary works Burn’s direct influences in the use of Scots in poetry were Allan Ramsay and Robert Fergusson. Burns’ poetry also drew a substantial familiarity and knowledge of Classical, Biblical and English literature. Burns was skilled in writing not only in the Scots language but also in the Scottish English dialect of the English language. Some of his works, such as Love and Liberty (also known as The Jolly Beggars), are written in both Scots and English for various effects. Burns’ themes included republicanism and Radicalism which he expressed in Scots Wha Hae, Scottish patriotism, anticlericalism, class inequalities, gender roles, commentary on Scottish Kirk (Church) of the time, Scottish cultural identity, poverty, and beneficial aspects of popular socialising (Scottish whiskey and folk songs). Burns was not primarily a natural poet. His basic subject was man, but not Man as an object of study and philosophic contemplation, man rather as an emotional creature, whose intimate emotions can be conveyed to the reader so as to stir a responsive echo in his soul. Burns is generally classified as a proto- Romantic poet, and he influenced William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Percy Bysshe Shelly greatly.
The Jolly beggars- tells the stories of people who are generally regarded as the dregs of society, treated not with any sentimental condescension, but each singing the story of his life in a flow of ever shifting meters and stanzas, always with a good swinging rhythm, and proclaiming a cheerful, undaunted acceptance of the hardships and pleasures of life, and contempt for the narrow scale of middle-class virtues. Then there are the satirical poems, directed chiefly against Calvinist hypocrisy- Holy Willie’s Prayer (1785) with its confession of sins of the flesh and mean little excuses for them, and its thundering anathemas on those of the other kirk; The Holy Fair, Address to the Unco’ Good, The Twa Herds develop the same strain. Political and social poems range from the Twa Dogs (1787), a dialogue between two dogs discussing their masters and bringing out the snobbery and empty life of the rich, the honest joy and simple pleasures of the poor, to A Vision of Libertie (1792), which begins with a long and unusually detailed landscape description and develops in a false ode, glorifying the French Revolution and lamenting that the land of Wallace and Bruce could take up the cause of tyrants. Grotesque adaptations of superstitions form a sort of preparation for Tam o’ Shanter- Halloween, a hilarious account of all nights on which bogles are said to walk, Death and Dr. Hornbook, in which Death complains to the poet of the way in which the doctor outdoes him- it was a satire on an actual quack who had set up in
the neighbourhood, and is said to have driven him out of business. Tam o’ Shanter- background
There is an old Scottish legend that was later turned into a story by Robert Burns. This story is about a farmer called Tam O'Shanter. It was very late on a dark and stormy night when Tam, who had been to Market to sell his wares and had called at the local inn afterwards for a few drinks, began his journey home. Tam was riding his old mare Meg down a lonely road, when he drew close to the church at Kirk Alloway. Through the cold night air he heard a strange and scary sound, and as he looked into the night sky he saw the glare of fire! There, in the churchyard, dancing around a huge bonfire was a coven of witches and warlocks. Tam sat on his horse, rigid with terror! The witches danced on and Tam noticed that one of the hags was younger and more beautiful than the others. Her name was Nannie, all she was wearing was a short petticoat so he called her 'cutty sark', which is an old regional Scottish name for this garment. Well, the dancing became wilder and Tam became more and more engrossed. At last, he could bear the suspense no longer and he shouted out, "Weel done 'cutty sark'!“ With a flash the bonfire went out, and a soul-tearing howl went up from the witches and warlocks, as they began to race towards Tam, desperate to get to this mortal who had ruined their revelry. Tam was in fear of his life, and for a moment just sat there, but after a few seconds that seemed like lifetimes, he managed to spur Meg on, in a desperate race to save his life. Now, witches cannot cross running water, and fortunately for Tam, the river Doon was nearby. He set Meg galloping madly towards the bridge, with the witches in hot pursuit. Nannie, being younger and faster than the rest, was the closest to him, and was reaching out to grab Meg’s tail, just as the mare reached the bridge. Luckily for Tam, the horse's tail came away in Nannie's hand just as the mare galloped over the bridge. Tam was saved! The witches and warlocks stood on the river-bank cursing and screaming at Tam who had a very narrow escape.