The Great Poets: Robert Burns

Robert Burns is a worldwide known poet and lyricist and a true legend of national Scottish literature. He is famous for his unique Burns' stanza and a great amount of compositions and undoubtedly he did a lot for the culture of the Great Britain.

"Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love"

Robert Burns (1759 - 1796)

Robert Burns was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland, in the family of a self-educated farmer William Burnes and was the eldest one of his seven children. He had been living in the house built by his father until 1766, when mr. Burnes sold it and took the tenancy of the large farm in the southeast of Alloway, where little Robert spent his childhood in poverty. When he grew up, he was taught by his dad and John Murdoch and succeeded in learning foreign languages, grammar and mathematics. By the age of 15, Burns became the principal labourer at Mount Oliphant farm. 1774 was the most important year in the life of young Scot - Robert met Nelly Kilpatrick, who inspired his first attempt at poetry. Later he was sent to Kirkoswald and continued writing.

In 1783 Burns' first book was published - "Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish dialect". During this period of time he created lots of well-known works of art.

"John Barleycorn" (1782) - an English folk song. In this poem the character of John Barleycorn represents the harvest of barley and making alcoholic drinks out of it - beer and whiskey. The song describes the life of John Barleycorn, full of suffering, battles, death and humiliation, that refer to different stages of barley cultivation such as harvest and brewing.

"The Jolly Beggars" (1785) - one of his most vivid poems. Robert drew the inspiration for it at Poosie-Nansie's. Accompanied by friends, he was sitting near the fireplace while in the opposite corner of tavern a company of beggars caught his eye. Robert made some notes and then composed something like a common song of poor segment of population, which made him more well-known all over the world.  

The most famous Robert Burns' works are "My Heart's In The Highlands", "Auld Lang Syne", "Tam O’ Shanter",  "Address to a Haggis", "A Red, Red Rose".

Jean Armour

Jean Armour was the wife of Robert Burns and inspired many of his poems. The poet led a free life and fell in love with several women. They had nine children together (Robert had at least another four by other women), the last of whom was born on the day of his funeral in 1796.

Robert Burns died on July 21, 1796, in Dumfries at the age of 37. Some biographers are sure that the reason of his death was an excessive drinking, while the others try to prove that it was severe manual labour and he  suffered from a serious disease.  

Robert Burns' monument in London, England



The Great Poets – Robert Burns read by Forbes Masson


The Story Of Robert Burns designed by Whitespace


You have just watched a short cartoon about Robert Burns.

For statements 1-5, decide if each statement is T – True, F – False or N – Not stated.

1. Robert Burns was about to marry when his first book was published.

T                    F                    N

2. The customs officer job allowed him to continue writing.

T                    F                    N

3. Robert Burns paid no attention to the French Revolution.

T                    F                    N

4. His wife's parents attended his funeral in Dumfries.

T                    F                    N

5. When the midnight strikes on the 31th of December people have a tradition to sing "Auld Lang Syne".

T                    F                    N

Robert Burns - The People's Poet documentary by BBC

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