Poems And Songs Of Robert Burns

- By Robert Burns
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Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796), also known familiarly as Rabbie Burns, the National Bard, Bard of Ayrshire, the Ploughman Poet and various other names and epithets,[nb 1] was a Scottish poet and 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 in a "light Scots dialect" of English, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these writings his political or civil commentary is often at its bluntest. He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement, and after his death he became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism, and a cultural icon in Scotland and among the Scottish diaspora around the world. Celebration of his life and work became almost a national charismatic cult during the 19th and 20th centuries, and his influence has long been strong on Scottish literature. In 2009 he was chosen as the greatest Scot by the Scottish public in a vote run by Scottish television channel STV.
Robert Burns was born near Ayr, Scotland, 25th of January, 1759. He was the son of William Burnes, or Burness, at the time of the poet's birth a nurseryman on the banks of the Doon in Ayrshire. His father, though always extremely poor, attempted to give his children a fair education, and Robert, who was the eldest, went to school for three years in a neighboring village, and later, for shorter periods, to three other schools in the vicinity. But it was to his father and to his own reading that he owed the more important part of his education; and by the time that he had reached manhood he had a good knowledge of English, a reading knowledge of French, and a fairly wide acquaintance with the masterpieces of English literature from the time of Shakespeare to his own day. In 1766 William Burness rented on borrowed money the farm of Mount Oliphant, and in taking his share in the effort to make this undertaking succeed, the future poet seems to have seriously overstrained his physique. In 1771 the family move to Lochlea, and Burns went to the neighboring town of Irvine to learn flax-dressing. The only result of this experiment, however, was the formation of an acquaintance with a dissipated sailor, whom he afterward blamed as the prompter of his first licentious adventures. His father died in 1784, and with his brother Gilbert the poet rented the farm of Mossgiel; but this venture was as unsuccessful as the others. He had meantime formed an irregular intimacy with Jean Armour, for which he was censured by the Kirk-session. As a result of his farming misfortunes, and the attempts of his father-in-law to overthrow his irregular marriage with Jean, he resolved to emigrate; and in order to raise money for the passage he published (Kilmarnock, 1786) a volume of the poems which he had been composing from time to time for some years. This volume was unexpectedly successful, so that, instead of sailing for the West Indies, he went up to Edinburgh, and during that winter he was the chief literary celebrity of the season. An enlarged edition of his poems was published there in 1787, and the money derived from this enabled him to aid his brother in Mossgiel, and to take and stock for himself the farm of Ellisland in Dumfriesshire. His fame as poet had reconciled the Armours to the connection, and having now regularly married Jean, he brought her to Ellisland, and once more tried farming for three years. Continued ill-success, however, led him, in 1791, to abandon Ellisland, and he moved to Dumfries, where he had obtained a position in the Excise. But he was now thoroughly discouraged; his work was mere drudgery; his tendency to take his relaxation in debauchery increased the weakness of a constitution early undermined; and he died at Dumfries in his thirty-eighth year.
It is not necessary here to attempt to disentangle or explain away the numerous amours in which he was engaged through the greater part of his life. It is evident that Burns was a man of extremely passionate nature and fond of conviviality; and the misfortunes of his lot combined with his natural tendencies to drive him to frequent excesses of self-indulgence. He was often remorseful, and he strove painfully, if intermittently, after better things. But the story of his life must be admitted to be in its externals a painful and somewhat sordid chronicle. That it contained, however, many moments of joy and exaltation is proved by the poems here printed.
Burns' poetry falls into two main groups: English and Scottish. His English poems are, for the most part, inferior specimens of conventional eighteenth-century verse. But in Scottish poetry he achieved triumphs of a quite extraordinary kind. Since the time of the Reformation and the union of the crowns of England and Scotland, the Scots dialect had largely fallen into disuse as a medium for dignified writing. Shortly before Burns' time, however, Allan Ramsay and Robert Fergusson had been the leading figures in a revival of the vernacular, and Burns received from them a national tradition which he succeeded in carrying to its highest pitch, becoming thereby, to an almost unique degree, the poet of his people.
He first showed complete mastery of verse in the field of satire. In "The Twa Herds," "Holy Willie's Prayer," "Address to the Unco Guid," "The Holy Fair," and others, he manifested sympathy with the protest of the so-called "New Light" party, which had sprung up in opposition to the extreme Calvinism and intolerance of the dominant "Auld Lichts." The fact that Burns had personally suffered from the discipline of the Kirk probably added fire to his attacks, but the satires show more than personal animus. The force of the invective, the keenness of the wit, and the fervor of the imagination which they displayed, rendered them an important force in the theological liberation of Scotland.
The Kilmarnock volume contained, besides satire, a number of poems like "The Twa Dogs" and "The Cotter's Saturday Night," which are vividly descriptive of the Scots peasant life with which he was most familiar; and a group like "Puir Mailie" and "To a Mouse," which, in the tenderness of their treatment of animals, revealed one of the most attractive sides of Burns' personality. Many of his poems were never printed during his lifetime, the most remarkable of these being "The Jolly Beggars," a piece in which, by the intensity of his imaginative sympathy and the brilliance of his technique, he renders a picture of the lowest dregs of society in such a way as to raise it into the realm of great poetry.
But the real national importance of Burns is due chiefly to his songs. The Puritan austerity of the centuries following the Reformation had discouraged secular music, like other forms of art, in Scotland; and as a result Scottish song had become hopelessly degraded in point both of decency and literary quality. From youth Burns had been interested in collecting the fragments he had heard sung or found printed, and he came to regard the rescuing of this almost lost national inheritance in the light of a vocation. About his song-making, two points are especially noteworthy: first, that the greater number of his lyrics sprang from actual emotional experiences; second, that almost all were composed to old melodies. While in Edinburgh he undertook to supply material for Johnson's "Musical Museum," and as few of the traditional songs could appear in a respectable collection, Burns found it necessary to make them over. Sometimes he kept a stanza or two; sometimes only a line or chorus; sometimes merely the name of the air; the rest was his own. His method, as he has told us himself, was to become familiar with the traditional melody, to catch a suggestion from some fragment of the old song, to fix upon an idea or situation for the new poem; then, humming or whistling the tune as he went about his work, he wrought out the new verses, going into the house to write them down when the inspiration began to flag. In this process is to be found the explanation of much of the peculiar quality of the songs of Burns. Scarcely any known author has succeeded so brilliantly in combining his work with folk material, or in carrying on with such continuity of spirit the tradition of popular song. For George Thomson's collection of Scottish airs he performed a function similar to that which he had had in the "Museum"; and his poetical activity during the last eight or nine years of his life was chiefly devoted to these two publications. In spite of the fact that he was constantly in severe financial straits, he refused to accept any recompense for this work, preferring to regard it as a patriotic service. And it was, indeed, a patriotic service of no small magnitude. By birth and temperament he was singularly fitted for the task, and this fitness is proved by the unique extent to which his productions were accepted by his countrymen, and have passed into the life and feeling of his race.
1771 - 1779
Song-Handsome Nell^1 Tune-"I am a man unmarried." [Footnote 1: The first of my performances.-R. B.] Once I lov'd a bonie lass, Ay, and I love her still; And whilst that virtue warms my breast, I'll love my handsome Nell.
As bonie lasses I hae seen, And mony full as braw; But, for a modest gracefu' mein, The like I never saw. A bonie lass, I will confess, Is pleasant to the e'e; But, without some better qualities, She's no a lass for me.
But Nelly's looks are blythe and sweet, And what is best of a', Her reputation is complete, And fair without a flaw. She dresses aye sae clean and neat, Both decent and genteel; And then there's something in her gait Gars ony dress look weel.
A gaudy dress and gentle air May slightly touch the heart; But it's innocence and modesty That polishes the dart. 'Tis this in Nelly pleases me, 'Tis this enchants my soul; For absolutely in my breast She reigns without control.
Song-O Tibbie, I Hae Seen The Day Tune-"Invercauld's Reel, or Strathspey." Choir.-O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, Ye wadna been sae shy; For laik o' gear ye lightly me, But, trowth, I care na by.
Yestreen I met you on the moor, Ye spak na, but gaed by like stour; Ye geck at me because I'm poor, But fient a hair care I. O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c.
When coming hame on Sunday last, Upon the road as I cam past, Ye snufft and ga'e your head a cast- But trowth I care't na by. O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c. I doubt na, lass, but ye may think, Because ye hae the name o' clink, That ye can please me at a wink, Whene'er ye like to try. O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c.
But sorrow tak' him that's sae mean, Altho' his pouch o' coin were clean, Wha follows ony saucy quean, That looks sae proud and high. O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c.
Altho' a lad were e'er sae smart, If that he want the yellow dirt, Ye'll cast your head anither airt, And answer him fu' dry. O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c.
But, if he hae the name o' gear, Ye'll fasten to him like a brier, Tho' hardly he, for sense or lear, Be better than the kye. O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c.
But, Tibbie, lass, tak' my advice: Your daddie's gear maks you sae nice; The deil a ane wad speir your price, Were ye as poor as I. O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c.
There lives a lass beside yon park, I'd rather hae her in her sark, Than you wi' a' your thousand mark; That gars you look sae high. O Tibbie, I hae seen the day, &c.
Song-I Dream'd I Lay I dream'd I lay where flowers were springing Gaily in the sunny beam; List'ning to the wild birds singing, By a falling crystal stream: Straight the sky grew black and daring; Thro' the woods the whirlwinds rave; Tress with aged arms were warring, O'er the swelling drumlie wave.
Such was my life's deceitful morning, Such the pleasures I enjoyed: But lang or noon, loud tempests storming A' my flowery bliss destroy'd. Tho' fickle fortune has deceiv'd me- She promis'd fair, and perform'd but ill, Of mony a joy and hope bereav'd me- I bear a heart shall support me still.
Song-In The Character Of A Ruined Farmer Tune-"Go from my window, Love, do." The sun he is sunk in the west, All creatures retired to rest, While here I sit, all sore beset, With sorrow, grief, and woe: And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!
The prosperous man is asleep, Nor hears how the whirlwinds sweep; But Misery and I must watch The surly tempest blow: And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!
There lies the dear partner of my breast; Her cares for a moment at rest: Must I see thee, my youthful pride, Thus brought so very low! And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!
There lie my sweet babies in her arms; No anxious fear their little hearts alarms; But for their sake my heart does ache, With many a bitter throe: And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!
I once was by Fortune carest: I once could relieve the distrest: Now life's poor support, hardly earn'd My fate will scarce bestow: And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!
No comfort, no comfort I have! How welcome to me were the grave! But then my wife and children dear- O, wither would they go! And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!
O whither, O whither shall I turn! All friendless, forsaken, forlorn! For, in this world, Rest or Peace I never more shall know! And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!
Tragic Fragment All devil as I am-a damned wretch, A hardened, stubborn, unrepenting villain, Still my heart melts at human wretchedness; And with sincere but unavailing sighs I view the helpless children of distress: With tears indignant I behold the oppressor Rejoicing in the honest man's destruction, Whose unsubmitting heart was all his crime.- Ev'n you, ye hapless crew! I pity you; Ye, whom the seeming good think sin to pity; Ye poor, despised, abandoned vagabonds, Whom Vice, as usual, has turn'd o'er to ruin. Oh! but for friends and interposing Heaven, I had been driven forth like you forlorn, The most detested, worthless wretch among you! O injured God! Thy goodness has endow'd me With talents passing most of my compeers, Which I in just proportion have abused- As far surpassing other common villains As Thou in natural parts has given me more.
Tarbolton Lasses, The If ye gae up to yon hill-tap, Ye'll there see bonie Peggy; She kens her father is a laird, And she forsooth's a leddy.
There Sophy tight, a lassie bright, Besides a handsome fortune: Wha canna win her in a night, Has little art in courtin'. Gae down by Faile, and taste the ale, And tak a look o' Mysie; She's dour and din, a deil within, But aiblins she may please ye.
If she be shy, her sister try, Ye'll maybe fancy Jenny; If ye'll dispense wi' want o' sense- She kens hersel she's bonie.
As ye gae up by yon hillside, Speir in for bonie Bessy; She'll gie ye a beck, and bid ye light, And handsomely address ye.
There's few sae bonie, nane sae guid, In a' King George' dominion; If ye should doubt the truth o' this- It's Bessy's ain opinion! Ah, Woe Is Me, My Mother Dear Paraphrase of Jeremiah, 15th Chap., 10th verse.
Ah, woe is me, my mother dear! A man of strife ye've born me: For sair contention I maun bear; They hate, revile, and scorn me.
I ne'er could lend on bill or band, That five per cent. might blest me; And borrowing, on the tither hand, The deil a ane wad trust me.
Yet I, a coin-denied wight, By Fortune quite discarded; Ye see how I am, day and night, By lad and lass blackguarded!
Montgomerie's Peggy Tune-"Galla Water." Altho' my bed were in yon muir, Amang the heather, in my plaidie; Yet happy, happy would I be, Had I my dear Montgomerie's Peggy.
When o'er the hill beat surly storms, And winter nights were dark and rainy; I'd seek some dell, and in my arms I'd shelter dear Montgomerie's Peggy.
Were I a baron proud and high, And horse and servants waiting ready; Then a' 'twad gie o' joy to me,- The sharin't with Montgomerie's Peggy.
Ploughman's Life, The As I was a-wand'ring ae morning in spring, I heard a young ploughman sae sweetly to sing; And as he was singin', thir words he did say,- There's nae life like the ploughman's in the month o' sweet May.
The lav'rock in the morning she'll rise frae her nest, And mount i' the air wi' the dew on her breast, And wi' the merry ploughman she'll whistle and sing, And at night she'll return to her nest back again.

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Word Lists:

Fickle : changing frequently, especially as regards one's loyalties, interests, or affection

Lass : a girl or young woman

Animus : hostility or ill feeling

Intermittently : at irregular intervals; not continuously or steadily

Dour : relentlessly severe, stern, or gloomy in manner or appearance

Remorseful : filled with remorse; sorry

Surly : bad-tempered and unfriendly

Convivial : (of an atmosphere or event) friendly, lively, and enjoyable

Disentangle : free (something or someone) from an entanglement; extricate

Whirlwind : a column of air moving rapidly around and around in a cylindrical or funnel shape.


Additional Information:

Rating: C

Words: 2819

Unique Words : 1,079

Sentences : 120

Reading Time : 12:31

Noun : 1143

Conjunction : 258

Adverb : 123

Interjection : 6

Adjective : 208

Pronoun : 300

Verb : 337

Preposition : 295

Letter Count : 11,788

Sentiment : Positive / Positive / Positive

Tone : Neutral (Slightly Conversational)

Difficult Words : 712

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