Today is the anniversary of the birth of Scotland’s Robert Burns. Burns left us a unique poetic legacy. He was born on 25 January 1759 in a humble cottage built of clay in Alloway, Ayrshire. Robert, the son of a farmer who gave him an unusually broad and cultured education, first ‘committed the sin of rhyme’ while still in his teens.
Burns’s life changed forever when his book of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect was published in Kilmarnock in 1786. The ‘heaven-sent ploughman’ was always the subject of social controversy. During his lifetime, and in the years following his death, his private life threatened to overshadow his achievements. Did the frailties which helped make Burns a great poet hinder contemporaries’ appreciation of his work? In my latest feature for Highlander magazine, I discuss Burn’s life and loves, and his reputation as a man and poet during his lifetime and after his death.
Image: ‘O Tibbie, I Hae Seen the Day.’ Poem on Isabella Steven, daughter of a man near Lochlie (Lochlea) who owned three acres of peat moss. She consequently felt entitled to look down on the poet, then a young man.
Engraving from Complete Poetical Works of Robert Burns, (William P. Nimmo & Co., 1881.)