Happy Birthday Robert Burns – Burns Night

If you live in the UK or are a lover of poetry, you will be very familiar with the name Robert Burns. Born on 25th January 1759 in the village of Alloway, Scotland, Burns is now regarded as the national poet of Scotland and a pioneer of the Romantic Movement within literature. Throughout his upbringing and early years, Burns was subject to poverty and laborious work, as his large family moved from farm to farm with little success of a more comfortable life. Sadly, this left the young poet with a weakened constitution, contributing to his early demise at a young thirty-seven.

Robert Burns statue at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Although his life may have been short, the rare and fascinating mind of Burns left behind some of the greatest poems, songs and literary works ever created. He wrote of both love and politics with equal reverence and honesty, and his romantic poems will leave women swooning for centuries to come.

Burns is now most famous for Auld Lang Syne, a Scots-language poem, written to the melody of a traditional folk song by Burns in 1788. Auld Lang Syne translates into English as “long long ago”, “days gone by” or “times long past” and so, with many households in the UK, my family would sing this song at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve to say farewell to the year before.

Auld Lang Syne wasn’t the only work by Burns originally written in the Scots Language and with works like The Jolly Beggars, he would write them in both the Scots language and the Scottish English dialect of the English language for various effects on the reader. With little regular schooling growing up, Burns was a man with a natural gift of creativity, curiousness, and intelligence; skills which he managed to perfectly hone in such a short life.

And now I have liv’d – I know not how long, And still I can join in a cup and a song; But whilst with both hands I can hold the glass steady, Here’s to thee, my hero, my sodger laddie.

– Excerpt from Sodger Laddie

Every 25th of January people all over the UK, mainly Scotland, get together for Burns Night to celebrate the legendary authors birthday. A traditional Burns Night consists of bagpipes, The Selkirk Grace (a short poem to usher in the meal), a whole lot of wonderful piping and toasting, and some bloomin’ tasty Haggis. However, more commonly nowadays, in households such as my own, we stick on some Scottish Folk music, dig into a plate of haggis, neeps and tatties, and toast a wee dram of whisky to the late, great Scottish literary hero, Robert Burns.

Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it, But we hae meat and we can eat, And sae the Lord be thankit.

– The Selkirk Grace

What will you be doing to celebrate Burns night this year?

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