Robbie Burns and Poetry

The first listing of Robert Burn’s poems on The Complete Page is A Bard’s Epitaph. No, this is not a real epitaph that appears on his tombstone but some time in his short life—he lived only 37 years—he wrote a poem to fellow poets. He probably wants it to be on his tombstone. One can imagine the scene quite well, one poet advising another poet not to do what he had done.  In reading the poem one seems to be looking over the shoulder of Burns at a low time in his life.

In essence he’s saying if there is one out there foolish enough to go wild over words and think to write poetry, read my words and shed a tear for me. He puts conditions on those who he thinks should read his epitaph: ‘’Is there a man, whose judgment clear / Can others teach the course to steer, / Yet runs, himself, life’s mad career, / Wild as the wave, / Here pause-and, thro’ the starting tear, ‘/ Survey this grave.

He then tells them of his life and how he too enjoyed the glory of inspiration and how he too basked in its warm glow. Lesser thoughts, however, caused him to do less than the words he wrote demanded and this gave him a bad reputation. ” . .  . But thoughtless follies laid him low, / And stain’d his name!“

This poem, no matter the circumstances this Scottish poet who liked to mingle the old Scottish language with the modern, lived under, was written with a superior purpose in mind that superseded the sins he had committed which belied his works. He wanted to remind them of the danger of temptations:  “Reader, attend! whether thy soul /

Soars fancy’s flights beyond the pole, / Or darkling grubs this earthly hole, / In low pursuit: / Know, prudent, cautious, self-control / Is wisdom’s root.

A Dream

Robert Burns, according to his biography, was a poor man. He was known as the plowman poet mainly because he wrote poems reminiscent of his poor upbringing. However, he dreamed of success and using a favorite method of poetry writing—dedicating their words to dreams—he wrote one such poem, labeled, The Dream.

He explains his poem: “Thoughts, words, and deeds, the Statute blames with reason; But surely Dreams were ne’er indicted Treason. On reading, in the public papers, the Laureate’s Ode, with the other parade of June 4th, 1786, the Author was no sooner dropt asleep, than he imagined himself transported to the Birth-day Levee: and, in his dreaming fancy, made the following Address: “Guid-Mornin’ to our Majesty! / May Heaven augment your blisses /On ev’ry new birth-day ye see, / A humble poet wishes. . . “

For Auld Lang Syne

The immortal words of Auld Lang Syne—a song sung at New Year’s Eve celebrations—are known by those who’ve never even heard of Robert Burns. In other words his poetry has carried on his good intentions and his heart felt thoughts beyond his mere address to a political situation as he did in his dream poem:

”Should auld acquaintance be forgot, / And never brought to mind? / Should auld acquaintance be forgot, / And auld lang syne!” is the first stanza of this song. What’s the meaning of auld lang syne?  It means long since gone. Why he wrote that song is anybody’s guess and it could well be hiding in his fascination for the old dialect with which he interspersed among his modern English.

Let’s be kind and try to understand the problem of long, long ago and understand it’s the foundation we now stand, could be one thought relating to this song he wrote. “ Chorus.-For auld lang syne, my dear, / For auld lang syne. / We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, / For auld lang sy