Robert Burns Biography His Life and Poetry

Robert Burns Biography His Life and Poetry

His Life and Poetry[Robert Burns Biography]

Robert Burns was born at Alloway in Ayrshire in 1759 in a poor labour family that had some pretension of culture. He was one of the seven children of the family that used to work in a farm. Burns had his early education in a village school, but could not proceed much. Because of the dire poverty of the family, he was put to farming at a quite early age. He became fully employed as a labourer and ploughman in the sick farm of his family. His early experience of acute poverty and the taste of injustice inspired his belief in the rising sociological slogans of the age-liberty, fraternity and equality. In fact, Burns developed an acute interest in the French revolution in its early stage. But he could not have the financial affluence of Wordsworth or Coleridge to make a visit to France.

After the death of his father, he went into partnership with his brother to run farms at Lochlea and Mossgrill, but those proved utterly failures by misfortune. It was at that time, in 1786, he was contemplating to have emigration to Jamaica where he got the offer of a post on a plantation. Fortunately, at that very time, the financial success of the Kilmarnock Edition of his poems, already published, changed his mind and he went to Edinburgh to continue his literary career. Burns found himself quite popular in the literary and aristocratic circle of Edinburgh. His attractive appearance and amiable temperament drew attention and admiration for him. He received encouragement and patronage for his literary activities and became a dedicated literary artist.

In 1788, he married Zen Armour, one of his beloved women and settled on a poor farm at Ellisland, near Dumfries. A year later he secured the post of an excise officer and relinquished his farming business in 1791. He died in 1796, after a year long rheumatic heart disease.


Burn’s poems were written at different phases in his literary career. Many of his best poems were written during his farming years, among them may be mentioned. The Jolly Beggars, Hallowe’n, Holy Willies Prayer, The Cotter’s Saturday Night, to a Mouse, The Holy Fair and to a Mountain Daisy. His other remarkable poetical works include The Lament, Despondency, Address to Edinburgh, The Scots Musical Museum which includes many of his best known lyrics, such as Auld Long Syneo, My Luve’s Like a Red Red Rose’and Tam O’Shanter (his last poetical work).


Robert Burns is a brilliant figure in the traditional Scottish poetry. His songs and lyrics in the Scottish dialect are highly popular and widely admired. Of course, his position in the transition of English poetry from the critical, satirical, social poetry of the School of Pope to Romanticism is nothing ignorable. Despite his striving, hard life of economic stringency, he cultivated his inborn poetic faculty from his early youth.

The Kilmarnock Edition of his collections of poems under the title Poems Chiefly in the Scottish dialects, published in 1786, drew an immediate attention as well as admiration. The volume is found to include some extraordinary, first-rate Scottish poems. He has to his credit a number of other poems, mainly in English, such as The Lament, Despondency and Address to Edinburgh. These poems are rather in the usual sentimental vein of the day. But Burns’s native genius shines prominently in The Scots Musical Museum which includes many of his best known lyrics and songs, such as ‘O My Luve’s Like a Red, Red Rose, ‘Ye Banks and Braes,’and so on. His last major poem Tam O’Shanter, published in 1791, is another effective endeavour to strengthen his poetical adroitness.

Robert Burns is found to excel as a poet in a number of special features of romanticism in literature. Humanism, simple love for Nature, lyricism, romantic impulsiveness and imaginative range, and simple poetic diction are some such features and here, he is with the best of the pre-romanticists, including Blake. Again, in poetic diction and melodious versification, he is found to stand high. His poetic artistry is, indeed, sufficiently expressed with equal felicity in the reformed 18th century English poetry and in his natural native Scotch.


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