Robert Burns Day is observed locally in Scotland, and Burns celebrations take place throughout the UK and internationally on 25th January, the date of the poet’s birth. But what is it that makes Robert Burns so unique?
Scotland’s national poet is renowned for poems such as “A Red, Red Rose”, “Tam o’ Shanter” and “Auld Lang Syne”. The appeal of his poems is wide, captivating not only students of English literature, but also poetry enthusiasts around the world, his poems having been translated in languages such as Mongolian and Faroese.
Robert Burns was born in 1759 in Alloway, Scotland, to parents of modest means. Despite poverty, however, he was educated and soon developed a love for literature. His poetic talent was widely recognised among his compatriots, and Burns lived a life of writing, heavy alcohol consumption and illicit romance until his death in 1796 at the age of 37.
Lyrical and rhythmical, Burns’ poetry is often intensely emotional, while it sometimes engages with political matters. Many of his poems are written in his native Scots language, but he was also competent in Standard English, displaying great skill and craftsmanship in the composition of his work.
His influence has been great upon writers and musicians around the globe. John Steinbeck got the idea for the title of his novella Of Mice and Men from Burns’ poem “To a Mouse”, and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye is said to be inspired by Burns’ “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye”. Bob Dylan has also acknowledged Burns as a major source of inspiration.
Burns’ work is usually commemorated with a special supper of haggis, neeps and tatties, Scotch whisky and poetry readings. His poem “Address to a Haggis” is traditionally recited by the head of the table at the start of the Burns banquet on 25th January.
So this Saturday, if you come across Burns’ night celebrations, you will know what it is all about, and you can confidently and knowledgeably join the fun if you are so inclined!