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Poems of Robert Burns Review Essay

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Updated: Oct 27th, 2021


Robert Burns was born 25 January 1759 and died in 21 July 1796. He is also called Rabbie Burns, tagged variously as Scotland’s favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, the Bard of Ayrshire or The Bard. He was a very popular poet and a lyricist and in fact considered as the national poet of Scotland. While Burns is the best-known poet who has written in the Scots language, many of his writings are also in English as well as in Scots dialect making his works appreciated worldwide. Burns also wrote in Standard English where his political or civil commentary is quite direct to the point (Hohmann, 1990).

It is said that Burn’s literary influences in the use of Scots in poetry were Allan Ramsay and Robert Fergusson. He drew upon a substantial familiarity and knowledge of Classical, Biblical, and English literature, as well as the Scottish Makers tradition coupled with skills in writing in Scots language and in Scottish English dialect. As such, his “Love and Liberty” also known as The Jolly Beggars and his other works were written in both Scots and English (Hohmann, 1990).


From the first look of Robert Burns’ poems it gives so many clues and complex details which one will tend to read between the lines more than twice. Robert Burns’ words contain powerful yet edgy and fruitful executions in which the readers will stop and link the verses before one can understand it halfway. The readers will also find themselves going back to the phrases as they read it. Burns’ readers have a tendency to pause and think about what they are reading. It is a Scottish poem indeed, far different from American writers, seen with unpredictable variations and complexities, each line says it all. And as we can see it, the 18th century is the times where poems are as precious as gold that each word and each styles can be identified and seen as the writer itself, two words to describe it: superior and complex (Hohmann, 1990).

The writer, on the other hand can not deliver or pass a good or accurate analysation or fair opinion to this fine work but here’s what the writer comprehend fro the three poems.

To Mr. M’Adam, of Craigen-Gillan

The first poem is very vulgar and active as to expressing his ideas about this certain theme. This Letter was the one he sent in the beginning of his poetic profession in 1786. It basically depicts a very strong character and it was written with substance. “Now deil-ma-care about their jaw, the senseless, gawky million; I’ll cock my nose abune them a’, “. The second stanza is trying to tell the readers that he does not care about the foolish people who are trying to put him down and negatively criticize his works. He proved in his words that he is brilliant and in some way sarcasms were in the context. He maintains an authoritative tone in his poem. This is like the letter Burns sent to his father before being a poet and there he stood and proved to all that He is a great writer who strikes in every thing he writes (Hohmann, 1990).

To A Louse

The first stanza is written by Burns upon seeing a louse into a Lady’s head at the Church and He tried to describe the movements of the little creature. The next stanzas also narrated about his sketch about the louse and, it is quite hilarious because in his imagination, he is trying to picture out a scene where he is talking to the louse and commanding it to get off the appealing lady and find another subject to flaunt itself.

It possesses a comedic action and in some cases Burns tried to convey his ideas about comics. Seeing a louse at the top of a lady’s head inspired him to make this excellent poem. This one showed some sense by the way he addressed the little creature and tried to give justice on the creature’s presence. It’s funny and by any sense, the writer could say, that this poem is a very light one. It captures the readers as Burns showed his humorous ideas in this poem.

But the last stanza strikes the most in the whole context because it describes what the message of the whole poem is all about (Mcguirk, 1985).

“O would some Power the gift to give us, To see ourselves as others see us!, It would from many a blunder free us, And foolish notion:, What airs in dress and gait would leave us, And even devotion!”

Robert Burns used the louse as the subject which the people viewed as a disdain living thing and in his work, he criticised the poor louse. It is like the people judging other people or ideas in some way, and it relates to the prejudice of not in the same level. Burns also exposed in his poem his hungriness for compassion and parity, as what he had experienced in his era (Mcguirk, 1985).

The Holy Fair

The third literary is like a sequence of events of a day’s leisure activity that was a feast at that time and it concludes with an insinuation that the result of the day’s pleasuring but at the end of the day not all things are in the right mood to be pleasurable. It has a definite ironic purpose, and there run throughout a prevailing twist of ridicule, though not so much of his fellow-peasants. In the poem, Burns’ characters in the context that was being uncivilized are somehow portrayed to be tolerable as of the occasion itself, and of the oratorical flights. Burns did a complete mastery in this poem for the readers to catch up with the scenarios of his life (Mcguirk, 1985).

The holy fair is some kind of a clear view of his personality as to being a clever citizen of his country and did a lot of intolerable acts that made him known as a blunt artist of his era. The poem narrated the activities happened on that particular day all throughout his lines. He used a lot of descriptions for the readers to have a clue and an illustration for the scenes that the character played on the poem. As the readers would examine intimately, almost all the stanzas pertain to the portrayal of the characters journey and acquainting with different types of people. It just showed how the author did know how to relate with his camaraderie. This poem is full of wit compared to his other works because he cited a lot of ideas which an exceptional poet like Burns can only do (Mcguirk, 1985).


Analysing each poem that Robert Burns wrote is not an easy one because as a reader you must know how to appreciate each and every single meaning that Burns is trying to convey. According to a well-known critic, many readers had been more interested to find out whether Burn’s could not write well in English or He just wanted to be more realistic on what the scenarios he is into at that moment. Burns tried to represent the culture of the Scots and could write better in his own language than in English. The readers will be puzzled to know the mystery behind his art (Malone, 1923).

The poems of Burns can be divided into two, English and Scottish. His poems in English were somehow determined as low- profiled because he is not that good into English language. But his poems in Scottish got a lot of praises from the famous critics around the world. When the time came in his era that the Scot language were not widely used, Burns was the one who pioneered in using the Scottish language as a medium for his artistic writings, songs as well, and have encouraged a lot of writers in his country to do the same. Burns way of expressing his self, as he admits, was to be more expert in the style of his traditional culture so he used a lot of Scottish style than English. Burns wan to devote some of his time in getting ideas from old works and apply a new version for his works. His works were genuine indeed, but anyhow, a lot of excellent works have influenced him in his poems and the wide readers could actually observe them if they will try to be a keen audience for the art of Burns (Mcguirk, 1985).

Burn’s works are good and very profound. As a poet, he uses his language in a very deep manner and his way of conveying ideas were somehow difficult for the non- Scot speakers though, but His style is indeed a very nice way of connecting to his readers because every part of the lines becomes very essential to the whole article for better understanding.

His poems gave the readers an idea that he was a bit rebellious in his writings and doesn’t care whatever the people may react to as long as he expresses his self. The force of the criticism, the feeling of his strong imagination and the high intensity of the wit, which Burns displayed, rendered a very significant role in the theological liberation and aggressiveness of the Scot people (Mcguirk, 1985).


Burns, Robert (2001). The Canongate Burns: The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns. (eds. Noble, Andrew and Patrick Scott Hogg) Edinburgh : Canongate, (2003). ISBN 1-84195-380-6.

Hohmann, Dietrich (1990). Ich, Robert Burns, Biographical Novel. Neues Leben , Berlin (in German).

McGuirk, Carol (1985). Robert Burns and Sentimental era, University of Georgia Press, Athens. 193 pp.


To Mr. M’Adam, of Craigen-Gillan

SIR, o’er a gill I gat your card,
I trow it made me proud;
“See wha taks notice o’ the bard!”
I lap and cried fu’ loud.
Now deil-ma-care about their jaw,
The senseless, gawky million;
I’ll cock my nose abune them a’,
I’m roos’d by Craigen-Gillan!
’Twas noble, sir; ’twas like yourself’,
To grant your high protection:
A great man’s smile ye ken fu’ well
Is aye a blest infection.
Tho’, by his banes wha in a tub
Match’d Macedonian Sandy!
On my ain legs thro’ dirt and dub,
I independent stand aye,—
And when those legs to gude, warm kail,
Wi’ welcome canna bear me,
A lee dyke-side, a sybow-tail,
An’ barley-scone shall cheer me.
Heaven spare you lang to kiss the breath
O’ mony flow’ry simmers!
An’ bless your bonie lasses baith,
I’m tauld they’re loosome kimmers!
An’ God bless young Dunaskin’s laird,
The blossom of our gentry!
An’ may he wear and auld man’s beard,
A credit to his country.

A Rabbie Burns Poem – ‘To A Louse’ (one of my favorites!)

Ha! Where are you going, you crawling wonder?
Your impudence protects you sorely,
I can not say but you swagger rarely
Over gauze and lace,
Though faith! I fear you dine but sparingly
On such a place
You ugly, creeping, blasted wonder,
Detested, shunned by saint and sinner,
How dare you set your foot upon her –
Such fine a lady!
Go somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body
Off! In some beggar’s temples squat:
There you may creep, and sprawl, and scramble,
With other kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Where horn nor bone never dare unsettle
Your thick plantations
Now hold you there! You are out of sight,
Below the falderals, snug and tight;
No, faith you yet! You will not be right,
Until you have got on it –
The very topmost, towering height
Of misses bonnet.
My sooth! Right bold you set your nose out,
As plump and gray as any gooseberry:
O for some rank, mercurial resin,
Or deadly, red powder,
I would give you such a hearty dose of it,
Would dress your breech!
I would not have been surprised to spy
You on an old wife’s flannel cap:
Or maybe some small ragged boy,
On his undervest;
But Miss’s fine balloon bonnet! fye!
How dare you do it.
O Jenny do not toss your head,
And set your beauties all abroad!
You little know what cursed speed
The blastie’s making!
Those winks and finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice taking!
O would some Power the gift to give us
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!

Robert Burns 1759 – 1796- The Holy Fair.

A robe of seeming truth and trust
Hid crafty observation;
And secret hung, with poisoned crust,
The dagger of defamation:
A mask that like the gorget showed,
Dye varying on the pigeon;
And for a mantle large and broad,
He wrapped him in Religion.
Upon a summer Sunday morning,
When Nature’s face is fair,
I walked forth to view the corn,
And sniff the fresh air.
The rising sun, over Galston Moors,
With glorious light was glinting;
The hares were hopping down the furrows,
The larks they were chanting
Full sweet that day.
As lightsomely I gazed around,
To see a scene so gay,
Three young women, early at the road,
Came spanking up the way,
Two had mantles of doleful black,
But one with grey lining;
The third, that walked a bit behind,
Was in the fashion shining
Full sweet that day.
The two appeared like twin sisters,
In feature, form, and clothes;
Their visage withered, long and thin,
And sour as any sloes:
The third came up, hop step and leap,
As light as any lamb,
And with a curtsey low did bow,
As soon as ever she saw me,
Full kind that day.
With bonnet off, quote I, ‘Sweet lass,
I think you seem to know me;
I am sure I have seen that lovely face,
But yet I can not name you.
Quoth she, and laughing as she spoke,
And takes me by the hands,
You, for my sake, have given the bulk
Of all the Ten Commandments
Repeated rapidly some day.
‘My name is Fun – your intimate friend dear,
The dearest friend you have;
And this is Superstition here,
And that is Hypocrisy.
I’m going to Mauchline Holy Fair,
To spend an hour in larking:
Before you will go there, those wrinkled pair,
We will get much laughing
At them this day.’
Quoth I, ‘With all my heart, I will do it;
I will get my Sunday’s shirt on,
And meet you on the holy spot;
Faith, we will have fine remarking!’
Then I went home at porridge time (breakfast),
And soon I made me ready;
For roads were clad, from side to side,
With many a weary body,
In droves that day.
Here farmers self complacent, in riding gear,
Went jogging by their cotters;
There strapping youngsters in lovely broad cloth,
Are springing over the ditches.
The lasses, padding barefoot, throng,
In silks and scarlets glitter;
With sweet-milk cheese, in many a large slice,
And oat-bread cakes, baked with butter,
Full crisp that day.
When by the plate we set our nose,
Well heaped up with halfpence (half penny coin),
A greedy glare the church elder throws,
And we must draw our two-penny ale.
Then in we go to see the show:
On every side they are gathering;
Some carrying planks, some chairs and stools,
And some are busy talking idly
Right loud that day.
Here stands a shed to keep off the showers,
And screen our country gentry,
There Racer Jess, and two or three whores,
Are leering at the entrance.
Here sits a row of whispering wild young women,
With heaving breasts and bare neck;
And there a batch of weaver lads,
Roistering from Kilmarnock (a near by town),
For fun this day.
Here some are thinking on their sins,
And some upon their clothes;
One curses feet that soiled his shoes,
Another sighs and prays:
On his hand sits a chosen sample,
With screwed-up, grace-proud faces;
On that a set of chaps, at watch,
Busy winking on the lasses
To chairs that day.
O happy is that man and blessed!
No wonder that it prides him!
Whose own dear lass, that he likes best,
Comes abruptly down beside him!
With arm reposed on the chair back,
He sweetly does compose him;
Which by degrees, slips round her neck,
And his palm upon her bosom,
Unknown that day.
Now all the congregation over
In silent expectation;
For Moodie climbs the holy door,(Moodie is a preacher)
With tidings of damnation:
Should the Devil, as in ancient days,
Among sons of God present himself;
The very sight of Moodie’s face
To his own hot home had sent him
With fright that day.
Hear how he clears the points of Faith
With rattling and thumping!
Now meekly calm, now wild in wrath,
He is stamping, and he is jumping!
His lengthened chin, his turned-up nose,
His unearthly squeal and gestures,
O how they fire the heart devout-
Like cantharidian plasters
On such a day.
But hark! the tent has changed its voice;
There is peace and rest no longer;
For all the real judges rise,
They can not sit for anger:
Smith opens out his cold harangues, (Smith is a preacher)
On practice and on morals;
And off the godly pour in throngs,
To give the jars and barrels (of ale)
A lift that day
What signifies his barren shine,
Of moral powers and reason?
His English style, and gesture fine
Are all clean out of season.
Like Socrates or Antonine,
Or some old pagen heathen,
The moral man he does define,
But never a word of faith in
That is right that day
In good times comes an antidote
Against such poisoned nostrum;
For Peebles, from the river’s mouth, (Peebles is a preacher)
Ascends the holy rostrum:
See, up he has got the word of God,
And meek and mild has viewed it,
While Common sense has taken the road,
And off, and up the Cowgate
Fast, fast that day
Little Miller next, the guard relieves, (Miller is a preacher)
And orthodoxy recites by rote,
Though in his heart he well believes,
And thinks in old wives’ tales:
But faith! The fellow wants a manse:
So carefully he humbugs them;
Although his carnal wit and sense
Nearly half-wise overcomes him
At times that day.

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