Robert Burns

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Biography of Robert Burns

Robert Burns
date place
born January 25, 1759 Alloway
died July 21, 1796 Dumfries

Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a light Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these writings his political or civil commentary is often at its bluntest. His parents, Willian Burnes[s] and Agnes Broun, were tenant farmers but they ensured their son received a relatively good education and he began to read avidly. Hard physical labour on the family farm took its toll on the young Burns, who increasingly turned his attentions towards the passions of poetry, nature, drink and women which would characterise the rest of his life. He fathered twins with eventual wife Jean Armour, but a rift in their relationship nearly led to Burns emigrating to the West Indies with lover Mary Campbell (his Highland Mary). Mary's sudden death and the sensational success of his first published collection of verse kept him in Scotland. At just 27, Burns had already become famous across the country with poems such as To a Louse, To a Mouse and The Cotter's Saturday Night. Newly hailed as the Ploughman Poet because his poems complemented the growing literary taste for romanticism and pastoral pleasures, Burns arrived in Edinburgh, where he was welcomed by a circle of wealthy and important friends. Illicit relationships and fathering illegitimate children ran parallel to a productive period in his working life. His correspondence with Agnes 'Nancy' McLehose resulted in the classic Ae Fond Kiss. A collaboration with James Johnson led to a long-term involvement in The Scots Musical Museum, which included the likes of Auld Lang Syne. In just 18 short months, Burns had spent most of the wealth from his published poetry, so in 1789 he began work as an Excise Officer in Dumfries and resumed his relationship with wife Jean. His increasingly radical political views influenced many of the phenomenal number of poems, songs and letters he continued to pen, including such famous works as A Man's a Man For A' That. The hard work this new job entailed, combined with the toil of his earlier life and dissolute lifestyle began to take their toll on Burns's health. He died on 21 July 1796 aged just 37 and was buried with full civil and military honours on the very day his son Maxwell was born. A memorial edition of his poems was published to raise money for his wife and children. Robert Burns is considered one of the most famous characters of Scotland's Cultural history.

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