With the publication of his first collection of poems in 1786, Robert Burns—the 27-year-old son of a farmer—became a national celebrity, hailed as the "Ploughman Poet." When he died ten years later, 10,000 people came to pay their respects at his funeral, and in the two centuries since then, he has inspired a near cult-like following among the Scottish: every year, on the day of his birth, Scots around the world celebrate with a special "Rabbie Burns" supper. A pioneer of the Romantic movement, Burns wrote in a light Scots dialect with brio, emotional directness, and wit, drawing on classical and English literary traditions as well as Scottish folklore. All of his most famous lyrics and poems are here, from "Tam o'Shanter," "Holy Willie's Prayer," and "Auld Lang Syne" to "A Red Red Rose," "To a Mouse," and "To a Louse."
A Red, Red Rose
O, my luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June.
O, my luve's like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still, my Dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.
Till a' the seas gang dry, my Dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun!
O I will luve thee still, my Dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!
Robert Burns was born on January 25, 1759, in South Ayrshire, Scotland, and died in 1796.
Gerard Carruthers is Senior Lecturer in Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow. He is author of Robert Burns and co-editor of English Romanticism and the Celtic World.