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Creator / Robert Burns

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Portrait by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787

"Gie me ae spark o' Nature's fire,
That's a' the learning I desire;
Then though I drudge through dub an' mire
At pleugh or cart,
My Muse, though hamely in attire,
May touch the heart."
Robert Burns, from Epistle to J. Lapraik

Rabbie Burns! Bonnie Scotland's favourite poet; The Bard of Ayrshire; the Ploughman Poet.

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 — 21 July 1796) was a Scottish poet and lyricist, known for writing in the Scots dialect, with topics ranging from Highland life to farming, drinking, and the state of his wife's pubic hair. He is widely considered the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. Some of his best-known works include To a Louse, Tam o' Shanter, To a Mouse, and Scots Wha Hae, the last of which served for a long time as the unofficial national anthem of Scotland. Most notably, he wrote Auld Lang Syne, often sung at New Year's Eve (though Burns based it on an older folk song that was never written until he wrote it down while listening to an old man).

Burns was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, the eldest of seven children to farmer parents William Burness and Agnes Broun. He grew up in a cottage Burness built with his own hands. In spite of toil, hardship, and poverty, Burness saw to it that Burns was well-educated and given the opportunity to read many books; his mother introduced to Burns folksong.

In 1776, the family moved to Mount Oliphant Farm. Burns was given irregular schooling until Burness took education into his own hands, teaching his children reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history, and catechesis. After a few years of home education, Robert and Gilbert went to Dalrymple school in the summer months of 1772 before returning at harvest time to full-time farm labour. In 1773, Robert went to Ayr, where he studied grammar, French, and Latin under John Murdoch, who previously served as his tutor from 1765 until he left for a better post.

By the time he was 16, Burns was increasingly becoming the principal labourer on the farm; deteriorating from intense labour and bad food did not deter his love of learning, above all the poems of fellow Scotsmen Allan Ramsay and Robert Fergusson. Unfortunately, Mount Oliphant failed, and the family moved to Lochlea, a large farm near Tarbolton, in 1777.

He even attended Hugh Roger's school at Kirksowald for the summer to learn mensuration (measuring lengths, areas, and volumes) and surveying in 1778. Burns and his brothers worked on the farm, growing flax in the district, and won a prize in 1783 for the best flax.

Celebrated by fans annually on the 25th of January at Burns Suppers. The celebrations involve piping in the haggis in and reciting the "Address to the Haggis". Followed by eating, toasts, more addresses, more toasts, more addresses, readings of Burns, more toasts, and occasionally dancing.

Tropes in effect:

  • Badass Boast: "Scots Wha Hae" is one.
  • Cannot Cross Running Water: The witches and devils in "Tam o' Shanter".
  • Country Matters: Almost entirely used in the anatomical sense. By most accounts, Burns was rather an expert on them.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Popular in Scotland in his own lifetime, his death led to a massive reappraisal of his work further afield. Within a decade, there was a massive tourist industry devoted to the Burns legacy, and it hasn't let up since.
  • Hot Witch: Nannie from "Tam o' Shanter".
  • I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship: "Love in the Guise of Friendship".
  • Massively Numbered Siblings: The oldest of seven children, who had twelve children, the youngest born the day of Burns' funeral. Even though only five lived to adulthood, some 200 years after his death, Burns has at least 900 direct descendants living today.