On, January 25th every year Scots all over the world gather to celebrate the birth date of Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796).  My cousin shares the same birthday as the Bard—Happy Birthday T.B.

Robert Burns, born in Alloway, Ayreshire, Scotland, is also known as the Ploughman Poet.  His popularity back then (and now) is probably due to the fact that he wrote in the same way the Scottish people spoke. He had empathy for the plight of others and his works give a unique and vivid insight into the social circumstances of his era—the aspirations and trials of “the brotherhood of man” were vividly depicted.

Although he lived in near poverty most of his life Burns gained entrance to the homes of the wealthy. Despite being a humble farm worker, he was well educated.  He read Shakespeare and could read and write in French and Latin. He was also a competent fiddler and could sight read music.

Burns was not a heavy drinker, although his works might suggest that this was the case. His health and his wallet didn’t allow it.

Robert Burns succumbed to a form of rheumatic fever, which would have been treatable today, on 26th July, 1796, the same day that his wife gave birth to their ninth child, Maxwell. He was still a young man at 37 years of age and it is said that his early demise was probably hastened by a course of sea-bathing in icy waters.

He was a prolific writer and wrote hundreds of poems and songs, which have become cherished around the world and continue to resonate over two centuries later. They are as meaningful now as they were in Burns’ time.

I have often heard people remark, “so much for the best laid plans of mice and men” and have wondered if they knew those words originated from Burns’ poem “To a Mouse”.

While he was plowing (ploughing) one of his fields, he disturbed a mouse’s nest. It was his thoughts on what he had done that led to his poem.

I’ll provide you with the Wikipedia link in case you’d like to read the entire poem. Verse 7 is as follows with the Scottish words along with the translation:

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!”

Here’s the translation:

“But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid plans of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!”

The first Burns supper took place in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland in 1801 and is a celebration of the Bards life and poetry. They are typically held on or near his birthday.  More people take part in Burns Suppers every year around the world than the entire population of Scotland.

Click on the link if you’d like to learn more about Burns Suppers.

Click on the link to read To a Mouse and see the complete translation

The video below provides a fine rendition of the Star O’ of Rabbie Burns sung at Burns Suppers. It’s an enthusiastic presentation (sung in tune) and unadorned with grand orchestral accompaniment. I think Rabbie Burns would have liked it:


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1 Comment on In celebration of Scotland’s poet Robert Burns birthday–The Bard

  1. Jennifer F says:

    Wow! A shame he lived such a short life! A modest talent…and nine chldren. Wow!

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