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Robert Burns (1759,'--- 1796) 1. Life and Career Robert Burns, the greatest of the 18th century Scots poets , was born into a tenant farmer's.

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Robert Burns (1759,'--- 1796)

1. Life and Career

Robert Burns, the greatest of the 18th century Scots poets, was born into a tenant farmer's

family in Ayreshire, Scotland. Although poverty limited his formal education, yet he was encouraged in his self-education by his father,


and his mother acquainted him with Scottish folk songs, legends, and proverbs. Burns did a great deal of reading in English literature and the Bible, and was familiar with the major English writers like Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, and Pope. When he was 16, Burns had already become his father‘s chief helper on the farm. Arduous farm work and undernourishment in his youth permanently injured his health, leading to the rheumatic(风湿) heart disease from which he


eventually died.

He went in 1781 to Irvine to learn flax (亚麻)dressing; but when the shop burned down, he returned home penniless. He had, meanwhile, composed his first poems. His father died in 1784, leaving him as head of the family. He and his brother Gilbert rented Mossgiel Farm, near Mauchline, but the venture proved a failure. In 1784, Burns came under the influence of the Edinburgh poet Robert Fergusson and that


of Scottish folk tradition and older Scottish poetry; he became aware of the literary possibilities of the Scottish regional dialects. During the next two years he produced most of his best-known poems, including “The Cotter‘s Saturday Night”,“The Twa Dogs”, “Halloween” (万圣节前夕), "The Jolly Beggars", "To a Mountain Daisy", and "To a Mouse".

2. Major Works

His first volume of poetry, Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, came out in


1786, which was an immediate success. When he Visited Edinburgh soon after the publication, Burns was lionized(被视为名人) by the intellectuals there as the “Heaven-taught Plowman”. But he knew that his prominence would not last long, for his poetic novelty(新鲜的事物) might soon wear off. So after spending a brilliant winter in Edinburgh, he set off on a tour through his native land and then came back to his farm. In 1787, Burns met James Johnson and was involved in Johnson's


project of collecting Scottish folk songs for an anthology entitled The Scots Musical Museum. He contributed to the successive volumes some 200 songs, both original compositions and adaptations of traditional Scottish ballads and folk songs. Beginning in 1792 Burns wrote about 100 songs and some humorous verses for Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs, compiled by George Thomson. Among his songs in the two collections are such favorites as “Auld Lang Syne“(long ago昔日时光), ”Comin ‘Thro’ the Rye”, (走过麦田)


“Scots, Wha Hae“ entitled The Scots Musical Museum. He contributed to the successive volumes some 200 songs, both original compositions and adaptations of traditional Scottish ballads and folk songs. Beginning in 1792 Burns wrote about 100 songs and some humorous verses for Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs, compiled by George Thomson. Among his songs in the two collections are such favorites as (苏格兰人), ”A Red, Red Rose”, “The Banks o‘ Doon”, and “John Anderson, My Jo“(约翰.安德生,我的爱人)In 1788, Burns received a commission as an exciseman (tax inspector). He gave up farming in 1791, and traveled widely. After the outbreak of the French Revolution, Burns became an outspoken champion of the Republican cause. After Franco-British relations began to deteriorate, he curbed his radical sympathies, and in 1794, for patriotic reasons, he joined the Dumfriesshire


Volunteers. Burns died in Dumfries, July 21, 1796. entitled The Scots Musical Museum. He contributed to the successive volumes some 200 songs, both original compositions and adaptations of traditional Scottish ballads and folk songs. Beginning in 1792 Burns wrote about 100 songs and some humorous verses for Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs, compiled by George Thomson. Among his songs in the two collections are such favorites as

The importance of Burns' poetry should firstly be evaluated in the Scottish cultural context. Burns owed much to the Scottish oral tradition of folklore and folk song in literary forms, subjects, and poetic diction; he was also much indebted to the highly developed Scottish literary tradition established by Robert Henryson, William Dunbar, and Gavin Douglas in the golden


age of Scottish poetry during the 15th and 16th centuries. entitled The Scots Musical Museum. He contributed to the successive volumes some 200 songs, both original compositions and adaptations of traditional Scottish ballads and folk songs. Beginning in 1792 Burns wrote about 100 songs and some humorous verses for Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs, compiled by George Thomson. Among his songs in the two collections are such favorites as As a peasant poet, his personal experience of the harsh country life and his close contact with the simple country folk greatly enriched his understanding of the people, while those joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams that he shared with them deepened his sympathy for the poor. Most of his poems deal with Scotch drink, religion, and manners, suggesting a world often harsh, sordid, limited but attractive. His fame as a poet mainly rests on those poems


written in Scots, entitled The Scots Musical Museum. He contributed to the successive volumes some 200 songs, both original compositions and adaptations of traditional Scottish ballads and folk songs. Beginning in 1792 Burns wrote about 100 songs and some humorous verses for Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs, compiled by George Thomson. Among his songs in the two collections are such favorites as a northern dialect of English spoken by Scottish peasants. He had also tried standard English in his poetry, modeling on the great English men of letters like Addison, Pope and Shakespeare. With the influence of the English tradition, he improved greatly in forms, themes and style of his Scottish predecessors and invested with a new intensity. In writing the original, bucolic(牧人的,乡村的,田园的) Scottish life and revelry(饮酒狂欢), Burns surpassed his predecessors in acquiring English classis virtues of clearness and conciseness.


So far as the entitled The Scots Musical Museum. He contributed to the successive volumes some 200 songs, both original compositions and adaptations of traditional Scottish ballads and folk songs. Beginning in 1792 Burns wrote about 100 songs and some humorous verses for Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs, compiled by George Thomson. Among his songs in the two collections are such favorites as theme is concerned, his poems can be divided into several groups. The first important group is about love and friendship. Burns himself had several love affairs during his life and wrote a number of wonderful love poems. His love songs are not of tragic parting but of mutual contented love, sometimes exquisitely blended with humor. "A Red, Red Rose", "Green Grow the Rashes", "Afton Water", and "A Rose-bud by My Early Walk" are good love poems, while "Auld Lang Syne" and "John


Anderson, My Jo" are good poems on friendship. entitled The Scots Musical Museum. He contributed to the successive volumes some 200 songs, both original compositions and adaptations of traditional Scottish ballads and folk songs. Beginning in 1792 Burns wrote about 100 songs and some humorous verses for Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs, compiled by George Thomson. Among his songs in the two collections are such favorites as Another major group is about the rural life of the Scottish peasants. Burns is very sociable and enjoys great companies. Many of the poems in this group deal with the “joy of life”, i.e. , with gaiety and revelry, which relieved the farmers‘ harsh struggle with the ungrateful(讨厌)soil. In this respect, he has little in common with the solitary and imaginative Romantic poets. The third group shows the poet's attitude toward political liberty and social equality,


especially those written under the influence of the French Revolution. The best known of this group is “For A ‘That and A’ That”. And the last group is about satirical verse, exposing the hypocrisy of the rich, the bigotry(持偏见行为和态度等)of the church and other evils, such as "Holy Willie's Prayer", "The Holy Fair", "Address to the Deil", and so on.

Burns' reputation lies chiefly in his songs, for he has touched with his own genius a variety of subjects, such as love, friendship,


work, patriotism and bawdy Revolution. The best known of this group is “For A ‘That and A’ That”. And the (下贱), and put into them the traditional elements of folk songs in Scotland--simplicity, pathos and humor. Thus, Burns has not only transmuted(使变化) them into great poetry, but also immortalized in them the Scottish countryside and humble farm life. He is a keen and discerning(有眼力,有洞察力的) satirist who has reserved his sharpest barbs for sham(骗子), hypocrisy and cruelty. His satirical verse, once little appreciated, has in resent decades been recognized widely as his finest work. He is also


a master of the language and verse-narrative technique, as exemplified in “Tam O’Shanter”.


A Red, Red Rose exemplified in “Tam O’Shanter”.

O my love is like a red, red rose

That's newly sprung in June;

O my love is like the melody

That's sweetly played in tune.

The beauty of my love can be compared with a red rose, and the sweet voice and shape of my love are like piece of soft music.


As fair art thou, my bonie lass, exemplified in “Tam O’Shanter”.So deep in luve am I; And I will luve thee still, my dear, Till a' the seas gang dry.

My graceful girl, you are very beautiful and I love you very much; my dear, I will love you firmly until all the seas go dry. The speaker expresses his fiery passion for his love and swears to love her forever.


Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear, exemplified in “Tam O’Shanter”.And the rocks melt wi' the sun; O I will luve thee still, my dear While the sands o' life shall run.

My dear, I will love you till all the seas go dry and the rocks melt with the sun. I will love you firmly so long there is a life keeping time or I will love you until the end of my life.


And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve! exemplified in “Tam O’Shanter”.And fare-thee-weel awhile! And I will come again, my luve, Tho' 'twere ten thousand miles.

Farewell to you, my only dear love, farewell to you only for a short time! I will come back back again even though it were ten thousand mile away, my dear!


A Red, Red Rose exemplified in “Tam O’Shanter”.

O, My love is like a red, red rose which has newly sprung in June; O, my love is like the melody(music) which has sweetly played harmoniously.

My love is deep as you are beautiful, my pretty girl. I will love you until the sea dry,


my dear. exemplified in “Tam O’Shanter”.

Until the sea dry and the rock melt with the sun. O, I love you till the end of my life, my dear.

Farewell to you, my only dear love, farewell to you only for a short time! I will come back back again even though it were ten thousand mile away, my dear!

A summary:


  • Theme: exemplified in “Tam O’Shanter”.to express strong affection to his love, swearing that he will love her for ever.

  • Structure:

  • Stanza 1: compare his sweet heart as a red rose and sweet music.

  • 2. Stanza 2-3 : swear that he will love her for ever, and assure that he will never change his heart.

  • 3. Stanza 4: assure his lover that he will leave


for a short time but will come back no matter how far it is. exemplified in “Tam O’Shanter”.

Form: Scottish Folklore, short lines, strong rhythm. The first and third lines have 8 syllables and the second and fourth lines have 6 syllable in the first two stanzas and 7 syllables in the second two stanzas. Rhyming abab.

Use simile to express the strong affection which can not be controlled. And use repetition to intensify his emotion.


Auld lang syne
Auld Lang Syne exemplified in “Tam O’Shanter”.

  • A translation from the Scots Independent

  • auld; old

  • lang; long

  • syne; since auld lang syne ; days of long agogowans ; daisiesmony ; manyfitt ; foot


  • paidl'd ; waded exemplified in “Tam O’Shanter”.dine; dinner-timebraid ; broadfiere ; friendwillie-waught ; draught

  • pint stowp ; tankard



  • We two have run about the hills exemplified in “Tam O’Shanter”.And pulled the daisies fine :But we have wandered many a weary footSince days of long ago.


  • We two have waded in the stream exemplified in “Tam O’Shanter”.From dawn till dinner-time :But seas between us broad have roaredSince days of long ago.




怎能忘记旧日朋友 exemplified in “Tam O’Shanter”.心中能不欢笑 旧日朋友岂能相忘 友谊地久天长 友谊万岁 朋友 友谊万岁 举杯痛饮 同声歌颂友谊地久天长 我们曾经终日游荡在故乡的青山上 我们也曾历尽苦辛到处奔波流浪 友谊万岁 万岁朋友 友谊万岁

举杯痛饮 同声歌颂友谊地久天长 (music) 我们也匆匆日逍遥荡桨在微波上 当如今已经劳燕分飞 愿歌大海重洋 我们往日情意相投 让我们紧握手 让我们来举杯畅饮 友谊地久天长


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