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The Poetry of Robert Burns

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    1. The Poetry of Robert Burns A Presentation for English 2323 Central Texas College Dr. Brenda Cornell

    2. Dates 25 January 1759 21 July 1796 Claim to fame: Best read, best loved, most popular of Scottish poets; regarded as the national poet of Scotland. Reputation stems from a natural lyrical ability (majority of his poems have been set to music) and his use of the common vernacular (dialect). Life and career pre-date the Romantic period, but his poetry is worthy of our attention because it anticipates many of the Romantic ideals and techniques. His pre-Romantic influence shows especially in the works of these Romantic writers: Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Percy Shelley. According to our text, Burns talent was of the natural genius. . .whose poems owed nothing to literary study, but instead represented the spontaneous overflow of his native feelings (Greenblatt et. al.). Just a few years later, Wordsworth (one of the acknowledged founders of Romanticism) would define poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings arising from emotion recollected in tranquillity(Greenblatt et. al.).

    3. Enduring Appeal After his death Burns became an important source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism. A cultural icon in Scotland and among Scots who have relocated to other parts of the world (the Scottish Diaspora), celebration of his life and work became almost a national charismatic cult during the 19th and 20th centuries, and his influence has long been strong on Scottish literature.

    4. Collector of Folk Songs As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. His poem (and song) Auld Lang Syne is often sung at Hogmanay (New Year), and Scots Wha Hae (Scots Who Have) served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of the country. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well-known across the world today include A Red, Red Rose, A Man's A Man for A' That, To a Louse, To a Mouse, The Battle of Sherramuir, and Ae Fond Kiss.

    5. Literary Style His direct literary influences in the use of Scots in poetry were Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) and Robert Fergusson. Burns's poetry also drew upon a substantial familiarity and knowledge of Classical, Biblical, and English literature, as well as the Scottish Makar tradition. Burns was skilled in writing not only in the Scots language but also in the Scottish English dialect of the English language. Some of his works, such as Love and Liberty (also known as The Jolly Beggars), are written in both Scots and English for various effects.

    6. Literary Themes His themes included republicanism (he lived during the French Revolutionary period) and Radicalism which he expressed covertly in Scots Wha Hae, Scottish patriotism, anticlericalism, class inequalities, gender roles, commentary on the Scottish Kirk (church) of his time, Scottish cultural identity, poverty, sexuality, and the beneficial aspects of popular socialising (carousing, Scotch whisky, folk songs, and so forth). Burns and his works were a source of inspiration to the pioneers of liberalism, socialism and the campaign for Scottish self-government, and he is still widely respected by political activists today, ironically even by conservatives and establishment figures because after his death Burns became drawn into the very fabric of Scotland's national identity. It is this, perhaps unique, ability to appeal to all strands of political opinion in the country that have led him to be widely acclaimed as the national poet.

    7. Honors Many organizations worldwide are named after Burns, as well as a large number of statues and memorials. Organizations include the Robert Burns Fellowship of the University of Otago, and Burns Club Atlanta in the United States. Towns named after Robert Burns include Burns, New York and Burns, Oregon. The British Royal Mail issued postage stamps commemorating Burns twice: two stamps, valued at fourpence and 1 shilling and threepence, both carrying Burns's portrait were issued in 1966. A second issue commemorating the bicentenary of his death in 1996 contained four stamps valued at 19 pence, 25 pence, 41 pence and 60 pence, and included quotes from Burns's poems. Robert Burns is pictured on the 5 banknote (since 1971) of the Clydesdale Bank, one of the Scottish banks with the right to issue banknotes. On the reverse of the note there is a vignette of a field mouse and a wild rose which refers to Burns's poem " To a Mouse". In September 2007, the Bank of Scotland redesigned its banknotes, and Robert Burn's statue is now portrayed on the reverse side of new 5. A BR standard class 7 steam locomotive was named after him, along with a later electric locomotive, 87035. Burns' birthplace in Alloway is now a public museum. In 1996, a musical by the name Red Red Rose won third place at a competition for new musicals in Denmark. The musical was about Burns' life, with John Barrowman in the title role.

    8. External Links Official site of Burns Cottage Museum National Burns Collection (Scottish national archive of Burns-related portraits, manuscripts and objects) Modern online collection of Burns images and artefacts Scottish government produced Burns mini site Works by Robert Burns at Project Gutenberg Robert Burns Encyclopedia: A-Z companion to Burns life and times Podcasts on Itunes in which some of Robert Burns' greatest poems are read by Tadhg McKenna. National Library of Scotland's Burns site "The Illustrated History of the Family, Friends and Contemporaries of Robert Burns" by Colin Hunter McQueen

    9. Works Cited Robert Burns. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. Volume II. Eds. Stephen Greenblatt et. al. NY: Norton, 2007. Print. 129-131 _____________ 2007. 4 February 2008. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Burns William Wordsworth. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. Volume II. Eds. Stephen Greenblatt et. al. NY: Norton, 2007. Print. 243-246