Writing Wednesday: Robert Burns

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Sunday is Burns Night here in Scotland, to celebrate the birthday of national poet Robert Burns. I’ve been lucky enough to go to several Burns Suppers, which are great fun. Someone important addresses the haggis, there’s plenty of whisky and of course ceilidh dancing.

Many people outside of the UK know Burns only as the author of Auld Lang Syne, which we sing on New Year’s Eve. But here he’s known for much more than that.

Most infamously he’s known for being a bit of a womanizer. Much of his poetry was inspired by whichever lass he was pursuing at the moment. He wrote some powerful verses, like loving a woman until the seas go dry and the rocks melt in the sun. Unfortunately for the ladies in his life, he didn’t keep his word. It seems to me his attention was like striking a match; it burned hot and bright briefly, then burnt out quickly.

Burns was also known for his Scottish patriotism and political poems. Had he been alive to vote in our recent Scottish Referendum I’m sure he would have voted for Scottish independence.

One of my favorite Burns poems is A Man’s A Man For A’ That. He sums up well the people who think they are important because of status or wealth. He was the people’s champion, valuing “honest poverty” and self-direction.

Around Scotland there are lots of places to see Burns heritage. The National Trust for Scotland has the beautiful new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum where you can learn all about his life and see where he grew up.

One of my favorite Burns sightings was finding a poem he allegedly wrote on a wall at the Kenmore Hotel (also known as the oldest inn in Scotland). I wonder how many other places around Scotland have traces of his poetic graffiti!

In his short life (he died at only 37) he wrote songs and poems that still inspire people in Scotland and the world over.

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