Robert Burn biography robert Burn and His poetry chapter II. The Motherland in Robert Burn works

CHAPTER II. The Motherland in Robert Burn works

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CHAPTER II. The Motherland in Robert Burn works
2.1. Five of R. Burns' most famous poems
“He’s a man who worked hard on all fronts throughout his life,” said Professor Gerry Carruthers of the University of Glasgow. “In addition to his poems, he worked on something like 400 songs. He always found the time to write.”
Arguably Burns’ most famous poem of all, Tam o’Shanter was first published in 1791 and tells the story of a drunken Scot who has a supernatural encounter while riding home from a late-night drinking session. The epic story is among the longest works composed by the Bard - learning to recite the poem from memory is a daunting task for those unfamiliar with Burns’ distinct use of the Ayrshire vernacular. Its enduring popularity is thanks in part to its memorable cast of characters; Tam, the hero of the tale; his long-suffering wife Kate; his drinking buddies in Ayr; and of course the witches and warlocks he encounters at Alloway kirkyard. Then there’s the poem’s dramatic ending when Tam escapes the wtiches by riding over the Brig o’Doon - knowing they would be unable to cross flowing water.
Tradition dictates this enduring tale of morality and mankind’s imposition on nature was based on a real life incident in which Burns accidently destroyed a mouse’s nest while ploughing a field. Such is the poem’s reputation that individual lines have since entered the common lexicon, particularly “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley”, which author John Steinbeck borrowed for the title of his 1937 bestseller Of Mice and Men.
This humorous poem was written in 1785 as a mocking portrayal of satan and as a satire of the pulpit oratory common among Presbyterian ministers. Calvinist teachings centred on Hell and damnation were a fixture of the 18th century Church of Scotland, and belief in the devil and his temptations was widespread among ordinary people. While this comic tale seems less than offensive today, many religious Scots would have found it shocking when it was first published as part of Burns’ celebrated Kilmarnock edition.

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