Celebrating Robert Burns: the poet laureate’s 5 greatest works

Burns Night is fast approaching, many of us will be sitting down to a meal of haggis, neaps and tatties washed down with a dram of delicious amber. There is an important reason why we celebrate Rabbie Burns in Scotland and it is a very simple one: he is a national treasure, our greatest ever poet, whose works are known all around the world.

But, how familiar are you with the works of the legendary Scots bard? Here are 5 of his greatest works, still as poignant today as back in the 1700’s when they were first written.

To a Mouse

Burns 1

Burns wrote this after turning up a mouse’s nest with a plough in 1725. The poem talks of the relationship between man and nature; Burns ponders the existential meaning of his own existence in this wonderfully crafted piece. A trademark of Burns was his ability to take everyday happenings and use them to make a greater point about the world around him.

Best couplet:

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion

Has broken Nature’s social union,

Auld Lang Syne

A song sang at Hogmanay, weddings and birthdays in Scotland; any excuse really. Many people are not aware that the song was written by Burns, yet everyone knows the words.

Best Couplet:

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

A Red, Red rose

A romantic piece from burns who was known for his many conquests in love. Who knew Marvin Gaye was actually following in the footsteps of Rabbie burns? The Scot’s sonneteer states that his love will never die and will essentially last an eternity, touching.

To a Louse

Again, Burns discusses something he has observed, this time it is a louse on the head of the most beautiful girl in Church, Jenny. The poem is humorous; Burns uses fake outrage to describe how he feels about a common louse going about its business on the head of this attractive woman. Jenny is a person who would be considered “stuck up”.

Rabbie makes the point that the louse does not care for airs and graces but if Jenny could see how others looked upon her, maybe she would change her ways. A parable still relevant to this day,

Burns 9

Best Couplet:

O wad some Power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!

Address to a Haggis

This poem is where the association between Burns and haggis began, he was particularly fond of the offal delicacy and this address is read before every meal on Burns night. A fitting tribute.

Burns 5

Best Couplet:

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,

Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!

Have a great Burns Night…



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