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Robert Burns (1759 -1796)

British (Scottish) poet, folklorist, author of numerous poems and verses.

Literary card

Birth name: Robert Burness (to 1786)

Date of birth: January 25, 1759

Place of birth: Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland

Date of death: July 21, 1796

Place of death: Dumfries, Scotland

Citizenship: United Kingdom

Occupation: poet

Years of work: 1774-1796

Direction: Romanticism

Genre: poetry, poems, songs, ballads, anthems, cantatas

Debut: O’ Once I Lov’d a Bonnie Lass (1774)

Birth of poet

Robert Burns was born on January 25, 1759 in Scotland. His father William Burnes or William Burness (11 November 1721 - 13 February 1784), the father of Robert Burns was the poet. He retained the spelling 'Burnes' throughout his life, however his son favoured the Ayrshire spelling of “Burns.” He trained as a gardener and then became a farmer. Burnes, a tall, shy, and reserved man, began building a two-roomed cottage on the nursery land at Alloway in 1757. On 15 December he married Agnes Broun, a farmer’s daughter and they remained together for 26 years, until his death.

Burns’ birthplace at Alloway.

Agnes Broun (17 March 1732 – 14 January 1820), or Agnes Burnes was the mother of the poet Robert Burns. Agnes attended a dame school held in a weaver's cottage and learned the psalms by heart, picked up some basic reading skills, but writing was not part of her education and she never even learned to write her own name.

William Burnes grave in Alloway Kirk

Agnes Broun's headstone at Bolton Kirkyard

The poet’s childhood and education

There were seven children in the family, and Robert was the eldest. Robert was sent to school at the age of six, but his father could not pay for the two sons, Robert and his brother Gilbert attended school in turn. When not at school, the boys helped their father with his work in the fields. But soon teacher left them, and so Burns’ father invited a young teacher to teach the boys. When the teacher left, father taught the children himself. Reading and writing, arithmetic, English grammar, history, literature, French and Latin – that was Robert Burns’ education.

Robert Burns became fond of reading.

He read whatever he could lay his hands on.

His favourite writers were Shakespeare, Smolett, Robert Fergusson a talented Scottish poet. Fergusson’s tragic fate deeply touched Burns. Burns devoted many verses to Fergusson.

Robert Burns began to write poetry when he has fifteen. He composed verses to the melodies of folk-songs. He sang of the woods, fields and wonderful valleys of his native land.

The first works

Burns published some of his poems in 1786. There success was complete. And Robert Burns became well known and popular.


By 1785 Burns became popular as the author of friendly messages dramatic monologues and satire.

When Robert Burns came to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, a new and enlarged edition of his poems was published. But soon Edinburgh society grew tired of him and forgot about the poet. Robert Burns left Edinburgh and returned to his native village with money enough to buy a farm and marry Jean Armour. Burns devoted to Jean many beautiful poems, such as “I love my Jean”, “Bonnie Jean”.

Jean Armour and Robert Burns had nine children together (he had at least another four by other women), the last of whom was born on the day of his funeral in July 1796.

She survived her husband by 38 years, and lived to see his name become celebrated throughout the world.

Robert Burns’ poems were very popular, he always remained poor. He worked hard and destroyed his health. He died in poverty at the age of thirty - seven in 1796.

The death room of Robert Burns

Robert Burns Mausoleum at St. Michael's churchyard in Dumfries.

The poetry and songs of Robert Burns are famous all over world. Robert Burns’ poems and verses inspired Beethoven, Mendelssohn and other composers who wrote music to them. Burns is a democratic poet. He sympathy was with poor, that is why his funeral was attended by crowd of ten thousand. They were common Scottish people whom he had loved and whom he had written his poems and songs.

Burns Monument in Dorchester square, Montréal, Québec

Statue of Burns in Dumfries town centre, unveiled in 1882

Burns statue by David Watson Stevenson (1898) in Bernard Street, Leith

New Zealand

National Day of the country

25 January Scots called Burns supper - a national holiday. This day marked the poet’s supporters worldwide.