R. Burns, the great poet of the Scottish people, was born on the 25th of January 1759 in a small clay-built cottage at Alloway Ayrshire. He was the oldest of the 7 sons of William Burns, a poor gardener.
Robert had great thirst for knowledge. From his teacher he acquired some French and Latin and also a fondness of Shakespeare. From his younger years Burns had an intimate knowledge of Scottish folk-songs.
In 1766, W. Burns rented a patch of land. The whole family moved to a farm near the town of Ayrshire, where they worked in the fields from sunrise to sunset. Robert's schooling was discontinued. The land gave bad crops and the affairs of the family went from bad to worse. In spite of working beyond his strength for the benefit of the family young Burns found time for reading. In 1777 the Burns removed to Tarbolton. But this did not improve the fortune of the family. For Robert Burns those years were full of various intellectual activities. He wrote poetry and organized a society of young people where all kinds of moral, social and political problems were discussed.
The young poet felt deeply the injustice of the world where the landlords owned the best land and the woods. Burns' protest against inequality found its vent in his poems which were circulated in manuscripts. They easily won the hearts of common people appealing to their human dignity and giving them belief in their own strength.
Burns decided to seek his fortune abroad. To raise the passage money he issued in July 1786 a printed prospectus of his poems. The enterprise met with success and a collection of 'Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect' made its appearance. The book contained lyrical, humorous and satirical poems written by Robert Burns in the earlier years. Burns' poems were a great success with the public and in April 1787 the book saw a second edition.
In 1786 he was invited to come to Edinburgh. The poet was accepted by the fashionable society of the capital. But it could not appreciate the poetry of Burns. He felt a stranger in this world which looked down upon the ploughman poet. Burns left the capital with a sense of relief and started on a tour about Scotland.
At the end of 1795 Burns contracted a severe illness from which he died. Uneasy was the mind of the dying poet. A few days before his death, he was threatened with imprisonment for having a debt of ten pounds. In a letter to the publisher of his songs Burns asked for a loan of some money promising to send some songs in lieu of payment. The letter contained the following lines: 'Cursed necessity compels me to implore you for five pounds'.
On the 21st of July, 1796 Burns died.
Burns is the most optimistic poet among the poets of the end of the 18th century.
Burns poetry is the bone and the flesh of the Scottish common people. The great poet drew his inspiration from the treasury of the Scotch folklore and his poems in their turn became the people's property. Burns' works are national in their context and form. They express the thoughts and hopes, aspirations of the Scottish peasantry.
Burns always stood for liberty and fought against social inequality. He sympathized with the poor and hated the rich. Burns esteemed people not because of their richness but because of their labor, mind and dignity.
In his Revolutionary Lyric written in the nineties Burns regards the future happiness of common men as the result of revolution. This idea was inspired by the French Revolution which greatly influenced Burns in his poetic work.
About the French Revolution he wrote in the poem 'The Tree of Liberty' in 1793.
In this work the poet tells about the Tree of Liberty that symbolized Liberty planted in France and hopes that such a tree will be planted in England too.
Burns widely uses folklore plots, many of his poems are based on folk legends, for instance 'Tam O'Shater'. It describes how Shater after a jolly night, when he was drinking with his friends, gets on his horse and sets out for home. The road lies across a dreary place. In the ruined church he is passing he sees witches who are having a night of merriment and dancing. Being discovered Tam gallops as he may. He is saved when he reaches a bridge because the witches are afraid of flood.
'John Barleycorn' is a poem full of humor and cheerfulness. In Burns lyrics we can see wonderful pictures of life of the people, deep feeling of nature and great cordiality and joy. He has many splendid verses devoted to love ('A Red, Red Rose', 'A Fond Kiss'). Many of his poems are written in the form of songs. In his poems Burns glorified a natural mean – a healthy, joyous and clever Scotch peasant. Himself poor, he sang honest poor contrasting them to cruel squires, greedy merchants and hypocrites.
Theme 4: The Enlightenment as a social movement in Europe and England. Journalism in that period, the best representatives of English Enlightenment – Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Henry Fielding, Richard Sheridan, Robert Burns.
1. In what way did Defoe begin his literary career?
2. What was Defoe's satire in verse 'The True-born Englishman'?
3. What novels by Daniel Defoe do you know?
4. What suggested the idea for the novel 'Robinson Crusoe' to Defoe?
5. What is the main theme of the novel?
6. Speak about the characteristic features of Robinson Crusoe.
7. What helped Robinson to withstand all the calamities of his unusual destiny?
8. Do you think it is possible for a man to spend so many years alone on a wild island?
9. What role did Sir William Temple play in Swift's literary career?
10. What did Swift criticize in his pamphlets?
11. When was Swift's masterpiece 'Gulliver's Travels' written and why
did it make a great sensation?
12. Whom did Swift mean to ridicule when describing the country of
Lilliput and its people?
13. At whom is Swift's satire directed when he describes the flying
island and the way taxes are collected from the people?
14. Why did Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels' become popular in all
Countries of the world?
15. What is depicted in Fielding's 'The History of Tom Jones, a