But to see her was to love her, Love but her, and love forever. Had we never lou’d sae kindly, Had we never lou’d sae blindly, Never met – or never parted – We had ne’er been broken hearted.” ~ Robert Burns

On January 25, 1759, Robert Burns was born in Alloway, Scotland to William Burns, a tenant farmer, and his wife Agnes Broun. Robert Burns, the first of seven children was born into desperate poverty and a life of hard labor, a situation that left him stooped over and with a weak constitution. Robert, as a farmer’s son, had an average education and struggled financially throughout most of his short life.

But, in spite of less than stellar circumstances, he was happy and had a natural gift for language. Specifically, poetry which he used for successfully wooing girls. So much so that he earned the nickname The Ploughman Poet. When not farming, he joined a dancing school, started a bachelor’s club, and continued writing poetry. He fell in love often and had lots of children (although many died in infancy). Despite tragic losses, even before turning 22 years old, Robert Burns had a unique, romantic and spontaneous take on life.

After years of rejection, in 1786 a printer in Kilmarnock published his first collection of poetry written in the Scottish dialect. A few months later, as he was about to board a ship for Jamaica, another publisher offered to publish an enlarged second edition. This led to more publishing successes that allowed him to leave farming behind.

Robert Burns lived a colorful, vibrant life and is probably best known for his poem “Auld Lang Syne” which we all sing on New Year’s. As a founder of the Romantic movement, his work influenced the great literary figures of Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

That second edition of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, changed his life. And by the time he died at the age of 37, Robert Burns had become a national treasure. His natural skill in writing verse, not just in the Scots language in but also in the Scottish English dialect, made his poems available to even the smallest, most remote areas of Scotland. Today Robert Burns is Scotland’s National Poet and is revered throughout the world, including the United States and Russia. Movies, songs, and books written by artists such as JD Salinger, John Steinbeck and Bob Dylan all reference Robert Burns’ most famous works. But one of the most important tributes to Robert Burns happens annually, on his birthday of January 25, with the celebration of local Burns Suppers.

A Burns supper is a traditional Scottish meal shared with friends to honor Robert Burns’ birthday. In between courses, guests raise their glasses of the finest Scotch whiskey and toast the great bard by quoting his most famous works. Here are a few examples you might recognize:

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft a-gley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain For promis’d joy.

Some hae meat and canna eat, — And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat, and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit.

O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us. (O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us.)

O, my Luve is like a red, red rose, That’s newly sprung in June. O, my Luve is like the melodie, That’s sweetly played in tune.

Where sits our sulky, sullen dame, Gathering her brows like gathering storm, Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

But to see her was to love her, Love but her, and love forever.

Suspense is worse than disappointment.

Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn!

There is no such uncertainty as a sure thing.

The wide world is all before us – but a world without a friend.

Below I’ve included a list of recipes so you can host your own Burns supper. But don’t forget to serve the aged Scottish Whiskey. That’s the most important part of the meal!

Neeps & Tatties Soup

Warm Salad

Scottish Beef Stew

Orange Cranachan

Bannock

So even if you’re not Scottish, I hope you’ll still raise a glass to one of the world’s most favorite poets. And just in case you’re not familiar with his work, here is one of my favorite Burns poems set to music and played but the Royal Scots Dragoon Guard. Slàinte Mhath!


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