Monday, January 25, 2016

Robert Burns

25 January is the birth date of Robert (Rabbie or Robbie) Burns who was born in Alloway, Scotland, in 1759. He died on 21 July 1796 aged only 37.
Rabbie Burns is a well known and well loved poet not only in Scotland but throughout the world. When we were in Edinburgh in 2014 we found the Robert Burns Memorial. As there was a fence around it plus traffic it was not easy to photograph but it is an impressive monument. However this is only one of many memorials to Robert Burns throughout the world. There is even a memorial in Melbourne in the Treasury Gardens. An article in Wikipedia provides a list of Robert Burns Memorials throughout the world.
Robert Burns: Poems, songs and legacy is a FutureLearn course beginning on 25 January 2016 to coincide with the anniversary of Robert Burn's birth. The three week course has been prepared by the Centre for Robert Burns Studies and will examine three core questions - Who was Robert Burns? What made Robert Burns a poetic genius? And what made Robert Burns a global icon?

In 2011 the BBC made a series of television programs - The World According to Robert Burns. The website prepared in conjunction with those programs provides an outline of the life of Robert Burns as well as a list of his songs and poems. There is also a section on the ceremonies to be performed on Burns Night which is held on or near the anniversary of the birth date of Robert Burns.

Much has been written about the poet over the years and I am sure that we will be introduced to many of these works during the course. One title that I found in the local library was:
Robert Burns: the patriot bard by Patrick Scott Hogg (2008). The book purports to be an examination of the poet within the context of his times as the author examines a selection of Burn's poetry within the biography of his life.

The life of Robert Burns has also been recorded in fiction. James Barke has written five volumes of historical fiction (series title: Immortal Memory) based on the life of Robert Burns. The first volume, The wind that shakes the barley, was published in 1946 and this was followed by The song in the green thorn tree (1947). Wonder of all the gay world was the third volume, followed by Crest on the broken wave (1953) and The well of the silent harp (1954). I found copies of the first two volumes in the large print section of a local library. The author has set out to write a fictional story based on events in the life of Robert Burns. I am sure that the author set out to capture the essence of the life of Robert Burns in these books but I do not like this style of writing, especially when much of the story is based on supposed conversation between the characters , however the books do provide an outline of the life of Robert Burns. I suspect that the books would have been more readable, in my opinion, if they had been heavily edited and condensed into one or two volumes. A paper about three of the volumes was presented at a Calgary Burns Club meeting in October 2010. I also found online an article in the Glasgow Herald (21 January 1984) about James Barke and his books on Robert Burns.

A list of many of the poems and songs by Robert Burns can be found in a section of the BBC website.
Youtube and also have performances of his songs.

Websites include:
Burns Scotland
Robert Burns World Federation 
Editing Robert Burns for the 21st Century
Burns Encyclopedia

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