HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Complete Poetical Works
Author: Robert Burns
Publisher: Waverley Books Ltd., republished in 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1849342322 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 1849342326 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-1236730800 Paperback
ISBN-10: 1236730801 Paperback
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Burns, Robert. The Complete Poetical Works (published in 1895 by Donohue Henneberry and Co., 407-425 Dearborn St., Chicago, IL). Robert Burns (January 25, 1759 –July 21, 1796), also known as Rabbie Burns and the Bard of Ayrshire, was a Scottish poet and lyricist born in a house built by his father, now the Burns Cottage Museum, two miles south of Ayr, in Alloway, the eldest of the seven children of William Burnes (1721–1784), a self-educated tenant farmer from Dunnottar in the Mearns, and Agnes Broun (1732–1820), the daughter of a Kirkoswald tenant farmer. Rabbie had little regular schooling and got much of his education from his father, who taught his children reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and history and also wrote for them A Manual Of Christian Belief. He was also taught by John Murdoch (1747–1824), who opened an “adventure school” in Alloway in 1763 and taught Latin, French, and mathematics to both Robert and his brother Gilbert (1760–1827) from 1765 to 1768. After a few years of home education, Burns was sent to Dalrymple Parish School during the summer of 1772. Burns began writing poetry during the harvest of 1774. In the summer of 1775, he was sent to finish his education with a tutor at Kirkoswald.
Burns continued to write, and in 1786 John Wilson published the volume of works by Robert Burns, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, known as the Kilmarnock volume. Eventually, as his health began to give way, he began to age prematurely and fell into fits of despondency. The habits of intemperance are said to have aggravated his long-standing possible rheumatic heart condition. Following a dental extraction in winter 1795, Burns died on the morning of July 21, 1796, in Dumfries, at the age of 37. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them to fit well-known traditional Scottish tunes. He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement and a cultural icon in Scotland and among the Scottish diaspora around the world. In 2009 he was chosen as the greatest Scot by the Scottish public in a vote run by Scottish television channel STV.
My copy of Burns’s Complete Poetical Works begins with a biographical sketch of the poet by James Currie, and includes the Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, such as “To a Mouse,” “To a Louse,” and “Tam O’Shanter,” his songs like “Comin’ thro’ the Rye,” “John Anderson My Jo,” “My Heart’s in the Highlands,” and some “Additional Poems.” Some of his poems are written in the Scots language and may be a bit difficult, but much of his writing is in English or a light Scots dialect that is accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. Of his songs, “Scots Wha Hae wi’ Wallace Bled” served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of the country, and “Auld Lang Syne” is famous for being sung on New Year’s Eve. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well known across the world today include “A Red, Red Rose,” “A Man’s a Man for A’ That,” “The Battle of Sherramuir,” and “Ae Fond Kiss”.