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5 Famous Poems By Robert Burns

Robert Burns

Robert Burns, also known as Rabbie Burns, was a Scottish poet and lyricist who lived from 1759 to 1796. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide for his works in the Scots language. Burns’ poetry often dealt with themes of love, nature, and politics, and he was known for his ability to capture the essence of Scottish culture in his writing.

Burns’ most famous work is undoubtedly “Auld Lang Syne,” a song that is traditionally sung to celebrate the new year. However, he also wrote many other notable works, including “Tam O’ Shanter,” “To a Mouse,” and “A Red, Red Rose.” Burns’ writing was often inspired by his own life experiences, and he frequently used his poetry to comment on social and political issues of his time.

Despite his relatively short life, Burns’ impact on Scottish culture has been immense. His works continue to be celebrated today, and his legacy has inspired countless other writers and artists. Burns Night, an annual celebration of his life and work, is held on January 25th each year and is marked by traditional Scottish food, drink, and music.

5 Famous Poems By Robert Burns

– “Auld Lang Syne”

– “To a Mouse”

– “Tam O’ Shanter”

– “A Red, Red Rose”

– “Scots Wha Hae”

“Auld Lang Syne”

Auld Lang Syne is a traditional Scottish song that is commonly sung at New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world. The song’s lyrics were written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788, and the tune is believed to be an old Scottish folk melody. The phrase “auld lang syne” roughly translates to “old times’ sake” and the song is often used to bid farewell to the old year and welcome in the new.

The song’s popularity grew in the 20th century, particularly after it was featured in the 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Today, it is a staple of New Year’s Eve celebrations in many countries, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The song’s simple melody and nostalgic lyrics have made it a beloved part of many people’s holiday traditions.

Despite its popularity, the song’s meaning and origin are still somewhat shrouded in mystery. Some scholars believe that the tune may have originated in France or even further afield, while others argue that it is a truly Scottish creation. Regardless of its origins, Auld Lang Syne has become a beloved part of New Year’s celebrations around the world, a testament to the enduring power of music and tradition.


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
Sin’ auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.


“To a Mouse”

In Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse,” the speaker addresses a mouse that he has disturbed while plowing a field. The speaker expresses sympathy for the mouse, acknowledging that both he and the mouse are subject to the whims of fate. The speaker also reflects on the human tendency to worry about the future, while the mouse lives in the present moment.

The poem is written in Scots dialect, which adds to its charm and authenticity. Burns’ use of language is precise and evocative, capturing the speaker’s emotions and the mouse’s plight in vivid detail. The poem is a testament to the power of poetry to convey complex ideas and emotions in a concise and accessible way.

Overall, “To a Mouse” is a beautiful and thought-provoking poem that speaks to the human condition. It reminds us of our connection to the natural world and the importance of empathy and compassion.


On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough, November 1785.

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O’ what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
                        Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
                        Wi’ murdering pattle.

  I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
                        Which maks thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion
                        An’ fellow mortal!

  I doubt na’ whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
                        ‘S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
                        And never miss’t!

  Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
                        O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s win’s ensuin,
                        Baith snell and keen!

  Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
                        Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
                        Out thro’ thy cell.

  That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turned out, for a’ thy trouble,
                        But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
                        An’ cranreuch cauld.

  But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
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.

  Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
                        On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
                        I guess an’ fear!

“Tam O’ Shanter”

Tam O’ Shanter is a narrative poem written by Robert Burns in 1790. The poem is about a man named Tam who goes to a pub with his friends and becomes drunk. On his way home, he passes by a haunted churchyard and sees witches and warlocks dancing. Tam is fascinated by the spectacle and watches the witches until he is noticed by the devil’s mother. She chases him on his horse, Meg, and he barely escapes by crossing a bridge. The bridge collapses as the devil’s mother tries to follow him, and Tam is left to reflect on his experience.

The poem is set in Ayrshire, Scotland, where Burns was born and raised. It is considered one of his most famous works and is often performed during Burns Night celebrations. The poem’s themes include the dangers of alcohol and the supernatural, as well as the importance of good judgment. Burns wrote the poem in Scots dialect, which adds to its authenticity and charm.

Overall, Tam O’ Shanter is a classic example of Scottish literature and a testament to Burns’ talent as a poet. Its vivid imagery and engaging storyline continue to captivate readers and audiences today.


When chapman billies leave the street,

And drouthy neebors neebors meet,

As market-days are wearing late,

And folk begin to tak the gate;

While we sit bousin, at the nappy,

And gettin fou and unco happy,

We think na on the lang Scots miles,

The mosses, waters, slaps, and stiles,

That lie between us and our hame,

Whare sits our sulky, sullen dame,

Gathering her brows like gathering storm,

Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

         This truth fand honest Tam o’ Shanter,

As he frae Ayr ae night did canter:

(Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a town surpasses,

For honest men and bonie lasses.)

         O Tam! had’st thou but been sae wise

As taen thy ain wife Kate’s advice!

She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,

A bletherin, blusterin, drunken blellum;

That frae November till October,

Ae market-day thou was na sober;

That ilka melder wi’ the miller,

Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;

That ev’ry naig was ca’d a shoe on,

The smith and thee gat roarin fou on;

That at the Lord’s house, ev’n on Sunday,

Thou drank wi’ Kirkton Jean till Monday.

She prophesied, that, late or soon,

Thou would be found deep drown’d in Doon;

Ot catch’d wi’ warlocks in the mirk,

By Alloway’s auld haunted kirk.

         Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet,

To think how mony counsels sweet,

How mony lengthen’d sage advices,

The husband frae the wife despises!

         But to our tale:—Ae market night,

Tam had got planted unco right,

Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely,

Wi’ reaming swats that drank divinely;

And at his elbow, Souter Johnie,

His ancient, trusty, drouthy crony:

Tam lo’ed him like a vera brither;

They had been fou for weeks thegither.

The night drave on wi’ sangs and clatter;

And ay the ale was growing better:

The landlady and Tam grew gracious

Wi’ secret favours, sweet, and precious:

The souter tauld his queerest stories;

The landlord’s laugh was ready chorus:

The storm without might rair and rustle,

Tam did na mind the storm a whistle.

         Care, mad to see a man sae happy,

E’en drown’d himsel amang the nappy:

As bees flee hame wi’ lades o’ treasure,

The minutes wing’d their way wi’ pleasure;

Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious,

O’er a’ the ills o’ life victorious!

         But pleasures are like poppies spread,

You seize the flow’r, its bloom is shed;

Or like the snow falls in the river,

A moment white—then melts forever;

Or like the borealis race,

That flit ere you can point their place;

Or like the rainbow’s lovely form

Evanishing amid the storm.

Nae man can tether time or tide:

The hour approaches Tam maun ride,—

That hour, o’ night’s black arch the key-stane

That dreary hour he mounts his beast in;

And sic a night he taks the road in,

As ne’er poor sinner was abroad in.

         The wind blew as ‘twad blawn its last;

The rattling show’rs rose on the blast;

The speedy gleams the darkness swallow’d;

Loud, deep, and lang the thunder bellow’d:

That night, a child might understand,

The Deil had business on his hand.

         Weel mounted on his grey mare, Meg,—

A better never lifted leg,—

Tam skelpit on thro’ dub and mire,

Despising wind and rain and fire;

Whiles holding fast his guid blue bonnet,

Whiles crooning o’er some auld Scots sonnet,

Whiles glowrin round wi’ prudent cares,

Lest bogles catch him unawares.

Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh,

Whare ghaists and houlets nightly cry.

         By this time he was cross the ford,

Whare in the snaw the chapman smoor’d;

And past the birks and meikle stane,

Whare drucken Charlie brak’s neckbane:

And thro’ the whins, and by the cairn,

Whare hunters fand the murder’d bairn;

And near the thorn, aboon the well,

Whare Mungo’s mither hang’d hersel.

Before him Doon pours all his floods;

The doubling storm roars thro’ the woods;

The lightnings flash from pole to pole,

Near and more near the thunders roll;

When, glimmering thro’ the groaning trees,

Kirk-Alloway seem’d in a bleeze:

Thro’ ilka bore the beams were glancing,

And loud resounded mirth and dancing.

         Inspiring bold John Barleycorn!

What dangers thou can’st make us scorn!

Wi’ tippenny we fear nae evil;

Wi’ usquebae we’ll face the devil!

The swats sae ream’d in Tammie’s noddle,

Fair play, he car’d na deils a boddle.

But Maggie stood right sair astonish’d,

Till, by the heel and hand admonish’d,

She ventur’d forward on the light;

And, wow! Tam saw an unco sight!

         Warlocks and witches in a dance;

Nae cotillion brent-new frae France,

But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels

Put life and mettle in their heels.

A winnock bunker in the east,

There sat Auld Nick in shape o’ beast:

A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large,

To gie them music was his charge;

He screw’d the pipes and gart them skirl,

Till roof and rafters a’ did dirl.—

Coffins stood round like open presses,

That shaw’d the dead in their last dresses;

And by some devilish cantraip sleight

Each in its cauld hand held a light,

By which heroic Tam was able

To note upon the haly table

A murderer’s banes in gibbet airns;

Twa span-lang, wee, unchristen’d bairns;

A thief, new-cutted frae the rape—

Wi’ his last gasp his gab did gape;

Five tomahawks, wi’ blude red-rusted;

Five scimitars, wi’ murder crusted;

A garter, which a babe had strangled;

A knife, a father’s throat had mangled,

Whom his ain son o’ life bereft—

The grey hairs yet stack to the heft;

Wi’ mair o’ horrible and awfu’,

Which ev’n to name wad be unlawfu’.

         As Tammie glowr’d, amaz’d and curious,

The mirth and fun grew fast and furious:

The piper loud and louder blew,

The dancers quick and quicker flew;

They reel’d, they set, they cross’d, they cleekit

Till ilka carlin swat and reekit

And coost her duddies to the wark

And linket at it in her sark!

         Now Tam, O Tam! had thae been queans,

A’ plump and strapping in their teens!

Their sarks, instead o’ creeshie flannen,

Been snaw-white seventeen hunder linen!—

Thir breeks o’ mine, my only pair,

That ance were plush, o’ gude blue hair,

I wad hae gien them aff y hurdies,

For ae blink o’ the bonie burdies!

         But wither’d beldams, auld and droll,

Rigwoodie hags wad spean a foal,

Lowping and flinging on a crummock.

I wonder didna turn thy stomach.

         But Tam ken’d what was what fu’ brawlie;

There was ae winsom wench and walie,

That night enlisted in the core

(Lang after ken’d on Carrick shore.

For mony a beast to dead she shot,

And perish’d mony a bonie boat,

And shook baith meikle corn and bear,

And kept the country-side in fear);

Her cutty sark o’ Paisley harn,

That while a lassie she had worn,

In longitude tho’ sorely scanty,

It was her best, and she was vauntie.

Ah! little ken’d thy reverend grannie,

That sark she coft for her wee Nannie,

Wi’ twa pund Scots (’twas a’ her riches),

Wad ever grac’d a dance of witches!

         But here my Muse her wing maun cow’r,

Sic flights are far beyond her pow’r;

To sing how Nannie lap and flang,

(A souple jad she was and strang),

And how Tam stood like ane bewitch’d,

And thought his very een enrich’d;

Even Satan glowr’d and fidg’d fu’ fain,

And hotch’d and blew wi’ might and main:

Till first ae caper, syne anither,

Tam tint his reason a’ thegither,

And roars out, “Weel done, Cutty-sark!”

And in an instant all was dark:

And scarcely had he Maggie rallied,

When out the hellish legion sallied.

         As bees bizz out wi’ angry fyke,

When plundering herds assail their byke;

As open pussie’s mortal foes,

When, pop! she starts before their nose;

As eager runs the market-crowd,

When “Catch the thief!” resounds aloud;

So Maggie runs, the witches follow,

Wi’ mony an eldritch skriech and hollo.

         Ah, Tam! ah, Tam! thou’ll get thy fairin!

In hell they’ll roast thee like a herrin!

In vain thy Kate awaits thy comin!

Kate soon will be a woefu’ woman!

Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg,

And win the key-stane of the brig:

There at them thou thy tail may toss,

A running stream they dare na cross.

But ere the key-stane she could make,

The fient a tail she had to shake!

For Nannie far before the rest,

Hard upon noble Maggie prest,

And flew at Tam wi’ furious ettle;

But little wist she Maggie’s mettle—

Ae spring brought aff her master hale

But left behind her ain grey tail:

The carlin claught her by the rump,

And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

         Now, wha this tale o’ truth shall read,

Ilk man and mother’s son, take heed,

Whene’er to drink you are inclin’d,

Or cutty-sarks run in your mind,

Think, ye may buy the joys o’er dear,

Remember Tam o’ Shanter’s mear.

“A Red, Red Rose”

The poem “A Red, Red Rose” was written by Robert Burns in 1794. It is a love poem that compares the speaker’s love to a red rose that is newly sprung in June. The poem is written in Scots dialect, which was a common language in Scotland at the time.

The first stanza of the poem describes the speaker’s love as being like a newly sprung red rose. The second stanza goes on to say that the speaker will love their love until the seas dry up and the rocks melt with the sun. The final stanza concludes with the speaker saying that they will love their love until the end of time.

Overall, “A Red, Red Rose” is a beautiful and timeless love poem that has been beloved for centuries. Its use of vivid imagery and the Scots dialect make it a unique and memorable piece of literature.


O my Luve is like a red, red rose

   That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Luve is like the melody

   That’s sweetly played in tune.

So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

   So deep in luve am I;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

   Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

   And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;

I will love thee still, my dear,

   While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!

   And fare thee weel awhile!

And I will come again, my luve,

   Though it were ten thousand mile.

“Scots Wha Hae”

“Scots Wha Hae” is a patriotic song that has become a symbol of Scottish national identity. Written by Robert Burns in 1793, the song was originally a poem that was set to the tune of a traditional Scottish melody. The song was written to commemorate the victory of the Scots over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

The song has since become an important part of Scottish culture and is often played at events such as Burns Night and St. Andrew’s Day. The lyrics of the song are written in the form of a speech by Robert the Bruce, the Scottish king who led the Scots to victory at Bannockburn. The song is a call to arms for the Scottish people to rise up against their English oppressors and fight for their freedom.

“Scots Wha Hae” has been translated into many languages and has been performed by numerous artists over the years. The song remains an important symbol of Scottish national identity and is a reminder of the country’s rich history and culture.


Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled,

Scots, wham Bruce has aften led;

Welcome to your gory bed,

         Or to victory!

Now’s the day, and now’s the hour;

See the front o’ battle lour;

See approach proud Edward’s power—

         Chains and slavery!

Wha will be a traitor knave?

Wha can fill a coward’s grave!

Wha sae base as be a slave?

         Let him turn and flee!

Wha for Scotland’s king and law

Freedom’s sword will strongly draw,

Freeman stand, or freeman fa’,

         Let him follow me!

By oppression’s woes and pains!

By your sons in servile chains!

We will drain our dearest veins,

         But they shall be free!

Lay the proud usurpers low!

Tyrants fall in every foe!

Liberty’s in every blow!—

         Let us do or die!

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