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Burns Night 2022: famous poems, quotes and songs to celebrate Robert Burns - including Address to a Haggis

Poems written by the Scottish bard Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns range from the heartfelt to the funny

Robert Burns is a famous poet and songwriter, and every year at the end of January, households gather together to remember the writer and celebrate his work over a traditional feast of haggis, neeps and tatties.

He penned over 500 pieces of work throughout his life and is often regarded as the national poet of Scotland, having written iconic poems like Tam O’Shanter, Auld Lang Syne and To A Mouse.

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Burns died on 21 July 1976, but it’s on his birthday, 25 January, that we celebrate the annual Burns Night.

The birthplace of Robert Burns wrapped up in a big red bow to mark his 256th birthday in 2015 (Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Burns Night is a night to remember the bard, with the very first one held back in 1801 by nine of Burns’ friends, who originally got together to mark the fifth anniversary of his death.

It was held at Burns Cottage in Alloway, and saw the friends gather around a feast of haggis and enjoy performances of Burns’ work.

The night was regarded as such a great success that they decided to hold another Burns Night the following year, but opted to do so on the writers’ birthday, thus spawning the tradition that we still celebrate today.

Best quotes by Robert Burns - and what they mean

Burns, ever the wordsmith, came up with many quotes and sayings that still resonate today.

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.”

This quote, from his famous poem To a Mouse, warns that no matter how well you plan or think you’re prepared for everything that life will throw at you, things can - and will - go wrong.

“Nae man can tether time or tide.”

Taken from Tam O’Shanter, this quote explains how, no matter what, no-one can stop time and that it will eventually run out for everyone.

Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759 - 1796) (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“The rank is but the guinea’s stamp; the man’s the gowd for a’ that!”

From A Man’s A Man For A’ That, Burns says in this quote that the common man is still as good as any king or lord.

“Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn!”

From Man Was Made to Mourn, this quote discusses how, as a society, we will never be happy if we continue to treat our fellow person badly.

What are his best poems?

These are some of Burns’ most well known poems, in full, that you can recite to celebrate this Burns Night.

Address to a Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,

Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!

Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,

Painch, tripe, or thairm:

Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace

As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,

Your hurdies like a distant hill,

Your pin wad help to mend a mill

In time o need,

While thro your pores the dews distil

Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,

An cut you up wi ready slight,

Trenching your gushing entrails bright,

Like onie ditch;

And then, O what a glorious sight,

Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:

Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,

Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve

Are bent like drums;

The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,

‘Bethankit’ hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,

Or olio that wad staw a sow,

Or fricassee wad mak her spew

Wi perfect scunner,

Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view

On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,

As feckless as a wither’d rash,

His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,

His nieve a nit;

Thro bloody flood or field to dash,

O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,

The trembling earth resounds his tread,

Clap in his walie nieve a blade,

He’ll make it whissle;

An legs an arms, an heads will sned,

Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,

And dish them out their bill o fare,

Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware

That jaups in luggies:

But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,

Gie her a Haggis

Tam o’ Shanter

When chapmen billies leave the street,

And drouthy neibors, neibors meet,

As market days are wearing late,

An’ folk begin to tak the gate;

While we sit bousing at the nappy,

And getting fou and unco happy,

We think na on the lang Scots miles,

The mosses, waters, slaps, and styles,

That lie between us and our hame,

Where 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 ta’en thy ain wife Kate’s advice!

She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,

A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum;

That frae November till October,

Ae market-day thou was nae sober;

That ilka melder, wi’ the miller,

Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;

That every naig was ca’d a shoe on,

The smith and thee gat roaring fou on;

That at the Lord’s house, even on Sunday,

Thou drank wi’ Kirkton Jean till Monday.

She prophesied that late or soon,

Thou would be found deep drown’d in Doon;

Or catch’d wi’ warlocks in the mirk,

By Alloway’s auld haunted kirk.

Tam O’Shanter fleeing on horseback from the ‘hellish legion’ (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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 Johnny,

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’ favours secret,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 flower, its bloom is shed;

Or like the snow falls in the river,

A moment white--then melts for ever;

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 showers 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 gray mare, Meg--

A better never lifted leg--

Tam skelpit on thro’ dub and mire;

Despisin’ wind and rain and fire.

Whiles holding fast his gude blue bonnet;

Whiles crooning o’er some auld Scots sonnet;

Whiles glowring 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 drunken Chairlie brak ‘s neck-bane;

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 canst make us scorn!

Wi’ tippeny, we fear nae evil;

Wi’ usquabae, 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 ventured forward on the light;

And, vow! 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 scre’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 develish cantraip slight,

Each in its cauld hand held a light.--

By which heroic Tam was able

To note upon the haly table,

A murders’s banes in gibbet-airns;

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

A thief, new-cutted frae a rape,

Wi’ his last gasp his gab did gape;

Five tomahawks, wi blude red-rusted;

Five scymitars, 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 gray hairs yet stack to the heft;

Wi’ mair o’ horrible and awfu’,

Which even to name was be unlawfu’.

Three lawyers’ tongues, turn’d inside out,

Wi’ lies seam’d like a beggar’s clout;

Three priests’ hearts, rotten, black as muck,

Lay stinking, vile in every neuk.

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 linnen!

Thir breeks o’ mine, my only pair,

That ance were plush, o’ gude blue hair,

I wad hae gi’en them off my hurdies,

For ae blink o’ the bonie burdies!

But wither’d beldams, auld and droll,

Rigwoodie hags wad spean a foal,

Louping and flinging on a crummock,

I wonder did na turn thy stomach!

But Tam kend what was what fu’ brawlie:

There was ae winsome wench and waulie,

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 cour;

Sic flights are far beyond her pow’r;

To sing how Nannie lap and flang,

(A souple jade 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 commin’!

Kate soon will be a woefu’ woman!

Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg,

And win the key-stane o’ 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 off her master hale,

But left behind her ain gray tail;

The carlin claught her by the rump,

And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

No, 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 joys o’er dear -

Remember Tam o’ Shanter’s mare.

To a Mouse

Wee, sleekit, cowran, 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’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion

Has broken Nature’s social union,

An’ justifies that ill opinion,

Which makes 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,

An’ 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 winds ensuin,

Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ wast,

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 turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,

But house or hald.

To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,

An’ cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,

Gang aft agley,

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promis’d joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar’d 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!

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my jo,

For auld lang syne,

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

Scots across the world annually celebrate the life of Robert Burns, the country’s most famous bard, with recitations of his poetry, the eating of haggis and imbibing of whisky on Burns Night (Photo: Graeme Robertson/Getty Images)

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!

And surely I’ll be mine!

And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,

And pou’d the gowan fine;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fitt,

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 fiere!

And gie’s a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll tak a right gude-willie-waught,

For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my jo,

For auld lang syne,

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

A Red, Red Rose

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.

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