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Best Famous Robert Burns Poems

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Written by Robert Burns | Create an image from this poem

A Red Red Rose

O, my Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June.
O, my Luve's like a melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair as thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will love 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 thess till, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run:

And fare thee well, my only luve!
And fare thee weel, a while!
And I will come again, my luve,
Tho' it ware ten thousand mile.


Written by Robert Burns | Create an image from this poem

To a Mouse

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' 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, whiles, 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!
Its 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 an' 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 mony 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 promised joy! Still thou art 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!
Written by Robert Burns | Create an image from this poem

403. The Soldier's Return: A Ballad

 WHEN wild war’s deadly blast was blawn,
 And gentle peace returning,
Wi’ mony a sweet babe fatherless,
 And mony a widow mourning;
I left the lines and tented field,
 Where lang I’d been a lodger,
My humble knapsack a’ my wealth,
 A poor and honest sodger.
A leal, light heart was in my breast, My hand unstain’d wi’ plunder; And for fair Scotia hame again, I cheery on did wander: I thought upon the banks o’ Coil, I thought upon my Nancy, I thought upon the witching smile That caught my youthful fancy.
At length I reach’d the bonie glen, Where early life I sported; I pass’d the mill and trysting thorn, Where Nancy aft I courted: Wha spied I but my ain dear maid, Down by her mother’s dwelling! And turn’d me round to hide the flood That in my een was swelling.
Wi’ alter’d voice, quoth I, “Sweet lass, Sweet as yon hawthorn’s blossom, O! happy, happy may he be, That’s dearest to thy bosom: My purse is light, I’ve far to gang, And fain would be thy lodger; I’ve serv’d my king and country lang— Take pity on a sodger.
” Sae wistfully she gaz’d on me, And lovelier was than ever; Quo’ she, “A sodger ance I lo’ed, Forget him shall I never: Our humble cot, and hamely fare, Ye freely shall partake it; That gallant badge-the dear cockade, Ye’re welcome for the sake o’t.
” She gaz’d—she redden’d like a rose— Syne pale like only lily; She sank within my arms, and cried, “Art thou my ain dear Willie?” “By him who made yon sun and sky! By whom true love’s regarded, I am the man; and thus may still True lovers be rewarded.
“The wars are o’er, and I’m come hame, And find thee still true-hearted; Tho’ poor in gear, we’re rich in love, And mair we’se ne’er be parted.
” Quo’ she, “My grandsire left me gowd, A mailen plenish’d fairly; And come, my faithfu’ sodger lad, Thou’rt welcome to it dearly!” For gold the merchant ploughs the main, The farmer ploughs the manor; But glory is the sodger’s prize, The sodger’s wealth is honor: The brave poor sodger ne’er despise, Nor count him as a stranger; Remember he’s his country’s stay, In day and hour of danger.
Written by Robert Burns | Create an image from this poem

395. Sonnet on the Author's Birthday

 SING on, sweet thrush, upon the leafless bough,
 Sing on, sweet bird, I listen to thy strain,
 See aged Winter, ’mid his surly reign,
At thy blythe carol, clears his furrowed brow.
So in lone Poverty’s dominion drear, Sits meek Content with light, unanxious heart; Welcomes the rapid moments, bids them part, Nor asks if they bring ought to hope or fear.
I thank thee, Author of this opening day! Thou whose bright sun now gilds yon orient skies! Riches denied, thy boon was purer joys— What wealth could never give nor take away! Yet come, thou child of poverty and care, The mite high heav’n bestow’d, that mite with thee I’ll share.
Written by Robert Burns | Create an image from this poem

112. A Dream

 GUID-MORNIN’ to our Majesty!
 May Heaven augment your blisses
On ev’ry new birth-day ye see,
 A humble poet wishes.
My bardship here, at your Levee On sic a day as this is, Is sure an uncouth sight to see, Amang thae birth-day dresses Sae fine this day.
I see ye’re complimented thrang, By mony a lord an’ lady; “God save the King” ’s a cuckoo sang That’s unco easy said aye: The poets, too, a venal gang, Wi’ rhymes weel-turn’d an’ ready, Wad gar you trow ye ne’er do wrang, But aye unerring steady, On sic a day.
For me! before a monarch’s face Ev’n there I winna flatter; For neither pension, post, nor place, Am I your humble debtor: So, nae reflection on your Grace, Your Kingship to bespatter; There’s mony waur been o’ the race, And aiblins ane been better Than you this day.
’Tis very true, my sovereign King, My skill may weel be doubted; But facts are chiels that winna ding, An’ downa be disputed: Your royal nest, beneath your wing, Is e’en right reft and clouted, And now the third part o’ the string, An’ less, will gang aboot it Than did ae day.
1 Far be’t frae me that I aspire To blame your legislation, Or say, ye wisdom want, or fire, To rule this mighty nation: But faith! I muckle doubt, my sire, Ye’ve trusted ministration To chaps wha in barn or byre Wad better fill’d their station Than courts yon day.
And now ye’ve gien auld Britain peace, Her broken shins to plaister, Your sair taxation does her fleece, Till she has scarce a tester: For me, thank God, my life’s a lease, Nae bargain wearin’ faster, Or, faith! I fear, that, wi’ the geese, I shortly boost to pasture I’ the craft some day.
I’m no mistrusting Willie Pitt, When taxes he enlarges, (An’ Will’s a true guid fallow’s get, A name not envy spairges), That he intends to pay your debt, An’ lessen a’ your charges; But, God-sake! let nae saving fit Abridge your bonie barges An’boats this day.
Adieu, my Liege; may freedom geck Beneath your high protection; An’ may ye rax Corruption’s neck, And gie her for dissection! But since I’m here, I’ll no neglect, In loyal, true affection, To pay your Queen, wi’ due respect, May fealty an’ subjection This great birth-day.
Hail, Majesty most Excellent! While nobles strive to please ye, Will ye accept a compliment, A simple poet gies ye? Thae bonie bairntime, Heav’n has lent, Still higher may they heeze ye In bliss, till fate some day is sent For ever to release ye Frae care that day.
For you, young Potentate o’Wales, I tell your highness fairly, Down Pleasure’s stream, wi’ swelling sails, I’m tauld ye’re driving rarely; But some day ye may gnaw your nails, An’ curse your folly sairly, That e’er ye brak Diana’s pales, Or rattl’d dice wi’ Charlie By night or day.
Yet aft a ragged cowt’s been known, To mak a noble aiver; So, ye may doucely fill the throne, For a’their clish-ma-claver: There, him 2 at Agincourt wha shone, Few better were or braver: And yet, wi’ funny, ***** Sir John, 3 He was an unco shaver For mony a day.
For you, right rev’rend Osnaburg, Nane sets the lawn-sleeve sweeter, Altho’ a ribbon at your lug Wad been a dress completer: As ye disown yon paughty dog, That bears the keys of Peter, Then swith! an’ get a wife to hug, Or trowth, ye’ll stain the mitre Some luckless day! Young, royal Tarry-breeks, I learn, Ye’ve lately come athwart her— A glorious galley, 4 stem and stern, Weel rigg’d for Venus’ barter; But first hang out, that she’ll discern, Your hymeneal charter; Then heave aboard your grapple airn, An’ large upon her quarter, Come full that day.
Ye, lastly, bonie blossoms a’, Ye royal lasses dainty, Heav’n mak you guid as well as braw, An’ gie you lads a-plenty! But sneer na British boys awa! For kings are unco scant aye, An’ German gentles are but sma’, They’re better just than want aye On ony day.
Gad bless you a’! consider now, Ye’re unco muckle dautit; But ere the course o’ life be through, It may be bitter sautit: An’ I hae seen their coggie fou, That yet hae tarrow’t at it.
But or the day was done, I trow, The laggen they hae clautit Fu’ clean that day.
Note 1.
The American colonies had recently been lost.
[back] Note 2.
King Henry V.
—R.
B.
[back] Note 3.
Sir John Falstaff, vid.
Shakespeare.
—R.
B.
[back] Note 4.
Alluding to the newspaper account of a certain Royal sailor’s amour.
—R.
B.
This was Prince William Henry, third son of George III, afterward King William IV.
[back]


Written by Robert Burns | Create an image from this poem

25. My Father was a Farmer: A Ballad

 MY father was a farmer upon the Carrick border, O,
And carefully he bred me in decency and order, O;
He bade me act a manly part, though I had ne’er a farthing, O;
For without an honest manly heart, no man was worth regarding, O.
Then out into the world my course I did determine, O; Tho’ to be rich was not my wish, yet to be great was charming, O; My talents they were not the worst, nor yet my education, O: Resolv’d was I at least to try to mend my situation, O.
In many a way, and vain essay, I courted Fortune’s favour, O; Some cause unseen still stept between, to frustrate each endeavour, O; Sometimes by foes I was o’erpower’d, sometimes by friends forsaken, O; And when my hope was at the top, I still was worst mistaken, O.
Then sore harass’d and tir’d at last, with Fortune’s vain delusion, O, I dropt my schemes, like idle dreams, and came to this conclusion, O; The past was bad, and the future hid, its good or ill untried, O; But the present hour was in my pow’r, and so I would enjoy it, O.
No help, nor hope, nor view had I, nor person to befriend me, O; So I must toil, and sweat, and moil, and labour to sustain me, O; To plough and sow, to reap and mow, my father bred me early, O; For one, he said, to labour bred, was a match for Fortune fairly, O.
Thus all obscure, unknown, and poor, thro’ life I’m doom’d to wander, O, Till down my weary bones I lay in everlasting slumber, O: No view nor care, but shun whate’er might breed me pain or sorrow, O; I live to-day as well’s I may, regardless of to-morrow, O.
But cheerful still, I am as well as a monarch in his palace, O, Tho’ Fortune’s frown still hunts me down, with all her wonted malice, O: I make indeed my daily bread, but ne’er can make it farther, O: But as daily bread is all I need, I do not much regard her, O.
When sometimes by my labour, I earn a little money, O, Some unforeseen misfortune comes gen’rally upon me, O; Mischance, mistake, or by neglect, or my goodnatur’d folly, O: But come what will, I’ve sworn it still, I’ll ne’er be melancholy, O.
All you who follow wealth and power with unremitting ardour, O, The more in this you look for bliss, you leave your view the farther, O: Had you the wealth Potosi boasts, or nations to adore you, O, A cheerful honest-hearted clown I will prefer before you, O.
Written by Robert Burns | Create an image from this poem

118. A Bard's Epitaph

 IS there a whim-inspirèd fool,
Owre fast for thought, owre hot for rule,
Owre blate to seek, owre proud to snool,
 Let him draw near;
And owre this grassy heap sing dool,
 And drap a tear.
Is there a bard of rustic song, Who, noteless, steals the crowds among, That weekly this area throng, O, pass not by! But, with a frater-feeling strong, Here, heave a sigh.
Is there a man, whose judgment clear Can others teach the course to steer, Yet runs, himself, life’s mad career, Wild as the wave, Here pause—and, thro’ the starting tear, Survey this grave.
The poor inhabitant below Was quick to learn the wise to know, And keenly felt the friendly glow, And softer flame; But thoughtless follies laid him low, And stain’d his name! Reader, attend! whether thy soul Soars fancy’s flights beyond the pole, Or darkling grubs this earthly hole, In low pursuit: Know, prudent, cautious, self-control Is wisdom’s root.
Written by Robert Burns | Create an image from this poem

110. Epistle to a Young Friend

 May—, 1786.
I LANG hae thought, my youthfu’ friend, A something to have sent you, Tho’ it should serve nae ither end Than just a kind memento: But how the subject-theme may gang, Let time and chance determine; Perhaps it may turn out a sang: Perhaps turn out a sermon.
Ye’ll try the world soon, my lad; And, Andrew dear, believe me, Ye’ll find mankind an unco squad, And muckle they may grieve ye: For care and trouble set your thought, Ev’n when your end’s attained; And a’ your views may come to nought, Where ev’ry nerve is strained.
I’ll no say, men are villains a’; The real, harden’d wicked, Wha hae nae check but human law, Are to a few restricked; But, Och! mankind are unco weak, An’ little to be trusted; If self the wavering balance shake, It’s rarely right adjusted! Yet they wha fa’ in fortune’s strife, Their fate we shouldna censure; For still, th’ important end of life They equally may answer; A man may hae an honest heart, Tho’ poortith hourly stare him; A man may tak a neibor’s part, Yet hae nae cash to spare him.
Aye free, aff-han’, your story tell, When wi’ a bosom crony; But still keep something to yoursel’, Ye scarcely tell to ony: Conceal yoursel’ as weel’s ye can Frae critical dissection; But keek thro’ ev’ry other man, Wi’ sharpen’d, sly inspection.
The sacred lowe o’ weel-plac’d love, Luxuriantly indulge it; But never tempt th’ illicit rove, Tho’ naething should divulge it: I waive the quantum o’ the sin, The hazard of concealing; But, Och! it hardens a’ within, And petrifies the feeling! To catch dame Fortune’s golden smile, Assiduous wait upon her; And gather gear by ev’ry wile That’s justified by honour; Not for to hide it in a hedge, Nor for a train attendant; But for the glorious privilege Of being independent.
The fear o’ hell’s a hangman’s whip, To haud the wretch in order; But where ye feel your honour grip, Let that aye be your border; Its slightest touches, instant pause— Debar a’ side-pretences; And resolutely keep its laws, Uncaring consequences.
The great Creator to revere, Must sure become the creature; But still the preaching cant forbear, And ev’n the rigid feature: Yet ne’er with wits profane to range, Be complaisance extended; An atheist-laugh’s a poor exchange For Deity offended! When ranting round in pleasure’s ring, Religion may be blinded; Or if she gie a random sting, It may be little minded; But when on life we’re tempest driv’n— A conscience but a canker— A correspondence fix’d wi’ Heav’n, Is sure a noble anchor! Adieu, dear, amiable youth! Your heart can ne’er be wanting! May prudence, fortitude, and truth, Erect your brow undaunting! In ploughman phrase, “God send you speed,” Still daily to grow wiser; And may ye better reck the rede, Then ever did th’ adviser!
Written by Robert Burns | Create an image from this poem

39. Ballad on the American War

 WHEN Guilford good our pilot stood
 An’ did our hellim thraw, man,
Ae night, at tea, began a plea,
 Within America, man:
Then up they gat the maskin-pat,
 And in the sea did jaw, man;
An’ did nae less, in full congress,
 Than quite refuse our law, man.
Then thro’ the lakes Montgomery takes, I wat he was na slaw, man; Down Lowrie’s Burn he took a turn, And Carleton did ca’, man: But yet, whatreck, he, at Quebec, Montgomery-like did fa’, man, Wi’ sword in hand, before his band, Amang his en’mies a’, man.
Poor Tammy Gage within a cage Was kept at Boston-ha’, man; Till Willie Howe took o’er the knowe For Philadelphia, man; Wi’ sword an’ gun he thought a sin Guid Christian bluid to draw, man; But at New York, wi’ knife an’ fork, Sir-Loin he hacked sma’, man.
Burgoyne gaed up, like spur an’ whip, Till Fraser brave did fa’, man; Then lost his way, ae misty day, In Saratoga shaw, man.
Cornwallis fought as lang’s he dought, An’ did the Buckskins claw, man; But Clinton’s glaive frae rust to save, He hung it to the wa’, man.
Then Montague, an’ Guilford too, Began to fear, a fa’, man; And Sackville dour, wha stood the stour, The German chief to thraw, man: For Paddy Burke, like ony Turk, Nae mercy had at a’, man; An’ Charlie Fox threw by the box, An’ lows’d his tinkler jaw, man.
Then Rockingham took up the game, Till death did on him ca’, man; When Shelburne meek held up his cheek, Conform to gospel law, man: Saint Stephen’s boys, wi’ jarring noise, They did his measures thraw, man; For North an’ Fox united stocks, An’ bore him to the wa’, man.
Then clubs an’ hearts were Charlie’s cartes, He swept the stakes awa’, man, Till the diamond’s ace, of Indian race, Led him a sair faux pas, man: The Saxon lads, wi’ loud placads, On Chatham’s boy did ca’, man; An’ Scotland drew her pipe an’ blew, “Up, Willie, waur them a’, man!” Behind the throne then Granville’s gone, A secret word or twa, man; While slee Dundas arous’d the class Be-north the Roman wa’, man: An’ Chatham’s wraith, in heav’nly graith, (Inspired bardies saw, man), Wi’ kindling eyes, cry’d, “Willie, rise! Would I hae fear’d them a’, man?” But, word an’ blow, North, Fox, and Co.
Gowff’d Willie like a ba’, man; Till Suthron raise, an’ coost their claise Behind him in a raw, man: An’ Caledon threw by the drone, An’ did her whittle draw, man; An’ swoor fu’ rude, thro’ dirt an’ bluid, To mak it guid in law, man.
Written by Robert Burns | Create an image from this poem

201. Birthday Ode for 31st December 1787

 AFAR 1 the illustrious Exile roams,
 Whom kingdoms on this day should hail;
 An inmate in the casual shed,
 On transient pity’s bounty fed,
 Haunted by busy memory’s bitter tale!
 Beasts of the forest have their savage homes,
 But He, who should imperial purple wear,
Owns not the lap of earth where rests his royal head!
 His wretched refuge, dark despair,
 While ravening wrongs and woes pursue,
 And distant far the faithful few
 Who would his sorrows share.
False flatterer, Hope, away! Nor think to lure us as in days of yore: We solemnize this sorrowing natal day, To prove our loyal truth-we can no more, And owning Heaven’s mysterious sway, Submissive, low adore.
Ye honored, mighty Dead, Who nobly perished in the glorious cause, Your King, your Country, and her laws, From great DUNDEE, who smiling Victory led, And fell a Martyr in her arms, (What breast of northern ice but warms!) To bold BALMERINO’S undying name, Whose soul of fire, lighted at Heaven’s high flame, Deserves the proudest wreath departed heroes claim: Nor unrevenged your fate shall lie, It only lags, the fatal hour, Your blood shall, with incessant cry, Awake at last, th’ unsparing Power; As from the cliff, with thundering course, The snowy ruin smokes along With doubling speed and gathering force, Till deep it, crushing, whelms the cottage in the vale; So Vengeance’ arm, ensanguin’d, strong, Shall with resistless might assail, Usurping Brunswick’s pride shall lay, And STEWART’S wrongs and yours, with tenfold weight repay.
PERDITION, baleful child of night! Rise and revenge the injured right Of STEWART’S royal race: Lead on the unmuzzled hounds of hell, Till all the frighted echoes tell The blood-notes of the chase! Full on the quarry point their view, Full on the base usurping crew, The tools of faction, and the nation’s curse! Hark how the cry grows on the wind; They leave the lagging gale behind, Their savage fury, pitiless, they pour; With murdering eyes already they devour; See Brunswick spent, a wretched prey, His life one poor despairing day, Where each avenging hour still ushers in a worse! Such havock, howling all abroad, Their utter ruin bring, The base apostates to their God, Or rebels to their King.
Note 1.
The last birthday of Prince Charles Edward.
[back]