Scottish poet Robert Burns was born on this day in 1759. The day is still celebrated by Burns fans across the English-speaking world, with high-spirited “Robert Burns Night” feasts, featuring haggis and other Scottish delicacies, as well as enthusiastic drinking, toasting, and speechmaking.
A well-known Scottish poet, Burns published his first poetry collection, Poems, in 1786, and he quickly became the darling of elite Edinburgh intellectuals. He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement, and after his death he became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism. In 2009 he was chosen as the greatest Scot by the Scottish public in a vote run by Scottish television channel STV.
All sorts of authors, musicians, and writers have been influenced by the words of Burns. John Steinbeck’s famed title Of Mice and Men was taken from a line of Burns poem, “To a Mouse”. And when singer songwriter Bob Dylan was asked for the source of his greatest creative inspiration, he selected Burns’s 1794 song “A Red, Red Rose” as the lyric that had the biggest effect on his life. The author J. D. Salinger used protagonist Holden Caulfield’s misinterpretation of Burns’s poem “Comin’ Through the Rye” as the title of his most famous novel, Catcher in the Rye.
Perhaps more famous for his lively lyrics in the Scottish dialect than for his longer, more literary poems, Burns is still beloved and celebrated today as the author of the New Year’s anthem, “For Auld Lang Syne.”
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