Poetry Resources for Burns Night


Portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth

January 25th is Burns Night, a holiday celebrated in honor of Scottish poet Robert Burns. Those who greatly admire Burns' works mark the occasion with a Burns supper, a ceremonial gathering with many traditions attached to it. The most important element of a Burns supper, though, is the reading of Burns' poetry by the host and his or her guests.

Even if you don't follow the precise script and pageantry of a traditional Burns supper, you might want to try reading aloud some of Burns' poetry with your family after your own ordinary supper tonight. Or, you might also wish to spend the evening just reading some of Burns' poetry on your own or learning more about his life. In either case, I've gathered together some excellent online resources related to Burns--all of them absolutely free.

(A side note to parents: please preview any poems on these websites prior to sharing with your children. Burns didn't write for a juvenile audience, so not all of his poems are appropriate for young poetry enthusiasts.)

 
Robert Burns at the Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation is a great place to start if you'd like to know more about Burns. They have a very detailed biography and a sizable but not overwhelming selection of his poems, as well as links to a couple of articles related to Burns.

 
Poems and Songs by Robert Burns, via Bartleby

If you'd like a more comprehensive selection of poems by Burns to explore, this book is just the thing. It contains over 500 of Burns' poems, divided by year, and an introductory essay.

 
Robert Burns Songs at the Contemplator

Many of Burns' poems were set to music, and MIDI music files of several of these are available on the Contemplator. Scroll down the page a bit until you find "18th Century Music," underneath which will be the category "By a Known Author." Robert Burns is the first author listed.