Born: 25 January 1759
Died: 21 July 1796
Birthplace: Alloway, Scotland
Best known as: Scotland's most famous poet
The favorite national poet of Scotland, Robert Burns is the author of "Auld Lang Syne," "To A Mouse" and "Tam o' Shanter." Raised in a poor family of farmers, Burns still managed to learn literature and began writing verse when he was a teenager. His father died in 1784 and Burns tried to make a go of it as a farmer, but found more success with poetry. To raise money to emigrate to Jamaica, he published a collection called Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect in Kilmarnock in 1786. The collection sold well and boosted his reputation among the literati, so Burns decided to stay in Scotland. He toured the country, published another edition in Edinburgh (1787) and joined James Johnson in publishing The Scots Musical Museum, a collection of Scottish folk songs. Burns collected, revised and adapted hundreds of traditional songs, and his original poems carried Scotland's language and culture to the world. His life of carousing and his stick-it-to-the-man attitude further endeared "Rabbie" to his countrymen. Even as a well-known poet and a favorite native son, Burns still had to work for a living. He settled in Dumfries, where he worked as an excise agent while continuing to write. Despite his early death at the age of 37 (he had an unhealthy heart, it seems), Burns produced a large body of work, including the popular Scot anthem "Scots Wha Hae" and the poem "A Red, Red Rose."
Extra credit: Burns fans around the world remember him with annual "Burns Dinners," haggis-rich fetes held on or near his birthday.
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