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Robert Burns (1759-1807?)


One day Burn’s farmer employer and a friend, Mr. Johnstone, were passing through a stable arch where Burns, as a stable boy was sweeping out the stable door. The two thought of having some fun at the expense of the poet lad, and Johnstone said:

You silly loon/lay down your broom

Till Johnstone he pass by.”

To which Burns throwing his broom to the other side, retorted:

Just like an ass/let Johnstone pass,

Between my broom and I.


Burns was advised by his literary friend Dr. Blair that he take time and leisure to improve his skills, adding: “For on any second production you give to the world, your fate as a poet, will very much depend.”

With a laugh Burns replied: “Thank you, doctor; while a man’s first book, like his first bairn is the best. ”


Burns once visiting a rich man’s library was struck by the collection of books, of which he sensed that the owner didn’t fully well appreciate. Before the visit was concluded the man showed particular interest about the binding which prompted the Scottish poet to pen these lines:

Through and through th’inspired leaves

Ye maggots, make your windings;

But O, respect his lordship’s taste,

And spare the golden bindings.”


At a dinner party Burns was talking to Mrs. Montague about his children, and particularly of his eldest son, whom he called a promising boy. Then he added: “And yet, you know, madam I hope he’ll turn out a glorious blockhead, and so make his fortune.”


The poet happened to stand on the quay at Green Oak, one day when a rich man from the town who fell into the harbor was being rescued. The merchant, when brought to safety, put his hand in his pocket and gave his rescuer, a shilling.

The crowd was quite audible in protesting at the smallness of the sum. Burns told them to stop their protests and added quietly, “This gentleman himself is te best judge of the value of his own life.”


While employed as an Excise man, one moonlit night he was awakened by the clatter of galloping horses. Looking out of the window he knew they were smugglers. “I fear ye’ll be to follow them, then.” said his wife.

Burn replied, “And so I would, Jane, were it Will Gunnion or Edgar Wright. But it is poor Brandyburn, and he has a wife and three kids. And he isn’t doing very well in his farm. What can I do?”


In the Dumfriesshire village of Thornhill a poor woman named Kate Watson plied the publican’s trade without a licence.

One day Burns the exciseman went in and pointing out to her contraband goods he asked, “Kate woman, are you mad? Don’t you know the supervisor and I will be upon you in the course of forty minutes? Goodbye t’ye for the present.”


One day the poet was walking along a village street, as usual keeping his eyes to the ground and two of his lady acquaintances, daughters of the parish minister went by. One of them called out his name and gently chided him on his lack of attention to the fair sex. She reminded him of his customary pose denied him ‘the most priceless privilege of man’ of watching the ladies and talking to them.

Burns listened quietly and replied,” Madam, it is natural and right thing for man to contemplate the ground from hence he was taken, and for woman to look upon and observe man from whom she was taken.”


Of his origin, Burns said: “My ancient, but ignoble blood, has crept through scoundrels ever since the flood.”

On the human race: “Lord! What is man? What a bustling little bundle of passions, appetites, ideas and fancies!

On himself: “Robert Burns, a man who had little art in making money and still less in keeping it; but was, however a man of some sense, a great deal of honesty, and unbounded goodwill to every creature, rational and irrational”.

A jolly Scot at heart, fond not only of bonnie lasses but also of social get-togethers, carousals and general revelry with wine, woman and song.

His gifts of humor and wit opened the noble houses as well as that of the humblest. He hated a hypocrite, a backbiter and a name dropper.( Ack: The wit of Robert Burns-comp: Gordon Irving. Pub. Leslie Frewin)


On a visit to Moffat a pretty health resort in the Dumfriesshire hills the poet saw two ladies, one tall and pretty and the other almost the ‘bonnie wee thing’ of his poems.

His companion asked why God had made one so petite and the other big.

Burns replied in verse:

Ask why God made the gem so small,

And why so huge the granite:

Because God meant mankind should set

The higher value on it.”

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