Links to other poems in the set

Poem based on Burns’ knowledge and observation of country life

  • Tam O’Shanter - Burns describes aspects of country life, such as people gathering in the tavern at the end of market day and the superstitions about witchcraft revealed in the section of the narrative when Tam watches and then is chased by Nanny and her fellow-witches

Poems drawing from personal experience

  • A Poet’s Welcome - Burns’ first child was born outside marriage. He and the child’s mother, Betty, a servant girl, were publicly punished by the church for their behaviour. He is defiantly unrepentant and proud of his daughter in this poem
  • Holy Willie’s Prayer - Burns was a supporter of the New Licht, a progressive form of Christianity. When one of his friends, Gavin Hamilton, was viciously attacked for having potatoes dug up on a Sunday, Burns was prompted to criticise the Auld Licht through a character based on William Fisher

Poem looking at the unfairness of life

  • A Poet’s Welcome - a supposedly Christian community which expects new parents to be ashamed of their child because she was born outside marriage is clearly unfair. Burns refuses to express shame, instead openly celebrating his daughter of whom he is very proud

Poem that uses the ‘Address’ form talking to a ‘character’ who cannot actually understand or does not exist

  • A Poet’s Welcome - the speaker addresses his new-born daughter, showing his feelings of pride and tenderness towards her. He uses this opportunity to declare his defiance towards those who would criticise him for having a child when unmarried