Links to other poems in the set

Poems which create a narrative voice or persona

  • Holy Willie’s Prayer - the dramatic monologue is spoken by the hypocrite Willie who reveals his own spitefulness and prejudice through his own voice. By describing his own bad deeds, making excuses for them and telling God to curse his enemies, he shows how insincere his ‘Christian’ viewpoint really is
  • A Poet’s Welcome - the persona is a proud father who is not ashamed of having a child outside marriage. He is very close to the personality of Burns himself
  • Tam O’Shanter - the persona tells the story of Tam and the witches. He occasionally steps into the story himself to provide a moral, but these moral moments do not seem as sincere as his wholehearted enjoyment of the excitement of the narrative

Poems which focus on human warmth, compassion and life-affirming qualities

  • Tam O’Shanter - though apparently a moral lesson on the dangers of drink, the poem is full of the joys of conviviality, a thrilling gallop through a storm and of enjoyment of country dancing
  • A Poet’s Welcome - the poem, in focusing on the pride and love of the new father, affirms the importance of human warmth and the life-affirming celebration of her birth

Poems which present a negative picture of humanity

  • A Poet’s Welcome - the poem suggests that there are many in the community who are eager to gossip maliciously and take a nasty-minded enjoyment in criticising others
  • Holy Willie’s Prayer - the pride, hypocrisy and vindictiveness of Willie are chilling, especially as he believes himself to be chosen specially by God to be rewarded on earth and in Heaven

Poems which celebrate aspects of ‘ordinary’ life

  • Tam O’Shanter - Tam is an ordinary, flawed human being who finds great enjoyment in ‘normal’ activities like drinking with his friend and is saved by his horse, a very down-to-earth and ordinary part of country life
  • A Poet’s Welcome - the child’s father is not rich but shows a generous, warm-hearted spirit in promising to share his last coin with her, while his love for her as a proud father is both ‘ordinary’- as it happens to so many people- but also very special
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