Links to other poems in the set

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
  • To A Mouse - Burns was ploughing the farm he and his family leased, along with his brother, Gilbert, when he accidentally destroyed a mouse’s nest. He moves from reassurance and apology to considering the role and fears of humanity

Poems which create a narrative voice or persona

  • 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
  • To a Mouse - the persona is a ploughman who has just destroyed the mouse’s nest and is genuinely sorry. 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 present a negative picture of humanity

  • To a Mouse - having described the terrible plight of a mouse, caused by humanity’s dominating force, the poem suggests the parallels between this and the suffering of humanity facing an uncertain future
  • 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

Poem that challenges opinions of Burns’ day

  • A Poet’s Welcome - the poem challenges the establishment in the form of the kirk, or church, who demanded that the parents should be ashamed of the birth of their child, because they were not married
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