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Robert Burns joins a family circle

Robert Burns's poem about a Scottish tenant farmer, ``The Cotter's Saturday Night'' (1785), excerpted here, was -- in his brother Gilbert's view -- a precise image of their father but not of the children, none of whom was in service to other farmers. Written when the poet was in his 20s, it mixes the literary style of the period with the vernacular for which Burns became known. November chill blaws loud wi' angry sugh; The shortening winter-day is near a close; The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh; The blackening trains o' craws to their repose: The toil-worn Cotter frae his labour goes, This night his weekly moil is at an end, Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes, Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend, And weary, o'er the moor, his course does hameward bend. At length his lonely cot appears in view, Beneath the shelter of an aged tree; The expectant wee things, toddlin', stacher through To meet their Dad, wi' flichterin' noise an' glee. His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonnilie, His clean hearth-stane, his thrifty wifie's smile, The lisping infant prattling on his knee Does a' his weary kiaugh and care beguile, An' makes him quite forget his labour an' his toil. Belyve the elder bairns come drapping in, At service out, amang the farmers roun'; Some ca' the pleugh, some herd, some tentie rin A cannie errand to a neibor town: Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman-grown, In youthfu' bloom, love sparkling in her e'e, Comes hame, perhaps, to shew a braw new gown, Or deposite her sair-won penny-fee, To help her parents dear, if they in hardship be. With joy unfeigned brothers and sisters meet, An' each for other's weelfare kindly spiers: The social hours, swift-winged, unnoticed fleet; Each tells the uncos that he sees or hears; The parents, partial, eye their hopeful years; Anticipation forward points the view. The mother, wi' her needle an' her sheers, Gars auld claes look amaist as weel's the new; The father mixes a' wi' admonition due.

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