Robert Burns (1759-1796) was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the National Poet of Scotland and a cultural icon. Though much of his poems are in English with a light Scots dialect, he is well known for his skill at writing in the Scots language. His many casual love affairs were legendary. One of his earliest poems, O, Once I Lov’d a Bonnie Lass, was inspired by a young girl named, Nelly Kilpatrick, who worked on his father’s farm during the harvest of 1774. Famous songs he wrote include Auld Lang Syne (1788) and A Red, Red Rose (1794).
O, Once I Lov’d a Bonie Lass
Once I lov’d a bonie lass,
Ay, and I love her still;
And whilst that virtue warms my breast,
I’ll love my handsome Nell.
As bonie lasses I hae seen,
And mony full as braw;
But, for a modest gracefu’ mein,
The like I never saw.
A bonie lass, I will confess,
Is pleasant to the e’e;
But, without some better qualities,
She’s no a lass for me.
But Nelly’s looks are blythe and sweet,
And what is best of a’,
Her reputation is complete,
And fair without a flaw.
She dresses aye sae clean and neat,
Both decent and genteel;
And then there’s something in her gait
Gars ony dress look weel.
A gaudy dress and gentle air
May slightly touch the heart;
But it’s innocence and modesty
That polishes the dart.
‘Tis this in Nelly pleases me,
‘Tis this enchants my soul;
For absolutely in my breast
She reigns without control.
To a Kiss
Humid seal of soft affections,
Tend’rest pledge of future bliss,
Dearest tie of young connections,
Love’s first snow-drop, virgin kiss.
Speaking silence, dumb confession,
Passion’s birth, and infants’ play,
Dove-like fondness, chaste concession,
Glowing dawn of brighter day.
Sorrowing joy, adieu’s last action,
Ling’ring lips,—no more to join!
What words can ever speak affection
Thrilling and sincere as thine!
A Red, Red Rose
O my Luve is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.
So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only luve!
And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my luve,
Though it were ten thousand mile.