Robert Burns Poetic Analysis
Robert Burns is considered one of the most influential writers in the eighteenth century. Burns is regarded as a pre-Romantic poet, which can be seen through his writing that elaborated on his sensitivity through nature, religious practice, and traditional culture during his time. Coming from a humble background made him the voice of the common Scottish man. Robert Burns was born in Scotland during a tempestuous time. There were several transitions that impacted the way of life of the Scottish. One of them was the Scottish language and culture being impacted by the English language and poetry. How important was it to keep their Scottish identity is unknown. He also tended to elaborate on the distinct social classes throughout his poems, which were evident (the changes from agricultural to Industrial). Burns’ poetry was written in his native Scottish language and English. Although his writing appears to be simpleminded, it was very pragmatic and had more to offer to the reader. He was a good casual observer, and would write with strong feeling and empathy, which are reflected in “To a Louse” and “Tam O’ Shanter” poems. Sympathy is defined as the harmony of, or agreement in feeling, as between persons, or on the part of one person with respect to another. Robert happened to convey just that in his poem “To a Louse.” The poem is written in a six-line AAABAB rhyme scheme for each stanza. He uses Scottish colloquialism as well as some English. It is clear that in this poem there are some religious and class distinction undertones. Burns introduces us to a louse crawling on a ladies’ bonnet in the first stanza. In lines nine and ten he states, “How daur ye set your fit upon her- Sae fine a lady?” Burns is outraged that a louse is on a pious woman. He seems to feel embarrassed for her since it looks strange that a louse would be on an elegant woman. The louse signifies the sins, or imperfections this woman has. On the outside it looks quite strange that a woman would have such a degrading parasitic insect on her bonnet. The louse on the other hand, signifies impurity, filthiness, and imperfections. A “fine” woman of the church who is well dressed is usually wealthy and close to God. Burns also juxtaposes a saint and a sinner (poor and rich), which implies the Catholic dogma at that time. The Catholic Church was in control and Burns openly challenges the old ways of thinking. The woman could have offered money as an (indulgence) in order to receive forgiveness and be close to God. He implies by lines eleven and twelve that the louse should be on a beggar instead of the fine lady. In the sixth stanza he elaborates more on how he would not be surprised if a louse was on a poor child or on an old ladies’ flannel cap. On the seventh stanza he cannot bare it any longer that the louse on the ladies bonnet and tells her of the incident. He seems to know her since he calls her by the name of “Jeany.” Burns tells her not to move, or tilt her head in order not to draw too much attention. That could just save her from embarrassment. Lastly, the last stanza is what really brings this poem together. The deep meaning behind is what puts everything into perspective in lines twenty-nine through thirty-four: “O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!”
Burns turns to God in order to realize how other people perceive us. It does not matter if you are rich or poor because no one can escape the unsanitary diseases humanity, and nature has in store for everyone. At the end of the day there is no division, or special treatment for anyone. If this lady could see herself as other people see her, she could save herself from embarrassment and even receive salvation from her egocentric self. Only God can go skin deep, and see the true malicious intentions people hide...
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