Burns.The very name sets ablaze fierce emotions and reaches the deepest depth of feeling in all Scots. The very name reeks of and is Scotland.
Yet Burns was more. Like Da Vinci, Shakespeare, and Beethoven, Burns rises above limited nationalism to stride the stage of the world. His genius had a universal vision; his humanity embraced the common person world-wide; it goes beyond poetry to understand that the humble ambitions of a mouse are nearer to the grandest ambitions of Man than Man could ever realise.
And all this began in ‘an auld clay biggin’ in Alloway upon the 25th of January, 1759 when the first son of William Burnes (or Burness) and Agnes Broun was born. Raised in poverty as the eldest of seven, Burns substituted words for playthings; early on he was dazzled and fascinated by them as he learned to toss them about and watch them sparkle, form alluring pictures, and -- sometimes -- flare dangerously. The formal education that he had was little and provided by another remarkable man, John Murdoch, who nurtured Burns’ instinctive grasp of English. Another mark of the poet’s intelligence was his greedy devouring of books -- he loved Shakespeare. Later he would learn French and study geometry and surveying. His intellect soared above the conditions it found him in.