Burns – Worst Farmer – May 1896

Burns stands in the peculiar relation to the class from which he sprang in that he is at once its crowning glory and its deepest shame; for while he sang of the peasant’s life so that half of the world regards it with wondering delight, he so lived that life as to end it in disastrous failure.

If he was the greatest man in Scotland at the end of the 18th century, he was just assuredly the worst farmer. It is the very irony of coincidence that the western peasants with their powers of dour grinding labour and their rigid morality should keep the warmest nook in their hearts for such a ne’er do weel as Robert Burns.

In spite of his utter failure as a farmer, it is in our class that Burns is most appreciated and chiefly beloved. Unlike the prophets he is first honoured among his own kind in Scotland, not to speak of other countries. But when we mingle with the farmers, particularly in the West, we find his words on their tongue as the bible coloured the speech of the Puritans.

More than all he asked for in his most serious and ambitious dreams has been granted him. The song he sang for “poor auld Scotland’s sake” is still the song of songs. But could he know of all the honours that are heaped upon his name, he would cherish most this — that we whose poet in a peculiar and intimate sense he is “we loe him like a vera brother.”

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