Robert Burns was a flawed man, not a god to be worshipped blindly – Scotsman comment

Robert Burns is celebrated as Scotland’s ‘bard’, at New Year when Auld Lang Syne is sung across the world, and, of course, today when countless Burns Nights will hear the Address to a Haggis as they enjoy our national dish.

However, it is important to remember Burns was a real human being, a mix of flaws and talents, and avoid turning him into a human icon, with criticisms dismissed out of hand.

A group of Scottish poets, called The Trysting Thorns, has now revealed new works designed to tackle his “misogyny and abuse” and treatment of women.

One of the group, Morag Anderson, said that Burns was now “more myth than man”. “I would like Scotland to remove the tartan blinkers and take an honest look at Robert Burns, celebrate that which is worthy of celebration, but attend to the misogyny and abuse which is rife throughout his work,” she said.

Her words echoed those of former Makar Liz Lochhead who, in 2018, wrote how she had become persona non grata on social media after comparing Burns to disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein.

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However Lochhead pointed out that Burns himself “truly despised” hypocrites and “never pretended to be other than a man riven by the deepest contradictions. All of them ‘true’, all fundamental to his character”.

The Bard was an extraordinary poet whose words have inspired many people around the world, from the 19th century US President Abraham Lincoln to poet, writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. But we should resist temptations to deify the man or make him the personification of Scottishness.

The quality of Robert Burns' poetry should not obscure his character flaws (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA)

After all, “a man's a man for aw that”.

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