Robert Burns '˜Tam o'Shanter' explained

PROBABLY the most famous of Rabbie Burns' poems, Tam o'Shanter tells an epic tale of a likeable alcoholic living in the drinking era of Ayr in the Late 1700s.

Robert Burns.

Tam is a mock-masculine ‘hero’ in a supernatural story, according Professor Gerry Carruthers, an expert on Burns at Glasgow University.

The lead character in the poem sets off late on a dark night, full of drink, on his horse Meg, but on his travels, he spots a wild gathering of witches and warlocks partying with the devil.

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Five of Robert Burns' most famous poems

He mistakenly calls out to one of the witches, so sets off at speed in search of home - but with the gathering in pursuit.

Prof Carruthers said Tam is being chased on a small horse in the midst of mother nature while thinking about his wife at home.

The poem, he says, includes the supernatural with horror and humour but, perhaps most importantly, social comment.

He added: “It is about the ridiculous of the male psyche. In this tale feminists could probably see Burns as being on their side.

“It is a folk tale for an enlightened age, being fun and daft. It is not really about witches and devils but life.”

The poem has been described as a celebration of life-affirming enjoyment of the joys of this world and a recognition that human pleasure is fleeting, but all the more precious for that.