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Robert BurnsRobert Burns
January 25, 1759 – July 21, 1796

Robert Burns was a poet and lyricist. National poet of Scotland and celebrated worldwide. He was the pioneer of the Romantic Movement and after his death became inspiration to the founders of liberalism.

Burns’ youth was passed in poverty, hardship and labor. He had little regular schooling and got much of what education he had from his father and a tutor who taught him Latin, French and mathematics.

In 1783 he started composing poetry in a traditional style, using Ayrshire dialect. Also, collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. One of the most famous and popular poems in history were written by him – “Auld Lang Syne”, often sung at New Year’s Eve, “A Red, Red Rose”, “A Man’s A Man for A’ That”, “To a Louse” and so on… “Scots Wha Hae” served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of Scotland.

Robert Burns was initiated into Lodge St.David Tarbolton on 4 July 1781, when he was 22. He was passed and raised on 1 October 1781. Later, his lodge became dormant and he joined St.James Tarbolton Kilwinning #135.

He was very active as a mason. On 27 July 1784, Burns became Deputy Master, a position he held until 1788, often honoured with supreme command. He had a real passion for freemasonry and believed that true Masonic friendship cannot be disassociated from the Lodge room. He must have been a very popular and well-respected Deputy Master, since there were more lodge meetings and more attendance during the Burns period, then at any other time.

In early 1787, he joined lodges in Edinburgh, where he was also very respected and in the books was recorded as a “poet”. Edinburgh Freemasons sponsored the publishing of his poems and spread his name and fame across Scotland, England and abroad.

He spent months touring Scotland, first the south and then the High Lands, visiting Lodges and becoming an honorary member of a number of them.

Burns echoed the sentiments of many of his day, calling for “liberty, fraternity and equality”, and speaking out against the excesses of the secular, as well as religious establishment. Most certainly, Burns’s commitment to the ideals of the Enlightenment came from his membership in the Masonic Lodge, much praised and damned for it’s equality, both in political and religious matters, among its members.

But besides these lofty ideals, the lodge also appealed to Burns for other reasons; the camaraderie and spirit of brotherhood that prevailed in the lodge room and the charity towards the widow and orphan. According to William L. Fox in “The Near Miss of Robert Burns”, “He found in the experience [of being a Freemason] something unlike the political and religious institutions that had kept his father in a state of perpetual frustration”(p.7). For Burns, Freemasonry was one of the cures for his society’s numerous social ills.

His works are strongly influenced by the Craft. Many of them can be considered Masonic Hymns. In every single one of his works there is a call for brotherly love, relief, truth. Here is a perfect example for that:

A Man’s A Man For All That

Is there for honest poverty
That hangs his head, and all that?
The coward slave, we pass him by –
We dare be poor for all that!
For all that, and all that,
Our toils obscure, and all that,
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The man’s the gold for all that.

What though on homely fare we dine,
Wear course grey woolen, and all that?
Give fools their silks, and knaves their wine –
A man is a man for all that.
For all that, and all that,
Their tinsel show, and all that,
The honest man, though ever so poor,
Is king of men for all that.

You see yonder fellow called ‘a lord,’
Who struts, and stares, and all that?
Though hundreds worship at his word,
He is but a dolt for all that.
For all that, and all that,
His ribboned, star, and all that,
The man of independent mind,
He looks and laughs at all that.

A prince can make a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, and all that!
But an honest man is above his might –
Good faith, he must not fault that
For all that, and all that,
Their dignities, and all that,
The pith of sense and pride of worth
Are higher rank than all that.

Then let us pray that come it may
(As come it will for a’ that)
That Sense and Worth over all the earth
Shall have the first place and all that!
For all that, and all that,
It is coming yet for all that,
That man to man the world over
Shall brothers be for all that.

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