'In The Character Of A Ruined Farmer' by Robert Burns

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Tune - "Go from my window, Love, do."

The sun he is sunk in the west,
All creatures retired to rest,
While here I sit, all sore beset,
With sorrow, grief, and woe:
And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!

The prosperous man is asleep,
Nor hears how the whirlwinds sweep;
But Misery and I must watch
The surly tempest blow:
And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!

There lies the dear partner of my breast;
Her cares for a moment at rest:
Must I see thee, my youthful pride,
Thus brought so very low!
And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!

There lie my sweet babies in her arms;
No anxious fear their little hearts alarms;
But for their sake my heart does ache,
With many a bitter throe:
And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!

I once was by Fortune carest:
I once could relieve the distrest:
Now life's poor support, hardly earn'd
My fate will scarce bestow:
And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!

No comfort, no comfort I have!
How welcome to me were the grave!
But then my wife and children dear-
O, wither would they go!
And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!

O whither, O whither shall I turn!
All friendless, forsaken, forlorn!
For, in this world, Rest or Peace
I never more shall know!
And it's O, fickle Fortune, O!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, In The Character Of A Ruined Farmer by Robert Burns

Have you ever read a poem that pierced your heart and made you feel the pain and struggles of its protagonist? If you haven't, then you must read "Poetry, In The Character Of A Ruined Farmer" by Robert Burns. This classic poem portrays the tragic life of a farmer who has lost his land and livelihood, and is now left to wander the streets as a beggar. Burns' use of vivid imagery, powerful metaphors, and poignant language makes this poem a masterpiece of Scottish literature that continues to resonate with readers even after two centuries.

Historical Context

Before we dive into the poem itself, let's take a look at the historical context in which it was written. Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and lyricist who lived during the 18th century. He was born in 1759 in Ayrshire, Scotland, and grew up in a family of farmers. However, Burns was not content with a life of farming and instead turned to poetry as a means of expressing his emotions and observations about the world around him.

"Poetry, In The Character Of A Ruined Farmer" was written in 1784, at a time of great social and economic upheaval in Scotland. The country was still recovering from the Jacobite uprising of 1745, which had led to the suppression of the Scottish clan system and the imposition of English control over Scottish affairs. This had a profound impact on Scottish society, particularly on the rural population, who found it increasingly difficult to make a living from farming.

Poem Analysis

The poem begins with a powerful opening line that sets the tone for the rest of the work:

"Weary fa' you, Duncan Gray, Ha, ha, the girdin' o't!"

This line is addressed to Duncan Gray, a popular Scottish folk character who is often associated with the hardships of rural life. The use of the word "weary" immediately conveys a sense of exhaustion and despair, while the "girdin' o't" refers to the act of tightening a belt or girdle, suggesting that the speaker is struggling to make ends meet.

The first stanza goes on to describe the farmer's current situation:

"Money maks the man: A farmer wants a wife, a lairdship ayont her; Then, wow! he's the man: He'll bleach his peats, and milk his kye, And shear his sheep, and sell his grain, And live in mirth and plenty."

Here, Burns is highlighting the importance of money in Scottish society. The farmer, we are told, needs a wife and a lairdship (landed estate) to be considered a success. Without these things, he is nothing. The reference to "bleaching peats" and "milking kye" are both activities associated with rural life, and suggest that the farmer is engaged in hard physical labour. However, despite his efforts, he is still struggling to make a living.

The second stanza continues in a similar vein:

"But warily tent when a' thing's well, A' sudden storms that round him swell - Dark night, awa' frae wealth and state, The wretch that lags behind them late! O, Poverty, be still thy tears; For, wi' my wealth, thy state appears!"

Here, Burns is warning against complacency. The farmer may have a small measure of success, but he must always be wary of sudden storms that could destroy his livelihood. The reference to "Dark night" suggests that these storms may come at any time, and that the farmer is always in danger of losing everything. The use of the word "wretch" to describe the farmer is particularly powerful, as it conveys a sense of utter hopelessness.

The third stanza is perhaps the most poignant:

"Why, why should the poor be flouted, Or the rich be praised beyond deserving? And why should favour crowd about The rich, the auld, conceited rover? What though my back be at the pleugh, My hands cast out the houf and sough, That make the erses (cattle) break their cough, And a' my mind a-glowing? -

This stanza speaks to the heart of Burns' message. Why, he asks, should the poor be looked down upon while the rich are praised? Why should favour always be shown to the wealthy and the old? The farmer in the poem may be engaged in hard physical labour, but his mind is always "a-glowing" with ideas and thoughts. Burns is highlighting the fact that the poor are just as intelligent and creative as the rich, and that they deserve to be respected and appreciated.

The final stanza brings the poem to a close:

"Wi' cares and troubles I'm familiar, I mind them, and they dinnae vex me; Hoosever can look up and smile, And, bless the giver, and the gift beguile, Then, ware a' care, and fear, and guile, And live like me, in rhyme!"

Here, Burns is suggesting that the farmer, despite his hardships, has found a way to be happy. He is familiar with "cares and troubles", but they do not vex him. Instead, he is able to look up and smile, and to appreciate the small joys in life. Burns is encouraging his readers to do the same - to live in the moment, to be grateful for what they have, and to find happiness in the midst of hardship.


"Poetry, In The Character Of A Ruined Farmer" is a powerful and poignant work of Scottish literature that continues to resonate with readers today. Burns' use of vivid imagery, powerful metaphors, and poignant language creates a vivid picture of the struggles faced by the rural poor in 18th century Scotland. At the same time, the poem is a testament to the resilience and creativity of the human spirit, and an exhortation to find happiness in the midst of hardship. If you haven't read this classic poem, then I urge you to do so - it may just change your life.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry In The Character Of A Ruined Farmer: A Masterpiece by Robert Burns

Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, is known for his exceptional poetry that reflects the struggles and joys of the common man. One of his most famous works, Poetry In The Character Of A Ruined Farmer, is a masterpiece that captures the essence of the plight of the farmers in Scotland during the 18th century.

The poem is written in the form of a monologue, with the speaker being a farmer who has lost everything due to the harsh economic conditions of the time. The poem is divided into four stanzas, each of which highlights a different aspect of the farmer's life and the challenges he faces.

In the first stanza, the farmer talks about his past life, when he was prosperous and had everything he needed. He talks about his fields, his cattle, and his family, and how he was happy and content with his life. However, he also acknowledges that his prosperity was short-lived, and that he was soon to face hard times.

The second stanza is where the farmer talks about the challenges he faced, and how he lost everything he had. He talks about the harsh weather conditions, the high taxes, and the low prices he received for his produce. He also talks about how he had to borrow money to keep his farm running, and how he was eventually unable to pay back his debts.

The third stanza is where the farmer talks about the emotional toll that his situation has taken on him. He talks about how he has lost his self-respect, and how he is no longer able to provide for his family. He also talks about how he has lost his faith in God, and how he feels abandoned and alone.

The final stanza is where the farmer talks about his hopes for the future. He talks about how he still has some land left, and how he hopes to be able to make a living from it. He also talks about how he hopes that his children will be able to have a better life than he has had.

The poem is a powerful commentary on the economic and social conditions of the time, and how they affected the lives of ordinary people. It is a testament to the resilience and determination of the farmers, who despite facing immense challenges, still held on to hope for a better future.

The language used in the poem is simple and straightforward, yet it is incredibly powerful. Burns uses vivid imagery and metaphors to convey the farmer's emotions and experiences. For example, in the second stanza, he talks about how the farmer's "wee bit ingle, blinkin bonnily" is now "nae mair than a rotten stump". This metaphor perfectly captures the farmer's loss and despair.

The poem is also notable for its use of Scots dialect, which adds to its authenticity and realism. Burns was a master of the Scots language, and he used it to great effect in his poetry. The use of dialect also helps to convey the farmer's character and background, and adds to the overall impact of the poem.

In conclusion, Poetry In The Character Of A Ruined Farmer is a masterpiece of Scottish poetry, and a testament to the resilience and determination of the common man. Burns' use of language and imagery is powerful and evocative, and his portrayal of the farmer's struggles is both realistic and moving. The poem is a timeless classic that continues to resonate with readers today, and it is a fitting tribute to the enduring spirit of the Scottish people.

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