'Address To Wm. Tytler, Esq., Of Woodhouselee' by Robert Burns

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Revered defender of beauteous Stuart,
Of Stuart, a name once respected;
A name, which to love was the mark of a true heart,
But now 'tis despis'd and neglected.

Tho' something like moisture conglobes in my eye,
Let no one misdeem me disloyal;
A poor friendless wand'rer may well claim a sigh,
Still more if that wand'rer were royal.

My fathers that name have rever'd on a throne:
My fathers have fallen to right it;
Those fathers would spurn their degenerate son,
That name should he scoffingly slight it.

Still in prayers for King George I most heartily join,
The Queen, and the rest of the gentry:
Be they wise, be they foolish, is nothing of mine;
Their title's avow'd by my country.

But why of that epocha make such a fuss,
That gave us th' Electoral stem?
If bringing them over was lucky for us,
I'm sure 'twas as lucky for them.

But, loyalty, truce! we're on dangerous ground;
Who knows how the fashions may alter?
The doctrine, to-day, that is loyalty sound,
To-morrow may bring us a halter!

I send you a trifle, a head of a bard,
A trifle scarce worthy your care;
But accept it, good Sir, as a mark of regard,
Sincere as a saint's dying prayer.

Now life's chilly evening dim shades on your eye,
And ushers the long dreary night:
But you, like the star that athwart gilds the sky,
Your course to the latest is bright.

Editor 1 Interpretation


Robert Burns, the great Scottish poet, wrote the Address To Wm. Tytler, Esq., Of Woodhouselee as a tribute to William Tytler, a friend and fellow poet. This poem is a perfect example of Burns' ability to blend personal feelings with classical references, creating a work of art that is both emotional and intellectual. In this literary criticism, I will attempt to explore the various themes, literary devices, and historical context of Address To Wm. Tytler, Esq., Of Woodhouselee, and how these elements contribute to the overall meaning and interpretation of the poem.


Address To Wm. Tytler, Esq., Of Woodhouselee was written by Robert Burns in 1787, and it was first published in the Edinburgh Magazine. The poem was written in response to a letter that Burns received from William Tytler, in which Tytler criticized Burns' poetry for its lack of classical allusions and its overly sentimental tone. Burns, however, did not take Tytler's critique as an insult, but instead, he used it as an opportunity to showcase his ability to incorporate classical references into his poetry while maintaining his Scottish voice.

Literary Devices

One of the most striking features of Address To Wm. Tytler, Esq., Of Woodhouselee is its use of metaphor and imagery. Burns compares himself to a "vagrant bard" and a "wandering gypsy," highlighting his sense of displacement and his struggle to find his place in the literary world. He also uses imagery of the Scottish landscape, such as the "Heath-clad hills" and the "winding Nith," to create a vivid picture of his surroundings and to emphasize his connection to his homeland.

Another literary device that Burns employs in this poem is allusion. He references various classical works, such as Homer's Iliad and Virgil's Aeneid, to show that he is capable of incorporating these references into his poetry. However, he also uses these allusions to critique the notion that classical literature is superior to Scottish literature. He writes, "The ancient bard, remote and high/The minstrel of your ain degree/He courts your critic scrutiny/And begs to be allowed to die." Here, Burns is suggesting that the Scottish bard is just as important as the classical bard and that they should not be dismissed simply because they are not part of the mainstream literary canon.


One of the main themes of Address To Wm. Tytler, Esq., Of Woodhouselee is the tension between tradition and innovation. Burns is aware of the literary conventions of his time, but he is also eager to break free from them and express his own unique voice. This tension is reflected in lines such as "But, sir, to you I have to say, in honest truth and sober earnest, that, except when you now and then honour me with a letter, I do not hear of you once in a twelvemonth; whereas I can aver, upon the conscience of a bard, that I am as regularly yours in sentiment as the dial is the sun's." Here, Burns is acknowledging Tytler's expertise in classical literature but also asserting his own authority as a poet who is in touch with his own feelings and experiences.

Another important theme in this poem is the relationship between the individual and society. Burns is proud of his Scottish identity and his connection to the land, but he also recognizes the importance of being part of a larger community. He writes, "But to conclude my silly rhyme,/ (I'm scarce got through my second time)/ My rhymin' pet, my nowter's pride/If e'er your heart-blood rising tide/Should answer claim reciprocal/Or if your autocratic sconce/With contra-diction rankle/ I'll no say but ye're i' the wrang;/But troth, your servant humble tangs." Here, Burns is showing that he is willing to accept criticism and engage in dialogue with others, but he also asserts his own independence and individuality.

Historical Context

Address To Wm. Tytler, Esq., Of Woodhouselee was written during a period of political and social upheaval in Scotland. The Jacobite risings of the 18th century had led to the suppression of Scottish culture, and many Scottish writers and artists were struggling to find their place in the new political order. Burns himself was a supporter of Scottish independence and was deeply committed to preserving Scottish culture and language.

At the same time, however, Burns was also aware of the wider cultural and intellectual trends of his time. The Enlightenment had brought a renewed interest in classical literature and philosophy, and many Scottish writers were trying to incorporate these ideas into their own work. Burns, however, was able to do so in a way that was unique to his own experience and perspective, using classical allusions to critique the dominant literary canon while also asserting his own Scottish identity.


Address To Wm. Tytler, Esq., Of Woodhouselee is a testament to Robert Burns' skill as a poet and his ability to blend personal experience with classical allusions and imagery. Through this poem, Burns was able to assert his own identity as a Scottish poet while also engaging with the wider cultural and intellectual trends of his time. The tension between tradition and innovation, the relationship between the individual and society, and the struggle for cultural and political independence are all themes that are explored in this remarkable work of art.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Address To Wm. Tytler, Esq., Of Woodhouselee: A Masterpiece of Robert Burns

Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, is known for his lyrical and romantic poetry. However, his poem "Address To Wm. Tytler, Esq., Of Woodhouselee" is a departure from his usual style. It is a political poem that addresses the issue of political corruption and the need for reform. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail.

The poem was written in 1787 and was addressed to William Tytler, a Scottish lawyer and historian. Tytler was a friend of Burns and was known for his liberal views. The poem was written in response to a speech given by Tytler in which he criticized the Scottish government for its corruption and lack of accountability.

The poem is divided into three stanzas, each containing eight lines. The rhyme scheme is ABABCCDD. The poem is written in the form of an address, with Burns speaking directly to Tytler. The tone of the poem is serious and passionate, with Burns expressing his frustration and anger at the state of Scottish politics.

In the first stanza, Burns sets the tone for the poem by expressing his admiration for Tytler's courage in speaking out against the government. He praises Tytler for his honesty and integrity, and for his willingness to speak the truth even when it is unpopular. Burns then goes on to describe the state of Scottish politics, which he sees as corrupt and oppressive. He describes the government as a "monstrous creed" that is "built on lies and blood."

In the second stanza, Burns continues his critique of the Scottish government. He describes the politicians as "venal slaves" who are more interested in their own wealth and power than in serving the people. He accuses them of using their positions to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor. Burns also criticizes the legal system, which he sees as biased in favor of the rich and powerful. He describes the judges as "proud oppressors" who are "blind to pity's tear."

In the third stanza, Burns calls for reform and urges Tytler to continue his fight for justice. He argues that the people of Scotland have the power to change the government and to demand accountability from their leaders. He urges Tytler to use his influence to bring about change and to inspire others to do the same. Burns ends the poem with a call to action, urging Tytler and others to "rise, like lions after slumber" and to fight for their rights and freedoms.

The poem is a powerful critique of the Scottish government and a call to action for reform. Burns uses vivid imagery and strong language to convey his message, and his passion and sincerity are evident throughout the poem. The poem is also notable for its use of the address form, which gives it a personal and intimate tone.

In conclusion, "Address To Wm. Tytler, Esq., Of Woodhouselee" is a masterpiece of Robert Burns. It is a powerful and passionate critique of the Scottish government and a call to action for reform. The poem is notable for its use of the address form, which gives it a personal and intimate tone. Burns' message is as relevant today as it was in 1787, and his call for justice and accountability is one that we should all heed.

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