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Robert Burns (1759-1796), also familiarly known as Rabbie Burns, the Bard of Ayrshire, and in Scotland as simply "The Bard," is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and a key figure in the Romantic movement. His poetry and songs have a special place in the Scottish cultural landscape and have resonated beyond literary circles, influencing the works of many writers and thinkers worldwide.

Literary Background: Burns was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland, to a tenant farmer. Despite his humble beginnings, he received a good education and began reading voraciously from a young age. His poetic talents emerged early, and by his mid-twenties, he had begun to compose poetry in earnest. The late 18th century, when Burns wrote most of his works, was a time of profound social and intellectual upheaval. The Scottish Enlightenment was in full swing, and the American and French revolutions were reshaping political thought around the globe.

Early Influences: Burns's early influences were the folk songs and stories of his native Scotland, the Bible, and the works of earlier Scottish poets such as Allan Ramsay and Robert Fergusson. The poetry of Alexander Pope also had an impact on his verse forms. His own life—his work on the farm, his encounters with the opposite sex, and his sympathy for the poor—would also influence his writing.

Poetic Schools or Movements: Burns is often associated with Romanticism, although he was a predecessor to the movement. His focus on nature, emotion, and the common people aligned with Romantic ideals. He also displayed a marked propensity for social commentary, which endeared him to later Romantic poets and thinkers. His works expressed a deep empathy for the human condition and a certain rebelliousness against social and religious orthodoxy.

Poetic Oeuvre: Phases and Themes: Burns's work is marked by a deep appreciation of nature, love, and fraternity. His poems and songs such as "To a Mouse," "A Red, Red Rose," and "Auld Lang Syne" capture the universality of human experience, showcasing his lyrical prowess and his skill in using the Scots language. His satirical works, such as "Holy Willie's Prayer" and "The Holy Fair," criticize religious hypocrisy and social inequalities.

Burns also composed in standard English, and his work in this language, including such poems as "The Cotter's Saturday Night," is characterized by a sentimental and pastoral quality. His Scottish works, however, tend to be more biting and humorous.

Influence: Burns's influence extends far beyond Scotland. He inspired the founders of both liberalism and socialism with his visions of fraternity and equality. His poems and songs, many of which were set to traditional Scottish folk tunes, have become cultural treasures not only in Scotland but also around the world. He is celebrated worldwide on Burns Night, January 25th, with readings of his works and traditional Scottish fare.

Honors: Burns was celebrated in his own time as a poet of the people, and his legacy has only grown since his death. Monuments and memorials to Burns can be found in Scotland and many other countries. He has appeared on postage stamps and banknotes, and his birthplace is now a museum.

Conclusion: Robert Burns's contributions to literature and culture are immeasurable. His ability to touch upon the universal themes of love, nature, and fraternity, while also engaging with the pressing social issues of his time, makes his work timeless. The Bard’s oeuvre continues to be a source of national pride for Scotland and an enduring legacy in the global literary canon. His life, like his verse, celebrated the human spirit in all its facets, from the tender to the revolutionary, earning him a place among the pantheon of great poets.

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