Rear High thy Bleak Majestic Hills


Robert Burns (1759-96) is best known for his poems and songs that reflect Scotland's cultural heritage. He was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland, the first of seven children belonging to William Burnes, a tenant farmer, and his wife Agnes Broun. Burns had little formal education, but he read English literature and absorbed the traditional, largely oral Scots-language folk songs and tales of his rural environment. He began to compose songs in 1774, and published his first book, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, in 1786. The work was a critical success, and its poems in both Scots and English, on a range of topics, established Burns's broad appeal. While building his literary reputation, Burns worked as a farmer, and in 1788 he was appointed an excise officer in Ellisland. He spent the final 12 years of his life collecting and editing traditional Scottish folk songs for collections including The Scots Musical Museum and A Select Collection of Original Scotish [sic] Airs for the Voice. Burns contributed hundreds of Scottish songs to these anthologies, sometimes rewriting traditional lyrics and setting them to new or revised music. This poem was written by William Roscoe, "dedicated to the memory of the poet Robert Burns." It was originally published without a title in 1800 in Dr. James Currie's The Works of Robert Burns. The manuscript is accompanied by an engraved portrait of the historian, dated 1813. Roscoe lead a professional life as an attorney in Liverpool, while delving into literature and art, collecting works as well as writing biographies. He took Robert Burns and his works in high regard, later corresponding with Currie regarding the publication of his manuscripts. His suggestions were accepted by Currie, and fully incorporated into the biography.

Last updated: September 18, 2015