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Robert Burns : His Influences
Robert Burns was clearly a gifted child, growing up in a time of rapid change in society, agriculture, and the arts. Peoples lives changed and their thinking changed also. He was one of the fortunate children of the period, introduced to reading which opened new ideas and opportunities to the young Burns.
His life in the farming community also shaped his character. Burns was exposed to the joyous idyll of an agrarian lifestyle, and also to the meanest states that poverty could bring. All around him were examples of successful enterprise and grinding poverty, and all forms in between. The reality of farm life shines through Burn's poetry, as does his growing awareness of the nature of Scottish society and the changes being wrought there.
Despite a life based in agricultural labour, Burns acquired a good education and enjoyed social life. Yet despite being described as the "Heaven-taught ploughman", for most of his life he was a working farmer who accessed learning through personal determination.
Robert Burns helped at his father's smallholding at Alloway (until 1766), and then at Mount Oliphant near Ayr (1766-1777). Then at Lochlie by Tarbolton he worked as an equal with his father and brother (1777-1784). When his father died he moved to Mossgeil near Mauchline and shared the tenancy with his brother Gilbert. At the moment Burns moved to Ellisland (1788) near Dumfries he was a sole tenant for the first and only time in his life.
Burns and the Church