Friends we have once again reached another significant date relating to the calendar of Burns events, sadly it is not a date to be celebrated but one which, should certainly be recognised.
As man is born, so he must face the inevitable end of life.
O thou unknown, almighty cause of all my hope and fear!
In whose dread presence, ere an hour,
Perhaps I must appear!
On this day in 1796 the curtain closed on the tableau which was the short life of Scotland’s favourite son, who in his brief existence left a remarkable legacy to his fellow countrymen and in time the rest of humanity.
Since the star of Rabbie Burns was born on 25th January 1759 the child who would eventually become the poet of the heart, the heaven taught ploughman and ultimately Caledonia’s Bard would suffer elation, depression and the indignity of poverty in equal measure.
As he realised that he was not entirely suited to the precarious life of a farmer, although much of his best work was created at Ellisland, the conclusion that his future lay elsewhere in the employ of the government as a tax inspector was beckoning, he resolved to terminate his relationship with the land, leaving the farm and settling his family in the small vennel in Dumfries.
As his career with the excise developed resulting in promotion and the allocation of the property in the location now known as Burns Street, the one thing he could not escape was the burgeoning health problems he had endured for so many years.
Exacerbated by the fact that he was required to travel over 200 miles on horseback every week in the pursuit of his duties, his health deteriorated so much that he sought medical help and was prescribed the combined treatments of taking the water of the Brow Well and bathing in the Solway.
It is obvious that these combined circumstances hastened his death and that his precarious health certainly worsened to a state where he barely managed to make it home.
Like his father, Robert collapsed into fever and delirium and finally passed away on 21st July 1796, a date which should cause us to reflect not only on the premature loss of our greatest literary hero, but also the fragility of our relationship with nature.
I would be grateful if you would take a minute, no matter where you are in the world to consider and celebrate the life of Robert Burns.
An honest man lies here at rest, as e’er God wi’ his image blest,
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of age and guide of youth,
Few hearts like his with virtue warmed,
Few minds with knowledge so informed,
If there is another life he lives in bliss,
If there is none he made the best of this.