The Poems and Songs of Robert Burns by Robert Burns
Robert Burns was born near Ayr, Scotland, 25th of January, 1759. He was the son of William Burnes, or Burness, at the time of the poet's birth a nurseryman on the banks of the Doon in Ayrshire. His father, though always extremely poor, attempted to give his children a fair education, and Robert, who was the eldest, went to school for three years in a neighboring village, and later, for shorter periods, to three other schools in the vicinity. But it was to his father and to his own reading that he owed the more important part of his education; and by the time that he had reached manhood he had a good knowledge of English, a reading knowledge of French, and a fairly wide acquaintance with the masterpieces of English literature from the time of Shakespeare to his own day. In 1766 William Burness rented on borrowed money the farm of Mount Oliphant, and in taking his share in the effort to make this undertaking succeed, the future poet seems to have seriously overstrained his physique.