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'The Simple Bard, unbroke by rules or Art'. (Burns epigraph to the Kilmarnockedition). How does Burns cultivate a bardic persona in his poems?

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Introduction

'The Simple Bard, unbroke by rules or Art'. (Burns epigraph to the Kilmarnock edition). How does Burns cultivate a bardic persona in his poems? Burns's cultivation of a bardic persona is predominantly forged by the intrinsic unity between content and form. The technical aspects of vernacular, epistolary form and the habbie stanza create the illusion of apparent simplicity. The deceptive complexity of Burns's technique, ironically serves to undermine his social superiors whilst allowing Burns to plead diminished responsibility, this allows him a freedom in his condemnation. The establishment of the ironic duality posits Burns's bardic persona as both, a character of love and compassion, but also allows him the capacity to condemn his social superiors with penetrating invective hatred. It is the underpinning of Burns's contrast with his social superiors that intensifies the bardic achievement of climbing Parnassus at the expense of his social superiors. It is from the top of Parnassus that the bard relays his commandments like Moses. The bard sings to his own agrarian world, and that of industrial society, that it is his philosophy that 'fulfils great Nature's plan' (p. 140). In his preface, to the 1786 Kilmarnock edition of his poems, Burns says 'Unacquainted with the necessary requisites of commencing Poet by Rule, he sings the sentiments and manners, he felt and saw in himself and his rustic compeers around him, in his and their native language'1. This is a particularly important counterpoint in the cultivating of the bardic persona. Douglas Dunn says of Burns, 'he expresses his allegedly humble, local verse and stunted artistry in vigorous, virtuosic measures'2. ...read more.

Middle

These are Burn's 'sentiments and manners, he felt and saw in himself and his rustic compeers around him...8'. This mode of existence creates its own values and morality, without prejudice, inhumanity and a unilateral mindset conforming to moral relativism. G. Scott Wilson says 'The epistle form could communicate an alternative morality'9. Wilson's point is an astute one, though Burns not only alludes to an alternative morality, but also lays the foundations for an alternative mode of existence, beyond the realm of corrupt society: Then turn me, if Thou please adrift Thro' Scotland wide; Wi' cits nor lairds I wadna shift, In a' their pride! (p. 139) This alternative mode of existence is the foundation of Burns's philosophy of the bardic persona, it is in the humble peasant and his rustic community that the bard will find his voice, a voice to 'Heave Care o'er-side!' (p. 50). Burns alternative society headed by the bard, is reminiscent of the role of the bard in 'Love and Liberty'. It is he who takes centre stage to condemn society, whilst drawing the 'glowran byke' (p. 586) from town to town to take his path, 'Adown some trottin burns meander' (p. 144). It is through the cultivation of the bard, that Burns gains authority in his position. The position of the bard in his rustic setting works in a reciprocal way. It is from this setting that Burns gains his inspiration to 'taen the fit o' rhyme' (p. 49). What has inspired him is the purity of the surroundings, coupled with the goodness of the people, and the simplicity of their way of life. ...read more.

Conclusion

In order to cultivate the bardic persona Burns felt it imperative to ally his position with the plight of Wallace, rallying against the oppression of his people at the hands of political and social corruption. Burns's plight is not that of the nationalist. Wallace is used to illuminate the distinction between Burns, the man of the peasant class, rallying not against the English, but the corruption of 'the city-gent,/ Behind a kist to lie an' sklent' (p. 139). Wallace lends his cultural authority, for Burns to take his humanitarian stance against the 'sordid sons o' Mammon's line' (p. 140). The bardic persona that Burns creates sets up the distinctions and conflicts, between industrial society, and his own diminishing agrarian community. Burns creates a 'BARD of no regard' (p. 583) persona in order to undermine the pretensions of his social betters and free him from the poetic constraints of content and form. It is in Burns's technical majesty that his deception has him say, But by your leaves, my learned foes,/ Ye're maybe wrang (p.134). This acknowledgment of his own superiority over his social superiors introduces the reader, into the ironic duality of Burns's technique. The looseness of the Habbie combined with the Scots vernacular, the 'enchanted fairy-land' (p. 50) perspective of Burns, presents a total freedom. The constituent attributes of the technique's intrinsic unity with the epistle's content, emphasises the inhumanity of the social regime, whilst illuminating the sincere, carefree idyll of the united agrarian community. The significance of the bard is his means of uniting mankind in song. The unity that Burns creates in his community is conveyed through the intensity of imaginative power, absorbing what he sees and presenting it spontaneously. This illuminates the essence of his own 'mild sphere' (p. 140) opposed to the 'grumbling hive' (p. 144) of society. ...read more.

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