Even though his literary career spanned just a short period in the late eighteenth century, few would doubt that Robert Burns (1759–1796) remains the national poet of Scotland. Burns was born to a farmer who diligently tilled the fields of his smallholding in the southwestern Scottish county of Ayrshire. When their father died in 1784, Robert and his brother, Gilbert, took over the farm. By that time, Burns had already been writing poetry for a decade. He composed his first song at fifteen. Then, after a period of rapid intellectual and poetic development, his first collection of poems appeared in 1786—the so-called “Kilmarnock edition.” The educated elite of Edinburgh received Burns’s poetry with great relish. Burns seemed to satisfy their collective fantasy of a rural poet whose natural-born poetic genius enabled him to spontaneously generate masterful verse. Yet Burns was extremely well-read, with broad interests in Scottish folklore as well as literature, philosophy, and religion. Burns wrote in both dialect and standard English. He also explored many poetic forms, including verse epistles, satire, and mock-heroic narrative. Nevertheless, his literary reputation rests on the nearly three hundred songs he composed in the Scots dialect of English.