Brother Robert Burns

 Meerschaum Pipe

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Brother Robert Burns was one of the most celebrated and best loved of Scottish Poets.  William Pitt has said of his poetry, "that he could think of none since Shakespeare's that had so much the appearance of sweetly coming from nature."  Robert Burns, or Robert Burness, as the name was originally spelled, was born at Kirk Alloway, near the town of Ayr, January 25th, 1759.  His father was a religious peasant-farmer living in a humble cottage on the banks of the Doon, the river destined to be eulogized so touchingly in many of Burns' verses in after life.  Burns died in the 37th year of his life on July 21st, 1796, broken in health.  For years he had been feted, lionized and honored by the entire Scottish nation.  At the age of 23 he became closely associated with the local Freemasonry, being initiated July 4, 1781, in St. David's Lodge, Tarlbolton, shortly after the two Lodges of Saint David, No. 174, and Saint James, No. 178, in the town were united.  He took is Second and Third Degrees in the month of October following his initiation.   In December Saint David's Lodge was divided and the old Lodge of St. James was reconstituted, Burns becoming a member.  He served that Lodge as Depute Master in 1784.   From this time on Freemasonry became to the poet a great and propelling power.  At the time of his initiation into St. David's Lodge Burns was unnoticed and unknown and, it must be admitted, somewhat unpolished in manner, although he had managed to secure before his sixteenth year what was then considered to be an "elegant" education.  With almost no exceptions his boon companions were all Freemasons and this close association with Brethren, many of whom were high in the social scale, but who recognized his talents and abilities, did much to refine and stimulate him intellectually, influence his thought, inspire his muse, and develop that keen love of independence and brotherhood which later became the predominate factors of his life.  The poet held the position of Depute Master of St. James' Lodge until about 1788, at which time he read his famous Farewell to the Brethren of Saint James' Lodge, Tarbolton, given below:

Adieu! a heart-warm, fond adieu!    Dear Brothers of the Mystic tie!  Ye favored, ye enlighten'd few,   Companions of my social joy!  Tho' I to foreign lands must hie,  Pursuing Fortune's slidd'ry ba',  With melting heart, and brimful eye,  I'll mind you still, tho' far awa'.    Oft have I met your social band,  And spent the cheerful, festive night;  Oft honored with supreme command,  Presided o'er the Sons of Light;  And by the Hieroglyphic Bright,  Which none but Craftsmen ever saw!  Strong Mem'ry on my heart shall write,  Those happy scenes, when far awa'!   May Freedom, Harmony, and Love,  Unite you in the Grand Design,   Beneath th' Omniscent Eye above --  The glorious Architect Divine --   That you may keep th' Unerring Line,  Still rising by the Plummet's Law,   Till ORDER bright completely shine,  Shall be my pray'r when far awa'.   And you, FAREWELL! whose merits claim,  Justly the Highest Badge to wear!   Heav'n bless your honour'd noble NAME,  To Masonry and Scotia dear.  A last request permit me here,  When yearly ye assemble a',  One round, I ask it with a tear,  To him, the Bard that's far awa'.

About this time the Poet presided as Master over a Lodge at Mauchline, which practice was, as a matter of fact, irregular, as The Charter of the Lodge covered only meetings held in Tarbolton, but, it is stated, Burns' zeal in the furthering of Freemasonry was so great that he even held Lodges in his own house for the purpose of admitting new members.  From this time forward Brother Burns was made an honorary member and designated Poet Laureate of many Scottish Lodges and from this time on Burns affixed the word Bard to his signature.

 

         

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