A Winter Night Poem by Robert Burns

A Winter Night

Rating: 3.1

When biting Boreas, fell and doure,
Sharp shivers thro' the leafless bow'r;
When Phoebus gies a short-liv'd glow'r,
Far south the lift,
Dim-dark'ning thro' the flaky show'r,
Or whirling drift:

Ae night the storm the steeples rocked,
Poor Labour sweet in sleep was locked,
While burns, wi' snawy wreeths upchoked,
Wild-eddying swirl,
Or thro' the mining outlet bocked,
Down headlong hurl.

List'ning, the doors an' winnocks rattle,
I thought me on the ourie cattle,
Or silly sheep, wha bide this brattle
O' winter war,
And thro' the drift, deep-lairing, sprattle,
Beneath a scar.

Ilk happing bird, wee, helpless thing!
That, in the merry months o' spring,
Delighted me to hear thee sing,
What comes o' thee?
Whare wilt thou cow'r thy chittering wing
An' close thy e'e?

Ev'n you on murd'ring errands toil'd,
Lone from your savage homes exil'd,
The blood-stain'd roost, and sheep-cote spoil'd
My heart forgets,
While pityless the tempest wild
Sore on you beats.


Indeed this poem is written by a wizard of poesy, and it takes a wizard analyst to analyze it.... Whao strikes most is the brevity and dexterity so far displayed in this piece of poesy. Though i wouldn't fail to mention that the vigour of winter breeze is seriously felt, even though i wasn't there. It is eve running through me now. I'm afraid if such wind comes now our glass windows will be bashed.

12 8 Reply
Gajanan Mishra 29 August 2013

pitiless the tempest wild, good write, thanks.

9 7 Reply
Kevin Straw 29 August 2009

A definition of some of these words is needed to get the whole poem. It is a masterful poem. It is in a dialect, but then what poem written in English is not! I must admit to being a little emotionally lost at the end, there am I (with Burns in feeling) in a warm room feeling for the sheep etc in the storm - but is that it? Is Burns saying that the plight of these animals is unavoidable?

6 10 Reply
Michael Harmon 29 August 2009

Doing a little search, I found that, apparently, there are several more stanzas to this poem. If it that is correct, a proper analysis of the theme of this would not be possible.

9 6 Reply
Rebekah Gamble 02 March 2008

This poem is beautiful and shows some rare qualities of genius in it's writer. For instance, Burns gives an abstract idea the human verb of sleep, solidifying something that could never be solid. Then, in likening winter to war, he describes natural weather and natural phenomenon in not only a unique way, but a very human way as well. Finally, he gives unusual notice of the small simple things and captures the uncertainty of them in his questioning of the bird. He sets mood through the use of sister words like 'biting, ' 'shivers, ' and 'dark' in the beginning, and unites this mood at the end of his work with the language such as 'tempest, ' 'pitiless, ' ans 'sore.' Through there traits, this poem teaches us a great deal about well-balanced poetry and truly genius work.

11 4 Reply
Michael Walker 25 June 2020

Burns' spelling of a Scottish dialect reminds me somewhat of Kipling, complete with commas for omitted letters. 'An' close thy e'e? ' The poem shows compassion for the helpless bird.

0 0 Reply
Mahtab Bangalee 25 January 2020

O' winter war, And thro' the drift, deep-lairing, sprattle, Beneath a scar......./// beautiful poetic expression

0 0 Reply
Kingsley Egbukole 25 January 2020

Very interesting and beautifully composed. Lovely reading

0 0 Reply
Edward Kofi Louis 25 January 2020

Swirl! ! ! Drift of life with, The romance of nature. Thanks for sharing this poem with us.

0 0 Reply
Rajnish Manga 25 January 2020

With the publication of this amazing poem, PH has given a befitting tribute to Robert Burns today. He was born on 25th January,1759.

0 0 Reply
Robert Burns

Robert Burns

Ayrshire / Scotland
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