"The Indian Farmer at Home"
(notes by John McGivering
and John Radcliffe)
His speech is of mortgaged bedding,
On his kine he borrows yet,
At his heart is his daughter’s wedding,
In his eye foreknowledged of debt.
He eats and hath indigestion,
He toils and he may not stop;
His life is a long-drawn question
Between a crop and a crop.
Kipling seems to be on easier terms with him than with any other poet whose entire life was passed within the limits of the eighteenth century - a circumstance which can be explained ·without great difficulty. Burns's poems "date" less than any others of the age. Their author cannot be pigeonholed. Although he occasionally wrote heroic couplets, he was not an Augustan; neither was he a pre-Romantic, save in the sense that his song and ballad rhythms gave impetus to the revolt against classicism. His work had a large folk element in it. All these features of Burns's writing must have appealed to Kipling, but above and beyond them all, the fact that he, "muzzy Scot" though he was, possessed the magic of the necessary word. Several of Kipling's references to Burns's name can be taken for no more than instances of his verisimilitude; when such North-Britons as McPhee and M'Andrew speak of poetry, they will of course speak of Robbie.