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The Burns Encyclopedia
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'Address to the Deil'

Scottish poets from Dunbar onwards have adopted a tone of bantering familiarity with the Devil. Of Burns's essay in this genre, Gilbert Burns recorded: 'It was, I think, in the winter of 1784, as we were going out with carts for coals to the family fire (and I could yet point out the particular spot) that Robert first repeated to me the 'Address to the Deil'. The curious idea of such an address was suggested to him by running over in his mind the many ludicrous accounts and representations we have various quarters of this august personage.' (Gilbert was wrong about the date, since Burns told Richmond that it had been written in 1785-6).

Obviously neither Dunbar nor Burns really believed in the Devil. But whereas the older poet painted 'Mahoun', as he called him in 'The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins' ruling a realistic, colourful Catholic Hell (provoked, however, beyond endurance by the Scottish bagpipes!), Burns used him to poke fun, not only at Scots superstition, but also at the credulity implied by Auld Licht notions on predestination.

"Hear me auld Hangie for a wee,
An' let poor damned bodies be;
I'm sure sma pleasure it can gie,
E'en to a deil,
to skelp an' scaud poor dogs like me,
An' hear us squeal."
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Robert Burns Store

NEW!! robert burns store View our exclusive range of distinctive Robert Burns related products. Register with our Shopping Club for further offers and unique member offers.Click here...


Complete Burns Songs

linn recordings of burns Linn Records have completed their landmark recording of all 368 Burns songs, available as individual CDs or a 12 volume presentation box set. We have full details. Click here...


Burns Music & Recordings
Search our huge CD and music store for any Burns-related phrase!
Hint: Type "lang syne" or "peck maut" etc. into the Search box there for all artists, titles, descriptions or track listings with the words entered.
Burns Chess Sets

Burns Chess SetsUnique collectors' pieces based on Burns' life and works. (The ideal gift for your Burns Supper guests!) Click here...

Scotweb Store

ScotwebThe finest Scottish shopping site in the world, with the world's largest choice of kilts and tartans, exclusive jewelry, Highland Dress, Bagpipes and piping supplies, cashmere, and much more. Buying from these sites helps pay for the upkeep of Burns Country! Click here...