“My heart`s in the Highlands”, analysis of the poem by Robert Burns

History of creation and publication

The poem (song) was written in 1790. Published in the five-volume edition of James Johnson’s “Scottish Museum of Music” (1787 – 1797).

At this time, Burns lives and works on the Ellisland farm. In this picturesque foothill area, he built a house and ran his own farm, but all this was financially disadvantageous, he was looking for work in the city and apparently just at the time of writing the poem he received an offer to become an excise tax collector in Dumfries.

Theme, genre and literary direction

The poet was sorry to part with his favorite places, with the northern nature, which he subtly felt and loved very much, and on this subject he wrote this poem. Burns’s homeland and nature are enlightened together in an enlightening manner, since this is not about specific historical and political instances, but about the eternal, “natural” lifestyle of a mountain Scotsman, not affected by modern trends. In the original, it is not just about the “mountains”, but about the Highlands – the northern, mountainous, “prehistoric” part of Scotland. In the minds of the Scotsman, Highlands is opposed to Lowlands – the southern, flat, more developed part of Scotland, both in agricultural and industrial relations. Although the south offers great opportunities, but the north is the birthplace of the lyrical hero, his heart has remained forever there:

Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

Burns managed to create a sample of civic lyrics that combines pathetics and tenderness. The work is both like a hymn and a simple song of a shepherd.

Composition and images

The original poem is framed as a song, i.e. has two verses and a repeating chorus. Both verses begin with the word Farewell. The name My heart´s in the Highlands (My heart is in the mountains), under which this poem is often mentioned and even published, is the beginning of the refrain. But in the well-known translation by S. Ya. Marshak, the line “My heart is in the mountains …” really became the first, because the translator changed the form of the work from a song to the form of a regular lyric poem, where a non-repeating chorus follows each verse, and just the last stanza repeats the first .Changing the composition to a ring one, Marshak strengthened the epic element of the poem, in which the main narrative part appeared.

The Burns hero says goodbye to his homeland. “Fatherland of Glory and Valor Land” – pride in being the son of such a fatherland for the lyrical hero in the first place. In the next stanza, with the help of an anaphora “farewell,” the bitterness of the lyrical hero from parting is conveyed. The hero addresses everything in nature that is dear to him: snow on the peaks, valleys, meadows, forests, forest streams. The only thing said about the present is that it is “below.” The opposition of the top and the bottom is fully consistent with the Christian concept of heaven and hell, good and bad. Thus, the lost happiness is connected with the mountains, while the “present is sad” (Pushkin). Hence the elegiac notes in the poem.

Metaphors are simple and touching, although they are not different in novelty. Snow covers the mountains with a roof, forests go into the abyss, and the voices of forest streams accompany the lyrical hero.

Size and rhyme

Burns song is written in rhythm and on the motive of the Scottish folk song “FÁILTE NA MIOSG” (“Welcome”). The Russian translation by S. Ya. Marshak is as close as possible to the size of the original (double-foot amphibrach), and even the rhyming scheme in the translation repeats the original (despite changing the alternation of stanzas): aabb; ccdd; eeff; aabb.roy.

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