Burns’s figure is proportionately slightly bigger here than it might be in life, but it’s intended to indicate how much larger-than-life he was at this time. With the writing of ‘Tam o’ Shanter’, he must be seen at the very height of his power and he is revelling in it. He knew it was good. ‘My very best production of the poetic kind,’ he said of it. This was why he wanted everyone to hear it almost before the ink was dry on the final pages. It bought all his parts together – poet, actor, folklorist and the man of feeling for all things that live in the light of the dark.
Here we are at that very reading in a typical family situation with fire blazing, the dog at the door, the girl children cowering under the table, Jean feeding the baby, their son, Robert (Jun) reading, the visitor, Bob Ainslie, Burns’ Edinburgh friend, listening in amazement along with all the orra folk and serving women who are seeing Scotland’s bard tower over them from the kitchen table as he shouts exultantly, ‘Weel done, Cutty Sark!’