Burns composed a sonnet on his 34th birthday in 1793, written when he heard a bird sing during his morning walk:
Sing on, sweet thrush, upon the leafless bough,
Sing on, sweet bird, I listen to thy strain,
See aged Winter, 'mid his surly reign,
At thy blythe carol, clears his furrowed brow.
So in lone Poverty's dominion drear,
Sits meek Content with light, unanxious heart;
Welcomes the rapid moments, bids them part,
Nor asks if they bring ought to hope or fear.
I thank thee, Author of this opening day!
Thou whose bright sun now gilds yon orient skies!
Riches denied, thy boon was purer joys-
What wealth could never give nor take away!
Yet come, thou child of poverty and care,
The mite high heav'n bestow'd, that mite with thee I'll share.
The post title comes from a more famous work, also from 1793, the poem Robert Bruce's March to Bannockburn, commemorating Robert I's victory over England's Edward II in the Blàr Allt a' Bhonnaich ("Battle of Bannockburn" to ye Sassenach) that helped establish Scotland's independence from England. Its opening stanza is:
Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to Victorie!
This idea is probably a good part of the fuel behind the words of the William Wallace character in the 1995 movie Braveheart, although Mel Gibson has Wallace give them before what I believe is supposed to be the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
Either way, if you're minded to observe the Ploughman Poet's birthday in one of the traditional ways, by eating a plate of haggis, feel free to have my share.