Abstract

Abstract:

Robert Burns was a literary and political reference point for the internationalist, transnational, migratory poets, intellectuals and orators of the Australasian labour movement. His poetry and example lent moral and spiritual authority to socialist rhetoric and analysis as it developed a specifically Antipodean articulation in the early decades of the twentieth century. This essay traces Burns 'on the wallaby', as his work travels with – and is in turn transformed and re-written by – wandering labour movement writers. The biographical transnationalism of these socialist Burnsians, travelling imaginatively and physically between Scotlands of the mind and real-world Australia and New Zealand, helped produce, I argue here, a particularly transnational and Antipodean Burns. Bobby Burns, the Muse evoked from Henry Lawson to anonymous bards in The Maoriland Worker, was a figure offering a kind of Scottish internationalism useful for Australasian socialist imaginative ends. This essay traces Bobby Burns through the poetry and prose of the early labour movement, and concludes with some reflections on why this Burns, and this Burnsian legacy, has been submerged in our histories of the poet's global importance and reach.

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