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residence at Ellisland. Above two hundred songs images, both familiar and awful, we should be were, however, thrown off by Burns in his latter disposed to rank the Address to the Deil. The years, and they embraced poetry of all kinds. poet adopted the common superstitions of the Moore became a writer of lyrics, as he informs peasantry as to the attributes of Satan; but his readers, that he might express what music though his Address is mainly ludicrous, he interconveyed to himself. Burns had little or no sperses passages of the highest beauty, and blends technical knowledge of music. Whatever plea- a feeling of tenderness and compunction with his sure he derived from it, was the result of per- objurgation of the Evil One. The effect of consonal associations—the words to which airs were trast was never more happily displayed than in adapted, or the locality with which they were con- the conception of such a being straying in lonely nected. His whole soul, however, was full of the glens and rustling among trees-in the familiarity finest harmony. So quick and genial were his of sly humour with which the poet lectures so sympathies, that he was easily stirred into lyrical awful and mysterious a personage—who had, as melody by whatever was good and beautiful in he says, almost overturned the infant world, and nature. Not a bird sang in a bush, nor a burn ruined all ; and in that strange and inimitable glanced in the sun, but it was eloquence and outbreak of sympathy in which a hope is expressed music to his ear. He fell in love with every fine for the salvation, and pity for the fate, even of female face he saw; and thus kindled up, his Satan himselffeelings took the shape of song, and the words fell as naturally into their places as if prompted
But sare-you-weel, auld Nickie-ben ! by the most perfect knowledge of music. The
Oh, wad ye tak a thought and men'!
Ye aiblins might—I dinna keninward melody needed no artificial accompani
Still hae a stake; ment. An attempt at a longer poem would have
I'm wae to think upo' yon den, chilled his ardour ; but a song embodying some
Even for your sake ! one leading idea, some burst of passion, love, patriotism, or humour, was exactly suited to the The Folly Beggars is another strikingly original impulsive nature of Burns's genius, and to his production. It is the most dramatic of his works, situation and circumstances. His command of and the characters are all finely sustained. Currie language and imagery, always the most appro- has been blamed by Sir Walter Scott and priate, musical, and graceful, was a greater marvel others for over-fastidiousness in not admitting ihan the creations of a Handel or Mozart. The that humorous cantata into his edition, but we Scottish poet, however, knew many old airs—still do not believe that Currie ever saw the Jolly more old ballads ; and a few bars of the music, or Beggars. The poem was not published till a line of the words, served as a key-note to his 1801, and was then printed from the only copy suggestive fancy. He improved nearly all he known to exist in the poet's handwriting. Of the touched. The arch humour, gaiety, simplicity, Cotter's Saturday Night, the Mountain Daisy, or and genuine feeling of his original songs, will be the Mouse's Nest, it would be idle to attempt any felt as long as 'rivers roll and woods are green.' eulogy. In these Burns is seen in his fairest They breathe the natural character and spirit of colours-not with all his strength, but in his hapthe country, and must be coeval with it in exist- piest and most heart-felt inspiration-his brightest ence. Wherever the words are chanted, a picture sunshine and his tenderest tears. The workmanis presented to the mind; and whether the tone ship of these leading poems is equal to the value be plaintive and sad, or joyous and exciting, one of the materials. The peculiar dialect of Burns overpowering feeling takes possession of the im- being a composite of Scotch and English, which agination. The susceptibility of the poet inspired he varied at will—the Scotch being generally him with real emotions and passion, and his reserved for the comic and tender, and the English genius reproduced them with the glowing warmth for the serious and lofty-his diction is remarkably and truth of nature.
rich and copious. No poet is more picturesque Tam o Shanter is usually considered to be in expression. This was the result equally of Burns's master-piece: it was so considered by accurate observation, careful study, and strong himself
, and the judgment has been confirmed by feeling. His energy and truth stamp the highest Campbell, Wilson, Montgomery, and almost every value on his writings. He is as literal as Cowper. critic. It displays more various powers than any The banks of the Doon are described as faithfully of his other productions, beginning with low comic as those of the Ouse; and his views of human life humour and Bacchanalian revelry—the dramatic and manners are as real and as finely moralised. scene at the commencement is unique, even in His range of subjects, however, was infinitely Burns-and ranging through the various styles of more diversified, including a varied and romantic the descriptive, the terrible, the supernatural, and landscape, the customs and superstitions of his the ludicrous. The originality of some of the country, the delights of good-fellowship and boon phrases and sentiments, as
society, the aspirations of youthful ambition, and, Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious
above all, the emotions of love, which he depicted O'er a' the ills of life victorious !
with such mingled fervour and delicacy. This
ecstasy of passion was unknown to the author of the felicity of some of the similes, and the elastic the Task. Nor could the latter have conceived force and springiness of the versification, must anything so truly poetical as the image of Coila, also be considered as aiding in the effect. The the tutelar genius and inspirer of the peasant poem reads as if it were composed in one trans- youth in his clay-built hut, where his heart and port of inspiration, before the bard had time to cool fancy overflowed with love and poetry. Cowper or to slacken in his fervour; and such we know was read and appreciated Burns, and we can picture actually the case. Next to this inimitable tale of his astonishment and delight on perusing such truth' in originality, and in happy grouping of strains as Coila's address :
And wear thou this '--she solemn said, And bound the holly round my head : The polished leaves, and berries red,
Did rustling play ;
In light away.
Extract from 'The Vision.'
In uncouth rhymes,
of other times. 'I saw thee seek the sounding shore, Delighted with the dashing roar; Or when the north his fleecy store
Drove through the sky,
Strike thy young eye.
In every grove,
With boundless love.
And lonely stalk,
In pensive walk.
The adored Name,
To soothe thy flame.
By passion driven;
Was light from Heaven.
Thy fame extends ;
Become thy friends.
With Shenstone's art ;
Warm on the heart.
Burns never could have improved upon and tenderness of this romantic vision-the finest revelation ever made of the hope and ambition of a youthful poet. Greater strength, however, he undoubtedly acquired with the experience of manhood. His Tam o' Shanter, and Bruce's Address, are the result of matured powers; and his songs evince a conscious mastery of the art and materials of composition. His Vision of Liberty at Lincluden is a great and splendid fragment. The reflective spirit evinced in his early epistles is found, in his Lines written in Friars' Carse Hermitage, to have settled into a vein of moral philosophy, clear and true as the lines of Swift, and informed with a higher wisdom. It cannot be said that Burns absolutely fails in any kind of composition, except in his epigrams; these are coarse without being pointed or entertaining. Nature, which had lavished on him such powers of humour, denied him wit.
In reviewing the intellectual career of the poet, his correspondence must not be overlooked. His prose style was more ambitious than that of his poetry. In the latter he followed the dictates of nature, warm from the heart, whereas in his letters he aimed at being sentimental, peculiar, and striking ; and simplicity was sometimes sacrificed for effect. As Johnson considered conversation to be an intellectual arena, wherein every man bound to do his best, Burns seems to have regarded letter-writing in much the same light, and to have considered it necessary at times to display all his acquisitions to amuse, gratify, or astonish his admiring correspondents. Considerable deductions must, therefore, be made from his published correspondence, whether regarded as an index to his feelings and situation, or as models of the epistolary style. In subject, he adapted himself too much to the character and tastes of the person he was addressing, and in style he was led away by a love of display. A tinge of pedantry and assumption, or of reckless bravado, was thus at times superinduced upon the manly and thoughtful simplicity of his natural character, which sits as awkwardly upon it as the intrusion of Jove or Danaë into the rural songs of Allan Ramsay.* Burns's letters, however, are valu
*Yet, all beneath the unrivalled rose,
His army shade,
Adown the glade.
Nor king's regard,
A rustic bard.
With soul erect;
Will all protect.
* The scraps of French in his letters to Dr Moore, Mrs Riddel, &c. have an unpleasant effect. 'If he had an affectation in anything,' says Dugald Stewart, “it was in introducing occasionally in conversation) a word or phrase from that language.' Campbell makes a similar statement, and relates the following anecdote : One of his friends, who carried him into the company of a French lady, remarked, with surprise, that he attempted to converse with her in her own tongue. Their French, however, was mutually unintelligible. As far as Burns could make himself understood, he unfortunately offended the foreign lady. He meant to tell her that she was a charming person, and delightful in conversation, but expressed himself so as to appear to her to mean that she was fond of speaking: to which the Gallic dame indignantly replied, that it was quite as common for poets to be impertinent as for women to be loquacious.' The friend who introduced Burns on this occasion (and who herself related the anecdote to Mr Campbell) was Miss Margaret Chalmers, afterwards Mrs Lewis Hay, who died in 1843. The wonder is, that the dissipated aristocracy of the Caledonian Hunt, and the buckish tradesmen of Edinburgh,' left any part of the original plainness and simplicity of his manners. Yet his learned friends saw no change in the proud
able as memorials of his temperament and genius. bell, the foxglove, the wild-brier rose, the budding birch, He was often distinct, forcible, and happy in ex- and the hoary hawthorn, that I view and hang over with pression-rich in sallies of imagination and poeti- particular delight. I never hear the loud, solitary whistle cal feeling--at times deeply pathetic and impress of the curlew in a summer noon, or the wild mixing ive. He lifts the veil from the miseries of his cadence of a troop of gray plovers in an autumnal latter days with a hand struggling betwixt pride morning, without feeling an elevation of soul like the and a broken spirit
. His autobiography, addressed enthusiasm of devotion or poetry. Tell me, my dear to Dr Moore, written when his mind was salient friend, to what can this be owing? Are we a piece of
machinery, which, like the Æolian harp, passive, takes and vigorous, is as remarkable for its literary the impression of the passing accident? Or do these talent as for its modest independence and clear workings argue something within us above the trodden judgment; and the letters to Mrs Dunlop-in clod ? I own myself partial to such proofs of those whom he had entire confidence, and whose lady- awful and important realities—a God that made all like manners and high principle rebuked his things, man's immaterial and immortal nature, and a wilder spirit—are all characterised by sincerity world of weal or woe beyond death and the grave. and elegance. One beautiful letter to this lady
In another of his letters we have this striking we are tempted to copy; it is poetical in the highest degree, and touches with exquisite taste
autobiographical fragment: on the mysterious union between external nature I have been this morning taking a peep through, and the sympathies and emotions of the human as Young finely says, 'the dark postern of time long frame:
elapsed ;' and you will easily guess 'twas a rueful prose
pect : what a tissue of thoughtlessness, weakness, and ELLISLAND, New-year-day Morning, 1789.
folly! My life reminded me of a ruined temple ; what This, dear madam, is a morning of wishes, and would strength, what proportion in some parts ! what unsightly to God that I came under the apostle James's descrip- gaps, what prostrate ruins in others! I kneeled down tion !—the prayer of a righteous man availeth much. În before the Father of Mercies, and said: “Father, I that case, madam, you should welcome in a year full of have sinned against Heaven, and in thy sight, and am blessings ; everything that obstructs or disturbs tranquil. no more worthy to be called thy son. I rose eased lity and self-enjoyment should be removed, and every and strengthened. I despise the superstition of a fanatic, pleasure that frail humanity can taste should be yours. but I love the religion of a man. I own myself so little a Presbyterian, that I approve of set times and seasons of more than ordinary acts of
And again in a similar strain : devotion, for breaking in on that habituated routine of
There is scarcely any earthly object gives me more life and thought which is so apt to reduce our existence
-I do not know if I should call it pleasure—but someto a kind of instinct, or even sometimes, and with some thing which exalts me, something which enraptures me minds, to a state very little better than mere machinery.
-than to walk in the sheltered side of a wood or high This day, the first Sunday of May, a breezy, blue plantation in a cloudy winter-day, and hear the stormy skied noon some time about the beginning, and a hoary wind howling among the trees, and raving over the morning and calm sunny day about the end of autumn; plain! It is my best season for devotion : my mind these, time out of mind, have been with me a kind of is wrapt up in a kind of enthusiasm to Him, who, in holiday. I believe I owe this to that glorious paper in the the wings of the wind.'
the pompous language of the Hebrew bard, 'walks on Spectator—the Vision of Mirza--a piece that struck my young fancy before I was capable of fixing an idea to a To the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, word of three syllables : ‘On the 5th day of the moon, Burns seems to have clung with fond tenacity ; it which, according to the custom of my forefathers, I survived the wreck or confusion of his early imalways keep holy, after having washed myself, and pressions, and formed the strongest and most offered up my morning devotions, I ascended the high soothing of his beliefs. In other respects, his hill of Bagdat
, in order to pass the rest of the day in creed was chiefly practical. "Whatever mitigates meditation and prayer.'
We know nothing, or next to nothing, of the sub- the woes, or increases the happiness of others," he stance or structure of our souls, so cannot account for says, this is my criterion of goodness; and whatthose seeming caprices in them, that one should be
ever injures society at large, or any individual in
particularly pleased with this thing, or struck with that, it, this is my measure of iniquity. The same feelwhich on minds of a different cast, makes no extra ing he had expressed in one of his early poems: ordinary impression. I have some favourite flowers in
But deep this truth impressed my mind, spring, among which are the mountain daisy, the hare
Through all his works abroad,
The heart benevolent and kind self-sustained and self-measuring poet. He kept his ground, and
The most resembles God. A somewhat clearer knowledge of men's affairs, scarcely of Conjectures have been idly formed as to the probCarlyle, this winter in Edinburgh did afford him ; but a sharper able effect which education would have had on the feeling of Fortune's unequal arrangements in their social destiny mind of Burns. We may as well speculate on the
He had seen the gay and gorgeous arena, in change which might be wrought by the engineer, stood in the midst of it; and he felt more bitterly than ever that the planter, and agriculturist, in assimilating the here he was but a looker-on, and had no part or lot in that splendid wild scenery of Scotland to that of England. tion takes possession of him ; and perverts, so far as aught could Who would wish-if it were possible—by sucpervert, his private contentment, and his feelings towards his richer cessive graftings, to make the birch or the pine
It was clear to Burns that he had talent enough to make approximate to the oak or the elm? Nature is this. It was clear also that he willed something far different, and various in all her works, and has diversified genius therefore could not make one. Unhappy it was that he had not power to choose the one and reject the other, but must halt for In Burns we have a genuine Scottish poet : why
as much as she has done her plants and trees. ever between two opinions, two objects; making hampered advancement towards either. But so it is with many men : “we long for should we wish to mar the beautiful order and the merchandise, yet would
sain keep the price;" and so stand variety of nature by making him a Dryden or chaffering with Fate, in vexatious altercation, till the night come, and our fair is over !!
a Gray ? Education could not have improved
he asked no more.
it also left with him.
Burns's songs, his Tam Shanter, or any other We wander there, we wander here, of his great poems. He would never have written We eye the rose upon the brier, them but for his situation and feelings as a peasant
Unmindful that the thorn is near, --and could he have written anything better? The
Among the leaves ! whole of that world of passion and beauty which
And though the puny wound appear,
Short while it grieves. he has laid open to us might have been hid for ever; and the genius which was so well and worthily employed in embellishing rustic life, and
From the Epistle to W. Simpson. adding new interest and glory to his country, would only have placed him in the long proces
We'll sing auld Coila's plains and fells,
Her moors red-brown wi' heather bells, sion of English poets, stripped of his originality,
Her banks and braes, her dens and dells, and bearing, though proudly, the ensign of con
Where glorious Wallace quest and submission.
Aft bure the gree, as story tells,
Frae southron billies.
At Wallace' name what Scottish blood
But boils up in a spring-tide flood ! "To try my fate in guid black prent ;
Oft have our fearless fathers strode
By Wallace' side,
Still pressing onward, red-wat shod,
Or glorious died !
Oh, sweet are Coila's haughs and woods, “There's ither poets, much your betters,
When lintwhites chant amang the buds,
And jinkin' hares in amorous whids,
Their loves enjoy,
While through the braes the cushat croods
With wailsu' cry!
Even winter bleak has charms to me
When winds rave through the naked tree ;
Or frosts on hills of Ochiltree
Are hoary gray:
Or blinding drifts wild furious flee,
Darkening the day!
O Nature! a' thy shows and forms
To feeling, pensive hearts hae charms!
Whether the summer kindly warms,
Wi' life and light,
Or winter howls in gusty storms
The lang, dark night!
The Muse, nae poet ever fand her,
Till by himsel he learned to wander,
Adown some trotting burn's meander,
And no think lang ;
Oh, sweet to stray, and pensive ponder
A heart-felt sang!
To a Mountain Daisy,
On turning one down with the plough in April 1786.
Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flower,
Thou 's met me in an evil hour;
For I maun crush amang the stoure
Thy slender stem :
To spare thee now is past my power,
Thou bonny gem.
Alas! it's no thy neebor sweet,
The bonny lark, companion meet,
Bending thee 'mang the dewy weet,
Wi' spreckled breast,
When upward-springing, blithe, to greet
The purpling east !
Cauld blew the bitter-biting north
Upon thy early, humble birth ;
Yet cheerfully thou glinted forth
Amid the storm,
Scarce reared above the parent earth
Thy tender form.
The flaunting flowers our gardens yield,
High sheltering woods and wa’s maun shield: But thou, beneath the random bield
Mourn, little harebells o'er the lea;
Ye stately foxgloves fair to see;
Ye woodbines hanging bonnilie
In scented bowers;
Ye roses on your thorny tree,
The first o' flowers.
At dawn, when every grassy blade
Droops with a diamond at its head,
At even, when beans their fragrance shed,
l' the rustling gale,
Ye maukins, whiddin' through the glade,
Come join my wail.
Mourn, ye wee songsters o' the wood;
Ye grouse that crap the heather bud;
Ye curlews calling through a clud;
Ye whistling plover ;
And mourn, ye whirring paitrick brood !
He's gane for ever!
Mourn, sooty coots, and speckled teals,
Ye fisher herons, watching eels;
Ye duck and drake, wi' airy wheels
Circling the lake ;
Ye bitterns, till the quagmire reels,
Rair for his sake.
Mourn, clamering craiks at close o' day,
'Mang fields o’ flowering clover gay; Till wrenched of every stay but Heaven,
And when ye wing your annual way
Frae our cauld shore,
Tell thae far worlds wha lies in clay,
Wham we deplore.
Ye houlets, frae your ivy bower,
In some auld tree, or eldritch tower,
What time the moon, wi' silent glower
Sets up her horn,
Till waukrife morn!
O rivers, forests, hills, and plains !
But now, what else for me remains
But tales of woe?
And frae my een the drapping rains
Maun ever flow.
Mourn, Spring, thou darling of the year,
Ilk cowslip cup shall kep a tear :
Thou, Simmer, while each corny spear
Shoots up its head,
Thy gay, green, flowery tresses shear
For him that 's dead.
Thou, Autumn, wi' thy yellow hair,
In grief thy sallow mantle tear !
Thou, Winter, hurling through the air
The roaring blast,
Wide o'er the naked world declare
The worth we've lost !
Mourn him, thou sun, great source of light !
Mourn, empress of the silent night!
And you, ye twinkling starnies bright,
My Matthew mourn!
For through your orb he's ta’en his flight,
Ne'er to return.
O Henderson ! the man--the brother !
And art thou gone, and gone for ever? Ye hazelly shaws and briery dens !
And hast thou crossed that unknown river,
Lise's dreary bound?
Like thee, where shall we find another,
The world around ?
Go to your sculptured tombs, ye great, 1 Eagles.
In a' the tinsel trash o'state !