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The priest-like father reads the sacred page,
How Abram was the friend of God on high; Or, Moses bade eternal warfare wage
With Amalek's ungracious progeny; Or how the royal bard did groaning lie
Beneath the stroke of Heaven's avenging ire !
Or rapt Isaiah's wild, seraphic fire ;
How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed;
Had not on earth whereon to lay his head : How his first followers and servants sped;
The precepts sage they wrote to many a land; How he, who lone in Patmos banished,
Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand; And heard great Babylon's doom pronounced by Heaven's
command. Then kneeling down, to Heaven's Eternal King,
The saint, the father, and the husband prays : Hope “springs exulting on triumphant wing,
That thus they all shall meet in future days: There ever bask in uncreated rays,
No more to sigh, or shed the bitter tear,
In such society, yet still more dear :
In all the pomp of method and of art,
every grace, except the heart ! The Power, incensed, the pageant will desert, The pompous
strain, the sacerdotal stole ; But haply, in some cottage, far apart,
May hear, well-pleased, the language of the soul :
And proffer up to Heaven the warm request,
That He, who stills the raven's clamorous nest,
And decks the lily fair in flowery pride,
For them, and for their little ones, provide ;
That makes her loved at home, revered abroad;
“ An honest man's the noblest work of God !" And certes, in fair virtue's heavenly road,
The cottage leaves the palace far behind ; What is a lordling's pomp!-a cumbrous load,
Disguising oft the wretch of human kind, Studied in arts of hell, in wickedness refined ! O Scotia !
native soil ! For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent ! Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content ! And, O! may Heaven their simple lives prevent
From Luxury's contagion, weak and vile!
A virtuous populace may rise the while,
That streamed through Wallace's undaunted heart;
Or nobly die, the second glorious part ! (The patriot's God, peculiarly, Thou art,
His friend, inspirer, guardian and reward !)
But still the patriot, and the patriot bard,
LETTER TO MR. CUNNINGHAM.
BURNS. Canst thou minister to a mind diseased ? Canst thou speak peace and rest to a soul tossed on a sea of troubles, without one friendly star to guide her course, and dreading that the next surge may overwhelm her ?
Canst thou give to a frame, tremblingly alive to the tortures of suspense, the stability and hardihood of the rock that braves the blast ? If thou canst not do the least of these, why wouldst thou disturb me in my miseries with thy inquiries after me ?
For these two months I have not been able to lift a pen. My constitution and frame were, ab origine, blasted with a deep and incurable taint of hypochondria, which poisons my existence. Of late a number of domestic vexations, and some pecuniary share in the ruin of these ***** times—losses which, though trifling, were yet what I could ill bear—have so irritated me, that my feelings at times could only be envied by a reprobate spirit listening to the sentence that dooms it to perdition.
Are you deep in the language of consolation ? " I have exhausted in reflection every topic of comfort. A heart at ease would have been charmed with my sentiments and reasonings ; but as to myself, I was like Judas Iscariot preaching the gospel: he might melt and mould the hearts of those around him, but his own kept its native incorrigibility. Still there are two great pillars that bear us up, amid the wreck of misfortune and misery. The one is composed of the different modifications of a noble, stubborn something in-man, known by the names of courage, fortitude, magnanimity. The other is made up of those feelings and sentiments, which, however the sceptic may deny, or the enthusiast disfigure, are yet, I am convinced, original and component parts of the human soul; those senses of the mind, if I
may be allowed the expression, which connect us with, and link us to, those awful obscure realities—an allpowerful, and equally beneficent God; and a world to come, beyond death and the grave. The first gives the nerve of combat, while a ray of hope beams on the field ;—the last pours the balm of comfort into the wounds which time can never cure.
I do not remember, my dear Cunningham, that you and I ever talked on the subject of religion at all. I know some who laugh at it, as the trick of the crafty Few, to lead the undiscerning MANY; or at most as an uncertain obscurity, which mankind can never know anything of, and with which they are fools if they give themselves much to do. Nor would I quarrel with a man for his irreligion, any more than I would for his want of a musical ear. I would regret that he was shut out from what, to me and to others, were such superlative sources of enjoyment. It is in this point of view, and for this reason,
that I will deeply imbue the mind of every child of mine with religion. If my son should happen to be a man of feeling, sentiment, and taste, I shall thus add largely to his enjoyments. Let me flatter myself that this sweet little fellow (who is just now running about my desk,) will be a man of a melting, ardent, glowing heart; that he will possess an imagination, delighted with the painter, and rapt with the poet. Let me figure him wandering out in a sweet evening to inhale the balmy gales, and enjoy the growing luxuriance of the spring ; himself the while in the blooming youth of life. He looks abroad on all nature, and through nature up to nature's God. His soul, by swift, delighting degrees, is rapt above this sublunary sphere, until he can be silent no longer, and bursts out in the glorious enthusiasm of Thomson,
“ These, as they change, Almighty Father, these
Is full of thee." These are no ideal pleasures; they are real delights ; and I ask, what of the delights among the sons of men are superior, not to say equal, to them ? And they have this precious, vast addition, that conscious virtue stamps them for her own; and lays hold on them to bring herself into the presence of a witnessing, judging, and approving God.
LETTER TO JOHN FRANCIS ERSKINE, ESQ.
BURNS. DEGENERATE as human nature is said to be; and, in many instances, worthless and unprincipled it is; still there are bright examples to the contrary ; examples that, even in the eyes of superior beings, must shed a lustre on the name of Man.
Such an example I have now before me, when you, Sir, came forward' to patronize and befriend a distant, obscure stranger, merely because poverty had made him helpless, and his British hardihood of mind had provoked the arbitrary wantonness of power. My much esteemed friend, Mr. Riddel of Glenriddel, has just read me a paragraph of a letter he had from you. Accept, Sir, of the silent throb of gratitude ; for words would but mock the emotions of my soul.
You have been misinformed as to my final dismission from the Excise ; I am still in the service. Indeed, but for the exertions of a gentleman who must be known to you, Mr. Graham of Fintry,—a gentleman, who has ever been my warm and generous friend,- I had, without so much as a hearing, or the slightest previous intimation, been turned adrift, with my helpless family, to all the horrors of want. Had I had any other resource, probably I might have saved them the trouble of a dismission ; but the little money I gained by my publication, is almost every guinea embarked to save from ruin an only brother, who, though one of the worthiest, is by no means one of the most fortunate of men.
In my defence to their accusations, I said, that, whatever might be my sentiments of republics, ancient or modern, as to Britain I abjured the idea :That a Constitution, which, in its original principles, experience had proved to be every way fitted for our happiness in society, it would be insanity to sacrifice to an untried visionary theory :—That, in consideration of my being situated in a department, however humble, immediately in the hands of people in power, I had forborne taking any active part, either personally, or as an author, in the present business of REFORM. But that, where I must declare my sentiments, I would say there existed a system of corruption between the executive power and the representative part of the legislature, which boded no good to our glorious Constitution, and which every patriotic Briton must wish to see amended. Some such sentiments as these, I stated in my letter to my generous patron Mr. Graham, which he laid before the board at large; where, it seems, my last remark give great offence; and one of our supervisors-general, a Mr. Corbet, was instructed to inquire on the spot, and to document me—“That my business was to act, not to think ; and that, whatever might be men or measures, it was for me to be silent and obedient.”
Mr. Corbet was likewise my steady friend ; so between Mr. Graham and him, I bave been partly forgiven; only I understand, that all hopes of my getting officially forward, are blasted.
Now, Sir, to the business in which I would more immediately interest you. The partiality of my Countrymen has brought me forward as a man of genius, and has given me a character to support.
In the Poet, I have avowed manly and independent sen