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TO MR. JACKSON OF EXETER.
Though winter's storms embrown the dusky vale,
And dark and wistful wanes the low'ring year; Though bleak the moor, forlorn the cots, appear,
And through the hawthorn sighs the sullen gale; Yet do thy strains most rare, thy lays, ne'er fail
Midst the drear scene my drooping heart to cheer; Warm the chill blood, and draw the rapturous tear.
Whether thou lov'st in mournful mood to wail Lycid • bright genius of the sounding shore,'
Or else with slow and solemn hymns to move
My thoughts to piety and virtue's lore;
Rolls the soft song of joy, and endless love.
ON A WET SUMMER,
All ye, who far from town, in rural hall, Like me, were wont to dwell near pleasant field, Enjoying all the sunny-day did yield,
With me the change lament, in irksome thrall, By rains incessant held; for now no call
From early swain invites my hand to wield
The scythe; in parlour dim I sit conceal'd, And mark the lessening sand from hour-glass fall;
Or 'neath my window view the wistful train Of dripping poultry, whom the vine's broad leaves Shelter no more.-Mute is the mournful plain,
Silent the swallow sits beneath the thatch,
And vacant hind hangs pensive o'er his hatch, Counting the frequent drop from reeded eaves.
Cold is the senseless heart that never strove,
The pathless vale, the long-forsaken grove, The rocky cave that bears the fair one's name, With ivy mantled o'er-For empty fame,
Let him amidst the rabble toil, or rove In search of plunder far to western clime.
Give me to waste the hours in amorous play With Delia, beauteous maid, and build the rhyme Praising her flowing hair, her snowy arms, And all that prodigality of charms
Form'd to enslave my heart and grace my lay,
ROBERT BURN S.
BORN 1758.—DIED 1796.
Robert Burns was born near the town of Ayr, within a few hundred yards of “ Alloa’s auld haunted kirk,” in a clay cottage, which his father, who was a small farmer and gardener, had built with his own hands. A part of this humble edifice gave way when the poet was but a few days old; and his mother and he were carried, at midnight, through the storm, to a neighbour's house that gave them shelter. After having received some lessons in his childhood, from the schoolmaster of the village of Alloa, he was, at seven years of age, put under a teacher of the name of Murdoch, who instructed him in reading and English grammar. This good man, who is still alive, and a teacher of languages in London, boasts, with a very natural triumph, of having accurately instructed Burns in the first principles of composition. At such an age, Burns's study of principles could not be very profound; yet it is due to his early instructor to observe, that his prose style is more accurate than we should expect even from the vigour of an untutored mind, and such as would lead us to suppose that he had been early initiated in the rules of grammar. His father's removal to another farm in Ayrshire, at Mount Oliphant, un
fortunately deprived him of the benefit of Murdoch as an instructor, after he had been about two years under his care; and for a long time he received no other lessons than those which his father gave
him in writing and arithmetic, when he instructed his family by the fireside of their cottage in winter evenings. About the age of thirteen he was sent, during a part of the summer, to the parish-school in Dalrymple, in order to improve his hand-writing. In the following year he had an opportunity of passing several weeks with his old friend Murdoch, with whose assistance he began to study French with intense ardour and assiduity. His proficiency in that language, though it was wonderful, considering his opportunities, was necessarily slight; yet it was in shewing this accomplishment alone, that Burns's weakness ever took the shape of vanity. 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 soon found to be almost mutually un. intelligible. 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.
At the age of nineteen he received a few months' instruction in land surveying -Such is the scanty history of his education, which is interesting simply because its opportunities were so few and precarious, and such as only a gifted mind could have turned to any account.
Of his early reading, he tells us, that a life of Hannibal, which Murdoch gave him when a boy, raised the first stirrings of his enthusiasm; and, he adds, with his own fervid expression, “ that the life “ of Sir William Wallace poured a tide of Scottish “ prejudices into his veins, which would boil along “ there till the floodgates of life were shut in eternal “ rest." In his sixteenth year he had read some of the plays of Shakspeare, the works of Pope and Addison, and of the Scottish poets Ramsay and Fergusson. From the volumes of Locke, Ray, Derham, and Stackhouse, he also imbibed a smattering of natural history and theology; but his brother assures us, that until the time of his being known as an author, he continued to be but imperfectly acquainted with the most eminent of our English writers. Thanks to the songs and superstition of his native country, his genius had some fostering aliments, which perhaps the study of classical authors might have led him to neglect. His inspiration grew up like the flower, which owes to heaven, in a barren soil, a natural beauty and wildness of fragrance that would be spoilt by artificial
i From his letter to Dr. Moore.