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engaged his passage, his chest was on the road to Greenock, from which port he was to sail, and he had taken leave of his friends, when a letter from Dr. Blacklock to one of the friends of the poet completely altered his resolution. “His opinion,” says Burns himself, “ that I would meet with encouragement in Edinburgh for a second edition of my poems, fired me so Inuch, that away I posted for that city, without a single acquaintance, or a single letter of introduction.”1
The result was, the introduction of the poet to all who were eminent in literature, in rank, or in fashion, in the Scottish metropolis. The brilliant conversational powers of the unlettered ploughman seem to have struck all with whom he came in contact, with as much wonder as his poetry. Under the patronage of Dr. Robertson, Professor Dugald Stewart, Mr. Henry Mackenzie, and other persons of note, a new edition of his poems was published, which yielded him nearly five hundred pounds. With this he returned, in 1788, to Ayrshire-advanced two hundred pounds to relieve his aged mother and brother, who were struggling with many difficulties on their farm-and with the rest prepared to stock another farm for himself in Dumfrieshire, where he took up his abode in June of that year, having before publicly solemnized his union with Jean Armour, to whom he had long been attached.
But the farm did not prosper well, and he obtained the office of exciseman or guager, in the district in which he lived. In 1791 he abandoned the farm entirely, and took a small house in the town of Dumfries. By this time, his habits of conviviality had settled down to confirmed intemperance, “and al. most every drunken fellow, who was willing to spend his money lavishly in the ale-house, could easily command the company of Burns. His Jean still behaved with a degree of maternal and conjugal tenderness and prudence, which made him feel more bitterly the evil of his misconduct, although they could not reclaim him. At last, crippled, emaciated, having the very power of animation wasted by disease, quite broken-hearted by the sense of his errors, and of the hopeless miseries to which he saw himself and his family depressed, he died at Dumfries on the 21st of July, 1796, when only thirtyseven years of age.”2
“ Burns," says Professor Wilson, “is by far the greatest poet that ever sprung from the bosom of the people, and lived and died in an humble condition. Indeed, no country in the world but Scotland could have produced such a man; and he will be for ever regarded as the glorious representative of the genius of his country. He was born a poet, if ever man was, and to his native genius alone is owing the perpetuity of his fame. For he manifestly had never very deeply studied poetry as an art, nor reasoned much about its principles, nor looked abroad with the wide ken of intellect for objects and subjects on which to pour out his inspiration. The condition of the peasantry of Scotland, the happiest, perhaps, that Providence ever allowed to the children of labor, was not surveyed and speculated upon by him as the field of poetry, but as the field of his own existence; and he chronicled the events that passed there, not merely as food for his imaginahon as a poet, but as food for his heart as a man. Hence, when inspired to compose poetry, poetry came gushing up from the well of his human affections, and he had nothing more to do than to pour it, like streams irrigating a meadow, in many a cheerful tide over the drooping flowers and fading verdure of life. Imbued with vivid perceptions, warm feelings, and strong passions, he sent his own existence into that of all things, animate and inanimate, around him; and not an occurrence in hamlet, village, or town, affecting in any way the happiness of the human heart, but roused as keen an interest in the soul of Burns, and as genial a sympathy, as if it had immediately concerned himself and his own individual welfare. Most other poets of rural life have looked on it through the aerial veil of imagination-often beautified, no doubt, by such partial concealment, and beaming with misty softness more delicate than the truth. But Burns would not thus indulge his fancy where he had feltfelt so poignantly, all the agonies and all the transports of life. He looked around him, and when he saw the smoke of the cottage rising up quietly and unbroken to heaven, he knew, for he had seen and blessed it, the quiet joy and unbroken contentment that slept below; and when he saw it driven and dispersed by the winds, he knew also but too well, for too sorely had he felt them, those agitations and disturbances which had shook him till he wept on his chaff bed. In reading his poetry, therefore, we know what unsubstantial dreams are all those of the golden age. But bliss beams upon us with a more subduing brightness through the dim melancholy that shrouds lowly life; and when the peasant Burns rises up in his might as Burns the poet, and is seen to derive all that might from the life which at this hour the peasantry of Scotland are leading, our hearts leap within us, because that such is our country, and such the nobility of her children. There is no delusion, no affectation, no exaggeration, no falsehood, in the spirit of Burns's poetry. He rejoices like an untamed enthusiast, and he weeps like a pros trate penitent. In joy and in grief the whole man appears: some of his finest effusions were poured out before he left the fields of his childhood, and when he scarcely hoped for other auditors than his own heart, and the simple dwellers of the hamlet. He wrote not to please or surprise others we speak of those first effusions—but in his own creative delight; and even after he had discovered his power to kindle the sparks of nature wherever they slumbered, the effect to be produced seldom seems to have been considered by him, assured that his poetry could not fail to produce the same passion in the hearts of other men from which it boiled over in his own. Out of him. self, and beyond his own nearest and dearest concerns, he well could, but he did not much love often or long to go. His imagination wanted not wings broad and strong for highest flights. But he was most at home when walking on this earth, through this world, even along the banks and braes of the streams of Coila. It seems as if his muse were loath to admit almost any thought, feeling, or image, drawn from any other region than his native district—the bearth-stone of his father's hut-the still or troubled chamber of his own generous and passionate bosom. Dear to him the jocund laughter of the reapers on the corn-field, the tears and sighs which his own strains had won from the children of nature enjoying the mid-day hour of rest beneath the shadow of the hedgerow tree. With what pathetic personal power, from all the circumstances of his character and condition, do many of his humblest lines affect us! Often, too often, as we hear him singing, we think that we see him suffering! Most musical, most melancholy' he often is, eren in his merriment! In him, alas! the transports of inspiration are but too closely allied with reality's kindred agonies! 'The strings of his lyne sometimes yield their finest music to the sighs of remorse or repentanco. Whatever, therefore, be the faults or defects of the poetry of Burns and no doubt it has many—it has, beyond all that was ever written, this greatest of all merits, intense, life-pervading, and life-breathing truth.”
1 This was in 1786, when he was twenty-seven years old.
2 Read-an interesting sketch of his life in Chambers's Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scots. men;" also, “Currie's Life," "Lockhart's Life," and "Cunningham's Life," prefixed to his edition of the poet's works. This is now the most complete and best edition of Burns, containing 150 pieces inore than Dr. Currie's edition. Read, also, the “Genius and Character of Burns," by Professor Wilson, No. XXI. of Wiley and Putnam's Library of Choice Reading. Also, two articles in the Edipourgh Review, vol. 13, and vol. 48, and one in the first volume of the London Quarterly.
TO A MOUNTAIN DAISY,
Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flower,
Thy slender stem;
Thou bonnie gem.
Wi' speckled breast,
The purpling east.
Amid the storm,
Thy tender form.
O' clod or stane,
In humble guise;
And low thou lies!
And guileless trust,
Low i' the dust.
Of prudent lore,
And whelm him o'er!
Such fate to suffering worth is given,
To misery's brink,
He, ruin'd, sink!
Full on thy bloom,
Shall be thy doom !
TO MARY IN HEAVEN." Thou lingering star, with lessening ray,
That lovest to greet the early morn, Again thou usher'st in the day
My Mary from my soul was torn. O Mary! dear departed shade!
Where is thy place of blissful rest? Seest thou thy lover lowly laid ?
Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast? That sacred hour can I forget,
Can I forget the hallow'd grove, Where by the winding Ayr we met,
To live one day of parting love? Eternity will not efface
Those records dear of transports past; Thy image at our last embrace!
Ah, little thought we 'twas our last! Ayr, gurgling, kiss'd his pebbled shore,
O’erhung with wild woods, thickening green, The fragrant birch, and hawthorn hoar,
Twined amorous round the raptured sceno; The flowers sprang wanton to be prest,
The birds sang love on every spray, Till too, too soon, the glowing west
Proclaim'd the speed of winged day, Still o'er these scenes my memory wakes,
And fondly broods with miser care! Time but the impression stronger makes,
As streams their channels deeper wear.
1 This was the first object of his early, pure, impassioned love-Mary Campbell, or his "Highland Mary.” In his poem,
" Ye banks, and braes, and streams around
The castle o' Montgomerie," he describes, in the most beautiful language, their tender and final parting on the banks of the Ayr. He intended to marry her, but she died at Greenock on her return from a visit to her relations in Argyleshire. At a later period of life, on the anniversary of that hallowed day when they parted, he devoted a night to a poetic vigil in the open air. As evening came, “he appeared to grow very sail about something," and wandered out of doors into the barn-yard, where his Jean found him lying on some straw with his eyes fixed on a shining star “like another moon.” Thus did he write down, as it now is, in its immortal beauty, this deeply pathetic elegy to the memory of his “ Highland Mary,
My Mary, dear departed shade!
Where is thy place of blissful rest? Seest thou thy lover lowly laid ?
Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast?
LESSONS FOR LIFE.
Life is but a day at most,
As Youth and Love, with sprightly dance,
As thy day grows warm and high,
As the shades of evening close,
Lead to the wretched, vile, and base.”