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with too fierce a tone of defiance; and indi- to lay it down as our opinion—that his poetry cates rather the pride of a sturdy peasant, is far superior to his prose; that his Scottish than the calm and natural elevation of a compositions are greatly to be preferred to his generous mind.
English ones; and that his Songs will probaThe last of the symptoms of rusticity which bly outlive all his other productions. A very we think it necessary to notice in the works few remarks on each of these subjects will of this extraordinary man, is that frequent comprehend almost all that we have to say of mistake of mere exaggeration and violence, the volumes now before us. for force and sublimity, which has defaced The prose works of Burns consist almost so much of his prose composition, and given entirely of his letters. They bear, as well as an air of heaviness and labour to a good deal his poetry, the seal and the impress of his of his serious poetry. The truth is, that his genius; but they contain much more bad forte was in humour and in pathos—or rather taste, and are written with far more apparent in tenderness of feeling; and that he has very labour. His poetry was almost all written seldom succeeded, either where mere wit primarily from feeling, and only secondarily and sprightliness, or where great energy and from ambition. His letters seem to have been weight of sentiment were requisite. He had nearly all composed as exercises, and for disevidently a very false and crude notion of play. There are few of them written with what constituted strength of writing; and in- simplicity or plainness; and though natural stead of that simple and brief directness enough as to the sentiment, they are generally which stamps the character of vigour upon very strained and elaborate in the expression. every syllable, has generally had recourse to A very great proportion of them, too, relate a mere accumulation of hyperbolical expres- neither to facts nor feelings peculiarly consions, which encumber the diction instead of nected with the author or his correspondentexalting it, and show the determination to be but are made up of general declamation, impressive, without the power of executing moral reflections, and vague discussions—all it. This error also we are inclined to ascribe evidently composed for the sake of effect, and entirely to the defects of his education. The frequently introduced with long complaints of value of simplicity in the expression of pas- having nothing to say, and of the necessity sion, is a lesson, we believe, of nature and of and difficulty of letter-writing. genius ;-but its importance in mere grave By far the best of those compositions, are and impressive writing, is one of the latest such as we should consider as exceptions from discoveries of rhetorical experience.
this general character—such as contain some With the allowances and exceptions we specific information as to himself, or are sug. have now stated, we think Burns entitled to gested by events or observations directly apthe rank of a great and original genius. He plicable to his correspondent. One of the has in all his compositions great force of con- best, perhaps, is that addressed to Dr. Moore, ception; and great spirit and animation in its containing an account of his early life, of expression. He has taken a large range which Dr. Currie has made such a judicious through the region of Fancy, and naturalized use in his Biography. It is written with great himself in almost all her climates. He has clearness and characteristic effect, and congreat humour-great powers of description- tains many touches of easy humour and natugreat pathos—and great discrimination of ral eloquence. We are struck, as we open character. Almost every thing that he says the book accidentally, with the following has spirit and originality; and every thing that original application of a classical image, by he says well, is characterized by a charming this unlettered rustic. Talking of the first facility, which gives a grace even to occa- vague aspirations of his own gigantic mind, sional rudeness, and communicates to the he says-we think very finely—“I had felé reader a delightful sympathy with the sponta- some early stirrings of ambition; but they neous soaring and conscious inspiration of the were the blind gropings of Homer's Cyclop poet.
round the walls of his cave !" Of his other Considering the reception which these letters, those addressed to Mrs. Dunlop are, works have met with from the public, and the in our opinion, by far the best. He appears long period during which the greater part of from first to last, to have stood somewhat in them have been in their possession, it may awe of this excellent lady; and to have been appear superflous to say any thing as to their no less sensible of her sound judgment and characteristic or peculiar merit. Though the strict sense of propriety, than of her steady ultimate judgment of the public, however, be and generous partiality. The following pagalways sound, or at least decisive as to its sage we think is striking and characteristic:general result, it is not always very apparent upon what grounds it has proceeded; nor in
"I own myself so little a Presbyterian, that I consequence of what, or in spite of what, it approve of set times and seasons of more than ordihas been obtained. In Burns' works there is nary acts of devotion, for breaking in on that habit.
nated routine of life and thought which is so apt to much to censure, as well as much to praise; | reduce our existence to a kind of instinct, or even and as time has not yet separated his ore from sometimes, and with some minds, 10 a siate very its dross, it may be worth while to state, in a little superior to mere machinery. very general way, what we presume to antici.
“This day; the first Sunday of May; a breezy, pate as the result of this separation. Without blue-skyed noon, some time about the beginning, pretending to enter at all into the comparative end of autumn ;-these, time out of mind, have
and a hoary morning and calm sunny day about the merit of particular passages we may venture been with me a kind of holiday.
"I believe I owe this to that glorious paper in the "Honoured Sir, I have purposely delayed wri. Spectator, “The Vision of Mirza ;' a piece that ling, in the hope that I should have the pleasure of siruck my young fancy before I was capable of fix. seeing you on New-year's Day; but work comes ing an idea to a word of three syllables. . On the so hard upon us, that I do not choose to be absent 5th day of the moon, which, according to the custom on that account, as well as for some other little of my forefathers, I always keep holy, after having reasons, which I shall tell you at meeting. My washed myself, and offered up my morning devo- health is nearly the same as when you were here, tions, I ascended the high hill of Bagdat, in order to only my sleep is a little sounder, and, on the whole, pass the rest of the day in meditation and prayer.' I am rather better than otherwise, though I mend
** We know nothing, or next to nothing, of the by very slow degrees. The weak ness of my nerves substance or structure of our souls, so cannot ac. has so debilitated my mind, that I dare neither recount for those seeming caprices in them, that one view past wants, nor look forward into futurity; for should be particularly pleased with this thing, or the least anxiety or perturbation in my breast prostruck with that, which, on minds of a different duces most unhappy effects on my whole frame. cast, makes no extraordinary impression. I have Sometimes, indeed, when for an hour or two my some favourite flowers in spring; among which are spirits are a little lightened, I glimmer a little into the mountain-daisy, the hare-bell, the fox-glove, the futurity : but my principal, and indeed my only wild brier-rose, the budding birch, and the hoary pleasurable employment, is looking backwards and hawthorn, that I view and hang over with particular forwards, in a moral and religious way. I am guite delight. I never hear the loud, solitary whistle of transported at the thought, that ere long, perhaps the curlew in a summer noon, or the wild mixing very soon, I shall bid an eternal adieu to all the cadence of a troop of grey plover in an autumnal pains, and uneasinesses, and disquietudes of this morning, without feeling an elevation of soul, like weary life; for I assure you I am heartily tired of the enthusiasm of devotion or poetry. Tell me, my lit; and, if I do not very much deceive myself, I dear friend, to what can this be owing? Are we a could contentedly and gladly resign it. piece of machinery, which, like the Eolian harp,
“The soul, uneasy, and confin'd at home passive, takes the impression of the passing acci. Rests and expatiates in a life to come.' dent? Or do these workings argue something within us above the trodden clod ?” --Vol. ii. pp. the 15th, 16th, and 17th verses of the 7th chapter
“It is for this reason I am more pleased with 195—197.
of the Revelations, than with any ten times as To this we may add the following passage, many verses in the whole Bible, and would not exas a part, indeed, of the same picture :
change the noble enthusiasm with which they in.
gpire me for all that this word has to offer. As for ** There is scarcely any earthly object gives me
this world, I despair of ever making a figure in it. more—I do not know if I should call it pleasure, flutter of the gay. I shall never again be capable
I am not formed for the bustle of the busy, nor the but something which exalts me, something which of entering into such scenes. Indeed I am alto. of a wood, or high plantation, in a cloudy winter gether unconcerned for the thoughts of this life. I day, and hear the stormy wind howling among the foresee that poverty and obscurity probably await
me; and I am in some measure prepared, and trees, and saving over ihe plain! It is my best daily preparing to meet them. I have but just time season for devotion : my mind is wrapt up in a kind and paper to return to you my grateful thanks for of enthusiasm to flim, who, in the pompous lan. the lessons of virtue and piety you have given me; guage of the Hebrew bard, “ walks on the wings which were too much neglected at the time of of the wind.”—Vol. ii. p. 11.
giving them, but which, I hope, have been remem. The following is one of the best and most bered ere it is yet too late."-Vol. i. pp. 99—101. striking of a whole series of eloquent hypo- Before proceeding to take any particular, chondriasm.
notice of his poetical compositions, we must “ After six weeks' confinement, I am beginning that all his best pieces are written in Scotch;
take leave to apprise our Southern readers, to walk across the room. They have been six hor and that it is impossible for them to form any rible weeks ;-anguish and low spirits made me unfit to read, write, or think.
adequate judgment of their merits, without a “I have a hundred times wished that one could pretty long residence among those who still resign life as an officer resigns a commission : for I use that language. To be able to translate would not take in any poor, ignorant wretch, by the words, is but a small part of the knowselling out. Lately I was a sixpenny private ; and, ledge that is necessary. The whole genius. march to the campaign, a starving cadet-a little and idiom of the language must be familiar; more conspicuously wretched.
and the characters, and habits, and associa“I am ashamed of all this ; for though I do want tions of those who speak it. We beg leave bravery for the warfare of life, I could wish, like too, in passing, to observe, that this Scotch is some other soldiers, to have as much fortitude of not to be considered as a provincial dialectcunning as to dissemble or conceal my cowardice." | the vehicle only of rustic vulgarity and rude
Vol. ii. pp. 127, 128.
local humour. 'It is the language of a whole One of the most striking letters in the col- country—long an independent kingdom, and lection, and, to us, one of the most interest- still separate in laws, character, and manners. ing, is the earliest of the whole series; being It is by no means peculiar to the vulgar; but addressed to his father in 1781, six or seven is the common speech of the whole nation in years before his name had been heard of out early life-and, with many of its most exof his own family. The author was then a alted and accomplished individuals, throughcommon flax-dresser, and his father a poor out their whole existence; and, though it be peasant;-yet there is not one trait of vul- true that, in later times, it has been, in some garity, either in the thought or the expression; measure, laid aside by the more ambitious but, on the contrary, a dignity and elevation and aspiring of the present generation, it is of 'sentiment, which must have been con. still recollected, even by them, as the familiar sidered as of good omen in a youth of much language of their childhood, and of those who higher condition. The letter is as follows:- I were the earliest objects of their love and
veneration. It is connected, in their imagi- delicacy, as well as justness of conception, by nation, not only with that olden time which which alone the fastidiousness of an ordinary is uniformly conceived as more pure, lofty reader can be reconciled to such representa and simple than the present, but also with all tions. The exquisite description of “The the soft and bright colours of remembered Cotter's Saturday Night” affords, perhaps, the childhood and domestic affection. All its finest example of this sort of pathetic.' Its phrases conjure up images of schoolday inno- whole beauty cannot, indeed, be discerned cence, and sports, and friendships which have but by those whom experience has enabled no pattern in succeeding years. Add to all to judge of the admirable fidelity and comthis, that it is the language of a great body pleteness of the picture. But, independent of poetry, with which almost all Scotchmen altogether of national peculiarities, and even are familiar; and, in particular, of a great in spite of the obscurity of the language, we multitude of songs, written with more tender- think it impossible to peruse the following ness, nature, and feeling, than any other lyric stanzas without feeling the force of tender. compositions that are extant-and we may ness and truth :perhaps be allowed to say, that the Scotch is,
· November chill blaws loud wi' angry sugh; in reality, a highly poetical language ; and that it is an ignorant, as well as an illiberal
The shorı’ning winter-day is near a close;
The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh; prejudice, which would seek to confound it The black’ning trains o' craws to their repose : with the barbarous dialects of Yorkshire or The toil-worn Cotler frae his labour goes, Devon. In composing his Scottish poems, This night bis weekly moil is at an end, therefore, Burns did not merely make an in
Collects his epades, his maltocks, and his hoes, stinctive and necessary use of the only dialect And weary, o'er the moor, his course does hame
Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend, he could employ. The last letter which we
ward bend. have quoted, proves, that before he had penned a single couplet, he could write in the dialect
“ At length his lonely cot appears in view, of England with far greater purity and pro
Beneath the shelier of an aged tree; priety than nine tenths of those who are called
Th' expectant wee-things, toddling, stacher thro'
To meet their Dad, wi' flicherin noise an' glee. well educated in that country. He wrote in His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonnily, Scotch, because the writings which he most His clean hearth-stane, his thriftie wifie's smile, aspired to imitate were composed in that The lisping infant prattling on his knee, language; and it is evident, from the varia
Does a' his weary carking cares beguile, tions preserved by Dr. Currie, that he took An' makes him quite forget his labour an' his voil. much greater pains with the beauty and purity · Belyve the elder bairns come drapping in, of his expressions in Scotch than in English; At service out, amang the farmers roun'; and, every one who understands both, must
Some ca’ the pleugh, some herd, some tentie rin admit, with infinitely better success.
A canna errand to a neebor town: But though we have ventured to say thus
Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman grown,
In youthfu' bloom, love sparkling in her e'e, much in praise of the Scottish poetry of Burns, Comés hame, perhaps, to shew a braw new gown, we cannot presume to lay many specimens of Or deposite her sair-won penny fee, it before our readers; and, in the few extracts To help her parents dear, if they in hardship be. we may be tempted to make from the volumes - But hark! a rap comes gently to the door ; before us, shall be guided more by a desire to Jenny, wha kens the meaning o' the same, exhibit what may be intelligible to all our Tells how a neebor lad came o'er the moor, readers, than by a feeling of what is in itself To do some errands, and convoy her hame. of the highest excellence.
The wily mother sees the conscious flame We have said that Burns is almost equally
Sparkle in Jenny's e'e, and flush her cheek;
With heart-struck anxious care,inquires his name, distinguished for his tenderness and his hu
While Jenny hafflins is afraid to speak; mour:-we might have added, for a faculty Weel pleas'd, the mother hears its nae wild, worth. of combining them both in the same subject,
less rake. not altogether without parallel in the older “ Wi' kindly welcome Jenny brings him ben : poets and ballad-makers, but altogether sin- A srappan youth; he taks the mother's eye; gular, we think, among modern writers. The Blythe Jenny sees the visit's no ill ta'en; passages of pure humour are entirely Scot- The father cracks of horses, pleughs, and kye. tish-and untranslateable. They consist in
The youngster's artless heart o'erflows wi' joy.
Bui blate and laithfu', scarce can weel behave; the most picturesque representations of life
The mother, wj' a woman's wiles, can spy and manners, enlivened, and even exalted by What makes the youth sae bashfu' an' sae traits of exquisite sagacity, and unexpected
(the lave. reflection. His tenderness is of two sorts; Weel pleas'd to think her bairn's respected like that which is combined with circumstances
“The cheerfu' supper done, wi' serious face, and characters of humble, and sometimes lu- They, round the ingle, form a circle wide ; dicrous simplicity; and that which is pro
The sire turns o'er, wi' patriarchal grace. duced by gloomy and distressful impressions
The big ha'- Bible, ance his father's pride :
His bonnet rev'rently is laid aside, acting on a mind of keen sensibility. The
His lyart haffets wearing thin an' bare ; passages which belong to the former descrip
Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide, tion are, we think, the most exquisite and He wales a portion with judicious care ; (air. original, and, in our estimation, indicate the And • Let us worship God!' he says, with solemn greatest and most amiable turn of genius;
• They chaunt their artless notes in simple guise ; both as being accompanied by fine and feeling
They tune their hearts, by far the noblest pictures of humble life, and as requiring that aim,"
Then homeward all take off their sev'ral way; reader must have felt the effect of this relent.
The youngling, cottagers retire to rest : ing nature in the following stanzas :The parent pair their secret homage pay,
And proffer up to Heaven the warm request “ Lang syne, in Eden's bonie yard, That He who stills the raven's clam'rous nest, When youthfu' lovers first were pair'd, And decks the lily fair in flow'ry pride,
An' all the soul of love they shar'd,
The raptur'd hour,
Sweet on the fragrant, flow'ry swaird, but chiefly, in their hearts, with grace divine pre
In shady bower: side."
Vol. iii. pp. 174–181. The charm of the fine lines written on turn
“Then you, ye auld, snic-drawing dog!
Ye came to Paradise incog, ing up a mouse's nest with a plough, will also
An' gied the infant warld a shog, he found to consist in the simple tenderness
'Maist ruin'da. of the delineation.
“But, fare you weel, auld Nickie-ben! • Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
O wad ye tak a thought an' men'!
Ye aiblins might-I dinna ken-
Still hae a stake
I'm wae to think upo' yon den,
'Ev'n for your sake!"
Vol. iii. pp. 74–76. “ Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste,
The finest examples, however, of this simple
and unpretending tenderness is to be found in Thou thought to dwell,
those songs which are likely to transmit the 'Till crash! the cruel coulter past
name of Burns to all future generations. He Out thro' thy cell. found this delightful trait in the old Scottish “ That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
ballads which he took for his model, and upon Has cost thee mony a weary nibble ! which he has improved with a felicity and Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble, delicacy of imitation altogether unrivalled in
But house or hald, To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
the history of literature. Sometimes it is the An cranreuch cauld!"
brief and simple pathos of the genuine old Vol. iii. pp. 147.
ballad; as, The verses to a Mountain Daisy, though “ But I look to the West when I lie down to rest, more elegant and picturesqne, seem to derive That happy my dreams and my slumbers may be; their chief beauty from the same tone of sen- For far in the West lives he I love best, timent.
The lad that is dear to my baby and me." “ Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flow'r,
Or, as in this other specimen-
“Drumossie moor, Drumossie day!
A waefu' day it was to me;
For there I lost my father dear,
My father dear, and brethren three. “ Alas! it's no thy neebor sweet,
“ Their winding sheet the bluidy clay, The bonnie Lark, companion meet!
Their graves are growing green to see;
And by them lies the dearest lad
That ever blest a woman's e'e !
Now wae to thee, thou cruel lord,
A bluidy man I trow thou be;
For mony a heart thou hast made sair, Cauld blew the bitter-biting north
That ne'er did wrong to thine or thee." Upon thy early, humble birth;
Vol. iv. p. 337. Yet cheerfully thou glinted forth Amid the storm,
Sometimes it is animated with airy narrative, Scarce rear'd above the parent earth,
and adorned with images of the utmost eleThy tender form.
gance and beauty. As a specimen taken at “ There, in thy scanty mantle clad,
random, we insert the following stanzas :Thy snawie bosom sun-ward spread, Thou lifts thy unassuming head
"And ay she wrought her mammie's wark: In humble guise ;
And ay she sang sae merrilie :
The blythest bird upon the bush
Had ne'er a lighter heart than she.
" But hawks will rob the tender joys There are many touches of the same kind That bless the little lintwhite's nest; in most of the popular and beautiful poems in And frost will blight the fairest flowers, this collection, especially in the Winter Night And love will break the soundest rest. -the address to his old Mare—the address to
"Young Robie was the brawest lad, the Devil, &c.;—in all which, though the The flower and pride of a' the glen; greater part of the piece be merely ludicrous And he had owsen, sheep. and kye, and picturesque, there are traits of a delicate And wanton naigies nine or ten. and tender feeling, indicating that unaffected
“He gaed wi' Jeanie to the tryste, softness of heart which is always so enchant
He danc'd wi' Jeanie on the down; ing. In the humorous address to the Devil,
And lang ere willess Jeanie wist, which we have just mentioned, every Scottish Her heart was lint, her peace was stown.
" As in the bosom o' the stream
The sensibility which is thus associated The moon-beam dwells at dewy e'en; with simple imagery and gentle melancholy, So trembling, pure, was infant love is to us the most winning and attractive. But Within the breast o' bonie Jean!
Vol. iv. p. 80.
Burns has also expressed it when it is merely
the instrument of torture-of keen remorse, Sometimes, again, it is plaintive and mourn- and tender and agonising regret. There are ful—in the same strain of unaffected sim- some strong traits of the former feeling, in the nlicity.
entitled the Lament, Despondency, &c.; “O stay, sweet warbling wood-lark, stay,
when, looking back to the times Nor quit for me the trembling spray!
· When love's luxurious pulse beat high," A hapless lover couris thy lay, Thy soothing fond complaining.
he bewails the consequences of his own ir
regularities. There is something cumbrous " Again, again that tender part
and inflated, however, in the diction of these That I may catch thy melting art; For surely that would touch her heart,
pieces. We are infinitely more moved with Wha kills me wi' disdaining.
his Elegy upon Highland Mary. Of this first
love of the poet, we are indebted to Mr. “Say, was thy little mate unkind,
Cromek for a brief, but very striking account, And heard thee as the careless wind ? Oh, nocht but love and sorrow join'd,
from the pen of the poet himself. In a note Sic notes o' woe could wauken.
on an early song inscribed to this mistress, he
had recorded in a manuscript book" Thou tells o' never-ending care ; O'speechless grief, and dark despair ;
“My Highland lassie was a warm-hearted, For piry's sake, sweet bird, nae mair! charming young creature as ever blessed a man Or my poor heart is broken!”
with generous love. After a pretty long tract of the Vol. iv. pp. 226, 227. most ardent reciprocal attachment, we met, by ap
pointment, on the second Sunday of May, in a seWe add the following from Mr. Cromek's questered spot by the Banks of Ayr, where we new volume; as the original form of the very spent the day in taking a farewell before she should popular song given at p. 325, of Dr. Currie's embark for the West Highlands, to arrange matters fourth volume :
among her friends for our projected change of life.
At the close of Autumn following, she crossed the “ Ye flowery banks o' bonie Doon,
sea to meet me at Greenock : where she had scarce How can ye blume sae fair ;
landed when she was seized with a malignant fever, How can ye chant, ye little birds,
which hurried my dear girl to the grave in a few And I sae fu' o' care !
days !-before I could even hear of her illness."
Vol. v. pp. 237, 238. " Thou'll break my heart, thou bonie bird That sings upon the bough;
Mr. Cromek has added, in a note, the folThou minds me o' the happy days
lowing interesting particulars; though without When my fause luve was true.
specifying the authority upon which he details
them :“ Thou'll break my heart, thou bonie bird That sings beside thy mate ;
“ This adieu was performed with all those simple For sae I sat, and sae I sang,
and striking ceremonials which rustic sentiment has And wist na o'
devised to prolong tender emotions and to inspire “ Aft hae I rov'd by bonie Doon,
awe. The lovers stood on each side of a small To see the woodbine twine,
purling brook; they laved their hands in its limpid And ilka bird sang o'iis love,
stream, and holding a Bible belween them, pro. And sae did I o' mine.
nounced their vows to be faithful to each other.
They parted---never to meet again! “Wi' lightsome heart I pu'd a rose
“ The anniversary of Mary Campbell's death (for Frae aff its thorny tree,
that was her name) awakening in the sensitive mind And my fanse luver staw the rose,
of Burns the most lively emotion, he retired from But left the thorn wi' me."
his family, then residing on the farm of Ellisland, Vol. v. pp. 17, 18. and wandered, solitary, on the banks of the Nith,
and about the farm yard, in "he extremest agitation Sometimes the rich imagery of the poet's of mind, nearly the wavle of the night: His agita. fancy overshadows and almost overcomes the tion was so great, that he threw himself on the side leading sentiment.
of a corn stack, and there conceived his sublime and
tender elegy-his address To Mary in Heaven." “The merry ploughboy cheers his team,
Vol. v. p. 238.
The poem itself is as follows:
“Thou lingering star, with less'ning ray, '. The wanton coot the water skims,
That lov'st to greet the early morn,
Again thou usher'st in the day
My Mary from my soul was torn!
“O Mary! dear departed shade! “ The sheep-herd steeks his faulding slap,
Where is thy place of blissful rest?
See'st thou thy lover lowly laid ?
Hear'st thou the groans that rend this breast ! I meet him on the dewy hill.
" That sacred hour can I forget, " And when the lark, 'tween light and dark,
Can I forget the hallowed grove,
Where by the winding Ayr we met,
To live one day of parting love!
Those records dear of transports past;