Imagens das páginas

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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 loth to admit almost any thought, feeling, image, drawn from any other region than his native district-the hearthstone 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 ! musical, most melancholy," he often is, even in his merriment! In him, alas ! the transports of inspiration are but too closely allied with reality's kindred agonies! The strings of his lyre sometimes yield their finest music to the sighs of remorse or repentance. Whatever, therefore, be the faults or defects of the poetry of Burns—and no doubt it has manyit has, beyond all that ever was written, this greatest of all merits, intense, life-pervading, and life-breathing truth.

There is probably not a human being come to the years of understanding in all Scotland, who has not heard of the name of Robert Burns. It is, indeed, a household word. His poems are found lying in almost every cottage in the country, on the "window-sole" of the kitchen, spence, or parlour; and in the town-dwellings of the industrious poor, if books belong to the family at all, you are pretty sure to see there the dear Ayrshire Ploughman. The father or mother, born and long bred, perhaps, among banks and braes, possesses, in that small volume, a talisman that awakens in a moment all the sweet visions of the past, and that can crowd the dim abode of hard-working poverty with a world of dear rural remembrances that awaken not repining but contentment.

No poet ever lived more constantly and more intimately in the hearts of a people. With their mirth, or with their melancholy, how often do his “native wood-notes wild" affect the sitters by the ingles of low-roofed homes, till their hearts


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overflow with feelings that place them on a level, as moral creatures, with the most enlightened in the land, and more than reconcile them with, make them proud of, the condition assigned them by Providence! There they see with pride the reflection of the character and condition of their own order. That pride is one of the best natural props of poverty; for, supported by it, the poor envy not the rich. They exult to know and to feel that they have had treasures bequeathed to them by one of themselves-treasures of the heart, the intellect, the fancy, and the imagination, of which the possession and the enjoyment are one and the same, as long as they preserve their integrity and their independence. The poor man, as he speaks of Robert Burns, always holds up his head and regards you with an elated look. A tender thought of the “Cottar's Saturday Night," or a bold thought of “Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled," may come across him; and he who in such a spirit loves home and country, by whose side may he not walk an equal in the broad eye of day as it shines over our Scottish hills ? This is true popularity. Thus interpreted, the word sounds well, and recovers its ancient meaning. The land made blithe with plough and harrow,"—the broomy or the heathery braes—the holms by the river's side—the forest where the woodman's ringing axe no more disturbs the cushat -the deep dell where all day long sits solitary plaided boy or girl watching the kine or the sheep—the moorland hut without any garden—the lowland cottage, whose garden glows like a very orchard, when crimsoned with fruit-blossoms most beautiful to behold—the sylvan homestead sending its reek aloft over the huge sycamore that blackens on the hill-sidethe straw-roofed village gathering with small bright crofts its many white gable-ends round and about the modest manse, and the kirk-spire covered with the pine-tree that shadows its horologe—the small, quiet, half-slated half-thatched rural town,

there resides, and will for ever reside, the immortal genius of Burns. Oh, that he, the prevailing Poet, could have seen this light breaking in upon the darkness that did too long and too deeply overshadow his lot! Some glorious glimpses of it his prophetic soul did see; witness “ The Vision," or that some. what humbler but yet high strain, in which, bethinking him of the undefined aspirations of his boyhood, he said to himself

“ Even then a wish, I mind its power,
A wish that to my latest hour

Shall strongly heave my breast,
That I, for puir auld Scotland's sake,
Some usefu' plan or book could make,

Or sing a sang at least !
The rough bur-thistle, spreading wide

Amang the bearded bear,
I turned the weeder-clips aside,

And spared the symbol dear.” Such hopes were with him in his “ bright and shining youth,” surrounded as it was with toil and trouble that could not bend his brow from its natural upward inclination to the sky; and such hopes, let us doubt it not, were also with him in his dark and faded prime, when life's lamp burned low indeed, and he was willing at last, early as it was, to shut his eyes on this dearly beloved but sorely distracting world.

With what strong and steady enthusiasm is the anniversary of Burns's birthday celebrated, not only all over his own native land, but in every country to which an adventurous spirit has carried her sons ! On such occasions, nationality is a virtue. For what else is the “ Memory of Burns,” but the memory of all that dignifies and adorns the region that gave him birth? Not till that region is shorn of all its beams—its honesty, its independence, its moral worth, its genius, and its piety, will the name of Burns

“Die on her ear, a faint unheeded sound.” But it has an immortal life in the hearts of young and old, whether sitting at gloaming by the ingle-side, or on the stone seat in the open air, as the sun is going down, or walking among the summer mists on the mountain, or the blinding winter snows. In the life of the poor there is an unchanging and a preserving spirit. The great elementary feelings of human nature there disdain fluctuating fashions; there pain and pleasure are alike permanent in their outward shows as in their inward emotions ; there the language of passion never grows obsolete; and at the same passage you hear the child sobbing at the knee of her grandame whose old eyes are somewhat dimmer than usual


with a haze that seems almost to be of tears. Therefore, the poetry of Burns will continue to charm, as long as Nith flows, Criffel is green, and the bonny blue of the sky of Scotland meets with that in the eyes of her maidens, as they walk up and down her hills silent or singing to kirk or market.

Let us picture to ourselves the Household in which Burns grew up to manhood, shifting its place without much changing its condition, from first to last always fighting against fortune, experiencing the evil and the good of poverty, and in the sight of men obscure. His father may be said to have been an elderly man when Robert was born, for he was within a few years of forty, and had always led a life of labour; and labour it is that wastes away the stubbornest strength—among the tillers of the earth a stern ally of time. “ His lyart haffets wearing thin and bare” at an age when many a forehead hardly shows a wrinkle, and when thick locks cluster darkly round the temples of easy-living men. The sire who “ turns o'er wi' patriarchal pride the big Ha-Bible,” is indeed well-stricken in years,

but he is not an old man, for
“ The expectant wee things, toddlin, stacher through

To meet their dad wi' flichterin noise and glee;
His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonnily ;
His clean hearth-stane, his thriftie wifie's smile,
The lisping infant prattling on his knee,

Does a' his weary carking cares beguile,

And makes him quite forget his labour and his toil.” That picture, Burns, as all the world knows, drew from his father, He was himself, in imagination, again one of the

wee things" that ran to meet him; and "the priest-like father" had long worn that aspect before the poet's eyes, though he died before he was threescore.

“I have always considered William Burnes," says the simple-minded tenderhearted Murdoch, "as by far the best of the human race that ever I had the pleasure of being acquainted with, and many a worthy character I have known. He was a tender and affectionate father; he took pleasure in leading his children in the paths of virtue, not in driving them, as some people do, to the performance of duties to which they themselves are

He took care to find fault very seldom ; and, therefore, when he did rebuke, he was listened to with a kind of



reverential awe. I must not pretend to give you a description of all the manly qualities, the rational and Christian virtues, of the venerable William Burnes. I shall only add that he practised every known duty, and avoided everything that was criminal; or, in the apostle's words, herein did he exercise himself, in living a life void of offence towards God and towards man.' Although I cannot do justice to the character of this worthy man, yet you will perceive, from these few particulars, what kind of a person had the principal part in the education of the poet.” Burns was as happy in a mother, whom, in countenance, it is said he resembled ; and as sons and daughters were born, we think of the “auld clay biggin" more and more alive with cheerfulness and

peace. His childhood, then, was a happy one, secured from all evil influences and open to all good, in the guardianship of religious parental love. Not a boy in Scotland had a better education. For a few months, when in his sixth year, he was at a small school at Alloway Mill, about a mile from the house in which he was born ; and for two years after under the tuition of good John Murdoch, a young scholar whom William Burnes and four or five neighbours engaged to supply the place of the schoolmaster, who had been removed to another situation, lodging him, as is still the custom in some country places, by turns in their own houses.

66 The earliest composition I recollect taking pleasure in, was "The Vision of Mirza,' and a hymn of Addison's, beginning, · How are thy servants bless'd, O Lord !! I particularly remember one half-stanza which was music to my boyish ear,

'For though on dreadful whirls we hang,

High on the broken wave.' I met with these pieces in Mason's English Collection, one of my school-books. The two first books I ever read in print, and which gave me more pleasure than any two books I ever read since, were the Life of Hannibal, and the History of Sir William Wallace. Hannibal gave my young ideas such a turn, that I used to strut in raptures up and down after the recruiting drum and bagpipe, and wished myself tall enough to be a soldier; while the story of Wallace poured a tide of Scottish prejudice into my veins, which will boil along there till the floodgates of life shut in eternal rest.” And speaking of tho


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