Imagens das páginas
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of another. Some Seyen or eight years ago a great poet was travelling through that region of country which has earned even the title of The Land of Burns, and one of

those itinerary records which the imagination of Wordsworth has scattered in every land he has visited is in these lines:–

“‘There!" said a stripling, pointing with meet pride
Towards a low roof, with greem trees half concealed,
‘Is Mossgeil Farm, and that's the very field
Where Burns ploughed up the daisy.” Far and wide
A plain below stretched seaward; while, descried
Above sea-clouds, the Peaks of Arran rose
And, by that simple notice, the repose
Of earth, sky, sea, and air, was vivified
Beneath ‘the random bield of clod or stone.’
Myriads of daisies have shone forth in flower
Near the lark's nest, and, in their natural hour,
Have passed away, less happy than the one
That by the unwilling ploughshare died to prove
The tender charm of poetry and love.”

Another poem, composed under the same circumstances as the “Mountain-Daisy,” was that on turning up, with the plough, the nest of a field-mouse. It is conceived in the same vein of imagination, and of feeling the association of the mishaps of his own life with that of the little creature:—

“I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor earth-born companion
An’ fellow-mortal ''

The lesson of generosity, like mercy twice blessed,—to him that gives and him that takes, is exquisitely told, when he bids the wee thief welcome to nibble at the COI’In 2–

“I’ll get a blessing wi' the lave,
And never miss’t l”

“The Cotter's Saturday Night” was first recited to his brother as they walked together on a Sunday afternoon, a poem which, by its admirable soothing tone of reverence for holy things, a noble tribute to Scottish piety, has best served to shield the poet's memory from harsh judgments on his frailties. With Burns's quick apprehension, he was living a life which placed him in close communion with nature; and, though he delighted chiefly in portraying the stormy aspects of the elements, he did not overlook the minuter appearances worthy also of a poet's eye, as in that admirable piece of humorous imagination and vigorous thought, “The Brigs of Ayr,” the couplet describing the formation of ice;—

“The chilly frost, beneath the silver beam,
Crept gently—crusting o'er the glittering stream.”

And then the passage, rising to a higher strain of fancy, after the talk of the Auld Brig and the New is over:—

“What further clishmaclaver might been said,
What bloody wars, if sprites had blood to shed,
TNo mum can tell; but all before their sight
A fairy train appeared in order bright;
Adown the glittering stream they featly danced;
Bright to the moon their various dresses glanced :
They footed o'er the watery glass so meat,
The infant ice scarce bent beneath their feet.”


This fairy passage carries me in thought hastily to what Burns always thought, and rightly too, the best of all his productions, the matchless “Tam O’Shanter.” Short as it is, it is a great poem, with merits unassailable by the most rigid criticism, and which the most enthusiastic cannot exaggerate. It is wonderful, especially for the power which harmonizes the terrific and the laughable,_ a Shakspearian blending of tragedy and comedy. It was the work of a single day, composed by the river-side, where his wife found the bard crooning to himself, and Soon, with strange and wild gestures, in a fit of ungovernable joy, bursting out loudly in one of the most animated passages. There is great dramatic power in the poem:— the spirited introduction of the hero; the first allusion to the bewitched spot he was to pass by; the forewarning of witchcraft in his wife's affectionate and cheerful predictions;– - * .

“She prophesied that, late or soon,
Thou would be found deep drowned in Doon;

Or catched wi' warlocks in the mirk
By Alloway's auld haunted kirk.”

The arch reference to lengthy conjugal counsels;–

“Ah, gentle dames it gars me greet,
To think how mony counsels sweet,
How mony lengthened sage advices,
The husband frae the wife despises 1”

The convivial exultation of the reprobate and his cronies, set forth in two lines, the most vivid that revelry was ever told in :—

“Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious,
O'er as the ills o' life victorious.”

The transition from the careless, riotous enjoyment at the warm ingleside, by a different strain, giving one of the happiest imaginative illustrations in the range of poetry;- w

“But pleasures are like poppies spread:
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,

A moment white, then melts forever!”

Tam’s midnight ride, and his approach to the haunted kirk, after passing several spots, each having its own peculiar awe in some deed of death likely to leave a ghost behind:—where a pedlar had been smothered in the snow; where a drunken traveller had broken his neck; where a murdered bairn was found by the hunters; and where some old woman had hung herself;-

“Nae man can tether time or tide.
The hour approaches Tam maun ride;
That hour of night's black arch the key-stane,
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in,

And sic a night he taks the road in
As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.
The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last;
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallowed,
Loud, deep, and lang, the thunder bellowed;
That night a child might understand
The deil had business on his hand.
Weel mounted on his gray mare Meg,
(A better never lifted leg,)
Tam skelpit on thro’ dub and mire,
Despising wind, and rain, and fire,
Whiles holding fast his guid blue bonnet,
Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots sonnet,

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“Heroic Tam,” with a drunken heroism, rides on over the haunted ground, his ear beaten by wild, and, thus far, only natural, sounds, the waves of the Doon roaring with an angry flood, the tossing branches of the trees, and the incessant echoing of the thunders, when to his eye, dazzled by quick alternations of lightning and a mirk midnight, L t

“Glimmering through the groaning trees,
Kirk-Alloway seemed in a bleeze;

Thro' ilka, bore the beams were glancing,
And loud resounded mirth and dancing.”

The scene that followed I shall not attempt either to quote or to describe:—witchcraft with all its intensity; what you feel inclined sometimes to laugh at, but, before you venture to do so, a shudder creeps over you at the mention of the Wicked One's horrid playthings; but that hideous image as appalling as any terror in Shakspeare's sorcery:—

“ Coffins stood round, like open presses,
That shaw'd the dead in their last dresses;

And, by some devilish cantrip slight,
Each in its cauld hand held a light.”

The hideousness of the supernatural scene is aggrawated by the introduction of one human being mingling in the spectral revelry, a woman who had dealings in witchcraft. The scene suddenly changes; for, when Tam's silent amazement gave way to an impudent exclamation of applause at the agility of the beldame dancer, L

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