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own the quantity of religious service is his son plunged, to escape the unconexcessive. First, the father inculcates genial austerities of a household in the fear of the Lord; next, he reads which innocent amusements were rethe Psalm-Dundee, or Martyrs, or garded with disapproval, and where a Elgin ; next, he reads the sacred page, sanctimonious gloom was the child's Genesis, Kings, Job, Isaiah, the Gos- best recommendation to the smiles--if pels, or Revelations; next, he prays
old William ever smiled-of the parent. with his family; and, finally,
But the household itself it cannot re
present, for none of William Burnes's "The parent-pair then secret homage family ever went out to service, nor pay,
was he ever in the condition of a cotter, And offer up to heaven the warm re- nor was there any young girl," woman quest;"
grown,” at that time, to be visited
by a lover in the little group that -in a word, ten stanzas of religious used to gather round his respectservices to five of human affection, able but sombre hearth. while the main charm of the piece Old William was certainly an extraunquestionably gathers round the ordinary, though morose man, and latter. But for Jenny's sweet con- we think much mistaken in his nofusion-her mother's prudent anxiety tions of the education of young people. -her lover's ingenuous shame-faced. He was from Kincardineshire; had ness, set at ease by the father's accept- come to the neighbourhood of Ayr in able crack of " horses, pleughs, and the capacity of gardener to Provost kye,” all comprised within the limits Ferguson; had raised himself to the of a single stanza, the piece would condition of a small farmer, holding a want a good half of its beauty, while plot of about seven acres, on which, much of the insipid enumeration of chiefly with his own hands, he had the sacred books and Psalm-tunes, built a house-of course a cottage and occupying so considerable a part of mud-walled—but by no means a hut; the rest of the poem, might be omit- on the contrary, it consisted of several ted, without depriving the reader's apartments, and afforded all the acheart of any virtuous or holy emotion, commodation which a small farmer's or his mind of any intellectual acquisi- family could reasonably require_very tion. But the “Saturday Night” much the same sort of habitation, we was a piece which might always be would imagine, as that of Mr. Carlesafely praised ; and many who have ton's father at Prillisk. But this felt, but dare not acknowledge, their humble man, in addition to a perfect obligation to Burns for his bold vin- and profound acquaintance with the dication of common sense and hu- Scriptures, was possessed of very conmanity elsewhere, have discharged siderable secular knowledge, of a strong their consciences by bestowing an turn for moral and physical philosophy, excessive and strained admiration on and an ardent desire to impart the this beautiful but, we think, over-rated advantages of literature to his family. poem. Our object here, however, is For this purpose, he and some neighnot so much to criticise the piece as a bours united to employ a tutor to atwork of genius, as to show our rea- tend their children, taking the main. sons for believing it not to have tenance of the teacher in turns. To been the representation of any scene this well-disposed but conceited peda. with which Burns' youth was habitually gogue, called Murdoch, we owe the familiar. His own father's household grudge of having taught Robert that it assuredly cannot have been meant to smattering of French which so foprepresent; though William Burnes's pishly and absurdly marked his prose picture may have been, and pro- composition in after life. To him also bably is, to some extent sketched we owe the very exaggerated estimain that of the austere old man tion of William Burnes's character, “mingling a'wi' admonition due," which has led so many writers to refor, by all accounts, Robert's father gard him, not only as wholly blameless appears to have been a most importu- for Robert's follies, but as a pattern nate exhorter, in season and out of for all parents. Murdoch got into season; and the result is plain to be cominunication with Walker, the auseen in the early dissipation into which thor of the “ Memoir on the Irish
many other acceptable gifts of knowledge, to Messrs. Chambers, in one of their exceedingly cheap and generally well-selected publications, though in this particular instance we find our poem associated with other pieces, the sordidness of which, in our estimation, greatly overbalances their merit of humour :
In winter nights, whae'er has seen
And heart enamour,
That houff o' clamour.
Whan stately stacks are tightly theekit,
For his lang hame,
Than I can name.
The lasses aye the gloamin hail,
That halesome wark;
Like city spark.
Bards" in 1799, at a time when Burnes's fame had attracted universal attention, and when the tutor might hope to share in whatever commendation was going. It will easily be understood how he would make the most of his subject, declaring that, within William Burnes's mean cottage, "dwelt a larger portion of content than in any palace in Europe!" and appealing to the “ Cotter's Saturday Night,” which he must have well known represented no such scene, in confirmation of his assertion. His praises of old William are unbounded : “ An excellent hus. band," " a tender, affectionate father," “never saw him angry but twice," and “ he was by far the best of the human race he ever was acquainted with,” &c. &c.; though, in the midst of Murdoch's laudations, it is perfectly plain that every one in the house stood in awe of him, and Robert himself declares that he early felt himself the object of a positive dislike, which he ascribes to the morose old man's vexation at his going to the dancing-school. Looking around us in life, we see almost as many young men ruined by excessive austerity as by excessive indulgence at home. "If old William's hearth had been more cheerful, Robert would have had fewer attractions at the ale-house. But our principal quarrel with him is this : that at one time he appears to have succeeded in making Robert something of a hypocrite. We speak of the letter from Irving beginning “ Honored Sir,” and affecting a religious unction, which we strongly suspect was assumed for the occasion. If we be right in this, what a positive sin this mistaken old man has to answer for, in debasing, even for a time, so manly and ingenuous a mind, and one from which every base pretence was so abhorrent. But, to return to
Saturday Night,” we repeat, we think it was
a picture which Burns felt he ought to draw for his own justification, and which he drew with more regard to what a jealous piety would consider the Scottish peasant's hearth ought to be, than what it really was.
We find a picture of the sort of scene in which we think it infinitely more probable Robert used to spend his “ Saturdays at e'en,” in Doctor Keith's pleasing little poem, “the Farmer's Ha',” for which we are indebted, among so
They a' drive to the ingle cheek,
To gie them tune;
To mend their shoon.
They pu' and rax the lingle tails, Into their brogues they ca' the nails ; Wi' hammers now, instead o'flails
They mak great rackets, And set about their heels wi' rails
And aye till this misthriven age, The gudeman here sat like a sage; Wi'mull in hand, and wise adage,
He spent the night ; But now he sits in chamber's cage,
A pridefu' wight!
Then, after describing the “lasses," who
“ With unshod heels, Are sitting at their spinning wheels,”
while the “auld gudewife" reeling the yarn, keeps exhorting the hizzies to their work, and “ redds then up I trow fu' weel,” as auld gudewifes we suppose will continue to do while the world goes round, the rhymster introduces us to that indispensable character in such scenes, and prescriptive butt for the rustic wit of the kitchen, the tailor.
But he's a slee and cunnin loun,
He's wondrous gabby,
Tho' he be shabby.
of at once administering a smart re. buke to the pride of the “ hizzies," and gratifying her own benevolence. The gauger's scarcely frae the door Whan beggars they come in galore, Wi' wallops flappin in great store,
Raised up in cairns, And birns baith abint and 'fore
O'greetin bairns. Quo' they, “We're trachled unco sair, We've gane twal mile o' yerd and mair, The gait was ill, our feet were bare,
The night is weety ; And gin ye quarters hae to spare,
Oh, shaw your pity!"
Two other important characters, at least in their own eyes, are the “house dog," and the “gudewife's cat,” the former of whom, a cynical colly,
Full oft towards the door does look
Wi' aspect crouse; For unco folk he canna brook
Within the house.
The lasses yamour frae their wheel,
And claes an'a';
Sae swith awa'.”
While baudrons, with a grave consciousness of her position,
Purs contentedly indeed,
And looks fu' long, To see gin folks be taking heed
To her braw song ;
which leads to a discussion on the
A hearty drub.
With ane and a';
Auld luckie cries, “ Ye're ower ill set,
In after days-
Upon your taes !”
And gie them strae, There let them rest till it be day;,
And syne they'll gae. Presently John, the head ploughman, returns from the smith's forge full of
He thus begins : “ What's this ava
And wad be free;
Nor taxes gie.
He hauds his trinkets to the light,
Wi' perfect joy, Cause lads for them coff broach sae bright,
Or shining toy.
I wish our folk soon home again,
And wily France,
And lead 's a dance."
An unwelcome visit from the gauger now causes no small consternation; but he finds nothing, and goes off" wi' his finger in his cheek.” Next appear the beggars, and give our auld gudewife a fine and seasonable opportunity
But now, while all are commenting on John's political speculations, the gudeman himself
Cemes ben the louse, Whilk o' their gabbin makes a truce ;
* Trodden in the eye of many a puddle.
cites the emulation of the next shearer, grievous wastrie of the grain, which and so the contagion spreads till the they shake from the ears in their whole field is involved in the fury of eagerness to grasp great handfulls, and the Kemp. In this grand strife of the older reapers make their protest, who shall shear fastest, the never-fail- Auld William exclaiming feelingly ing tailor occupies the post of ho- against spilling the “gude food." nour, giving and returning the gibes, usual on such occasions, with infinite “ To shear sae foul is ill to brook, spirit, though with no very refined For better corn ne'er come ower hook ; wit. Indeed the play upon words is I’se warrant they'll be in ilka stook of the most artless kind, and the
Four pecks and mair.” words themselves of a strange and
Syne he does to the pickle lookbarbarous rusticity.
"'Tis wondrous fair.”
Then doth auld Highland Malcolm say, A windy taylior leads the van,
That they sud also mind the strae, A clean-hough'd nimble little man ;
To cut him laigh, for he'd be wae
To waste gude fodders,
For nowte and horse their food maun
As weel as idders.
The harvest concludes with a “kirn,"
and supper, at which Auld William And a' for fault o' pith and skill
says grace, and the Chelsea Warrior O's glaikit wife.
wins great applause as toast-master.
The materiel of humour is abundant, Yet her tongue clinks through a' the
but the writer has no charm of exfield :
pression. He shows the scene, as it She sair misca's the supple chield, actually appeared, in which Burns And aye casts up whate'r's been steal'd joked, and jibed, and kemped, among By Prick-the-loose ;
his fellows, but he cannot make us feel And yet, for a' that, he'll no yield,
how young Burns felt, or see the picBut gabs fu' crouse.
ture, as young Burns saw it, with his He says, “Her manners need a patch,
poet's eyes. To learn this we must (For this her tongue is an ill swatch),
hear Burns himself speak, who has Her borders ne'er with his will match ;” told us these feelings in strains of unAnd then he jeers,
equalled picturesqueness, tenderness, That he could mak'as quick despatch and fervour, in his “ Vision.” This Wi' his auld shears.
noble poem has one, and but one fault.
The ambition of fine writing has inAuld Tamie Speals, the Cowan-wright, troduced into its machinery a set of Now strives 'gainst him with a his
agents, imagined, it would appear, after might; But he is dung clean out o' sight,
Pope's gracefully-insipid [gnomes and “ His edge is gane,"
sylphs in “ The Rape of the Lock." The taylior, jeering, bids him hight, We wish them heartily back at TwicTo grinding-stane.
kenham, or, if he did not get them
there, at a further place. It was Then he sic measures does display, written after Robert had been to And skreeds sic blads o' corn away, Edinburgh, and the pedants had begun That he had fairly gained the day, to whisper in his ear that his muse But that a sutor,
had affected a too rustic simplicity. Most manfully about does lay, A tough auld fouter.
They could not understand the tender
humanity of such pieces as the address He strives as't had been for his last,
to the Mouse and the Daisy, or the And a' his airs about does cast,
world of feeling and philosophic huThat now he had him surely past,
mour that lies in the brief compass of As clean's a lingle ;
“ The dying Words of poor Maillie;" The taylior now clips lang and fast- but they felt that Burns was a poet, He's in a pingle.
and they fed their vanity with the
idea of what they would make of But the kemp is attended with a him in the stilted forms of poetry