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QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. Name four of the early leaders in the revolt of the poets against the
school of Pope and Dryden. 2. How do you define Classicism? 3. Name some aspects of Romanticism. 4. Give a brief outline of French History from 1793 to 1815. 5. In which are you the more interested: In facts and things as they exist,
or in dreams and fancies of what might exist? Can you define the
reason for your point of view ? 6. . 7. Who were Corneille, Theocritus, Pindar, Voltaire, Molière, Sophocles ?
Name a work of each. (You are referred to any general encyclo
did they take the world as they found it, did they look upon the
of view ?
Suggested Readings.—Theodore Watts-Dunton's article on “The Renascence of Wonder in Poetry,” in Chambers's “ Encyclopædia of English Literature,” vol. iii, P. I, is the best discussion of this question. Macaulay's “ Essay on Byron ” contains a good explanation of the difference between the Classic and Romantic Schools.
CHAPTER XXVII *
ROBERT BURNS (1759-1796)
“He showed my youth
In which the answering heart would speak,
The old hut still stands. It is now guarded with jealous care as being, on the whole, the most interesting structure in Scotland. There are in it only two rooms, a kitchen and a parlor; Burns was born in the kitchen; the parlor, if we are to believe his own words in the “Cotter's Saturday Night,” was occupied by the cow. The place is bare of furniture and ornament, except for a copy of the following poem, which was written by Col. Robert G. Ingersoll and entitles him on the whole to the distinction of being the most appreciative of all the thousands who have gone as pilgrims to Ayr:
“ Though Scotland boasts a thousand names
Of patriot, king, and peer,
Was loved and cradled here.
“'Tis but a cot roofed in with straw,
A hovel made of clay;
One window greets the day.
* From Edwin L. Miller's Introduction to Carlyle's “Essay on Burns.” Eclectic English Classics Series. Copyright, 1896, 1911. By permission of American Book Company, Publishers.
“And yet I stand within this room
And hold all thrones in scorn;
Love's sweetest bard was born.
“And here the world, through all the years,
As long as day returns,
Will pay to Robert Burns.”
At Ayr the Burnesses resided for seven years more. Then, in 1766, William Burness took a farm, Mt. Oliphant, of 107 acres, which lies about three miles to the east of Ayr. Here for eleven years Robert grew and hungered. In that household meat was unknown, shoes and hats a luxury. The only commodity of which they had an abundance consisted of demands for rent from their landlord. Often his agent's threats set the whole family in tears. William Burness, however, kept his courage, educated his children, and never lost his faith in God. There are few nobler pictures than that which has come down to us of this weary laborer, after his day's toil was over, painfully teaching his tired boys the rudiments of arithmetic and the principles of morality. Under his father's instruction Robert soon shot up into a tall stoop-shouldered lad and became the best farm hand in the parish. It is worth noting, however, that the future author of "Auld Lang Syne" and "Sweet Afton” could not be taught to sing. Everybody expected much greater things of his brother Gilbert, who did indeed eventually become two things which Robert did not-a good farmer and a highly respectable citizen.
During his eighteenth summer Robert had as partner in the harvest field a young woman who sang sweetly; and he stumbled, quite by accident, it seems, upon the important discovery that, when he held her hand in order to pick nettles out of it, the result was a peculiar
sensation in the region of the heart accompanied by a desire to write verses for her to sing. Thus it came to pass that he composed his first song, “Handsome Nell.” Shortly after, to his father's great
distress and against his express command, Robert went to a dancing school to “ give his manners a polish.” From that moment he was always in love with somebody and generally in trouble because of it.
At this point, after eleven years of servitude at Mt. Oliphant,
that is, in 1777, the Burness family migrated to Lochlea, a farm of 110 acres in the parish of Tarbolton. Here, for four years, they enjoyed what seemed to them good times, Robert and Gilbert each receiving the munificent salary of seven pounds a year, when their father did not find it convenient to be in arrears. Here Robert organized a debating club; and fell in love successively, when not simultaneously, with a kaleidoscopic procession of braw and sonsie lassies. There was not a comely (or indeed a homely) girl in the parish about whom he did not make at least one song, and then he wrote one which included them all. He also won a reputation as a discreet confidant, which resulted in his being in the secret of half the loves in Tarbolton, a fact to which a good deal of the excellence of his love songs can probably be traced.
Intellectually he was growing at a gigantic rate. At nine he had shown a nature already sensitive to literary effect by an indignant outburst against the brutality of Shakespeare's “ Titus Andronicus.” At ten he had been charmed by the delicate humanity of Addison. In the midst of love-making and plowing he had acquired enough French to translate Fénelon's“ Télémaque" and enough Latin to misquote Virgil. He was now reading incessantly; at table he always had a book in his hand. He also began to write and to write well. Among the songs that he composed at Tarbolton are " My Nanie, 0," “ Green Grow the Rashes," and probably “ Comin' Thro’ the Rye.”
From 1781 to 1784 the family's fortunes declined. With all his virtues, it is to be feared that William Burness was a trifle litigious. At any rate, he quarrelled with his landlord, his health began to break, and his affairs went from bad to worse. In order to relieve the situation, Robert was sent in 1781 to Irvine to learn the art of dressing the flax that was one of the staple products of the farm. is not on record that he succeeded in this undertaking, but it is certain that at Irvine he joined the Masons and read his first novel. He met also at Irvine with Fergusson's “Scottish Poems," a book which produced a deep and lasting effect on his mind; indeed, it solidified his poetical ambition, which had begun to evaporate, and determined to a great extent the quality and direction of his future work. As the net result of the Irvine business Robert went back to Lochlea without