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PREFACE

TO THE FIRST EDITION OF

BURNS' POEMS,

PUBLISHED AT KILMARNOCK.

The following Trifles are not the production of the poet, who, with all the advantages of learned art, and, perhaps, amid the elegancies and idlenesses of upper life, looks down for a rural theme, with an eye to Theocritus or Virgil. To the author of this, these and other celebrated names, their countrymen, are, at least in their original language, a fountain shut up, and a book sealed. Unacquainted with the necessary requisites for commencing poet by rule, he sings the sentiments and manners he felt and saw in himself, and his rustic compeers around him, in his and their native language. Though a rhymer from his earliest years, at least, from the earliest impulses of the softer passions, it was not till very lately that the applause, perhaps the partiality, of friendship, wakened his vanity so far as to make him think any thing of his worth showing ; and none of the following works were composed with a view to the press. To amuse himself with the little creations of his own fancy, amid the toil and fatigues of a laborious life ; to transcribe the various feelings, the loves, the griefs, the bopes, the fears, in his own breast; to find some kind of counterpoise to the struggles of a world, always an alien scene, a task uncouth to the poetical mind-these were his motives for courting the Muses, and in these he found poetry to be its own reward.

Now that he appears in the public character of an anthor, he does it with fear and trembling. So dear is fame to the rhyming tribe, that even he, an obscure, nameless Bard, shrinks aghast at the thought of being branded as---an impertinent blockhead, obtruding his nonsense on the world ; and, because he can make a shift to jingle a few doggerel Scotch rhymes together, looking upon himself as a poet of no small consequence forsooth!

It is an observation of that celebrated poet, Shenstone, whose divine elegies do honour to our language, our nation, and our species, that “ Humility has depressed many a genius to a hermit, but never raised one to fame !" If any critic catches at the word genius, the author tells him once for all, that he certainly looks upon himself as possessed of some poetical abilities, otherwise his publishing in the manner he has done would be a manouvre below the worst character which, he hopes, his worst enemy will aver give him. But to the genius of a Ramsay, or the glorious dawnings of the poor, unfortunate Fergusson, he, with equal unaffected sincerity, declares, that, even in his highest pulse of vanity, he has not the most distant pretensions. These two justly admired Scotch poets he has often had in his eye in the following pieces ; but rather with a view to kindle at their flame than for servile imitation,

To his Subscribers, the Author returns his most sincere thanks. Not the mercenary bow over a

counter, but the heart-throbbing gratitude of the bard, conscious how much he owes to benevolence and friendship, for gratifying him, if he deserves it, in that dearest wish of every poetic bosom-to be distinguished. He begs his readers, particularly the learned and the polite, who may honour him with a perusal, that they will make every allowance for education, and circumstances of life; but, if, after a fair, candid, and impartial criticism, he shall stand convicted of dulness and nonsense, let him be done by as he would, in that case, do by otherslet him

be condemned, without mercy, to contempt and oblivion.

DEDICATION

OF THE

SECOND EDITION OF THE

POEMS FORMERLY PUBLISHED.

TO THE

NOBLEMEN AND GENTLEMEN

OF THE

CALEDONIAN HUNT.

MY LORDS AND GENTLEMEN,

A Scottish Bard, proud of the name, and whose highest ambition is to sing in his country's service -where shall he so properly look for patronage as to the illustrious names of his native Land; those who bear the honours, and inherit the virtues of their Ancestors! The Poetic Genius of my Country found me, as the prophetic bard Elijah did Elisha -at the plough ; and threw her inspiring mantle over me. She bade me sing the loves, the joys, the rural scenes and rural pleasures of my native soil, in my native tongue : I tuned my wild, artless notes as she inspired.-She whispered me to come

Vol. XXXVIII. D

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