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Your first view of this churchyard strikes you by the strange aspect of these ponderous monuments. A row of
ancient ones, in fact, stands on the wall next to the street. Two of them most dilapidated, and of deep red stone, have a very singular look. They have Latin inscriptions, which are equally dilapidated. Another one to Francis Irving fairly exhausts the Latin tongue with his host of virtues, and then takes to English, thus :
“King James the First me Balive named ;
For king and country have I served." Burns's mausoleum occupies as nearly as possible the centre of the farther end of the churchyard opposite to the entrance, and a broad walk leads up to it. It stands, as it should do, overlooking the pleasant fields in the outskirts of the town, and seems, like the poet himself, to belong half to man and half to nature. It is a sort of little temple, which at a distance catches the eye as you approach that side of the town, and reminds you of that of Garrick at Hampton. It is open on three sides, except for iron gates, the upper border of which consists of alternating Scottish thistles and spear-heads. A couple of Ionic pillars at each corner support a projecting cornice, and above this rises an octagon superstructure with arches, across the bottom of which again run thistle-heads, one over each gateway, and is surmounted by a dome. The basement of the mausoleum is of granite. The building is enclosed by an iron railing, and the little gate in front of the area is left unlocked, so that you may approach and view the monument through the iron gates. The area is planted appropriately with various kinds of evergreens, and on each side of the gate stands conspicuously the Scottish thistle.
In the centre of the mausoleum floor, a large flag with four iron rings in it, marks the entrance to the vault below. At the back stands Turnarelli's monument of the poet. It consists of a figure of Burns, of the size of life, in white marble, at the plough, and Coila, his muse, appearing to him. This is a female figure in alto-relievo on the wall, somewhat above and
in front of him. She is in the act of throwing her mantle, embroidered with Scotch thistles, over him, according to his own words—“ 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.” Burns stands with his left hand on one of the plough stilts, and with the other holds his bonnet to his breast, while, with an air of surprise and devotion, he gazes on the muse or genius of his poetry. He appears in a short coat, knee breeches, and short gaiters. The execution is so-so. The likeness of the poet is by no means conformable to the best portraits of him; and Nature, as if resenting the wretched caricature of her favourite son, has already began to deface and corrode it. The left hand on the plough is much decayed, and the right hand holding the bonnet is somewhat so too. At bis feet lies what I suppose was the slab of his former tomb, with this inscription: “In memory of Robert Burns, who died the 21st of July, 1796, in the 37th year of his age. And Maxwell Burns, who died the 25th of April, 1799, aged 2 years and 9 months. Francis Wallace Burns, who died the 9th of June, 1808, aged 14 years. His sons. The remains of Burns received into the vault below 19th of September, 1815. And his two sons. Also, the remains of Jean Armour, relict of the Poet, born Feb. 1765, died 26th of March, 1834."
The long Latin inscription mentioned by his biographers, a manifest absurdity on the tomb of a man like Burns, and whose epitaph ought to be intelligible to all his countrymen, is, I suppose, removed, for I did not observe it, and the above English inscription, of the elegance of which however nothing can be said, substituted.
The gates of the mausoleum itself are kept locked, and the monument again enclosed within a plain railing.
Some countrymen were just standing at the gate with their plaids on their shoulders making their observations as I arrived at it. I stood and listened to them.
1st Man.— " Ay, there stands Robin, still holding the plough, but the worst of it is, he has got no horses to it.”
2d Man.—“Ay, that is childish. It is just like a boy on a Sunday who sets himself to the plough, and fancies he is ploughing when it never moves. It would have been a deal better if you could but have seen even the horses' tails.”
3d Man.-—“Ay, or if he had been sitting on his plough, as I have seen him sometimes in a picture.”
1st Man. “But Coila is well drawn, is not she? That arm which she holds up the mantle with, is very well executed.”
2d Man.—“ It's a pity though that the sculptor did not look at his own coat before he put the only button on that is to be seen."
3d Man.—“Why, where is the button ?"
2d Man.—“Just under the bonnet; and it's on the wrong side."
1st Man.—“Oh! it does not signify if it be a double-breasted coat, or perhaps Robin buttoned his coat different to other folks, for he was an unco chiel.”
2d Man.—“ But it's only single-breasted, and it is quite wrong.”
The men unbuttoned and then buttoned their coats up again to satisfy themselves; and they decided that it was a great blunder.
I thought there was much sound sense in their criticism. The allegorical figure of the muse seems too much, and the absence of the horses too little. Burns would have looked quite as well standing at the plough, and looking up inspired by the muse without her being visible.
The plough rests on a rugged piece of marble laid on a polished basement, in the centre of which is inscribed in large letters,
I had to regret missing at Dumfries the three sons of Burns, and the staunch friend of the family, and of the genius of the poet, Mr. M’Diarmid. Mr. Robert Burns, the poet's eldest son, resides at Dumfries, but was then absent at Belfast, in Ireland, where I afterwards saw him, and was much struck with his intelligence and great information. Colonel and Major Burns had just visited Dumfries, but were gone into the Highlands, with their friend, Mr. M’Diarmid. The feelings with which I
quitted Dumfries were those which so often weigh upon you in contemplating the closing scenes of poets' lives. “The life of the poet at Dumfries,” says Robert Chambers, “was an unhappy one; his situation was degrading, and his income narrow.” Reflecting on this as I proceeded by the mail towards Moffat, the melancholy lines of Wordsworth recurred to me with peculiar effect :
THERE is scarcely any ground in England so well known in imagination as the haunts of Cowper at Olney and Weston ; there is little that is so interesting to the lover of moral and religious poetry. There the beautiful but unhappy poet seemed to have created a new world out of unknown ground, in which himself and his friends, the Unwins, Lady Austen and Lady Hesketh, the Throckmortons, and the rest, played a part of the simplest and most natural character, and which fascinated the whole public mind. The life, the spirit, and the poetry of Cowper present, when taken together, a most singular combination. He was timid in his habit, yet bold in his writing; melancholy in the tone of his mind, but full of fun and playfulness in his correspondence; wretched to an extraordinary degree, he yet made the whole nation merry with his John Gilpin and other humorous writings; despairing even of God's mercy and of salvation, his religious poetry is of the most cheerful and even triumphantly glad kind;
“ His soul exults, hope animates his lays,