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Creature, tho' oft the prey of care and sorrow,
A mortal quite unfit for fortune's strife,
But honest Nature is not quite a Turk,
Pity the tuneful muses' hapless train, Weak, timid landmen on life's stormy main ! Their hearts no selfish stern absorbent stuff, That never gives-tho' humbly takes enough; The little fate allows, they share as soon, Unlike sage, proverb'd, wisdom's hard-wrung
The world were bless'd, did bless on them depend,
Ah, that "the friendly e'er should want a friend!"
Ye wise ones, hence! ye hurt the social eye!
Come thou who giv'st with all a courtier's grace;
Friend of my life, true patron of my rhymes!
So, to heaven's gates the lark-shrill song ascends,
I trust, meantime, my boon is in thy gift:
That placed by thee, upon the wish'd-for height,
TO MR P. HILL.
Mauchline, 1st October, 1788. I HAVE been here in this country about three days, and all that time my chief reading has been the "Address to Loch Lomond," you were so obliging as to send to me. Were I impannelled one of the author's jury, to determine his criminality respecting the sin of poesy, my verdict should be "guilty! A poet of Nature's making!" It is an excellent me. thod for improvement, and what I believe every poet does, to place some favourite classic author, in his own walks of study and composition, before him, as a model. Though your author had not mentioned the name, I could have, at half a glance, guessed his model to be Thomson. Will my brother poet forgive me, if I venture to hint, that his imitation of that immortal bard, is in two or three places rather more servile than such a genius as his required.―e. g.
To soothe the madding passions all to peace,
To soothe the throbbing passions into peace,
I think the Address is, in simplicity, harmony, and elegance of versification, fully equal to the Seasons. Like Thomson, too, he has looked into nature for himself: you meet with no copied description. One particular criti. stance has he said too much. He never flags cism I made at first reading: in no one inin his progress, but like a true poet of Nature's making, kindles in his course. His beginning is simple, and modest, as if distrustful of the strength of his pinion; only, I do not altoge. ther like
The soul of every song that's nobly great."
nobly great. Perhaps I am wrong: this may
Fiction is the soul of many a song that is
be but a prose criticism. Is not the phrase, in line 7, page 6, "Great lake," too much vulgarized by every-day language, for so sublime a poem ?
*This is our poet's first epistle to Graham of Fintry. It is not equal to the second, but it contains too much of the characteristic vigour of its author to be suppress ed. A little more knowledge of natural history or of chemistry was wanted to enable him to execute the original conception correctly
"Great mass of waters, theme for nobler song," whoever he be, please present him with my grateful thanks for the entertainment he has afforded me.*
is perhaps no emendation. His enumeration | of a comparison with other lakes, is at once harmonious and poetic. Every reader's ideas must sweep the
is well described; and here, he has contrived to enliven his poem with a little of that passion which bids fair, I think, to usurp the modern muses altogether. I know not how far this episode is a beauty upon the whole, but the swain's wish to carry "some faint idea of the vision bright," to entertain her "partial listening ear," is a pretty thought. But, in my opinion, the most beautiful passages in the whole poem, are the fowls crowding, in wintry frosts, to Loch Lomond's "hospitable flood;" their wheeling round, their lighting, mixing, diving, &c. and the glorious description of the sportsman. This last is equal to any thing in the Seasons. The idea of "the floating tribes distant seem, far glistering to the moon," provoking his eye as he is obliged to leave them, is a noble ray of poetic genius. "The howling winds," the "hideous roar" of "the white cascades," are all in the same style.
I forget that while I am thus holding forth, with the heedless warmth of an enthusiast, I am perhaps tiring you with nonsense. I must, however, mention, that the last verse of the sixteenth page is one of the most elegant com pliments I have ever seen. I must likewise notice that beautiful paragraph, beginning, "The gleaming lake," &c. I dare not go into the particular beauties of the two last paragraphs, but they are admirably fine, and truly Ossianic.
I must beg your pardon for this lengthened scrawl. I had no idea of it when I began-I should like to know who the author is; but,
A friend of mine desired me to commission for him two books, Letters on the Religion essential to Man, a book you sent me before; and, The World Unmasked, or the Philosopher the greatest Cheat. Send me them by the first opportunity. The Bible you sent me is truly elegant; I only wish it had been in two volumes.
TO MRS DUNLOP, AT MOREHAM MAINS.
MADAM, Mauchline, 13th November, 1788. I HAD the very great pleasure of dining at Dunlop yesterday. Men are said to flatter women because they are weak; if it is so, poets must be weaker still; for Misses R. and K. and Miss G. M.K. with their flattering attentions, and artful compliments, absolutely turned my head. I own they did not lard me over as many a poet does his patron
but they so intoxicated me with their sly insinuations and delicate inuendos of compliment, that if it had not been for a lucky recollection, how much additional weight and lustre your good opinion and friendship must give me in that circle, I had cer tainly looked upon myself as a person of no small consequence. I dare not say one word how much I was charmed with the major's friendly welcome, elegant manner, and acute remark, lest I should be thought to balance my orientalisms of applause over against the finest queyt in Ayrshire, which he made a present of to help and adorn my farm-stock. As it was on hallow-day, I am determined annually as that day returns, to decorate her horns with an ode of gratitude to the family of Dunlop.
So soon as I know of your arrival at Dunlop, I will take the first conveniency to dedicate a day, or perhaps two, to you and friendship, under the guarantee of the major's hospitality. There will soon be threescore and ten miles of permanent distance between us; and now that your friendship and friendl correspondence is entwisted with the heart strings of my enjoyment of life, I must indulge myself in a happy day of " The feast of reason and the flow of soul."
*The poem entitled An Address to Loch Lomond, is said to be written by a gentleman, now one of the masters of the High School at Edinburgh, and the same who translated the beautiful story of the l'aria, as publi-hed in the Bee of Dr Anderson + Heifer
November, 8, 1788. NOTWITHSTANDING the opprobrious epithets with which some of our philosophers and gloomy sectaries have branded our nature-the principle of universal selfishness, the proneness to all evil, they have giv n us; still, the detestation in which inhumanity to the distressed, or insolence to the fallen, are held by all mankind, shows that they are not natives of the human heart.-Even the unhappy partner of our kind, who is undone the bitter consequence of his follies or his crimes-who but sympathizes with the miseries of this ruined profligate brother? we forget the injuries, and feel for the man.
I went last Wednesday to my parish church, most cordially to join in grateful acknowledgments to the AUTHOR OF ALL GOOD, for the consequent blessings of the glorious revolution. To that auspicious event we owe no less than our liberties civil and religious; to it we are likewise indebted for the present Royal Family, the ruling features of whose administration have ever been, mildness to the subject, and tenderness of his rights.
Bred and educated in revolution principles, the principles of reason and common sense, it could not be any silly political prejudice which made my heart revolt at the harsh, abusive manner, in which the reverend gentleman mentioned the House of Stuart, and which I am afraid, was too much the language of the day. We may rejoice sufficiently in our deliverance from past evils, without cruelly raking up the ashes of those, whose misfortune it was, perhaps as much as their crime, to be the authors of those evils; and we may bless GoD for all his goodness to us as a nation, without, at the same time, cursing a few ruined, powercss exiles, who only harboured ideas, and made attempts, that most of us would have done, had we been in their situation.
"The bloody and tyrannical House of Stuart," may be said with propriety and justice when compared with the present Royal Family, and the sentiments of our days; but is there no allowance to be made for the manners of the times? Were the royal contemporaries of the Stuarts more attentive to their subjects' rights? Might not the epithets of "bloody and tyrannical" be, with at least equal justice, applied to the House of Tudor, of York, or any other of their predecessors?
The simple state of the case, sir, seems to be this-At that period, the science of government, the knowledge of the true relation between king and subject, was, like other sciences and other knowledge, just in its infancy, emerging from dark ages of ignorance and barbarity.
The Stuarts only contended for prerogatives which they knew their predecessors enjoyed, and which they saw their contemporaries en
joying; but these prerogatives were inimical to the happiness of a nation, and the rights of subjects.
In this contest between prince and people, the consequence of that light of science, which had lately dawned over Europe, the monarch of France, for example, was victorious over the struggling liberties of his people: with us, luckily the monarch failed, and his unwarrantable pretensions fell a sacrifice to our rights and happiness. Whether it was owing to the wisdom of leading individuals, or to the justling of parties, I cannot pretend to determine; but likewise, happily for us, the kingly power was shifted into another branch of the family, who, as they owed the throne solely to the call of a free people, could claim nothing inconsistent with the covenanted terms which placed them there.
The Stuarts have been condemned and laughed at for the folly and impracticability of their attempts in 1715 and 1745. That they failed, I bless GOD; but cannot join in the ridicule against them. Who does not know that the abilities or defects of leaders and commanders are often hidden until put to the touchstone of exigency; and that there is a caprice of fortune, an omnipotence in particular accidents and conjunctures of circumstances, which exalt us as heroes, or brand us as madmen, just as they are for or against us?
Man, Mr Publisher, is a strange, weak, inconsistent being. Who would believe, sir, that, in this our Augustan age of liberality and refinement, while we seem so justly sensible and jealous of our rights and liberties, and animated with such indignation against the very memory of those who would have subverted them-that a certain people, under our national protection, should complain not against our monarch and a few favourite advisers, but against our WHOLE LEGISLATIVE BODY, for similar oppression, and almost in the very same terms, as our forefathers did of the House of Stuart! I will not, I cannot enter into the merits of the cause, but I dare say the American Congress, in 1776, will be allowed to be as able and as enlightened as the English convention was in 1688; and that their posterity will celebrate the centenary of their deliverance from us, as duly and sincerely as we do ours from the oppressive measures of the wrong-headed House of Stuart.
To conclude, sir; let every man who has a tear for the many miseries incident to humanity, feel for a family illustrious as any in Europe, and unfortunate beyond historic precedent; and let every Briton (and particularly every Scotsman), who ever looked with reverential pity on the dotage of a parent, cast a veil over the fatal mistakes of the kings of his forefathers.*
paper, probably the publisher of the Edinburgh Even This letter was sent to the publisher of some newsing Courant,
TO MRS DUNLOP.
Ellisland, 17th December, 1788. MY DEAR HONOURED FRIEND, YOURS, dated Edinburgh, which I have just read, makes me very unhappy. Almost "blind and wholly deaf," are melancholy news of human nature; but when told of a much loved and honoured friend, they carry misery in the sound. Goodness on your part, and gratitude on mine, began a tie, which has gradually and strongly entwisted itself among the dearest chords of my bosom; and I tremble at the omens of your late and present ailing habits and shattered health. You miscalculate matters widely, when you forbid my waiting on you, lest it should hurt my worldly concerns. My small scale of farming is exceedingly more simple and easy than what you have lately seen at Moreham Mains. But be that as it may, the heart of the man, and the fancy of the poet, are the two grand considerations for
hobby horse, I cannot help inserting two other old stanzas, which please me mightily.
Go fetch to me a pint o' wine,
A service to my bonnie lassie:
The trumpets sound, the banners fly,
The battle closes thick and bloody:
TO A YOUNG LADY.
BALLAD ON HER, INCLOSING THAT BALLAD.
which I live: if miry ridges, and dirty dung- WHO HAD HEARD HE HAD BEEN MAKING A hills are to engross the best part of the functions of my soul immortal, I had better been a rook or a magpie at once, and then I should not have been plagued with any ideas superior to breaking of clods, and picking up grubs: not to mention barn-door cocks or mallards, creatures with which I could almost exchange lives at any time.-If you continue so deaf, I am afraid a visit will be no great pleasure to either of us; but if I hear you are got so well again as to be able to relish conversation, look you to it, madam, for I will make my threatenings good: I am to be at the new-year-day fair of Ayr, and by all that is sacred in the world, friend, I will come and see you.
Your meeting, which you so well describe, with your old schoolfellow and friend, was truly interesting. Out upon the ways of the world!-They spoil these "social offsprings of the heart." Two veterans of the "men of the world" would have met, with little more heart-workings than two old hacks worn out on the road. Apropos, is not the Scotch phrase," Auld lang syne," exceedingly expressive. There is an old song and tune which has often thrilled through my soul. You know I am an enthusiast in old Scotch songs. I shall give you the verses on the other sheet, as I suppose Mr Ker will save you the postage.* Light be the turf on the breast of the Hea ven-inspired poet who composed this glorious fragment! There is more of the fire of native genius in it, than in half a dozen of modern English Bacchanalians. Now I am on my
*Here follows the song of Auld lan yne.
December, 1788. I UNDERSTAND my very worthy neighbour, Mr Riddel, has informed you that I have made you the subject of some verses. There is something so provoking in the idea of being the burden of a ballad, that I do not think Job or Moses, though such patterns of patience and meekness, could have resisted the curiosity to know what that ballad was: so my worthy friend has done me a mischief, which I dare say he never intended; and reduced me to the unfortunate alternative of leaving your curiosity ungratified, or else disgusting you with foolish verses, the unfinished production of a random moment, and never meant to have met your ear. I have heard or read somewhere of a gentleman, who had some genius, much eccentricity, and very considerable dexterity with his pencil. In the accidental groups of life into which one is thrown, wherever this gentleman met with a character in a more than ordinary degree congenial to his heart, he used to steal a sketch of the face, merely he said, as a nota bene to point out the agreeable recollection to his memory. What this gentleman's pencil was to him, is my muse to me; and the verses I do myself the honour to send you are a memento exactly of the same kind that he indulged in.
It may be more owing to the fastidiousness of my caprice, than the delicacy of my taste, that I am so often tired, disgusted, and hurt with the insipidity, affectation, and pride of mankind, that when I meet with a person "after my own heart," I positively feel what an orthodox protestant would call a species of idolatry which acts on my fancy like inspiration, and I can no more desist rhyming on the im
pulse, than an Eolian harp can refuse its tones to the streaming air. A distich or two would be the consequence, though the object which hit my fancy were grey-bearded age; but where my theme is youth and beauty, a young lady whose personal charms, wit, and sentiment, are equally striking and unaffected, by heavens! though I had lived threescore years a married man, and threescore years be fore I was a married man, my imagination would hallow the very idea; and I am truly sorry that the inclosed stanzas have done such poor justice to such a subject.
TO SIR JOHN WHITEFOORD.
I was surprised to hear that any one, who pretended in the least to the manners of the gentleman, should be so foolish, or worse, as to stoop to traduce the morals of such a one as I am, and so inhumanly cruel, too, as to meddle with that late most unfortunate, unhappy part of my story. With a tear of gratitude, I thank you, sir, for the warmth with which you interposed in behalf of my conduct. I am, I acknowledge, too frequently the sport of whim, caprice, and passion--but reverence to God, and integrity to my fellow-creatures, I hope I shall ever preserve. I have no return, sir, to make you for your goodness but one-a return which, I am persuaded, will not be unacceptable-the honest, warm wishes of a grateful heart for your happiness, and every one of that lovely flock, who stand to you in a filial relation. If ever calumny aim the poisoned shaft at them, may friendship be by to ward the blow!
FROM MR G. BURNS.
DEAR BROTHER, Mossgiel, 1st January, 1789. I HAVE just finished my new-year's-day break fast in the usual form, which naturally makes me call to mind the days of former years, and the society in which we used to begin them; and when I look at our family vicissitudes, "through the dark postern of time long elapsed," I cannot help remarking to you, my dear brother, how good the GoD of SEASONS is to us; and that however some clouds may seem to lower over the portion of time before us, we have great reason to hope that all will turn out well.
SIR, December, 1788. MR M'KENZIE, in Mauchline, my very warm and worthy friend, has informed me how much you are pleased to interest yourself in my fate as a man, and, (what to me is incomparably dearer) my fame as a poet. I have, sir, in one or two instances, been patronized by those of your character in life, when I was introduced to their notice by friends to them, and honoured acquaintances to me: but you are the first gentleman in the country whose benevolence and goodness of heart has interested him for me, unsolicited and unknown. I am not master enough of the etiquette of these matters to know, nor did I stay to inquire, whether formal duty bade, or cold propriety disallowed, my thanking you in this manner, as I am convinced, from the light in which you kindly view me, that you will do me the justice to believe this letter is not the inanœuvre of a needy, sharping author, fasten- Your mother and sisters, with Robert the ing on those in upper life, who honour him second, join me in the compliments of the with a little notice of him or his works. In-season to you and Mrs Burns, and beg you deed the situation of poets is generally such, to will remember us in the same manner to Wila proverb, as may, in some measure, palliate liam, the first time you see him. that prostitution of heart and talents they have at times been guilty of. I do not think prodigality is, by any means, a necessary concomitant of a poetic turn, but believe a careless, indolent inattention to economy, is almost inseparable from it; then there must be in the heart of every bard of Nature's making, a certain modest sensibility, mixed with a kind of pride, that will ever keep him out of the way of those windfalls of fortune, which frequently light on hardy impudence and footlicking servility. It is not easy to imagine a more helpless state than his, whose poetic fancy unfits him for the world, and whose character as a scholar, gives him some pretensions to the politesse of life-yet is as poor as I am.
For my part, I thank Heaven, my star has been kinder; learning never elevated my ideas above the peasant's shed, and I have an independent fortune at the plough-tail
I am, dear brother, yours,
TO MRS DUNLOP.
Ellisland, New Year-Day Morning, 1789. THIS, dear madam, is a morning of wishes, and would to GOD that I came under the apostle James's description !-the prayer of a righteous man availeth much. In that case, madam, you should welcome in a year full of blessings; every thing that obstructs or disturbs tranquillity and self-enjoyment, should be removed, and every pleasure that frail humanity can taste, should be yours. I own myself so little a Presbyterian, that I approve of set times and seasons of more than ordinary acts