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1 Mr Bushby Maitland, son of John, and newly appointed sheriff of Wigtonshire. The same idea occurs in The Epistle of Esopus to Maria.
2 David Maxwell of Cardoness.
3 The Messrs Douglas, brothers, of Carlinwark (new-christened by them CastleDouglas) and Orchardton.
4 Rev. Mr Muirhead, minister of Urr. 6 Rev. George Maxwell, minister of Buittle. 8 Mr Gordon of Kenmure. 7 Captain M‘Dowall of Logan, the hero of Ye Banks and Braes o' Bonnie Doon. 8 Mr Blair of Dunskey. 9 Walter Sloan Lawrie of Redcastle. VOL. IV.
Then hey the chaste interest o’ Broughton,
And line for the blessings 't will bring !
In Sodom ’twould make him a king.
Our land who wiʼ chapels has stored;
But gied the auld naig to the Lord. Though Burns had, we may well believe, anything but a view to his own interest in writing these diatribes, it appears that there resulted from them some little glimpse of a hope of promotion. Mr Heron, hearing of them, and having perused one, wrote to Mr Syme, with some references to the poet, as if it were not impossible that he might be able to advance his interests.
TO MR HERON OF HERON.
SIR-I enclose you some copies of a couple of political ballads, one of which, I believe, you have never seen. Would to Heaven I could make you master of as many votes in the Stewartry-but
Who does the utmost that he can,
Does well, acts nobly-angels could no more. In order to bring my humble efforts to bear with more effect on the foe, I have privately printed a good many copies of both ballads, and have sent thein among friends all about the country.
To pillory on Parnassus the rank reprobation of character, the utter dereliction of principle, in a profligate junto, which has not only outraged virtue, but violated common decency, spurning even hypocrisy as paltry iniquity below their daring—to unmask their flagitiousness to the broadest day-to deliver such over to their merited fate—is surely not merely innocent, but laudable; is not only propriety, but virtue. You have already, as your auxiliary, the sober detestation of mankind on the heads of your opponents ; and I swear by the lyre of Thalia, to muster on your side all the votaries of honest laughter, and fair, candid ridicule.
I am extremely obliged to you for your kind mention of my interests in a letter which Mr Syme shewed me. At present, my situation in life must be in a great measure stationary, at least for two or three years. The statement is this-I am on the supervisors' list, and as we come on there by precedency, in two or three years I shall be at the head of that list, and be appointed of course. Then, a FRIEND might be of service to me in getting me into a place of the kingdom which I would like. A supervisor's income varies from about a hundred and twenty to two hundred a year; but the business is an incessant drudgery, and would be nearly a complete bar to every species of literary pursuit. The moment I am appointed JOHN BUSHBY'S LAMENTATION.
supervisor, in the common routine, I may be nominated on the collector's list; and this is always a business purely of political patronage. A collectorship varies much, from better than two hundred a year to near a thousand. They also come forward by precedency on the list; and have, besides a handsome income, a life of complete leisure. A life of literary leisure, with a decent competency, is the summit of my wishes. It would be the prudish affectation of silly pride in me to say that I do not need, or would not be indebted to, a political friend; at the same time, sir, I by no means lay my affairs before you thus, to hook my dependent situation on your benevolence. If, in my progress of life, an opening should occur where the good offices of a gentleman of your public character and political consequence might bring me forward, I shall petition your goodness with the same frankness as I now do myself the honour to subscribe myself,
R. B. After the election, which was decided in Mr Heron's favour, Burns could not resist the temptation to raise a pæan of triumph over the discomfited earl and his factotum Bushby:
JOHN BUSHBY'S LAMENTATION.
TUNE-The Babes in the Wood.
O'grace and ninety-five,
O’ony man alive.
The sun raise clear and bright;
Ere to-fa' o' the night.
Wi' equal right and fame,
The Murray's noble name.1
Made me the judge o' strife;
And eke my hangman's knife.2
i Var.-Fast knit in chaste and haly bands,
Wi' Broughton's noble name.
And chief o' Broughton's host;
The faithfu' tyke will trust.
And Broughton's wi' the slain,
Sin' honesty is gane..
1 An obscure allusion to the lady with whom Murray had eioped-a member of the house of Johnston, whose well-known crest is a winged spur. Var.-a. 8 Var.-And fra.
The country gentlemen submitted to these diatribes of Burns with probably no great difficulty, his social position making him no proper object for ostensible resentment. There was, however, a clergyman amongst the victims, a vigorous-minded, somewhat eccentric personage, his name and description being, the Rev. James Muirhead, minister of Urr. Landed property and a pedigree singled this gentleman out from the class to which he belonged. He took a pride in considering himself as the chief of the Muirheads, and his neighbours had of course heard a good deal of his family heraldry. Burns introduced him in the second of these ballads by the single line
Muirhead, wha's as gude as he's true.. He also figures in the third ballad, under a still more pointed allusion. Muirhead, who had lived with the Edinburgh wits, Dr Gilbert Stuart and Dr John Brown, was himself a scribbler of epigrams and lampoons, and little disposed to receive Burns's venomed darts with Christian meekness. , He caused a small brochure to be printed in Edinburgh, commencing thus:
"The ancient poets, all agree,
Were told in far, far fewer lines,' &c.
MARTIALIS LIBER XI., EP. 66.
"Et delator es, et calumniator;