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0 BONNIE WAS YON ROSY BRIER.
O bonnie was yon rosy brier,
That blooms sae far frae haunt o man;
It shaded ae the e'enin' sun.
How pure amang the leaves sae green;
They witnessed in their shade yestreen.
That crimson rose, how sweet and fair;
Amid life's thorny path o' care.
Wi' Chloris in my arms, be mine;
Its joys and griefs alike resign.
Written on the blank leaf of a copy of the last edition of my poems, presented to the lady whom, in so many fictitious reveries of passion, but with the most ardent sentiments of real friendship, I have so often sung under the name of Chloris :
"To Chloris.' [See antea, p. 104.] Une bagatelle de l'amitié.
MR THOMSON TO BURNS.
EDINBURGH, 3d August 1795. MY DEAR SIR—This will be delivered to you by a Dr Brianton, who has read your works, and pants for the honour of your acquaint
I do not know the gentleman; but his friend, who applied to me for this introduction, being an excellent young man, I have no doubt he is worthy of all acceptation.
My eyes have just been gladdened, and my mind feasted, with your last packet-full of pleasant things indeed. What an imagination is yours!—it is superfluous to tell you, that I am delighted with all the three songs, as well as with your elegant and tender verses to Chloris.
I am sorry you should be induced to alter “O whistle, and I'll come to ye, my lad,' to the prosaic line, Thy Jeanie will venture wi ye, my lad.' I must be permitted to say, that I do not think the latter either reads or sings so well as the former. I wish, therefore, you would in my name petition the charming Jeanie, whoever she be, to let the line remain unaltered.
BURNS AND THE DUKE OF QUEENSBERRY.
I should be happy to see Mr Clarke produce a few airs to be joined to your verses. Everybody regrets his writing so very little, as everybody acknowledges his ability to write well. Pray, was the resolution formed coolly before dinner, or was it a midnight vow, made over a bowl of punch with the bard ?
shall not fail to give Mr Cunningham what you have sent him. P.S.—The lady's For a' that, and a' that, is sensible enough, but no more to be compared to yours, than I to Hercules.
To the summer of this year, Dr Currie assigns an
FOR AN ALTAR TO INDEPENDENCE, AT KERROUGHTREE, THE SEAT OF MR HERON.
Thou of an independent mind,
Allusion has several times been made to the Duke of Queensberry, as a personage held in hatred by the poet. His Grace's character requires little illustration here. As Earl of March, his career on the turf had gained him notoriety. Succeeding in 1773 to the highest title of his family, he had not with years and honours acquired any additional share of public respect. To this heartless grandee, who resided almost constantly in London, was committed the chief territorial influence in Dumfriesshire, with all its political consequence. Country gentlemen bowed to the yoke; but the exciseman of Dumfries—delighted at all times to
. Bare the mean heart that lurks beneath a star'
omitted no opportunity of doing justice upon the sybarite. The two following stanzas were probably a part of the election ballad of 1790, but omitted from the copy sent by the author to Mi Graham :
How shall I sing Drumlanrig's Grace-
Once great in martial story?
His that inverted glory.
Hate, envy, oft the Douglas bore;
And sunk them in contempt:
From aught that's good exempt. In 1795, the duke stripped his domains of Drumlanrig, in Dumfriesshire, and Neidpath, in Peeblesshire, of all the wood fit for being cut, in order to furnish a dowry for the Countess of Yarmouth, whom he supposed to be his daughter, and to whom, by a singular piece of good-fortune on her part, Mr George Selwyn, the celebrated wit, also left a fortune, under the same (probably equally mistaken) impression. It fell to the lot of Wordsworth to avenge on the 'degenerate Douglas ' his leaving old Neidpath so 'beggared and outraged.' The vindication of nature in the case of Drumlanrig became a pleasing duty to Burns. In one of his rides, he inscribed the following verses on the back of a window-shutter in an inn or toll-house near the scene of the devastations :
(VERSES ON THE DESTRUCTION OF THE WOODS NEAR DRUMLANRIG.]
As on the banks o' wandering Nith,
Ae smiling simmer-morn I strayed,
Where linties sang and lambkins played,
And drank my fill o’ fancy's dream,
Uprose the genius of the stream.
And troubled, like his wintry wave,
Amang his eaves, the sigh he gave-
To wander in my birken shade?
Or sing some favourite Scottish maid.
Ye might hae seen me in my pride,
Their woody pictures in my tide;
Shaded my stream sae clear and cool;
Threw broad and dark across the pool ;
RENCONTRE WITH MR PATTISON.
•When glinting, through the trees, appeared
The wee white cot aboon the mill,
That slowly.curled up the hill.
Its branchy shelter's lost and gane,
To shiver in the blast its lane.'
Has twined ye o' your stately trees?
Has stripped the cleeding o' your braes ?
That scatters blight in early spring?
Or canker-worm wi' secret sting?'
• It blew na here sae fierce and fell,
Nae canker-worms get leave to dwell:
As through the cliffs he sank him down,
That reptile wears a ducal crown.' Burns had a pleasant rencontre this autumn with an old acquaintance, Mr Pattison of Kelvin Grove, brother of a gentleman who had been serviceable with regard to the first Edinburgh edition of the poems. Mr Pattison passed through Dumfries in the course of a visit to his brother, a clergyman, residing in that county; he was accompanied by his son, who was then a boy, and a groom, all three travelling on horseback. The son, Mr John Pattison, now residing at Carnbroe, Lanarkshire, has a perfect recollection of the circumstances. On riding up to the inn, a gentleman was seen standing on the stairs, whom Mr Pattison at once hailed as Burns. To quote from his son's recital :-"He who had remained motionless till now, rushed down the steps, and caught my father by the hand, saying:“ Mr Pattison, I am delighted to see you here; how do you do?" I need not say this was our immortal bard. My father continued: “Burns, I hope you will dine with me at four o'clock ?” “Too happy, sir,” replied the poet. “Then, may I beg of you to go with my compliments to your friend, Dr Maxwell
, and say, I will be glad if he will do us the pleasure of joining us?” At the hour named, my father sat down at the head of the table, Dr Maxwell at the foot, and the grammar-school boy
opposite Burns. Upwards of half a century has passed away; but the recollection of that day is as fresh and green in my memory, as if the events recorded had occurred yesterday. It was, in fact, a new era in my existence. I had never before sat after dinner; but now I was chained to my chair till late at night, or rather early in the morning. Both Dr Maxwell and my father were highly-gifted, eloquent men. The poet was in his best vein. I can never forget the animation and glorious intelligence of his countenance, the rich, deep tones of his musical voice, and those matchless eyes, which absolutely appeared to flash fire, and stream forth rays of living light. It was not conversation I heard ; it was an outburst of noble sentiment, brilliant wit, and a flood of sympathy and good will to fellow-men. Burns repeated many verses that had never seen the light, chiefly political; no impure or obscene idea was uttered, or I believe thought of: it was altogether an intellectual feast. A lofty, pure, and transcendant genius alone could have made so deep and lasting an impression on a mere boy, who had read nothing, and who does not remember to have heard Burns named till that day.'1
We have already had some glimpses of the personal habits of Burns in Dumfries. It was a life of official duty, certified to have been well performed, and not without respectable literary effort, 38 the many songs composed for Thomson and Johnson fully testify. It was also a life maintaining a certain external decorum, and to some kind-hearted people, who did not look narrowly or judge rigidly, it appeared as a life really respectable. There was, for example, a young teacher at the grammar-school, himself a poet and an enthusiast in literature—a pure-minded man, who took amiable views of most people he met, and of all who blacked paper in particular. James Gray, seeing Burns only as the careful tender of his children's education, hearing him speak only in the hours of soberness, never regarded him as otherwise than his best friends would have wished to regard him. Even Mrs Burns, who ought to have known her husband well, appeared to have no fault to find with him. She was eager to aver that she had never known him return home in such a state as to prevent his seeing that the house was properly locked up, or to require any assistance in taking off his clothes. Mr Findlater, the supervisor, though not more than a little free in his own habits, as gentlemen then used to be, spoke favourably of those of Burns. It was, nevertheless, a life involving far more dissipation than was generally considered as allowable even in those days of laxity. There
1 The extract is given, with some authorised alterations of phrase, from a letter published anonymously by Mr John Pattison in the Glasgow Citizen, January 1848