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INSCRIPTION TO MRS GRAHAM OF FINTRY.
as me, she steered so far to the north of my good opinion, that I have made her the theme of several ill-natured things. The following epigram struck me the other day as I passed her carriage.
The monody was that On a Lady famed for her Caprice-namely, - the beautiful and accomplished Mrs Walter Riddel. The epigram is a composition even less worthy of Burns, and this not merely in respect of ability, but of feeling. To have given expression to such sentiments regarding a female, even though a positive wrong had been inflicted, would have been totally indefensible; and still more astounding is it to find, that the bard could think of exhibiting such an effusion to another female. Strange that the generous heart, which never failed to have ruth on human wo, which felt even for the ourie cattle and the silly sheep,' which glowed with patriotic fire, and disdained everything like a sordid or shabby action, should have been capable of condescending to an expression of coarse and rancorous feeling against a woman, and one who had shewn him many kindnesses! But yet such was Burns—the irritable genius, as well as the humane man.
BURNS TO MR THOMSON.
July 1794. Is there no news yet of Pleyel? Or is your work to be at a dead stop, until the allies set our modern Orpheus at liberty from the savage thraldom of democrat discords? Alas the day! And wo is me! That auspicious period, pregnant with the happiness of millions
seems by no means near. I have presented a copy of your songs to the daughter of a muchvalued and much-honoured friend of mine, Mr Graham of Fintry. I wrote on the blank side of the title-page the following address to the young lady :
Here, where the Scottish Muse immortal lives,
In sacred strains and tuneful numbers joined,
Rich is the tribute of the grateful mind.
Discordant jar thy bosom-chords among ;
Or Love ecstatic wake his seraph song:
As modest Want the tale of wo reveals;
· And heaven-born Piety her sanction seals. | The manuscript of the epigram in question is in the possession of Mr W. K Watson, Princes Street, Edinburgh.
This letter contains an ironical tirade on the mishaps of Prussia in her war against France, which Dr Currie had deemed unfit for publication.
Though Burns had on several occasions, in 1793, acted on his own principle, 'to jouk and let the jaw flee o'er,' it is be feared that he sometimes let himself out in this manner respecting passing events, both in conversation and in private letters. Nor can we suppose that so impetuous a spirit, which regarded the whole anti-Gallic policy of Europe as an error, leading to the destruction of men and their best interests, could have effectually chained itself up. Even the foolish fears often expressed by the conservative party of the day, and the paltriness of the means condescended to in many instances for the preservation of the country throughout the crisis, were but too apt to provoke a manly nature such as his to cry out and spare not. Being, on the other hand, little apt to think his words of great consequence, it is to be feared that he was much less cautious in the expression of his opinions than was necessary for his escaping censure. We have already had some of these escapes of political sentiment before us. Many others have survived till these times on the breath of tradition and otherwise.
In a lady's pocket-book, he inscribed an extempore quatrain:
Grant me, indulgent Heaven, that I may live,
More bitter was the verse which he called
THE CREED OF POVERTY.
In politics if thou wouldst mix,
And mean thy fortunes be;
Let great folks hear and see.
Burns and Syme, with a young physician named Maxwell, and several others, all latitudinarians in most respects, and all of them enemies of the system pursued by the government, held occasional symposia of a secret, or at least strictly private nature, at which they could enunciate their sentiments freely. It is said that they locked the door of their place of meeting--a circumstance which would, of course, set the popular imagination at work, and cause them to be suspected of something even worse than what they were guilty of. In antagonism to them, was a
club of Anti-Gallicans, who took upon themselves the name of the Loyal Natives; and it appears that one of these gentlemer ventured on one occasion to launch a political pellet at the three friends of the people. A very miserable pellet it was :
Ye sons of sedition, give ear to my song ;
This being handed across the table to Burns at one of the meetings of the disloyal corps, he instantly endorsed it with
Ye true Loyal Natives, attend to my song,
It is far from likely that the whole of the democratic effusions of Burns have come down to us. For many years, that kind of authorship was attended with so much reproach, that men of humanity studied to conceal rather than to expose the evidence by which it could be proved against him. And even after the poor bard's death, the interests of his young family demanded of all the admirers of his name, that nothing should be brought forward which was calculated to excite à political jealousy regarding him. Hence, for many years there was a mystery observed on this subject. During that time, of course, many manuscripts might perish. As things now stand — the whole matter being looked on as only a curious piece of literary history - there can be no great objection to the publication of any piece of the kind which may have chanced to be preserved. There is one which, but for the manner in which it introduces the name of the unfortunate Louis XVI., might have now been read without any pain, as containing only the feelings of a man who looked too sanguinely upon the popular cause in France :
THE TREE OF LIBERTY,
Heard ye o' the tree o' France,
I watna what's the name o't;
Weel Europe kens the fame o'to
It stands where ance the Bastile stood,
A prison built by kings, man, When Superstition's hellish brood
Kept France in leading-strings, man.
Upo' this tree there grows sic fruit,
Its virtues a' can tell, man; It raises man aboon the brute,
It maks him ken himsel, man. Gif ance the peasant taste a bit,
He's greater than a lord, man, And wi' the beggar shares a mite
O’a' he can afford, man.
This fruit is worth a' Afric's wealth,
To comfort us 'twas sent, man:
And mak us a' content, man.
Maks high and low gude friends, man; And he wha acts the traitor's part,
It to perdition sends, man.
My blessings aye attend the chiel,
Wha pitied Gallia's slaves, man, And staw a branch, spite o' the deil,
Frae yont the western waves, man. Fair Virtue watered it wi' care,
And now she sees wi' pride, man, How weel it buds and blossoms there,
Its branches spreading wide, man.
But vicious folk aye hate to see
The works o' Virtue thrive, man; The courtly vermin's banned the tree,
And grat to see it thrive, man; King Loui' thought to cut it down,
When it was unco sma', man; For this the watchman cracked his crown,
Cut aff his head and a', man.
A wicked crew syne, on a time,
Did tak a solemn aith, man,
I wat they pledged their faith, man.
Like beagles hunting game, man, But soon grew weary o’the trade,
And wished they'd been at hame, man.