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it, mistakes it as we say; takes it for one thing, and it is another thing,-and leaves him standing like a Futility there! He is the fatal man; unutterably fatal, put in the high places of men.-"Why complain of this?" say some: "Strength is mournfully denied its arena; that was true from of old." Doubtless; and the worse for the arena, answer I! Complaining profits little; stating of the truth may profit. That a Europe, with its French Revolution just breaking out, finds no need of a Burns except for gauging beer,-is a thing I, for one, cannot rejoice at!
Once more we have to say here that the chief quality of Burns is the sincerity of him. So in his Poetry, so in his Life. The Song he sings is not of fantasticalities; it is of a thing felt, really there; the prime merit of this, as of all in him, and of his Life generally, is truth. The Life of Burns is what we may call a great tragic sincerity. A sort of savage sincerity,-not cruel, far from that; but wild, wrestling naked with the truth of things. In that sense, there is something of the savage in all great men.
Hero-worship,-Odin, Burns? Well; these Men of Letters too were not without a kind of Heroworship but what a strange condition has that got into now! The waiters and ostlers of Scotch inns, prying about the door, eager to catch any word that fell from Burns, were doing unconscious rever
and Genius of Burns.
ence to the Heroic. Johnson had his Boswell for worshipper. Rousseau had worshippers enough; princes calling on him in his mean garret; the great, the beautiful doing reverence to the poor moonstruck man. For himself a most portentous contradiction; the two ends of his life not to be brought into harmony. He sits at the tables of grandees; and has to copy music for his own living. He cannot even get his music copied : By dint of dining out," says he, "I run the risk of dying by starvation at home." For his worshippers too a most questionable thing! If doing Hero-worship well or badly be the test of vital wellbeing or illbeing to a generation, can we say that these generations are very first-rate?-And yet our heroic Men of Letters do teach, govern, are kings, priests, or what you like to call them; intrinsically there is no preventing it by any means whatever. The world has to obey him who thinks and sees in the world. The world can alter the manner of that; can either have it as blessed continuous summer-sunshine, or as unblessed black thunder and tornado,—with unspeakable difference of profit for the world! The manner of it is very alterable; the matter and fact of it is not alterable by any power under the sky. Light; or, failing that, lightning: the world can take its choice. Not whether we call an Odin god, prophet, priest, or what we call him; but whether we believe the
word he tells us: there it all lies. If it be a true
believe it; believing it,
What name or welcome point that concerns our
word, we shall have to we shall have to do it. we give him or it, is a selves mainly. It, the new Truth, new deeper revealing of the Secret of this Universe, is verily of the nature of a message from on high; and must and will have itself obeyed.
My last remark is on that notablest phasis of Burns's history,-his visit to Edinburgh. Often it seems to me as if his demeanour there were the highest proof he gave of what a fund of worth and genuine manhood was in him. If we think of it, few heavier burdens could be laid on the strength of a man. So sudden; all common Lionism, which ruins innumerable men, was as nothing to this. It is as if Napoleon had been made a King of, not gradually, but at once from the Artillery Lieutenancy in the Regiment La Fère. Burns, still only in his twenty-seventh year, is no longer even a ploughman; he is flying to the West Indies to escape disgrace and a Jail. This month he is a ruined peasant, his wages seven pounds a-year, and these gone from him: next month he is in the blaze of rank and beauty, handing down jewelled Duchesses to dinner; the cynosure of all eyes! Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity. I admire much
and Genius of Burns.
the way in which Burns met all this. no man one could point out, was ever so sorely tried, and so little forgot himself. Tranquil, unastonished; not abashed, not inflated, neither awkwardness nor affectation: he feels that he there is the man Robert Burns; that the "rank is but the guinea-stamp;" that the celebrity is but the candle-light, which will show what man, not in the least make him a better or other man! Alas, it may readily, unless he look to it, make him a worse man; a wretched inflated windbag, -inflated till he burst, and become a dead lion; for whom, as some one has said, "there is no resurrection of the body;" worse than a living dog!-Burns is admirable here.
And yet, alas, as I have observed elsewhere, these Lion-hunters were the ruin and death of Burns. It was they that rendered it impossible for him to live! They gathered round him in his Farm; hindered his industry; no place was remote enough from them. He could not get his Lionism forgotten, honestly as he was disposed to do so. He falls into discontents, into miseries, faults; the world getting ever more desolate for him; health, character, peace of mind, all gone; -solitary enough now. It is tragical to think of! These men came but to see him; it was out of no sympathy with him, nor no hatred to him.
On the Character and Genius of Burns.
They came to get a little amusement: they got their amusement;-and the Hero's life went for it!
Richter says, in the Island of Sumatra there is a kind of "Lightchafers," large Fire-flies, which people stick upon spits, and illuminate the ways with at night. Persons of condition can thus travel with a pleasant radiance, which they much admire. Great honour to the Fire-flies! But-!—