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TO THE FIRST EDITION.
THE following trifles are not the production of the poet, who, with all the advantages of learned art, and perhaps amid the elegances and idlenesses of upper life, looks down for a rural theme, with an eye to Theocritus or Virgil. To the Author of this, these and other celebrated names, their countrymen, are, at least in their original language, a fountain shut up, and a book sealed. Unacquainted with the necessary requisites for commencing poet by rule, he sings the sentiments and manners he felt and saw in himself and his rustic compeers around him, in his and their native language. Though a rhymer from his earliest years, at least from the earliest impulses of the softer passion, it was not till very lately that the applause, perhaps the partiality, of friendship, wakened his vanity so far as to make him think any thing of his worth shewing; and none of the following works were composed with a view to the press. To amuse himself with the little creations of his own fancy, amid the toil and fatigues of a laborious life; to transcribe the various feelings, the loves, the griefs, the hopes, the fears, in his own breast; to find some kind of counterpoise to the struggles of a world, always an alien scene, a task uncouth to the poetical mind-these were his motives for courting the Muses, and in these he found Poetry to be its own reward.
Now that he appears in the public character of an Author, he does it with fear and trembling. So dear
is fame to the rhyming tribe, that even he, an obscure, nameless Bard, shrinks aghast at the thought of being branded as-an impertinent blockhead, obtruding his nonsense on the world; and, because he can make a shift to jingle a few doggerel Scottish rhymes together, looking upon himself as a Poet of no small consequence forsooth!
It is an observation of that celebrated poet, Shen stone, whose divine Elegies do honour to our language, our nation, and our species, that Humility has depressed many a genius to a hermit, but never raised one to fame!' If any critic catches at the word genius, the Author tells him, once for all, that he cer tainly looks upon himself as possessed of some poetic abilities, otherwise his publishing in the manner he has done, would be a manoeuvre below the worst character, which, he hopes, his worst enemy will ever give him. But to the genius of a Ramsay, or the glorious dawnings of the poor, unfortunate Fergusson, he, with equal, unaffected sincerity, declares, that even in his highest pulse of vanity, he has not the most distant pretensions. These two justly admired Scottish Poets he has often had in his eye in the following pieces; but rather with a view to kindle at their flame, than for servile imitation.
To his Subscribers, the Author returns his most sincere thanks-not the mercenary bow, over a counter-but the heart-throbbing gratitude of the Bard, conscious how much he owes to benevolence and friendship, for gratifying him, if he deserves it, in that dearest wish of every poetic bosom-to be distinguished. He begs his readers, particularly the learned and the polite, who may honour him with a perusal, that they will make every allowance for education and circumstances of life; but if, after a fair, candid, and impartial criticism, he shall stand convicted of dullness and nonsense, let him be done by as he would in that case do by others-let him be condemned, without mercy, to contempt and oblivion.
TO THE SECOND EDITION.
TO THE NOBLEMEN AND GENTLEMEN OF THE
MY LORDS ANd Gentlemen,
A SCOTTISH Bard, proud of the name, and whose highest ambition is to sing in his Country's service -where shall he so properly look for patronage as to the illustrious names of his native Land-those who bear the honours and inherit the virtues of their Ancestors? The Poetic Genius of my Country found me, as the prophetic bard Elijah did Elisha-at the plough; and threw her inspiring mantle over me. She bade me sing the loves, the joys, the rural scenes and rural pleasures of my native soil in my native tongue. I tuned my wild, artless notes as she inspired. She whispered me to come to this ancient Metropolis of Caledonia, and lay my songs under your honoured protection.
Though much indebted to your goodness, I do not approach you, my Lords and Gentlemen, in the usual style of Dedication, to thank you for past favours. That path is so hackneyed by prostituted learning, that honest rusticity is ashamed of it. Nor do I present this address with the venal soul of a servile Author, looking for a continuation of those favours. 1 was bred to the plough, and am independent. I come to claim the common Scottish name with you, my illustrious countrymen; and to