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remembered ; and when the hour of and also his torture, under those re-
cious prodigies, which the wondering - Whatever be the subject which world is, ever and anon, finding out inspires the muse of Burns, one never for itself. We hear of gone of his finds a particle of verbiage, or any odes at eight, and tales at ten, years one subject introduced, of which his of age, which, when they do occur
, knowledge is not complete. There are merely patchwork out of the is no mere noise making, -no heavy thoughts of others. His nuše gave pássages for the purpose of " sething” not forth one note, till inspired by the 'geps, and showing them off to that passion which calls all the childadvantage,—no gilding or polishing ren of nature into song. It was the of the surface; ihe whole is virgin buxom lass, who shared the labours from the rock-unbroken and untar- of the harvest field more immediately nishable; and yet the circumstances with the bard, who first kindled anunder which he lived were, as ordi- other fire ; and it was the desire of nary men would think, little calcu- making her warble to the praise of lated to produce a keen observer and her own charms, that first made him a profound thinker, or indeed, any attempt the practice of poetry; observer or thinker at all.
we believe there are very few young No doubt, in the years of his in- rustics, of perfectly pure minds, and fancy, he enjoyed advantages greater with any fancy at all, that do not than those, who have not felt the ef- make similar attempts in the first fects of similar ones, are aware of. young love of gay
fifteen." The circumstances and character of These first love songs of the bard his father saved him from those were, as might be supposed, neither temptations to idleness and infant very vigorous in the conception, for luxury, by which the talents of so very accurate in the expression; and many of the richer classes are nipt so far as one may judge from the in the bud ; while the feeling, then specimens, (and we remember seeing universal among the Scottish pea- a good many of them, which have santry, to live upon their own earn never appeared in print, in the hands ings, however small, ove no man any of a gentleman in Kilmarnock, only thing, and either stand in their own two years after the death of the poet,) strength, or fall, imparted that sturdy so far as one may judge from these; independence, which made his mind, the merit which they had, was the -and probably tended to mar his merit of thought and not of fancy fortunes. In the short time that he they evinced that the author was a was at school, too, he seems to have reflective and sensible youth, acquired not a little of that very best than that he was a poetical one. part of education, the art of getting Nature had given to Burns both a more for himself; and this was fur- mind and a body of the most robust ther augmented by the readings and description; and adversity had kept explanations of his father. Many hammering them on her anvil, till people acquire the form of education they had, at a very early period of without the substance; but Burns had life, acquired the firmness and the the substance without much of the elasticity of beaten steel : and when form: the early bias towards inquiry his passions, which were equally and reflection which this gave, se- strong, would no longer allow him conded as it was by the absence of to rest contented with his humble temptation, till he had reached rather fare and his hard labour, they burst an advanced period of youth, was, forth by the only outlet that was open next only to his natural powers, thé to then--the song of his native disa cause of his greatness-- his support, trict. Even after the fanio of Buras
had sealed bis destruction," he written (promise of marriage, which showed an universal thirst for infore he had given to her when he was in mation, and busied himself in the the depth of his poverty, and before førination and management of libra- the first publication of his poems. ries; and in his early years he gave But notwithstanding this, which was sufficient proofs that, had his desires a legal absolvement according to the been seconded by means, his aim law of Scotland, and would haver would have been to wanton in the been a moral absolvement, even to whole field of knowledge. The suc- those who affect to put on saintly, cess with which he studied the ele, looks, when the name of Burns is ments of mathematics, at the school mentioned, the poet no sooner heard of Kirkoswald, when in his nine- that the lady herself had been illa teenth yeart although love distracted used-turned out of doors in factthe doctrines of sines and tangents, upon his account, than he started not a little-clearly proves, that, un- from a sick bed, and flew to ber aid. der other disciplines and circumAnd what were the circumstances stapces, he night have probably under which this deed of generosity stood as high among the philosophers, and justice was done ? Was it when of his country, as he now does his fortunes ran low? No such among the poets. .
! thing. It was after he had been in.) Severely as he did toil, and expert troduced, to the notice and the ad,
was at all the labours of the miration of the learned and the titled farm, his mind was too mighty for, in the Scottish capital, had made the being wholly occupied by these du, tour of that end of the island, and ties; and the fields of science and, was certainly, of all Scotchmen theo literature, in wbich-other young spi- living, the foremost in fame. . Nor rits of the sanie wing work off their was this done as a mere impulse of superabuodant energies, were to him, the moment ;, for it was a calm, to use his own emphatic quotation, steady, and calculated purpose ; and "La spring shut up and a fountain Burns--though the office into which i sealed; the few books in the “auld he was degraded forced him to be clay biggio” were soon exhausted; both from home, and in the ale-louse the world around him became the professionally-continued a regulars only book of the ardent and insatia: family man, instructing his children ble student; and the keenness of his, and bearing up against extreme pari satire, the accuracy of his description, verty, till persecution the most un the warmth of his feeling, and the just, and neglect the most disgracefulge glorious flow of his pathus and sub- broke his heart; and, even then, limity, show how closely and how though his family was six persons, well he studied.
and his income never more than seThat the strong passions of Burns venty pounds a year, and seldom so betrayed him into indiscretions, and much, he died without being in debt. that oppressed and resourceless. as All men of the present day, and he
was, his, merry talents—the keen Englishmen of almost any day, would perception, and the powerful expres, wonder why a man who was thus: sion, which made him so great in highly talented, and thus resolutely company-were in so far snares to determined to be virtuous, could be. him, we do not mean to deny; but the man cast away," in anv coon. that these or any other causes made try, and especially in a country like Burns permanently,or mentally at all, Scotland, where the sounds of patri-, dissipated, or caused hiin to neglect otism, and patronage, and encouragehis duty either to society, or to those ment to literature are so loud. This who wore immediately had claims wonder, increases, when one consion him, is wholly, and utterly false. ders, that Burus was exactly the man
The gelations of the lady whom of whom Scotland, at that tinie, stood he married caused her to burn a much in need. This part of the case
is put with so much force and truth a scanty handful of exceptions, the by Mr. Lockhart, that we shall quote best of them, at least of the serious his words :
kind, were very ancient.' Anjong “ Darkly as the career of Burns the numberless effusions of the Jacowas destined to terminate, there can bite Muse, valuable as we now conbe no doubt that he made his first sider them for the record of mappers appearance at a period highly fa- and events, it would be difficult to vourable for his reception as a Bri- point out half a dozen strains, wortish, and especially as a Scottish po. ihy, for poetical excellence alone, of a et. Nearly forty years had elapsed place among the old chivalrous ballads since the death of Thomson :-Cole of the Southern, or even of the Highlins, Gray, Goldsmith, had succes- land Border. Generations had pass. sively disappeared :-Dr. Johnson ed away since any Scottish poet had had belied the rich promise of his appealed to the sympathies of his early appearance, and confined him countrymen in a lofiy Scottish straip? self to prose, and Cowper had hardly « It was reserved for Burns to inbegun to be recognised as having any terpret the inmost soul of the Scottish considerable pretensions to fill the peasant in all its moods, and in verse long-vacant throne in England. At exquisitely and intensely Scottish, home--without derogation from the without degrading either bis sentimerits either of Douglas or the Min. ments or bis language with one touch strel, be it said---men must have gone of vulgarity. Such is the delicacy back at least three centuries to find of vative taste, and the power of a a Scottish poet at all evtitled to be truly masculine genius." considered as of that high order to But though Burns was just the man which the generous criticism of Mac- who was wanting to give a beam of kenzie at once admitted the Ayr- glory to his country, and though he shire Ploughman? Of the form and came at the particular time, and garb of his composition, much, un- found an introduction to those who questionably and avowedly, was de- had, as it were, the keeping of the rived from his more immediate pre- country's honour, they had the folly, decessors, Ramsay and Ferguson : the cold-blooded cruelty, to throw but there was a bold mastery of hand him away; and however they may in his picturesque descriptions, to palter and shufile, and equivocate produce any thing equal to which it about the matter, they threw him was necessary to recall the days of away for this little, and truly dirty Christ's Kirk on the Green, and reason--that he was of nobler mind, Peebles to the Play: and in his more and mightier powers than themselves. solemn pieces, a depth of inspiration, They may lecture, and they may lie; and a massive energy of language, to but the brand is on them, and all the which the dialect of his country, had labour even of their viscous tongues been a stranger, at least since · Dunwill never be able to lick it off. bar the Mackar.' The Muses of It is hard that this should be the Scotland had never indeed been si, case; and that we should write it, lent, and the ancient minstrelsy of or read it, or certify its truth, is gall the land, of which a slender portion and wormwood; but it stands upon had as yet been committed to the the record, and no pigment will bide safeguard of the press, was handed it, no tool will scrape it; and no defrom generation to generation, and tergent will bleach it away. They preserved in many a fragment, faith, máy build monuments to their own ful images of the peculiar tenderness, vanity; and they may carve upon and peculiar humour, of the national them what they please ; but the fancy and character-precious repre- words that will, in the judgment of sentations, which Burns himself ne every
man, branden and ver surpassed in his happiest efforts. blaeken over the whole, are," DeBut these were fragments; and, with stroyed by an upgrateful country?
and they may meet and carouse, they initiated him in their dissipay and make speeches--and they whó tion, in which, then especially, and battened upon the bard in his mise- even now, Edinburgh outrages every ry, may be foremost and loudest, - other place in the kingdom,--they and they may thump the table at his gave him no friendship. name, roar out his songs, quaff till an entire season in Edinburgh, saw they reel; but in the midst of all all the 66 gentry” in it, was univer
this," the fingers of a man's hand sally described as a most sensible # will come forth, and write upon the man and delightful companion; and
wall” words of sorrow and of re- yet, at the end of the time, the only proach, which will be eternal as the persons who had attached themselves
name and the songs of the bard. to him, or indeed shown any hearty #Aye, and when years and ages shall desire of doing so, were, a school
have rolled away, when the dust master of irascible temper, vulgar # shall have been gathered to the dust, magners, and dissipated habits, and
and not a tittle of the Edinburgh li- a clerk, who, though free from those
terati, during the ten fatal years, offensive qualities, was certainly no * from 1786 to 1796, shall be found Edipus. The one of these was
even in the limbo of waste paper, subsequently his “ Boswell” in the the memorial and the execration of south of Scotland, and the other in
this act of slow moral poisoning will the north ; and after “ seeing” Edin** be as fresh as ever.
burgh for two years, Burns, who at Even from Mr. Lockhart's book that time had powers that would ---from the showing of a man who have done honour to any situation, cannot be presumed to have had any was-made an exciseman, with fifty wish to show it-there is an impres- pounds a year !
sion of the progress of the evil deed, This was bad enough ; but there * though that impression be given ra was worse to follow. As might have
ther by some lacune that want filling been foreseen-and prevented the up, than from any thing that is said. discharge of his duty as an excise
Before Burns went to Edinburgh, man, which, even on the showing of he was by no
means addicted to his enemies, Burns discharged with drinking; and, indeed, a young man great fidelity, were incompatible with whose average yearly income, over his proper management of his farm; and above his food, was about seven and thus he was forced to give that pounds, out of which he had to cluihe up, retire to the little scandal-dealhimself and buy his few books, and ing provincial capital, Dumfries, and of which, after all, he made some depend wholly ou his seventy pounds savings which helped to stock the a year, with which his more laboris farm of Massgiel, could not possibly ous duties there were rewarded. Exindulge much in that way. The first cise officers have never been, in Scotthree or four months that he was in land, characters which stand very Edinburgh he was equally abstemi- high, and they have not always des ous, except in the companies where served it. Thus the very calling of he was invited to be gazed at; and the bard banished him from the soso careful was he, that he shared the ciety of the small gentry who, unable room and the bed of a writer's clerk; to spend their winters in Edinburgh, and had the “ gentry” only had the spent them in Dumfries. This must decency to shut their doors against have irritated him on the one hand, him in the beginning as they did in and on the other it forced him to the end, Burns would have gone associate with his brother officers ; back to the country uncontaminated an association which was not very even in idea. But though they gave likely either to elevate his mind or him some patronage for his book, improve his morals. If the 66 a thing, by the way, that he did not try of Edinburgh were afraid of need to thank them for--and though being eclipsed by the rústic bard,
much more must they of Dumfries All the neglect, and all the perses have been ; and as, in such coteries, cution that he suffered,, could not there are usually very choice sub, however, destroy the immortal spark jects for satire, they had no reason, within him.
Even in these years, to, hope that the bard would spare, in which he bore the iniquities of a them. This led to irritation in the degraded country and a despicable first instance, and in the second, to faction, Burns poured forth sense of revenge.
the choicest of his lyrics. : For any At that time the French revolu-, thing but fame and that to a mana tion broke out; and, singular as it who, upon the brink of starvation may seem, the effects of it were, himself, is fattening others, is not perhaps, more baneful in Scotland, quite enougho-his muse might as, than in any other country, ,,Those well have been silent. For the songs who were in power, in that country, which he contributed to Johnson's were needy, rapacious, and venal ;; collection, Burns got two copies of and if they could but recommend the book ! and for the labour of years, themselves to the notice of the state, towards that of Thomson, he rethey did not much mind the way in ceived five pounds as a gift, and five which they did it; alarm and trea-: pounds as an alms ! chery were the order of the day ; Mr, Lockhari's closing remarks on and if any of the minions could suc. the character of Burns, have in tbem, ceed in making it be believed that a great deal of truth, good sense, anda any man, more especially a man of fair critical acumen. talents, was a democrat-disaffected “ As to Burus’s want of education to the king, and more especially to and knowledge, Mr. Campbell may the minister, it was the same as finde pot have considered, but he must ing a treasure. The tools of this admit, that whatever: Burns's opporce miserable faction, partly out of ba- tunities had been at the time when tred to talents of which they were he produced his first poem, such a afraid, and partly in the hope that man as he was not likely to be a they would thereby win what they hard reader, (which he certainly had not ability to work for, marked, was,) and a constant observer, of men Burns as
their prey. The bold, open and manners, in a much wider circle and manly character of the bard, of society than almost any other great rendered him an easy victim to those poet has ever moved in, from threes. vermin; and for some words, of and-twenty to eight-and-thirty, with, course spoken in hours of convivi.,, out having thoroughly removed any, ality, and some foolish matters about pretext for auguring unfavourably on hi toasts, he was reported as a danger- that score, of what he might have ous and suspected person ; and every been expected to produce in the lie that any one professing pseudo- more elaborate departments of his loyalty chose to form against him, art, had his life been spared to the 1 was believed. In consequence, that usual limits of humanity. In another society which had drawn bim out of way, however, I cannot help susa: the country by its plaudits deserted pecting that Burns's enlarged know, higi ; and, in mental agony that can,,, ledge, both of men and books, pro-i not well be described, he supk into,, duced an unfavourable effect, rather an early grave-fell a victim to nego, than otherwise, on the exertions, such i lect and treachery in the very prime, as they were, of his later years. His of bis days. No sooner had they generous spirit was open to the improcured his death than they came pression of every kind of excellence; with their crocodile tears; and, men, his lively imagination, bending its who might with one word have avert own vigour to whatever it touched, ed the catastropbe, but did not, came made him admire even what other fawning in to steal a little fame by people try to read in vain ; and after being mourners at his bier.
ravelling, as he did, over the geget,