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I HAVE seen Robert Burns laid in The first time I ever saw Burns was
grave, and I have seen George in Nithsdale. I was then a child, but Gordon Byron borne to his ; of both his looks and his voice cannot well be I wish to speak, and my words shall 'forgotten ; and while I write this I bebe spoken with honesty and freedom. hold him as distinctly as I did when I They were great though not equal stood at my father's knee, and heard heirs of fame; the fortunes of their the bard repeat his Tam O'Shanter. birth were widely dissimilar ; yet in He was tall and of a manly make, his their passions and in their genius they brow broad and high, and his voice approached to a closer resemblance; varied with the character of his inimitatheir careers were short and glorious, ble tale ; yet through all its variations and they both perished in the sum- it was melody itself. Ile was of great mer of life, and in all the splendour personal strength, and proud too of of a reputation more likely to increase displaying it ; and I have seen him than diminish. One was a peasant, lift a load with ease, which few ordiand the other was a peer; but Nature nary men would have willingly underis a great leveller, and makes amends taken. for the injuries of fortune by the rich The first time I ever saw Byron was ness of her benefactions; the genius of in the House of Lords, soon after the Burns raised him to a level with the publication of Childe Harold. He nobles of the land; by nature if not by stood up in his place on the opposition birth, he was the peer of Byron. I side, and made a speech on the subject knew one, and I have seen both; I of Catholic freedom. His voice was have hearkened to words from their low, and I heard him but by fits, and lips, and admired the labours of their when I say he was witty and sarcastic, pens, and I am now, and likely to re- I judge as much from the involuntary main, under the influence of their magic mirth of the benches as from what I songs. They rose by the force of their heard with my own ears. His voice genius, and they fell by the strength of had not the full and manly melody of their passions; one wrote from a love, the voice of Burns ; nor had he equal and the other from a scorn, of man- vigour of frame, nor the same open exkind ; and they both sang of the emo- panse of forehead. But his face was tions of their own hearts with a vehe- finely formed, and was impressed with mence and an originality which few a more delicate vigour than that of the have equalled, and none surely have peasant poet. He had a singular consurpassed. But it is less my wish to formation of ear, the lower lobe, instead draw the characters of those extraordi- of being pendulous, grew down and nary men than to write what I remem- united itself to the cheek and resembled ber of them; and I will say nothing no other ear I ever saw, save that of that I know not to be true, and little the Duke of Wellington. His bust by but what I saw myself.
Thorvaldson is feeble and mean; the 7 ATHENEUM VOL. 2. 2d series.
painting of Phillips is more noble and ported from street to street, and from much more like. Of Burns I have house to house. never seen aught but a very uninspired His good humour was unruffled, and resemblance—and I regret it the more, his wit never forsook him. He looked because he had a look worthy of the to one of his fellow volunteers with a happiest effort of art—a look beaming smile, as he stood by the bed-side with with poetry and eloquence,
his eyes wet, and said, “John, don't let The last time I saw Burns in life the awkward squad fire over me." He was on his return from the Brow-well was aware that death was dealing with of Solway ; he had been ailing all him ; he asked a lady who visited him, spring, and summer had come without more in sincerity than in mirth, what bringing health with it; he had gone commands she had for the other world away very ill and he returned worse. --he repressed with a smile the hopes He was brought back, I think, in a of his friends, and told them he had covered spring cart, and when he a- lived long enough. As his life drew lighted at the foot of the street in which near a close, the eager yet decorous he lived, he could scarce stand upright. solicitude of his fellow townsmen inHe reached his own door with difficul- creased. He was an exciseman it is ty. He stooped much, and there was true—a name odious, from many assoà visible change in his looks. Some ciations, to his countrymen-but he may think it not unimportant to know, did his duty meekly and kindly, and that he was at that time dressed in repressed rather than encouraged the a blue coat with the undress nankeen desire of some of his companions to pantaloons of the volunteers, and that push the law with severity; he was his neck, which was inclining to be therefore much beloved, and the passion short, caused his hat to turn up be- of the Scotch for poetry made them rehind, in the manner of the shovel hats gard him as little lower than a spirit inof the Episcopal clergy. Truth obliges spired. It is the practice of the young me to add, that he was not fastidious men of Dumfries to meet in the streets about his dress ; and that an officer, during the hours of remission from lacurious in the personal appearance and bour, and by these means I had an equipments of his company, might opportunity of witnessing the general have questioned the military nicety of solicitude of all ranks and of all ages. the poet's clothes and arms. But his His differences with them in some imcolonel was a maker of rhyme, and the portant points of human speculation poet had to display more charity for and religious hope were forgotten and his commander's verse than the other forgiven ; they thought only of his had to exercise when he inspected the genius of the delight his compositions clothing and arms of the careless bard. had diffused—and they talked of him
From the day of his return home with the same awe as of some departtill the hour of his untimely death, ing spirit, whose voice was to gladden Dumfries was like besieged place.
them no more. His last moments have It was known he was dying, and the never been described; he had laid his anxiety, not of the rich and the learned head quietly on the pillow awaiting disonly, but of the mechanics and peasants, solution, when his attendant reminded exceeded all belief. Wherever two or
him of his medicine and held the cup three people stood together, their talk to his lip. He started suddenly up, was of Burns and of him alone ; they drained the cup at a gulp, threw his spoke of his history—of his person- of hands before him like a man about to his works of his family—of his fame, swim, and sprung from head to foot of and of his untimely and approaching the bed-fell with his face down, and fate, with a warmth and an enthusiasm expired with a groan. which will ever endear Dumfries to my Of the dying moments of Byron we remembrance. All that he said or was have no minute nor very distinct acsaying—the opinions of the physicians count. He perished in a foreign land (and Maxwell was a kind and a skilful among barbarians or aliens, and he one,) were eagerly caught up and re- seems to have been without the aid of
a determined physician, whose firmness tertained the horror of a reviewer which or persuasion might have vanquished a bird of song feels for the presence of his obstinacy. His aversion to bleeding the raven. But they smoothed his spirit was an infirmity which he shared with down, first by submission and then by many better regulated minds ; for it is idolatry, and his pride must have been no uncommon belief that the first touch equal to that which made the angels of the lancet will charm away the ap- fall if it had refused to be soothed by proach of death, and those who believe the obeisance of a reviewer. One never this are willing to reserve so decisive a forgets, if he should happen to forgive, spell for a more momentous occasion. an insult or an injury offered in youth He had parted with his native land in it grows with the growth and strengthno ordinary bitterness of spirit; and ens with the strength, and I may reahis domestic infelicity had rendered his sonably doubt the truth of the poet's future peace of mind hopeless>this song when he sings of his dear Jeffrey. was aggravated from time to time by The news of his death came upon the tales or the intrusions of travellers, London like an earthquake; and though by reports injurious to his character, the common multitude are ignorant of and by the eager and vulgar avidity literature and destitute of feeling for the with which idle stories were circulated, higher flights of poetry, yet they conwhich exhibited him in weakness or in sented to feel by faith, and believed, folly. But there is every reason to be because the newspapers believed, that lieve, that long before his untimely one of the brightest lights in the firmadeath his native land was as bright as ment of poesy was extinguished for ever. ever in his fancy, and that his anger With literary men a sense of the pubconceived against the many for the sins lic misfortune was mingled, perhaps, of the few had subsided or was sub- with a sense that a giant was removed siding. Of Scotland, and of his Scot- from their way; and that they had tish origin, he has boasted in more room now to break a lance with an than one place of his poetry; he is equal, without the fear of being overproud to remember the land of his thrown by fiery impetuosity and colosmother, and to sing that he is half a sal strength. The world of literature is Scot by birth and a whole one in his now resigned to lower, but perhaps, not heart. Of his great rival in popularity, less presumptuous poetic spirits. But Sir Walter Scott, he speaks with kind- among those who feared him, or envied ness ; and the compliment he has paid him, or loved him, there are none who him has been earned by the unchange- sorrow not for the national loss, and able admiration of the other. Scott has grieve not that Byron fell so soon, and ever spoken of Byron as he has lately on a foreign shore. written, and all those who know him When Burns died I was then young, will feel that this consistency is charac- but I was not insensible that a mind of teristic. I must, however, confess, his no common strength had passed from forgiveness of Mr. Jeffrey was an un- among us. He had caught my fancy looked-for and unexpected piece of hu- and touched my heart with his songs mility and loving kindness, and, as a and his poems. I went to see him laid Scotchman, I am rather willing to re out for the grave ; several eldern peogard it as a presage of early death, and ple were with me. He lay in a plain to conclude that the poet was “ fey," unadorned coffin, with a linen sheet and forgave his arch enemy in the drawn over his face, and on the bed, spirit of the dying Highlander “Weel, around the body, herbs and flowers weel, I forgive him, but God confound were thickly strewn according to the you, my twa sons, Duncan and Gilbert, usage of the country. He was wasted if you forgive him.” The criticism somewhat by long illness; but death with which the Edinburgh Review had not increased the swarthy hue of welcomed the first flight which Byron's his face, which was uncommonly dark Muse took, would have crushed and and deeply marked the dying pang broken any spirit less dauntless than was visible in the lower part, but his his own; and for a long while he en- broad and open brow was pale and se
rene, and around it his sable hair lay the peer rather than to the state of the in masses, slightly touched with gray, poet ; genius required no such attracand inclining more to a wave than a tions ; -and all this magnificence served curl. The room where he lay was only to divide our regard with the man plain and neat, and the simplicity of whose inspired tongue was now silenced the poet's humble dwelling pressed the for ever. Who cared for Lord Byron presence of death more closely on the the peer, and the privy councillor, with heart than if his bier had been embel- his coronet, and his long descent from lished with vanity and covered with princes on one side, and from herves the blazonry of high ancestry and rank. on both—and who did not care for We stood and gazed on him in silence George Gordon Byron the poet who for the space of several minutes—we has, charmed us, and will charm our went, and others succeeded us—there descendants with his deep and impaswas no jostling and crushing, though sioned verse? The homage was renthe crowd was great-man followed dered to genius, not surely to rankman as patiently and orderly as if all for lord can be stamped on any clay, had been a matter of mutual under- but inspiration can only be impressed standing—not a question was asked on the finest metal. not a whisper was heard. This was
Of the day on which the multitude several days after his death. It is the
were admitted I know not in what custom of Scotland to wake the body- terms to speak—I never surely saw so not with wild howlings and wilder strange a mixture of silent sorrow and songs, and much waste of strong drink, of fierce and intractable curiosity. If like our mercurial neighbours, but in one looked on the poet's splendid coffin silence or in prayer-superstition says with deep awe, and thought of the giftit is unsonsie to leave a corpse alone; ed spirit which had lately animated and it is never left. I know not who the cold remains, others regarded the watched by the body of Burns-much whole as a pageant or a show, got up it was my wish to share in the honour for the amusement of the idle and the —but my extreme youth would have careless, and criticised the arrangements made such a request seem foolish, and in the spirit of those who wish to be reits rejection would have been sure.
warded for their time, and who consider I am to speak the feelings of an- that all they condescend to visit should other people, and of the customs of a be according to their own taste. There higher rank, when I speak of laying was a crushing, a trampling, and an out the body of Byron for the grave. impatience, as rude and as fierce as It was announced from time to time ever I witnessed at a theatre ; and that he was to be exhibited in state, words of incivility were bandied about, and the progress of the embellishments and questions asked with such determiof the poet's bier was recorded in the nation to be answered, that the very pages of an hundred publications. mutes, whose business was silence and They were at length completed, and to and repose, were obliged to interfere separate the curiosity of the poor from with tongue and hand between the the admiration of the rich, the latter visitors and the dust of the poet. In were indulged with tickets of admis- contemplation of such a scene, some of sion, and a day was set a-part for them the trappings which were there on the to go and wonder over the decked first day were removed on the second, room and the emblazoned bier. Peers and this suspicion of the good sense and peeresses, priests, poets, and politi- and decorum of the multitude called cians, came in gilded chariots and in forth many expressions of displeasure, hired hacks to gaze upon the splendour as remarkable for their warmth as their of the funeral preparations, and to see propriety of language. By five o'clock in how rich and how vain a shroud the people were all ejected-man and the body of the immortal had been
and the rich coffin bore tohid. Those idle trappings in which kens of the touch of hundreds of eager rank seeks to mark its altitude above fingers-many of which had not been the vulgar belonged to the state of overclean.
The multitude who accompanied heaped up, the green sod laid over him, Burns to the grave went step by step and the multitude stood gazing on the with the chief mourners ; they might grave for some minutes? space, and then amount to ten or twelve thousand. Not melted silently away. The day was a a word was heard ; and, though all fine one, the sun was almost without a could not be near, and many could not cloud, and not a drop of rain fell from see, when the earth closed on their dawn to twilight. I notice this not darling poet for ever, there was no rude from my concurrence in the common impatience shown, no fierce disappoint- superstition—that “ happy is the corpse ment expressed. It was an impressive which the rain rains on," but to confute and mournful sight to see men of all a pious fraud of a religious Magazine, ranks and persuasions and opinions which made Heaven express its wrath mingling as brothers, and stepping side at the interment of a profane poet, in by side down the streets of Dumfries, thunder, in lightning, and in rain. I with the remains of him who had sang know not who wrote the story, and I of their loves and joys and domestic wish not to know; but its utter falseendearments, with a truth and a ten- hood thousands can attest.
It is one derness which none perhaps have since proof out of many, how divine wrath is equalled. I could indeed have wished found by dishonest zeal in a common the military part of the procession away commotion of the elements, and that --for he was buried with military hon- men, whose profession is godliness and ours—because I am one of those who truth, will look in the face of heaven love simplicity in all that regards gen- and tell a deliberate lie. ius. The scarlet and gold—the ban A few select friends and admirers ners displayed—the measured step, and followed Lord Byron to the grave, the military array, with the sound of his coronet was borne before him, and martial instruments of music, had no there were many indications of his share in increasing the solemnity of the rank; but, save the assembled multiburial scene; and had no connexion tude, no indications of his genius. In with the poet. I looked on it then, conformity to a singular practice of the and I consider it now, as an idle osten- great, a long train of their empty cartation, a piece of superfluous state which riages followed the mourning coaches might have been spared, more especial- --mocking the dead with idle state, ly as his neglected and traduced and and impeding the honester sympathy insulted spirit had experienced no kind- of the crowd with barren pageantry. ness in the body from those lofty people Where were the owners of those mawho are now proud of being numbered chines of sloth and luxury-where as his coevals and countrymen.
were the men of rank among whose fate has been a reproach to Scotland. dark pedigrees Lord Byron threw the But the reproach comes with an ill light of his genius, and lent the brows grace from England. When we can
of nobility a halo to which they were forget Butler's fate-Otway's loaf, strangers ? Where were the great Dryden's
old age, and Chatterton's Whigs ? Where were the illustrious poison-cup, we may think that we stand Tories ? Could a mere difference in alone in the iniquity of neglecting pre- matters of human belief keep these faseminent genius. I found myself at the tidious persons away? But, above all, brink of the poet's grave, into which where were the friends with whom he was about to descend for ever wedlock had united him ? On his desothere was a pause among the mourners late corpse no wife looked, and no child as if loath to part with his remains ; shed a tear. I have no wish to set myand when he was at last lowered, and self up as a judge in domestic infelicithe first shovelful of earth sounded on ties, and I am willing to believe they his coffin-lid, I looked up and saw were separated in such a way as rentears on many cheeks where tears were
dered conciliation hopeless; but who not usual. The volunteers justified the could stand and look on his pale manly fears of their comrade by three ragged face, and his dark locks which early and straggling volleys. The earth was sorrows were making thin and grey,