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watched the long pomp of leaders in statesmanship and letters escorting his dead body to its grave in the Abbey.
A poet-soul harnessed to do work which any literary hack could have done as well-spending besides on the foundation of a University for the Empire, of which Brougham appropriated the credit, genius sufficient to have trebled the number of his imperishable lyrics--that is Thomas Campbell! An imperfect, in some respects, a foundered, career, but with precious salvage !
The Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell. Edward Moxon, 1837.
6 Theodric: a Domestic Tale, vv. 30-1.
8 Caroline, Part i, st. 5. Song, st. 4. 10 The Beech-tree's Petition, vv. 3-6 and 11-12. 11 To the Evening Star, vv. 1-2.
12 The Last Man, st. 2. 13 Lochiel's Warning, vv. 23-40. 14 Ye Mariners of England : a Naval Ode, st. 1. 15 Battle of the Baltic, st. 7. 16 Stanzas on the Battle of Navarino. 17 Hohenlinden, stanzas 1, 2, and 8. 18 The Soldier's Dream.
19 Scott in Conversation with Washington Irving, 1817. Lockhart's Life.
LITERARY achievements far below those of Burns would have been miraculous in an English labourer, or even small farmer. In a Scottish peasant they are just comprehensible. Young minds in Scotland were put at the parish school in a way of thinking after a fashion unintelligible to an Englishman of the same rank. The Sabbath catechizing and sermonizing continued and developed the training. Knotty problems, terrestrial and celestial, were familiarly handled beside every cottage hearth. So far as literature is concerned, both in what of education was given, and what was withheld, fortune could not have dealt a more fatal blow than had she used her bounty to endow Robert Burns with a Snell Exhibition, and sent him to Balliol. In a Lowland parish the powers of intellect, and fancy as well, were evenly developed. Besides that the whole grand Hebrew literature was a child's inalienable inheritance, an abyss separated weird Scottish from matter-of-fact English ballad-and-folk-lore in the days of Burns. Sentiment, no less than Latin and theology, was thus cultivated among low as among high. At the same time that abundant nutriment was supplied to the mental faculties, another phase altogether of imaginative exuberance existed in rural Scottish life to which similar tendencies in Burns were by no means strange. By the side of Calvinistic despotism there has always risen in recognized, rank rebellion a temper of whimsical revelry and licence, to which, for good or ill, the grossness of English bucolic morals is no counterpart.
So far the circumstances were not unfavourable, as south
of the Tweed they would have been, to the apparition of a genuine poet in a cotter family. A generation later another, if of inferior quality, grew up in Ettrick Forest. The wonder with Burns is in the degree. In his case the character of the results is so extraordinary that it ought to be superfluous to consider whether he owed much or little to the accidents of country, period, or surroundings; to regard anything but, as with Shakespeare, the actual work. In any common case, even when the local advantages enjoyed by an Ayrshire ploughman were set in full against the general impediments to the emergence of rustic genius from its clay, allowance would still have to be made in favour of the parvenu. Such an act of grace would be an insult to Burns. At any moment he may be beheld soaring where he needs none. It cannot matter whether he were peer or peasant who wrote To a Mountain Daisy, The Cotter's Saturday Night, Bannockburn, For A' That and A' That, John Barleycorn, Mary in Heaven, Auld Lang Syne, and fifty other miracles of melody.
Love, Pity, Indignation at despotism and arrogance, ecclesiastical or social, and a sparkling humour-all by turns, and sometimes one or more in combination—could always wake the poet in Burns. Love took the first place. It might be general admiration, which a passing vision of beauty would stir into a flame recognized as equally transient :
O saw ye bonnie Lesley
As she gaed o’er the border ?
To spread her conquests farther.
And love but her for ever;
And ne'er made sic anither !
Thou art a queen, fair Lesley,
Thy subjects we, before thee;
The hearts o' men adore thee.
The Deil he couldna scaith thee,
Or aught that wad belang thee;
And say, 'I canna wrang thee?!
The Powers aboon will tent thee;
Misfortune sha’na steer thee;
That ill they'll ne'er let near thee.
Return to Caledonie !
There 's nane again sae bonnie.1 For the moment more usually it concentrated itself upon a particular object ;-once in a way, lawfully, as, during his honeymoon, upon his bride :
Of a' the airts the wind can blaw,
I dearly like the west,
The lassie I lo'e best :
And monie a hill between ;
Is ever wi' my Jean.
I see her in the dewy flowers,
I see her sweet and fair ;
I hear her charm the air;
By fountain, shaw, or green ;
But minds me o' my Jean.2
More often it wandered, now to a Highland Mary, still on earth, and of
form sae fair and faultless ; now to Nancy, severed from him to their mutual despair :
Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
We had ne'er been broken-hearted. 3A heart-break readily healed if it were his ; less easily, as I should be glad to infer from his own verse that he too felt, when it was hers :
Ye banks and braes o’ bonnie Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair !
And I sae weary, fu' o' care !
That wantons thro' the flowering thorn ;
Departed-never to return.
Aft hae I rov'd by bonnie Doon,
To see the rose and woodbine twine ;
And fondly sae did I o' mine.
Fu' sweet upon its thorny tree;
But ah! he left the thorn wi' me.
In any case, and however fleeting, the pity, it may be pleaded for the singer, was real whenever it came, and whoever the object, whether a lover, or a Prince, an outlaw in the realm his natural patrimony :
Where the wild beasts find shelter, but I can find none; 5 VOL. I