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Thy it.iage at our last embrace;
'Ayr gurgling kiss'd his pebbled shore,
O'erhung wiih wild woods, thickening, green,
'Tlw flowers sprang wanton to be prest,
"Still o'er these scenes my mem'ry wakes,
And fondly broods with miser care; Time but the impression stronger makes. As streams their channels deeper wear.
"Mv Mary, dear departed shade!
Where is thy place of blissful rest 1 Sic'nt thou thy lover lowly laid J Hear'et thou the groans that rend his breast?" Vol. i. pp. 125, 126.
Of his pieces of humour, the tale of Tarn o' Shanter i? probably the best: though there are traits of infinite merit in Scotch Drink. the Holy Fair, the Hallow E'en, and several M the song?; in all of which, it is very remarkable, that he rises occasionally into a strain of beautiful description or lofty sentiment, far above the pitch of his original conception. The poems of observation on life and characters, are the Twa Dogs and the Tarions Epistles—all of which show very extraordinary sagacity and powers of expression. They are written, however, in so broad a dialect, that we dare not venture to quote any part of them. The only pieces that can be classed under the head: of pure fiction, are the Two Bridges of Ayr, and the Vision. In the last, there are some vigorous and striking lines. We select the passage in which the Muse describes the early propensities of her iaronrite, rather as being more generally ini-lligible, than as superior to the rest of the poem.
"1 raw thee seek the sounding shore,
Drove through the sky,
Struck thy young eye.
"Or when the deep-green manil'd earth
In ev'ry grove,
With boundless love.
"When ripen'd fields, and azure skies,
And lonely stalk,
"When youthful love, warm, blushing, strong,
To sooth thy flame.
'I saw thy pulse's maddening play,
By Passion driven;
Was light from heaven!"
There is another fragment, called also л Vision, which belongs to a higher order of poetry. If Burns had never written any ihii.g else, the power of description, and ihe vigour of the whole composition, would have entitled him to the remembrance of posterity.
"The winds were laid, ihe air was still,
"The stream adown its hazelly path,
"The cauld blue north was streaming forth
Her lights, wi' hissing eerie din;
"By heedless chance I turn'd mine eyes,
And by the moon-beam, shook, to see
"Had I a statue been o' stane,
His darin' look had daunted me;
"And frae his harp sic strains did flow,
Might rous'd ihe slumbering dead to hear;
"He sang wi' joy the former day,
He weeping wail'd his latter times—
Vol. iv. 344—346.
Some verses, written for a Hermitage, sound like the best parts of Grongar HUÍ. The reader may take these few lines as a specimen:—
"As thy day grows warm and high,
There is a little copy of Verses upon a Newspaper at p. 355, of Dr. Currie's fourth volume, written in the same condensed style, and only wanting translation into English to be worthy of Swift.
The finest piece, of the strong and nervous sort, however, is undoubtedly the address of Robert Bruce to his army at Bannockburn, beginning, "Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace Bled. The Death Song, beginning,
"Farewell, thou fair day, thou green earth and ye
skies, Now gay with the bright setting sun."
is to us less pleasing. There are specimens, however, of such vigour and emphasis scattered through his whole works, as are sure to make themselves and their author remembered; for instance, that noble description of a dying soldier.
"Nae cauld, faint-hearted doublings teaze him:
We dare not proceed further in specifying the merits of pieces which have been so long published. Before concluding upon this subject, however, we must beg leave to express our dissent from the poet's amiable and judicious biographer, in what he says of the generaiharshnes; and rudeness of his versification. Dr. Currie, we are afraid, was scarcely Scotchman enough to comprehend the whole prosody of the verses to which he alluded. Most of the Scottish pieces are, in fact, much more carefully versified than the English; and we appeal to our Southern readers, whether there be any want of harmony in the following 8tanza :
however, that unless it be taken in connection with his other works, the present volume has little interest, and could not be made the subject of any intelligible observations. It is made up of some additional letters, of middling merit—of complete copies of others, of which Dr. Currie saw reason to publish only extracts—of a number of remarks, by Burns, on old Scottish songs—and, finally, of a few additional poems and songs, certainly not disgraceful to the author, but scarcely fitted to add to his reputation. The world, however, is indebted, we think, to Mr. Cromek's industry for this addition to so popular an author;-and the friends of the poet, we are sure, are indebted to his good taste, moderation, and delicacy, for having confined it to the pieces which are now printed. Burns wrote many rash—man violent, and many indecent things; of whic we have no doubt many specimens must have fallen into the hands of so diligent a collector. He has, however, carefully suppressed every thing of this description ; and shown that tenderness for his author's memory, which is the best proof of the veneration with which he regards his talents. We shall now see if there be any thing in the volume which deserves to be particularly noticed. The Preface is very amiable, and well written. Mr. Cromek speaks with becomin respect and affection of Dr. Currie, the learne biographer and first editor of the t, and with great modesty of his own qualifications.
“As an apology (he says) for any defects of my own that may appear in this publication, I beg to observe that I am by profession an artist, and not an author. In the manner of laying them before the public, I honestly declare }. I have done my best; and I trust I may fairly presume to hope, that the man who has contribted to extend the bounds of literature, by adding another genuine volume to the writings of Robert Burns, has some claim on the gratitude of his countrymen. On this occasion, I certainly feel something of that sublime and heart-swelling gratification, which he experiences who casts another stone on the cAiRN of a great and lamented chief.”-Preface, pp. xi. xii.
Of the Letters, which occupy nearly half the volume, we cannot, on the whole, express any more favourable opinion than that which we have already ventured to pronounce on the prose compositions of this author in general. Indeed they abound, rather more than those formerly published, in ravings about sensibility and imprudence—in common swearing, and in professions of love for whisky. By far the best, are those which are addressed to Miss Chalmers; and that chiefly because they seem to be written with less effort, and at the same time with more respect for his correspondent. The following was written at a most critical period of his life; and the good feelings and good sense which it displays, only make us regret more deeply that they were not attended with greater firmness.
“Shortly after my last return to Ayrshire, 1 married “my Jean.’ This was not in consequence of the attachment of romance perhaps; but I had a long and much lov'd fellow-creature's happiness of
misery in my determination, and T durst not trifle wuh so important a deposite. Nor have I any capse to repent it. If I nave not got polite tattle, modish manners, and fashionable dress. I am not sickened and disgusted with the multiform curse of boarding-school affectation; and I have got the handsomest figrure, the sweetest temper, the soundest constitution, and the kindest heart in the county! Mrs. Burns believes, as firmly as her creed, that I am If plus bel esprit, el le plut honnête homme in the universe ; although she scarcely ever in her life, except the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and the Psalms of David in metre, spent five minutes together on either prose or verse.—I must except also from this last, a certain late publication of Scots Poems, which she has perused very deTomJy, and all the ballads in the country, as she hoe (Ü :he partial lover! you will cry) the finest " woodnote wild" I ever heard.—lam the more particular m thiâ lady's character, as I know she will henceforth пате the honour of a share in your best wishes. She is «till at Mauchlino, as I am building my house: for this hovel that I shelter in while occasionally here, is pervious to every blast that blows, und every shower that falls; and I am only preserved from being chilled to death, by being suffocated with smoke. I do not find my farm that pennyworth I was taught to expect; but I believe. m time, it may be a saving bargain. You will be pleased In hear that I have laid aside idle éclat. and bind every day after my reapers.
"To save me from that horrid situation of at any time going down, in a losing bargain of a farm, to misery. I have taken my excise instructions, and have my commission in my pocket for any emergency of fortune! If I could set all before your Tkw. whatever disrespect you, in common with the world, have for this business, I know you would approve of my idea."—Vol. v. pp. 74, 75.
We may add the following for the sake of connection.
"I know not how the word exciseman, or still more opprobrious, gauger, will sound in your ears. I too have seen the day when my auditory nerves would have felt very delicately on this subject ; but 3 wile and children are things which have a wonderful power in blunting these kind of sensations. Fifty pounds a year for liln, and a provision for widow« and orphans, vou will allow, is no bad seitlement for a poet. For the ignominy of the pro¡Vs-non, I have Ihe encouragement which I once heard a recruiting scrjeant give to a numerous, if not a respectable audience, in the streets oí Kilrnar* nock—' Gentlemen, for your further and better encouragement. I can assure you that our regiment is the most blackguard corps under the rrown, and consequently wiih us an honest fellow hasthe surest (hincc of preferment.' "—Vol. v. pp. 99, 100.
It would have been as well if Mr. Cromek had left out the history of Mr. Hamilton's disnensions with his parish minister,—Burns' а]ю!о2у to a gentleman with whom he had a Drunken squabble,—and the anecdote of his being used to ask for more liquor, when visiting in the country, under the pretext of fortifying himself against the terrors of a little w-'»J ht- had to pass through in going home. The most interesting passage«, indeed, in this jjÄrt of the volume, are those for which we are indebted to Mr. Cromek himself. He informs us, for instance, in a note,
"One of Burns' remarks, when he first came to iVimhnrgh, was. that between the Men of rustic i'fe. »nd the polite world, he observed little differf-.<-t—that in the former, though unpolished by fvihinn, and unenlightened by science, he had found much obeerva'ior and much intelligence ;—but a
refined and accomplished Woman was a being almost new to him, and of which he had formed but a very inadequate idea."—Vol. v. pp. 68, 69.
He adds also, in another place, that "the poet, when questioned about his habits of composition, replied,—'All my poetry is the effect of easy composition, but of laborious correction.'" It is pleasing to know those things—even if they were really as trifling as to a superficial observer they may probably appear. There is a very amiable letter from Mr. Murdoch, the poet's early preceptor, at p. ill; and a very splendid one from Mr. Bloomfield, at p. J35. As nothing is more rare, among the minor poets, than a candid acknowledgment of their own inferiority, we think Mr. Bloomfield well entitled to have his magnanimity recorded.
"The illustrious soul that has left amongst us the name of Burns, has often been lowered down to a comparison with me; but the comparison exists more in circumstances than in essentials. That man stood up with the stamp of superior intellect on his brow; a visible greatness: and great and patriotic subjects would only have called into action the powers of his mind, which lay inactive while he played calmly and exquisitely the pastoral pipe.
"The letters to which I have alluded in my preface to the ' Rural Tales,' were friendly warnings, pointed with immediate reference to the fate of that extraordinary man. 'Remember Burns,' has been the watchword of my friends. I do remember Burns; but I am not Burns! I have neither his fire to fan, or to quench ; nor his passions to control! Where then is my merit, if I make a peaceful voyage on a smooth sea, and with no mutiny on board ?"—Vol. v. pp. 135, 136.
The observations on Scottish songs, which fill nearly one hundred and fifty pages, are, on the whole, minute and trifling ; though the exquisite justness of the poet's taste, and his fine relish of simplicity in this species of composition, is no less remarkable here than in his correspondence with Mr. Thomson. Of all other kinds of poetry, he was so indulgent a judge, that he may almost be termed an indiscriminate admirer. We find, too, from these observations, that several songs and pieces of songs, which he printed as genuine antiques, were really of his own composition.
The commonplace book, from which Dr. Currie had formerly selected all that he thouaht worth publication, is next given entire by Mr. Cromek. We were quite as well, we think, with the extracts;—at all events, there was no need for reprinting what had been given by Dr. Currie ; a remark which is equally applicable to the letters of which we had formerly extracts.
Of the additional poems which form the concluding part of the volume, we have but little to say. We have little doubt of their authenticity; for, though the editor has omitted, in almost every instance, to specify the source from which they were derived, they certainly bear the stamp of the author's manner and genius. They are not, however, of his purest metal, nor marked with his finest die: several of them have appeared in print already; and the songs are, as usual, the best. This little lamentation of a desolate damsel, :в tender and pretty.
"Mv father put ra« free hie door,
My friends they hae diaown'd mea';
"A pair o' gloves he gave to me,
And silken snoods he gave me twa;
"The weary winter soon will pass,
And spring will deed the birken-shaw;
Vol. v. pp. 432, 433.
We now reluctantly dismiss this subject.— We scarcely hoped, when we began our critical labours, that an opportunity would ever occur of speaking of Bums as we wished to speak of him; and therefore, we feel grateful to Mr. Cromek for giving us this opportunity. As we have no means of Icnowing, \vith precision, to what extent his writings are known and admired in the southern part of the kingdom, we have perhaps fallen into the error of quoting passages that are familiar to most of cmr readers, and dealing out praise which every one of them had previously я warded. We felt it impossible, however, to resist the temptation of transcribing a few of the passages which struck us the most, on turning over the volumes; and reckon with confidence on the gratitude of those to whom they are new,—while we are not without hopes of being forgiven by those who have been used to admire them.
We shall conclude with two general remarks—the one national, the other critical.— The first is, that it is impossible to read the productions of Burns, along with his history, •without forming a higher idea of the intelligence, taste, and accomplishments of our peasantry, than most of those in the higher ranks are disposed to entertain. Without meaning to deny that he himself was endowed with rare and extraordinary gifts of genius and fancy, it is evident, from the whole details of his history, as well as from the letters of his brother, and the testimony of Mr. Murdoch and others, to the character of his father, that the whole family, and many of their associates, who never emerged from the native obscurity of their condition, possessed talents, and taste, and intelligence, which are little suspected to lurk in those humble retreats.— His epistles to brother poets, in the rank of small farmers and shopkeepers in the adjoining villages,—the existence of a booksociety and debating-club among persona of that description, and many other incidental traits in hie sketches of his youthful companions.—all contribute to show, that not only good sense, and enlightened morality, but literature, and talents for speculation, are far more generally diffused in society than is commonly imagined; and that the delights
and the benefits of those generous anj L manising pursuits, are by no means confined to those whom leisure and affluence hart courted to their enjoyment. That much of this is peculiar to Scotland, and may be properly referred to our excellent institutions tor parochial education, and lo the natural sotriet; and prudence of our nation, may certainly be allowed: but we have no doubt that there is a good deal of the same principle in England, and that the actual intelligence of the low« orders will be found, there also, very far it exceed the ordinary estimates of their superiors. It is pleasing to know, that the source« of rational enjoyment are so widely disseminated ; and in a free country, it is comtbrfebie to think, that so great a proportion oí it* people is able to appreciate the advantage of its condition, and fit to be relied on¡ in ail emergencies where steadiness and inteffijence may be required.
Our other remark is of a more limited application; and is addressed chiefly to the followers and patrons of that new school of poetry, against which we have thought h от duty to neglect no opportunity of testifying. Those gentlemen are outrageous for simplicity; and we beg leave to recommend to them the simplicity of Bums. He has copini lie spoken language of passion and affecüon, with infinitely more fidelity than they have eve: done, on all occasions which properly admitted of such adaptation: But he has not rejected the helps of elevated language and habiu. associations; nor debased his composition by an affectation of babyish interjections, and all the puling expletives of an old nonerjmaid's vocabulary. They may look Id?: enough among his nervous and manly her*. before they find any "Good lacks !»--Dai hearts!"—or "Asa body may says." in them: or any stuff about dancing daffodils au<i ri^e: Emmelines. Let them think, with what infinite contempt the powerful mind of Вит would have perused the story of Alice Ffll and her duffle cloak,—of Andrew Jones »»i the half-crown,—or of Little Dan without breeches, and his thievish grandfather. I*1 them contrast their own fantastical perwnagei of hysterical school-masters and sentential leecngatherers, with the authentic ñutió« Burns's Cotters' Saturday Night, and hi- inimitable songs; and reflect on the différée reception which those personifications ha« met with from the public. Though they wi« not be reclaimed from their puny affectât.;:by the example of their learned prediw" they may, perhaps, submit to be admoin't.c by a self-taught and illiterate poet, who Jre« from Nature far more directly than they« do, and produced something so much 1 the admired copies of the masters whom the? have abjured.
We rejoice once more to see a polished and pathetic poem—in the old style of English ¡ja'.hos and poetry. This is of the pitch of ше Castle of indolence, and the finer parts of
riser; with more feeling, in many places, the first, and more condensation and diligent finishing than the latter. If the true tone of nature be not everywhere maintained, it gives place, at least, to art only, and not to affectation—and, least of all, to affectation of siiiirularity or rudeness.
Beautiful as the greater part of this volume is. the public taste, we are afraid, has of late been too much accustomed to beauties of a more obtrusive and glaring kind, to be fully sensible of its merit. Without supposing that this taste has been in any great degree vitiated, or even imposed upon, by the babyism or the antiquarian ism which have lately been versified for its improvement, we may be allowed to suspect, that it has been somewhat dazzled by the splendour, and bustle and variety of the most popular of our recent poems; and that the more modest colouring of truth and nature mav, at this moment, seem somewhat cold and feeble. We have endeavoured, on former occasions, to do justice to the force ami originality of some of those brilliant productions, as well as to the genius (fitted for much higher things) of their authors—and have little doubt of being soon called upon for a renewed tribute of applause. But we cannot help saying, in the mean time, that the work before us belongs to a class which comes nearer to our conception of pure and perfect poetry. Such productions do not, ¡¡¡deed, strike so strong a blow as the vehement effusions of our modern Trouveurs; but they are calculated, we think, to please more deeply, and to call out more permanently, those trains of emotion, in which the delight of poetry will probably be found to consist. They may not be so loudly nor so universally applauded; but their fame will probably endure longer, and they will be offener recalled to mingle with the reveries of solitary leisure, or the consolations of real sorrow.
There is a sort of poetry, no doubt, as there is a sort of flowers, which can bear the broad sun and the ruffling winds of the world,— which thrive under the hands and eyes of indi-^criminating multitudes, and please as much in hot and crowded saloons, as in their own sheltered repositories; but the finer and the purer sorts blossom only in the shade; and never give out their sweets but to those who seek them amid the quiet and seclusion of the scenes which gave them birth. There are torrents and cascades which attract the
admiration of tittering parties^ and of which even the busy must turn aside to catch a transient glance: But "the haunted stream" steals through a still and a solitary landscape; and its beauties are never revealed, but to him who strays, in calm contemplation, by its course, and follows its wanderings with undistracted and unimpatient admiration. There' is a reason, too, for all this, which may be made more plain than by métaphore.
The highest delight which poetry produces, does not arise from the mere passive perception of the images or sentiments which it presents to the mind; but from the excitement which is given to its own internal activity, and the character which is impressed on the train of its spontaneous conceptions. Even the dullest reader generally sees more than is directly presented to him by the poet; but a lover of poetry always sees infinitely more; and is often indebted to his author for little more than an impulse, or the key-note of a melody which his fancy makes out for itself. Thus, the effect of poetry, depends more on the fruilfulness of the impressions to which it gives rise, than on their own individual force or novelty; and the writers who possess the greatest powers of fascination, are not those who present us with the greatest number of lively images or lofty sentiments, but who most successfully impart their own impulse to the current of our thoughts and feelings, and give the colour of their brighter conceptions to those which they excite in their readers. Now, upon a little consideration, it will probably appear, that the dazzling, and the busy and marvellous scenes which constitute the whole charm of some poems, are not so well calculated to produce this effect, as those more intelligible delineations which are borrowed from ordinary life, and coloured from familiar affections. The object is, to awaken in our minds a train of kihdred emotions, and to excite our imaginations to work out for themselves a tissue of pleasing or impressive conceptions. But it seems obvious, that this is more likely to be accomplished by surrounding us gradually with those objects, and involving us in those situations with which we have Ions been accustomed to associate the feelings of the poet,—than by startling us with some tale of wonder, or attempting to engage our affections for personages, of whose character and condition we are unable to form any distinct conception. These, indeed, are more sure than the other to produce a momentary sensation, by the novelty and exaggeration with which they are commonly attended; but their power is spent at the first impulse: they do not strike