« PreviousContinue »
Now haud you there, ye're out o' sight,
'Till ye've got on it, The vera tapmost, tow'ring height
O' Miss's bonnet.
My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I wad na been surpris'd to spy
On's wyliecoat ;
O, Jenny, dinna toss your head,
The blastie's makin'!
Are notice takin'!
O wad some power the gifted gie us
An' foolish notion :
And ev'n devotion !
Homelier subjects were sometimes chosen by the Muse of Burns than his more stately friends desired. “The Louse” is one of them. Some of his lady patronesses expostulated, and some of his critics frowned ; it was all to no purpose :-“Forbidden he wadna be :" and it is as well, perhaps, as it is. When once a man of genius begins to sacrifice his own judgement to the taste of others, who knows where he may halt. As soon as he ceases to " wear his ain belt his ain gait” he puts it on according to the example of the world, and is no longer an original. Almost all the themes on which Burns sung are of a humble kind: a Mouse, a Daisy, an Old Mare, a Haggis, and so on, all pertain to the clouted shoe. The moral which he draws is one the world is not out of need of: to see ourselves as others see us, would give our vanity a plucking ; • What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us
And ev'n devotion !" That vanity creeps into devotion is not unknown to the world. A worthy in my native vale, who imagined himself not only powerful in prayer, but that he had a sort of divinity of look conferred upon him when he knelt, turned round to his wife in the midst of his fervour, and said, “Tibbie ! how do I look when I
Another of our Nithsdale holy Willies, who commonly volunteered a prayer when a corpse was lifted at a burial, arrived too late on one occasion, and found his place supplied by a meek, mild man, whose calmness was mistaken for coldness. Sit you down, sir,” said the other, pushing him aside, “your word has no weight at all ;” and holding up his hands, poured out a thundering prayer, which might have been heard a mile down the wind.
“We ought,” Burns observes, “ when we wish to be economists in happiness, to fix the standard of our own character, and when on full examination we know where we stand, and how much ground we occupy, let us contend for it as property; and those who seem to doubt or deny us what is justly ours, let us either pity their prejudices, or despise their judgment. This is not self-conceit, it is self-knowledge : the one is the over-weening opinion of a fool, who fancies himself to be what he wishes himself to be thought; the other is the honest justice that a man of sense, who has strongly examined the subject, owes to himself. Without this standardthis column in our own mind, we are perpetually at the mercy of the petulance, the mistakes, the prejudices, nay the very weakness and wickedness, of our fellowcreatures.” The Poet's judgment was equal to his genius : he estimated himself right; and in almost all things saw himself as others saw him.
EPISTLE TO J. RANKINE,
INCLOSING SOME POEMS.
O ROUGH, rude, ready-witted Rankine,
Your dreams* an' tricks
Straught to auld Nick's.
Ye hae sae monie cracks an' cants,
wicked, druken rants, Ye mak a devil o' the saunts,
An' fill them fou;
Are a' seen through.
Hypocrisy, in mercy spare it!
The lads in black !
Rives 't aff their back.
* A certain humorous dream of his was then making a noise in the country-side.
Think, wicked sinner, wha ye 're skaithing, It's just the blue-gown badge an' claithing O’ saunts; tak that, ye lea'e them naething
To ken them by, Frae ony unregenerate heathen
Like you or I.
I've sent you here some rhyming ware,
I will expect
And no neglect.
Tho' faith, sma' heart hae I to sing !
fill! I'd better gaen an' sair't the king,
At Bunker's Hill.
'Twas ae night lately, in my fun,
A bonnie hen,
Thought nane wad ken.
* A song he had promised the author.