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cised poetry;* has established an unbounded ascendant over the Scottish mind, and has drawn to him all hearts of his countrymen like the draught of a roaring fiery furnace. The merit is one not so easily assessable by criticism as by history : but, where it exists, as here, in pre-eminent degrec, criticism has pretty well to abdicate her functions, and confess that a greater than herself is the arbiter. But, beyond this (and excluding all minor considerations), we have to recognise in especial three superb gifts in Burns's poetry :-a power of clear piercing expression ; a perfect soul of singable or declaimable song; and above all, a sympathy so vivid and intimate as to pass continually into the domain of imagination, and give forth imaginative results and potencies. Of defects or inequalities of value in various poems or classes of poems by Burns, I need not here say a word.
Burns was nearly five feet ten in height, with black curly hair and dark eyes : every one knows the general look of his portraits. He was quick-tempered-sudden and voluble in resentments. Though he wrote so many poems for musical airs, he had little or no technical knowledge of music : he even had no ear for tunes, and his voice was unmelodious, at any rate in his earlier youth. At one time he meditated writing a national drama. Of the works which he actually executed, he regarded Tam O'Shanter, the product of a single day, with most predilection. This masterpiece was written at Ellisland, and was first published in 1793.
W. M. ROSSETTI.
* In saying this, we are of course not to forget the precursors of Burns's poetry--the glorious old Scottish Ballads, and more recently Allan Ramsay, &c.
I have been able to avail myself, in this edition, of the substance of the apposite illustrative notes appended by Mr. J. S. Roberts to a previous issue of Burns's Poems; and have to acknowledge the aid of that gentleman in some further respects.
W. M. R.
All devil as I am, a damned wretch,
I never had frien's weel stockit in means,
To leave me a hundred or twa, man;
And wish them in hell for it a', man.
Or claughtin't 3 together at a', man,
But deevil a shilling I awe, 4 man.
This poem was copied into Burns's Commonplace Book, with the remarks appended :-"As I am what the men of the world, if they knew such a man, would call a whimsical
mortal, I have various sources of pleasure and enjoy: ment which are in a manner peculiar to myself, or some here and there such out-of-the-way person. Such is the peculiar pleasure I take in the season of Winter more than the rest of the year. This, I believe, may be partly owing to my misfortunes giving my mind a melancholy cast : but there is something oven in the
Mighty tempest, and the heavy waste,
Abrupt, and deep, stretch'd o'er the buried earth,' which raises the mind to a serious sublimity favourable to everything great and noble. There is scarcely any earthly object gives me more— I do not know if I should call it pleasure-but something which exalts me-something which enraptures me—than to walk in the sheltered side of a wood, or high plantation, in a cloudy winter-day, and hear the stormy wind howling among the trees and raving over the plain. It is my best season for devotion : my mind is rapt up in a kind of enthusiasm to Him, who, in the pompous language of the Hebrew bard, 'walks on the wings of the wind.' In one of these seasons, just after a train of misfortunes, I composed the following :"
The wintry west extends his blast,
And hail and rain does blaw ;
The blinding sleet and snaw :
And roars frae bank to brae;
And pass the heartless day.
The joyless winter-day,
Than all the pride of May:
My griefs it seems to join ;
Their fate resembles mine!
These woes of mine fulfil,
3 Gathering it.
* Dr. Young
Here, firm, I rest, they must be best,
Because they are Thy will !
This one request of mine !)
Assist me to resign.
In the Commonplace Book these lines are introduced by the following note:
“There was a certain period of my life that my spirit was broken by repeated losses and disasters, which threatened, and indeed effected, the utter ruin of my fortune. My body, too, was attacked by that most dreadful distemper, a hypochondria, or confirmed melancholy. In this wretched state, the recollection of which makes me yet shudder, I hung my harp on the willow trees, except in some lucid intervals, in one of which I composed this Prayer:"
O Thou great Being! wiiat Thou art
Surpasses me to know:
Are all Thy works below.
All wretched and distrest;
Obey Thy high behest.
From cruelty or wrath !
Or close them fast in death !
But if I must afflicted be,
To suit some wise design ;
To bear and not repine !
THE DEATH AND DYING WORDS OF POOR MAILIE,
THE AUTHOR'S ONLY PET YOWE.
(An Unco Mournfu' Tale.) “The circumstances of the poor sheep,” says Gilbert Burns, were pretty much as Robert has described them. He had, partly by way of frolic, bought a ewe and two lambs from a neighbour, and she was tethered in a field adjoining the house at Lochlea. He and I were going out with our teams, and our two younger brothers to drive for us, at mid-day, when Hugh Wilson, a curiouslooking, awkward boy, clad in plaiding, came to us with much anxiety in his face, with the information that the ewe had entangled herself in the tether, and was lying in the ditch. Robert was much tickled with Hughoc's appearance and
postures on the occasion. Poor Mailie was set to rights, and when we returned from the plough in the evening, he repeated to me her 'Death and Dying Words,' pretty much in the way they now stand."