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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.


* 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.

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The Poet says, regarding the following :—“In my early years nothing less
would serve me than courting the tragic muse. I was, I think, about eighteen
or nineteen when I sketched the outlines of a tragedy, forsooth'; but the burst-
ing of a cloud of family misfortunes, which had for some time threatened us,
prevented my further progress. In those days I never wrote down anything;
so, except a speech or two, the whole has escaped my memory. The above,
which I most distinctly remember, was an exclamation from a great character
-great in occasional instances of generosity, and daring at times in villanies.
He is supposed to meet with a child of misery, and exclaims to himself, as in
the words of the fragment”-

All devil as I am, a damned wretch,
A harden'd, stubborn, unrepenting villain,
Still my heart melts at human wretchedness;
And with sincere, though unavailing, sighs,
I view the helpless children of distress.
With tears indignant I behold the oppressor
Rejoicing in the honest man's destruction,
Whose unsubmitting heart was all his crime.
Even you, ye helpless crew, I pity you;
Ye, whom the seeming good think sin to pity;
Ye poor, despised, abandon'd vagabonds,
Whom vice, as usual, has turn’d o'er to ruin.
-Oh, but for kind, though ill-requited, friends,
I had been driven forth like you forlorn,
The most detested, worthless wretch among you !
O injured God! Thy goodness has endow'd me

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I never had frien's weel stockit in means,

To leave me a hundred or twa, man;
Nae weel-tocher'd aunts, to wait on their drants, ?

And wish them in hell for it a', man.
I never was cannie2 for hoarding o’ money,

Or claughtin't 3 together at a', man,
I've little to spend, and naething to lend,

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 ;
Or, the stormy north sends driving forth

The blinding sleet and snaw :
While tumbling brown, the burn comes down,

And roars frae bank to brae;
And bird and beast in covert rest,

And pass the heartless day.
“The sweeping blast, the sky o'ercast,"

The joyless winter-day,
Let others fear, to me more dear

Than all the pride of May:
The tempest's howl, it soothes my soul,

My griefs it seems to join ;
The leafless trees my fancy please,

Their fate resembles mine!
Thou Power Supreme, whose mighty scheme

These woes of mine fulfil,

1 Humours.

2 Careful.

3 Gathering it.

4 Owe.

* Dr. Young

Here, firm, I rest, they must be best,

Because they are Thy will !
Then all I want (oh, do Thou grant

This one request of mine !)
Since to enjoy Thou dost deny,

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:
Yet sure I am, that known to Thee

Are all Thy works below.
Thy creature here before Thee stands,

All wretched and distrest;
Yet sure those ills that wring my soul

Obey Thy high behest.
Sure Thou, Almighty, canst not act

From cruelty or wrath !
Oh, free my weary eyes from tears,

Or close them fast in death !

But if I must afflicted be,

To suit some wise design ;
Then man my soul with firm resolves,

To bear and not repine !



(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."

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