« ForrigeFortsæt »
Thence peasants, farmers, native sons of earth,
And merchandise' whole genus take their birth;
Each prudent cit a warm existence finds,
And all mechanics' many-apron'd kinds.
Some other rarer sorts are wanted yet,
The lead and buoy are needful to the net;
The caput mortuum of gross desires
Makes a material for mere knights and squires ;
The martial phosphorus is taught to flow;
She kneads the lumpish philosophic dough,
Then marks the unyielding mass with grave
Law, physic, politics, and deep divines;
Last, she sublimes the Aurora of the poles,
The flashing elements of female souls.
The order'd system fair before her stood,
Nature, well pleased, pronounced it very good ;
But ere she gave creating labour o’er,
Half-jest, she tried one curious labour more.
Some spumy, fiery, ignis fatuus matter,
Such as the slightest breath of air might scatter;
With arch alacrity and conscious glee
(Nature may have her whim as well as we,
Her Hogarth-art perhaps she meant to shew it),
She forms the thing, and christens it—a Poet;
Creature, though oft the prey of care and sorrow,
When blest to-day, unmindful of to-morrow;
A being formed t' amuse his graver friends,
Admired and praised-and there the homage
A mortal quite unfit for Fortune's strife,
Yet oft the sport of all the ills of life ;
Prone to enjoy each pleasure riches give,
Yet haply wanting wherewithal to live;
Longing to wipe each tear, to heal each groan,
Yet frequent all unheeded in his own.
But honest Nature is not quite a Turk;
She laughed at first, then felt for her poor work.
Pitying the propless climber of mankind,
She cast about a standard tree to find ;
And, to support his helpless woodbine state,
Attached him to the generous truly great,
A title, and the only one I claim,
To lay strong hold for help on bounteous
Pity the tuneful Muses' hapless train,
Weak, timid landsmen on life's stormy main !
Their hearts no selfish stern absorbent stuff,
That never gives though humbly takes
The little fate allows, they share as soon, Unlike sage proverb'd wisdom's hard-wrung boon.
The world were blest did bliss on them depend: Ah, that "the friendly e'er should want a
Let prudence number o'er each sturdy son,
Who life and wisdom at one race begun,
Who feel by reason and who give by rule (Instinct's a brute, and sentiment a fool!) Who make poor will do wait upon I should We own they're prudent, but who feels they're good?
Ye wise ones, hence! ye hurt the social eye!
God's image rudely etched on base alloy !
But come, ye who the godlike pleasure know,
Heaven's attribute distinguished to bestow!
Whose arms of love would grasp the human
Come thou who giv'st with all a courtier's
Friend of my life, true patron of my rhymes,
Prop of my dearest hopes for future times!
Why shrinks my soul half-blushing, half-afraid,
Backward, abashed, to ask thy friendly aid?
I know my need, I know thy giving hand,
I crave thy friendship at thy kind command;
But there are such who court the tuneful
Heavens ! should the branded character be mine!
Whose verse in manhood's pride sublimely flows,
Yet vilest reptiles in their begging prose.
Mark, how their lofty independent spirit
Soars on the spurning wing of injured merit!
Seek not the proofs in private life to find;
Pity the best of words should be but wind !
So to heaven's gate the lark's shrill song ascends,
But grovelling on the earth the carol ends.
In all the clam'rous cry of starving want,
They dun benevolence with shameless front;
Oblige them, patronise their tinsel lays,
They persecute you all your future days!
Ere my poor soul such deep damnation stain,
My horny fist assume the plough again;
The piebald jacket let me patch once more;
On eighteenpence a week I've lived before.
Though, thanks to Heaven, I dare even that
I trust, meantime, my boon is in thy gift:
That, placed by thee upon the wished-for height,
Where, man and nature fairer in her sight,
My Muse may imp her wing for some sublimer
MRS. FERGUSSON OF CRAIGDARROCH'S LAMENTATION FOR THE DEATH OF HER SON,
AN UNCOMMONLY PROMISING YOUTH OF EIGHTEEN OR NINETEEN YEARS OF AGE.
"I am just arrived from Nithsdale, and will be here a fortnight. I was on horseback this morning by three o'clock; for between my wife and my farm is just
forty-six miles. As I jogged on in the dark, I was taken with a poetic fit as follows.” — Burns to Mrs. Dunlop, 27th Sept. 1788.
FATE gave the word, the arrow sped,
And pierced my darling's heart ;
And with him all the joys are fled
Life can to me impart.
By cruel hands the sapling drops,
In dust dishonoured laid :
So fell the pride of all my hopes,
My age's future shade.
The mother linnet in the brake
Bewails her ravished young;
So I, for my lost darling's sake,
Lament the live-day long.
Death! oft I've feared thy fatal blow,
Now, fond I bare my breast;
Oh, do thou kindly lay me low
With him I love, at rest!1
1 It is a curious circumstance regarding the brief poem conveyed by this letter, that a copy of it in the possession of Mr. Allason Cunninghame of Logan House, Ayrshire, is understood by that gentleman's family to have been sent to his grandmother, Burns's early patron, Mrs. General Stewart of Afton, as a deploration of the death of her only son, Alexander Gordon Stewart, who died at a military academy at Strasburg, the 5th December, 1787. Allan Cunningham speaks of a copy of the poem in his possession bearing a note by the author, which shows that he really had endeavored to turn this piece to the account of gratifying two friends.