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Burns meditated a laborious poem, to be entitled The Poet's Progress, probably of an autobiographical nature. He submitted to Mr. Stewart various short pieces designed to form part of this poem, but none have been preserved except the following.1
A LITTLE, upright, pert, tart, tripping wight,
Still making work his selfish craft must mend.2
1 It is not unlikely that the lines on William Smellie, already introduced, were intended to form a part of The Poet's Progress.
2 It is painful to come to the conclusion, from a remark and quotation in a subsequent letter, that this selfish, superficial wight was Creech-the same "Willie" whom Burns de
EXTEMPORE TO CAPTAIN RIDDEL,
ON RETURNING A NEWSPAPER.
On returning a newspaper which Captain Riddel had sent to him for his perusal, containing some strictures on his poetry, Burns added a note in impromptu
ELLISLAND, Monday Evening. YOUR news and review, sir, I've read through and through, sir,
With little admiring or blaming;
The papers are barren of home-news or foreign, No murders or rapes worth the naming.
Our friends, the reviewers, those chippers and hewers,
Are judges of mortar and stone, sir;
My goose-quill too rude is to tell all your good
Bestowed on your servant the poet; Would to God I had one like a beam of the sun, And then all the world, sir, should know it!
scribed in such affectionate terms in May, 1787, and to whom he then wished "a pow as auld's Methusalem."
SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF MRS. OSWALD.
The irritable genius of Burns led him often to view persons and things very much as they affected himself. The same lord, gentleman, or lady, who, receiving him with urbanity, became the theme of his kindest feelings, might have come in for the eternal stigma of his satire, if, by a slight change of circumstances, he or she had been a cause of personal annoyance to him, or awakened his jealous apprehensions regarding his own dignity. In the course of the present month, an example of this infirmity of temper occurs. Let himself be the recorder of the incident, it being premised that the lady whom he thus holds up to execration was one fairly liable to no such censure!
"In January last, on my road to Ayrshire, I had to put up at Bailie Whigham's in Sanquhar, the only tolerable inn in the place. The frost was keen, and the grim evening and howling wind were ushering in a night of snow and drift. My horse and I were both much fatigued with the labours of the day; and just as my friend the bailie and I were bidding defiance to the storm, over a smoking bowl, in wheels the funeral pageantry of the late Mrs. Oswald, and poor I am forced to brave all the terrors of the tempestuous night, and jade my horse-my young favourite horse, whom I had just christened Pegasus
further on through the wildest hills and moors of Ayrshire to the next inn! The powers of poetry and prose sink under me when I would describe what I felt. Suffice it to say, that when a good fire at New Cumnock had so far recovered my frozen sinews, I sat down and wrote the enclosed ode."
DWELLER in yon dungeon dark,
View the withered beldam's face
Can thy keen inspection trace
Pity's flood there never rose.
See these hands, ne'er stretched to save,
Hands that took but never gave.
Lo! there she goes, unpitied and unblest
She goes, but not to realms of everlasting rest!
Plunderer of armies, lift thine eyes
(A while forbear, ye tort'ring fiends); Seest thou whose step, unwilling, hither bends?
No fallen angel, hurled from upper skies;
And are they of no more avail,
O bitter mockery of the pompous bier,
TO JOHN TAYLOR.
Burns had arrived at Wanlockhead on a winter day, when the roads were slippery with ice, and the blacksmith of the place, busied with other pressing matters in the forge, could not spare time for frosting the shoes of the poet's mare. Burns called for pen and ink, and wrote these verses to John Taylor, a person of influence in Wanlockhead, on the receipt of which, Taylor spoke to the smith, and the smith flew to his tools, and sharpened the horse's shoes.
WITH Pegasus upon a day,