Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

COPIES TONE OF OLD SCOTTISH BALLADS.

161

Scottish ballads which he took for his model, and upon
which he has improved with a felicity and delicacy of
imitation altogether unrivalled in the history of litera-
ture, Sometimes it is the brief and simple pathos of
the genuine old ballad; as,
“ But I look to the West when I lie down to rest,

That happy my dreams and my slumbers may bo;
For far in the West lives he I love best,

The lad that is dear to my baby and me.”
Or, as in this other specimen

“ Drumossie moor, Drumossie day!

A waefu' day it was to me;
For there I lost my father dear,

My father dear, and brethren three.
“ Their winding sheet the bluidy clay,

Their graves are growing green to see ;
And by them lies the dearest lad

That ever blest a woman's e'e !
Now wae to thee, thou cruel lord,

A bluidy man I trow thou be ;
For mony a heart thou hast made sair,

That ne'er did wrong to thine or thee.". vol. iv. p. 337. Sometimes it is animated with airy narrative, and adorned with images of the utmost elegance and beauty. specimen taken at random, we insert the following stanzas:

And

ay

she wrought her mammie's wark ;
And

ay
she

sang sae merrilie :
The blythest bird upon the bush

Had ne'er a lighter heart than she.
“But hawks will rob the tender joys

That bless the little lintwhite's nest;
And frost will blight the fairest flowers,

And love will break the soundest rest.
Young Robie was the brawest lad,

The flower and pride of a' the glen;
And he had owsen, sheep, and kye,

And wanton naigies nine or ten.
He gaed wi' Jeanie to the tryste,

He danc'd wi' Jeanie on the down ;
And lang ere witless Jeanie wist,

Her heart was tint, her peace was stown.
VOL. II.

M

As a

162

BURNS

- SIMPLE PATHOS OF HIS SONGS,

" As in the bosom o' the stream

The moon-beam duells at dewy e'en;
So trembling, pure, was infant love
Within the breast o' bonie Jean!— vol. iv. p.

80. Sometimes, again, it is plaintive and mournful — in the same strain of unaffected simplicity.

"O stay, sweet warbling wood-lark, stay,

Nor quit for me the trembling spray!
A hapless lover courts thy lay,

Thy soothing fond complaining.
“ Again, again, that tender part,

That I may catch thy melting art ;
For surely that would touch her heart,

Wha kills me wi' disdaining.
Say, was thy little mate unkind,
And heard thee as the careless wind ?
Oh, nocht but love and sorrow join'd,

Sic notes o' woe could wauken.
" Thou tells o' never-ending care;

O’speechless grief, and dark despair;
For pity's sake, sweet bird, nae mair!

Or my poor heart is broken !” — vol. iv. p. 226, 227. We add the following from Mr. Cromek’s new volume; as the original form of the very popular song given at p. 325. of Dr. Currie's 4th volume:

“ Ye flowery banks o' bonie Doon,

How can ye blume sae fair;
How can ye chant, ye little birds,

And I sae fu' o'care!

“ Thou'll break my heart, thou bonie bird

That sings upon the bough:
Thou minds me o' the happy days
When

my

fause luve was true.
“ Thou'll break my heart, thou bonie bird

That sings beside thy mate;
For sae I sat, and sae I sang,
And wist na o' my

fate.
“ Aft hae I rov'd by bonie Doon,

To see the woodbine twine,
And ilka bird sang o' its love,

And sae did I o' mine.

AND REDUNDANT IMAGERY.

163

“ Wi' lightsome heart I pu'd a rose

Frae aff its thorny tree,
And my fause luver staw the rose,

But left the thorn wi' me." - vol. v. p. 17, 18. Sometimes the rich 'imagery of the poet's fancy overshadows and almost overcomes the leading sentiment.

The merry ploughboy cheers his team,

Wi' joy the tentie seedsman stalks,
But life to me's a weary dream,

A dream of ane that never wauks.
The wanton coot the water skims,

Amang the reeds the ducklings cry,
The stately swan majestic swims,

And every thing is blest but I.
"The sheep-herd steeks his faulding slap,

And owre the moorlands whistles shill;
Wi' wild, unequal, wand'ring step

I meet him on the dewy hill.
“ And when the lark, 'tween light and dark,

Blythe waukens by the daisy's side,
And mounts and sings on flittering wings,
A woe-worn ghaist I hameward glide.'

vol. iii. p. 284, 285. The sensibility which is thus associated with simple imagery and gentle melancholy, is to us the most winning and attractive. But Burns has also expressed it when it is merely the instrument of torture — of keen remorse, and tender and agonizing regret. There are some strong traits of the former feeling, in the poems entitled the Lament, Despondency, &c.; when, looking back to the times

“When love's luxurious pulse beat high," he bewails the consequences of his own irregularities. There is something cumbrous and inflated, however, in the diction of these pieces. We are infinitely more moved with his Elegy upon Highland Mary. Of this first love of the poet, we are indebted to Mr, Cromek for a brief, but very striking account, from the pen of the poet himself. In a note on an early song inscribed to this mistress, he had recorded in a manuscript book —

"My Highland lassie was a warm-hearted, charming young creature as ever blessed a man with generous love. After a pretty long

164

BURNS

HIS HIGHLAND MARY.

tract of the most ardent reciprocal attachment, we met, by appointment, on the second Sunday of May, in a sequestered spot by the Banks of Ayr, where we spent the day in taking a farewel, before she should embark for the West Highlands, to arrange matters among her friends for our projected change of life. At the close of Autumn fol. lowing, she crossed the sea to meet me at Greenock: where she had scarce landed when she was seized with a malignant fever, which hurried my dear girl to the grave in a few days ! — before I could even hear of her illness.” vol. v. p. 237, 238.

Mr. Cromek has added, in a note, the following interesting particulars; though without specifying the authority upon which he details them:

“ This adieu was performed with all those simple and striking ceremonials which rustic sentiment has devised to prolong tender emotions and to inspire awe. The lovers stood on each side of a small purling brook; they laved their hands in its limpid stream, and, holding a Bible between them, pronounced their vows to be faithful to each other. They parted — never to meet again!

" The anniversary of Mary Campbell's death (for that was her name) awakening in the sensitive mind of Burns the most lively emotion, he retired from his family, then residing on the farm of Ellisland, and wandered, solitary, on the banks of the Nith, and about the farm yard, in the extremest agitation of mind, nearly the whole of the night : His agitation was so great, that he threw himself on the side of a corn stack, and there conceived his sublime and tender elegy — his address To Mary in Heaven.” -- vol. v. p. 298. The poem itself is as follows:“ Thou lingering star, with less'ning ray,

That lov'st to greet the early morn,
Again thou usherst in the day

My Mary from my soul was torn!
“O Mary! dear departed shade !

Where is thy place of blissful rest ?
See'st thou thy lover lowly laid ?

Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast?
“ That sacred hour can I forget,

Can I forget the hallowed grove,
Where by the winding Ayr we met,

To live one day of parting love!
"Eternity will not efface

Those records dear of transports past;
Thy image at our last embrace ;

Ah! little thought we 'twas our last !
Ayr gurgling kiss'd his pebbled shore,

O'erhung with wild woods, thickening, green,
The fragrant birch, and hawthorn hoar,

Twin'd amorous round the raptured scene.

TAM O'SHANTER

THE VISION.

165

" The flowers sprang wanton to be prest,

The birds sang love on every spray,
Till too, too soon, the glowing west

Proclaim'd the speed of winged day!
“Still o'er these scenes my mem'ry wakes,

And fondly broods with miser care ;
Time but the impression stronger makes,

As streams their channels deeper wear.
My Mary, dear departed shade!

Where is thy place of blissful rest ?
See'st thou thy lover lowly laid ?
Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast ?".

Vol. i. p. 125, 126. Of his pieces of humour, the tale of Tam o' Shanter is probably the best : though there are traits of infinite merit in Scotch Drink, the Holy Fair, the Hallow E'en, and several of the songs; in all of which, it is very remarkable, that he rises occasionally into a strain of beautiful description or lofty sentiment, far above the pitch of his original conception. The poems of obseryation on life and characters, are the Twa Dogs and the various Epistles — all of which show very extraordinary sagacity and powers of expression. They are written, however, in so broad a dialect, that we dare not venture to quote any part of them. The only pieces that can be classed under the head of pure fiction, are the Two Bridges of Ayr, and the Vision. In the last, there are some vigorous and striking lines. We select the passage in which the Muse describes the early propensities of her favourite, rather as being more generally intelligible, than as superior to the rest of the poem.

" I saw thee seek the sounding shore,

Delighted with the dashing roar;
Or when the North his fleecy store

Drove through the sky,
I saw grim Nature's visage hoar

Struck thy young eye.
" Or when the deep-green mantl'd earth

Warm cherish'd ev'ry flow'ret's birth,
And joy and music pouring forth

In ev'ry grove,
I saw thee eye the gen’ral mirth

With boundless love,

« ZurückWeiter »