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“ When ripen'd fields, and azure skies,
Call'd forth the reapers' rustling noise,
And lonely stalk,
In pensive walk.
Keen-shivering shot thy nerves along,
To sooth thy flame.
Wild send thee Pleasure's devious way,
By Passion driven;
Was light from heaven!" —
Vol. iii. p. 109, 110. There is another fragment, called also a Vision, which belongs to a higher order of poetry. If Burns had never written any thing else, the power of description, and the vigour of the whole composition, would have entitled him to the remembrance of posterity.
“ The winds were laid, the air was still,
The stars they shot alang the sky;
And the distant-echoing glens reply.
Was rushing by the ruin'd wa's,
Whase distant roaring swells an' fa's.
Her lights, wi' hissing eerie din;
Like fortune's favours, tint as win!
And by the moon-beam, shook, to see
Attir'd as minstrels wont to be,
His darin' look had daunted me;
The sacred posy – Liberty !
And frae his harp sic strains did flow,
Might rous'd the slumbering dead to hear;
As ever met a Briton's ear!
He weeping wail'd his latter times
I winna venturit in my rhymes." — vol. iv. 344. 346. Some verses, written for a Hermitage, sound like the best parts of Grongar Hill. The reader may take these few lines as a specimen:
As thy day grows warm and high,
Chants the lowly dells among.”— vol. iii. p. 299. There is a little copy of Verses upon a Newspaper at p. 355. of Dr. Currie's 4th volume, written in the same condensed style, and only wanting translation into English to be worthy of Swift.
The finest piece, of the strong and nervous sort, however, is undoubtedly the address of Robert Bruce to his army at Bannockburn, beginning, “ Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled.” The Death Song, beginning,
Farewell, thou fair day, thou green earth, and ye skies,
Now gay with the bright setting sun," is to us less pleasing. There are specimens, however, of such vigour and emphasis scattered through his whole works, as are sure to make themselves and their auth remembered; for instance, that noble description of a dying soldier.
“Nae cauld, faint-hearted doubtings teaze him:
Death comes! wi' fearless eye he sees him;
An' when he fa's,
In faint huzzas !” — vol. iii. p. 27. The whole song of “ For a' that,” is written with extraordinary spirit. The first stanza ends -
HIS POWER OF DICTION AND VERSIFICATION.
• For rank is but the guinea stamp;
The man's the goud, for a' that.' All the songs, indeed, abound with traits of this kind. We select the following at random:
“O woman, lovely woman, fair !
An angel form's faun to thy share;
I mean an angel mind." vol. iv. p. 330. We dare not proceed further in specifying the merits of pieces which have been so long published. Before concluding upon this subject, however, we must beg leave to express our dissent from the poet's amiable and judicious biographer, in what he says of the general harshness and rudeness of his versification. Dr. Currie, we are afraid, was scarcely Scotchman enough to comprehend the whole prosody of the verses to which he alluded. Most of the Scottish pieces, are, in fact, much more carefully versified than the English; and we appeal to our Southern readers, whether there be any want of harmony in the following stanza:
“ Wild beats my heart to trace your steps,
Whose ancestors, in days of yore,
Old Scotia's bloody lion bore :
Haply my sires have left their shed,
Bold-following where your fathers led!” — vol. iii. p. 233. The following is not quite English; but it is intelligible to all readers of English, and may satisfy them that the Scottish song-writer was not habitually negligent of his numbers: “ Their groves o'sweet myrtle let foreign lands reckon,
Where bright-beaming summers exalt the perfume;
Wi' the burn stealing under the lang yellow broom.
Where the blue bell and gowan lurk lowly unseen:
A-listening the linnet, aft wanders my Jean.
And cauld, Caledonia's blast on the wave;
What are they? The haunt o' the tyrant and slave!
ESTIMATE OF MR. CROMEK'S SUPPLEMENT.
The slave's spicy forests, and gold-bubbling fountains,
The brave Caledonian views wi' disdain ;
Vol. iv. p. 228, 229. If we have been able to inspire our readers with any portion of our own admiration for this extraordinary writer, they will readily forgive us for the irregularity of which we have been guilty, in introducing so long an account of his whole works, under colour of the additional volume of which we have prefixed the title to this article. The truth is, however, that unless it be taken in connection with his other works, the present volume has little interest, and could not be made the subject of any intelligible observations. It is made up of some additional letters, of middling merit — of complete copies of others, of which Dr. Currie saw reason to publish only extracts — of a number of remarks, by Burns, on old Scottish songs — and, finally, of a few additional poems and songs,
certainly not disgraceful to the author, but scarcely fitted to add to his reputation. The world, however, is indebted, we think, to Mr. Cromek's industry for this addition to so popular an author ; - and the friends of the poet, we are sure, are indebted to his good taste, moderation, and delicacy, for having confined it to the pieces which are now printed. Burns wrote many rash — many violent, and many indecent things; of which we have no doubt many specimens must have fallen into the hands of so diligent a collector. He has, however, carefully suppressed every thing of this description; and shown that tenderness for his author's memory, which is the best proof of the veneration with which he regards his talents. We shall now see if there be anything in the volume which deserves to be particularly noticed.
The Preface is very amiable, and well written. Mr. Cromek speaks with becoming respect and affection of Dr. Currie, the learned biographer and first editor of the poet, and with great modesty of his own qualifications.
“ As an apology (he says) for any defects of my own that may appear in this publication, I beg to observe that I am by profession an 170 BURNS—INTERESTING LETTERS NOW FIRST PUBLISHED.
artist, and not an author. In the manner of laying them before the public, I honestly declare that I have done my best; and I trust I may fairly presume to hope, that the man who has contributed to extend the bounds of literature, by adding another genuine volume to the writings of Robert Burns, has some claim on the gratitude of his countrymen. On this occasion, I certainly feel something of that sublime and heart-swelling gratification, which he experiences who casts another stone on the CAIRN of a great and lamented chief.”. Preface,
p. xi. xii.
Of the Letters, which occupy nearly half the volume, we cannot, on the whole, express any more favourable opinion than that which we have already ventured to pronounce on the prose compositions of this author in general. Indeed they abound rather more than those formerly published, in ravings about sensibility and imprudence — in common swearing, and in professions of love for whisky. By far the best, are those which are addressed to Miss Chalmers; and that chiefly, because they seem to be written with less effort, and at the same time with more respect for his correspondent. The following was written at a most critical period of his life; and the good feelings and good sense which it displays, only make us regret more deeply that they were not attended with greater firmness.
“Shortly after my last return to Ayrshire, I married.my Jean.' This was not in consequence of the attachment of romance perhaps; but I had a long and much lov'd fellow-creature's happiness or misery in my determination, and I durst not trifle with so important a deposite. Nor have I any cause to repent it. If I have not got polite tattle, modish manners, and fashionable dress, I am not sickened and disgusted with the multiform curse of boarding-school affectation; and I have got the handsomest figure, the sweetest temper, the soundest constitution, and the kindest heart in the country! Mrs. Burns believes, as firmly as her creed, that I am le plus bel esprit, et le plus honnête homme in the universe; although she scarcely ever in her life, except the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and the Psalms of David in metre, spent five minutes together on either prose or verse. - I must except also from this last, a certain late publication of Scots Poems, which she has perused very devoutly, and all the ballads in the country, as she has to the partial lover! you will cry) the finest “wood-note wild" I ever heard. I am the more par. ticular in this lady's character, as I know she will henceforth have the honour of a share in your best wishes. She is still at Mauchline, as I am building my house : for this hovel that I shelter in while occa. sionally here, is pervious to every blast that blows, and every shower that falls; and I am only preserved from being chilled to death, by