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“The flaunting flowers our gardens yield,

High sheltering woods and wa’s maun shield;
But thou, beneath the random bield

O clod or stane,
Adorns the histie stibble-field,

Unseen, alane.

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Who can fail to feel that this was

“Indeed a genuine birth, Of poetry :-a bursting forth Of genius from the dust ?

What a strain of truth and imagination, manly and tender-hearted! Compare Burns with Pope in descriptive poetry,-comparison in other departments would be ill-judged, the grotto at Twickenham with the bleak Mossgeil mountain-side; and how redolent of nature is this little poem! It has the freshness and grateful odour that arises from the new furrows of a ploughed field. In that singular collection, the “Medical Remains of the great Lord Bacon," one of the fanciful prescriptions for the prolongation of life and the renewing of health was, in an early hour, after the sun is risen, to take an air from some high and open place with a ventilation of roses and fresh violets, and to stir the earth with infusion of wine and mint. Poetry in the eighteenth century seemed to need some such renovation; and, after her long confinement in the close air of an artificial system, the peasantpoet of Scotland ministered to her health. When Burns, in the rapt mood of inspiration, was standing with his hand on the plough, how little could he have dreamed that the music thus rising in his heart would wing its flight as far as the English language,—the spirit of

every true Scotsman, whether in the centre of British India or at the farthest west of the wilds of America, kindling at the recollection of that one mountain-daisy! The criticism which more than any other delights me is that which may sometimes, though rarely, be discovered in the response made by the imagination of one poet to that

of another. Some seven or eight years ago a great poet was travelling through that region of country which has earned even the title of The Land of Burns, and one of those itinerary records which the imagination of Wordsworth has scattered in every land he has visited is in these lines :

**There!' said a stripling, pointing with meet pride
Towards a low roof, with green trees half concealed,
*Is Mossgeil Farm, and that's the very field
Where Burns ploughed up the daisy.' Far and wide
A plain below stretched seaward; while, descried
Above sea-clouds, the Peaks of Arran rose
And, by that simple notice, the repose
Of earth, sky, sea, and air, was vivified
Beneath the random bield of clod or stone.'
Myriads of daisies have shone forth in flower
Near the lark's nest, and, in their natural hour,
Have passed away, less happy than the one
That by the unwilling ploughshare died to prove
The tender charm of poetry and love."

Another poem, composed under the same circumstances as the “Mountain-Daisy,” was that on turning up, with the plough, the nest of a field-mouse. It is conceived in the same vein of imagination, and of feeling the association of the mishaps of his own life with that of the little creature :

“I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion

Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor earth-born companion

An' fellow-mortal!"

The lesson of generosity, like mercy twice blessed, -to him that gives and him that takes is exquisitely told, when he bids the wee thief welcome to nibble at the

corn :

I'll get a blessing wi? the lave,

And never miss't !"

“The Cotter's Saturday Night” was first recited to his brother as they walked together on a Sunday afternoon, a poem which, by its admirable soothing tone of reverence for holy things, a noble tribute to Scottish piety, has best served to shield the poet's memory from harsh judgments on his frailties. With Burns's quick apprehension, he was living a life which placed him in close communion with nature; and, though he delighted chiefly in portraying the stormy aspects of the elements, he did not overlook the minuter appearances worthy also of a poet's eye, as in that admirable piece of humorous imagination and vigorous thought, “The Brigs of Ayr," the couplet describing the formation of


ice :

The chilly frost, beneath the silver beam,
Crept gently-crusting o'er the glittering stream.”

And then the passage, rising to a higher strain of fancy, after the talk of the Auld Brig and the New is over :

“What further clishmaclaver might been said,

What bloody wars, if sprites had blood to shed,
No man can tell; but all before their sight
A fairy train appeared in order bright;
Adown the glittering stream they featly danced;
Bright to the moon their various dresses glanced :
They footed o'er the watery glass so neat,
The infant ice scarce bent beneath their feet.”

This fairy passage carries me in thought hastily to what Burns always thought, and rightly too, the best of all his productions, the matchless “Tam O’Shanter.” Short as it is, it is a great poem, with merits unassailable by the most rigid criticism, and which the most enthusiastic cannot exaggerate. It is wonderful, especially for the power which harmonizes the terrific and the laughable, arbarian blending of tragedy and comedy. It was the work of a single day, composed by the river-side, where his wife found the bard crooning to himself, and soon, with strange and wild gestures, in a fit of ungovernable joy, bursting out loudly in one of the most animated passages. There is great dramatic power

in the poem :the spirited introduction of the hero; the first allusion to the bewitched spot he was to pass by; the forewarning of witchcraft in his wife's affectionate and cheerful predictions;

“She prophesied that, late or soon,

Thou would be found deep drowned in Doon;
Or catched wi' warlocks in the mirk
By Alloway's auld haunted kirk.”

The arch reference to lengthy conjugal counsels;

“Ah, gentle dames ! it gars me greet,

To think how mony counsels sweet,
How mony lengthened sage advices,
The husband frae the wife despises !"

The convivial exultation of the reprobate and his cronies, set forth in two lines, the most vivid that revelry was ever told in:

Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious,
O'er a' the ills o' life victorious."

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