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[From Burns's Epistles.]
We'll sing auld Coila's plains and fells,
Aft bure the gree, as story tells,
At Wallace' name what Scottish blood
Oh sweet are Coila's haughs and woods,
Even winter bleak has charms to me
Are hoary gray:
Oh nature! a' thy shows and forms
The Muse, nae poet ever fand her,
Then farewell hopes o' laurel-boughs,
I'll wander on, with tentless heed
I'll lay me with the inglorious dead,
But why o' death begin a tale?
This life, sae far's I understand,
The magic wand then let us wield;
When ance life's day draws near the gloamin',
And fareweel dear, deluding woman! The joy of joys!
Oh Life! how pleasant in thy morning, Young Fancy's rays the hills adorning! Cold-pausing caution's lesson scorning, We frisk away,
Like schoolboys, at the expected warning, To joy and play.
We wander there, we wander here, We eye the rose upon the brier, Unmindful that the thorn is near, Among the leaves!
And though the puny wound appear, Short while it grieves.
To a Mountain Daisy,
On turning one down with the plough in April 1786.
To spare thee now is past my power,
Alas! it's no thy neibor sweet,
Cauld blew the bitter-biting north
The flaunting flowers our gardens yield,
There in thy scanty mantle clad,
Such is the fate of artless maid,
Such is the fate of simple bard,
Till billows rage, and gales blow hard,
Such fate to suffering worth is given,
Even thou who mourn'st the daisy's fate,
On Captain Matthew Henderson.
A gentleman who held the patent for his honours immediately from Almighty God.
"Should the poor be flattered?'--Shakspeare.
But now his radiant course is run,
For Matthew's course was bright;
Oh Death! thou tyrant fell and bloody!
He's gane! he's gane! he's frae us torn,
Ye hills, near neibors o' the starns, That proudly cock your cresting cairns! Ye cliffs, the haunts of sailing yearns,1 Where echo slumbers! Come join, ye Nature's sturdiest bairns, My wailing numbers!
Mourn, ilka grove the cushat kens!
Mourn, little harebells o'er the lea;
At dawn, when every grassy blade
Mourn, ye wee songsters o' the wood;
Mourn, sooty coots, and speckled teals,
Mourn, clamering craiks at close o' day,
Ye houlets, frae your ivy bower,
Oh, rivers, forests, hills, and plains! Oft have ye heard my canty strains: But now, what else for me remains But tales of wo? And frae my een the drapping rains Maun ever flow.
Mourn, spring, thou darling of the year,
Thy gay, green, flowery tresses shear
Thou, autumn, wi' thy yellow hair,
Mourn him, thou sun, great source of light!
Oh, Henderson! the man-the brother!
Go to your sculptured tombs, ye great,
Farewell, ye dungeons dark and strong,
Sae rantingly, sae wantonly,
He played a spring, and danced it round,
Oh, what is death but parting breath! On many a bloody plain
I've dared his face, and in this place I scorn him yet again!
Untie these bands from off my hands, And bring to me my sword;
And there's no a man in all Scotland, But I'll brave him at a word.
I've lived a life of sturt and strife;
It burns my heart I must depart
Now farewell light-thou sunshine bright,
May coward shame distain his name,
Again rejoicing nature sees
Her robe assume its vernal hues,
In vain to me the violets spring;
The mavis and the lintwhite sing. 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 everything is blessed but I. The shepherd steeks his faulding slap, And owre the moorland whistles shrill; Wi' wild, unequal, wandering step,
I meet him on the dewy hill.
And when the lark, 'tween light and dark,
And raging bend the naked tree:
Ae Fond Kiss.
['These exquisitely affecting stanzas contain the essence of a thousand love tales.'-Scott.]
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever; Ae fareweel, alas! for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Fare thee weel, thou first and fairest!
My Bonnie Mary. Go fetch to me a pint o' wine,
And fill it in a silver tassie; That I may drink, before I go,
A service to my bonnie lassie; The boat rocks at the pier o' Leith,
Fu' loud the wind blaws frae the Ferry; The ship rides by the Berwick-law,
And I maun leave my bonnie Mary.
The trumpets sound, the banners fly,
The glittering spears are ranked ready; The shouts o' war are heard afar,
The battle closes thick and bloody;
But it's not the roar o' sea or shore
['One of my juvenile works.'-Burns. Of all the produc tions of Burns, the pathetic and serious love songs which he has left behind him in the manner of old ballads, are perhaps those which take the deepest and most lasting hold of the mind. Such are the lines of Mary Morison, &c.'-Hazlitt.]
If the pedlar should fail to be favoured with sale, Then I hope you'll encourage the poet.
He did not succeed in either character; and after publishing his poems he returned to the loom. In 1792 he issued anonymously his best poem, Watty and Meg, which was at first attributed to Burns. A foolish personal satire, and a not very wise admiration of the principles of equality disseminated at the time of the French Revolution, drove Wilson to America in the year 1794. There he was once more a weaver and a pedlar, and afterwards a schoolmaster. A love of ornithology gained upon him, and he wandered over America, collecting specimens of birds. In 1808 appeared his first volume of the American Ornithology, and he continued collecting and publishing, traversing swamps and forests in quest of rare birds, and undergoing the greatest privations and fatigues, till he had committed an eighth volume to the press. He sank under his severe labours on the 23d of August 1813, and was interred with public honours at Philadelphia. In the Ornithology of Wilson we see the fancy and descriptive powers of the poet. The following extract is part of his account of the bald eagle, and is extremely vivid and striking :
"The celebrated cataract of Niagara is a noted place of resort for the bald eagle, as well on account of the fish procured there, as for the numerous carcases of squirrels, deer, bears, and various other animals, that, in their attempts to cross the river above the falls, have been dragged into the current, and precipitated down that tremendous gulf, where, among the rocks that bound the rapids below, they furnish a rich repast for the vulture, the raven, and the bald eagle, the subject of the present account. He has been long known to naturalists, being common to both continents, and occasionally met with from a very high northern latitude to the borders of the torrid zone, but chiefly in the vicinity of the sea, and along the shores and cliffs of our lakes and large rivers. Formed by nature for braving the severest cold, feeding equally on the produce of the sea and of the land, possessing powers of flight capable of outstripping even the tempests themselves, unawed by anything but man, and, from the ethereal heights to which he soars, locking abroad at one glance on an immeasurable expanse of forests, fields, lakes, and ocean deep below him, he appears indifferent to the little localities of change of seasons, as in a few minutes he can pass from summer to winter, from the lower to the higher regions of the atmosphere, the abode of eternal cold, and from thence descend at will to the torrid or the arctic regions of the earth. He is, therefore, found at all seasons in the countries he inhabits; but prefers such places as have been mentioned above, from the great partiality he has for fish.
of wing, and sudden suspension in air, he knows him to be the fish-hawk, settling over some devoted victim of the deep. His eye kindles at the sight, and balancing himself with half-opened wings on the branch, he watches the result. Down, rapid as an arrow from heaven, descends the distant object of his attention, the roar of its wings reaching the ear as it disappears in the deep, making the surges foam around. At this moment the eager looks of the eagle are all ardour; and, levelling his neck for flight, he sees the fish-hawk once more emerge, struggling with his prey, and mounting in the air with screams of exultation. These are the signal for our hero, who, launching into the air, instantly gives chase, and soon gains on the fish-hawk; each exerts his utmost to mount above the other, displaying in these rencontres the most elegant and sublime aerial evolutions. The unencumbered eagle rapidly advances, and is just on the point of reaching his opponent, when, with a sudden scream, probably of despair and honest execration, the latter drops his fish: the eagle, poising himself for a moment, as if to take a more certain aim, descends like a whirlwind, snatches it in his grasp ere it reaches the water, and bears his ill-gotten booty silently away to the woods.'
In procuring these, he displays, in a very singular manner, the genius and energy of his character, which is fierce, contemplative, daring, and tyrannical; attributes not exerted but on particular occasions, but when put forth, overpowering all opposition. Elevated on the high dead limb of some gigantic tree that commands a wide view of the neighbouring shore and ocean, he seems calmly to contemplate the motions of the various feathered tribes that pursue their busy avocations below; the snow-white gulls slowly winnowing the air; the busy tringæ coursing along the sands; trains of ducks streaming over the surface; silent and watchful cranes intent and wading; clamorous crows; and all the winged multitudes that subsist by the bounty of this vast liquid magazine of nature. High over all these hovers one whose action instantly arrests his whole attention. By his wide curvature
By way of preface, to invoke the clemency of the reader,' Wilson relates the following exquisite trait of simplicity and nature:
In one of my late visits to a friend in the country, I found their youngest son, a fine boy of eight or nine years of age, who usually resides in town for his education, just returning from a ramble through the neighbouring woods and fields, where he had collected a large and very handsome bunch of wild flowers, of a great many different colours; and, presenting them to his mother, said, “Look, my dear mamma, what beautiful flowers I have found growing on our place! Why, all the woods are full of them! red, orange, and blue, and 'most every colour. Oh! I can gather you a whole parcel of them, much handsomer than these, all growing in our own woods! Shall I, mamma? Shall I go and bring you more?" The good woman received the bunch of flowers with smile of affectionate complacency; and, after admiring for some time the beautiful simplicity of nature, gave her willing consent, and the little fellow went off on the wings of ecstacy to execute his delightful commission.
The similarity of this little boy's enthusiasm to my own struck me, and the reader will need no explanations of mine to make the application. Should my country receive with the same gracious indulgence the specimens which I here humbly present her; should she express a desire for me to go and bring her more, the highest wishes of my ambition will be gratified; for, in the language of my little friend, our whole woods are full of them, and I can collect hundreds more, much handsomer than these.'
The ambition of the poet-naturalist was amply gratified.
[A Village Scold surprising her Husband in an Ale-house.]
I' the thrang o' stories tellin,
Shakin hands and jokin queer, Swith! a chap comes on the hallan'Mungo! is our Watty here?'
Maggy's weel-kent tongue and hurry
"Nasty, gude-for-naething being! O ye snuffy drucken sow! Bringin wife and weans to ruin, Drinkin here wi' sic a crew!
Rise! ye drucken beast o' Bethel! Drink's your night and day's desire; Rise, this precious hour! or faith I'll Fling your whisky i' the fire!'
Watty heard her tongue unhallowed,
Folk frae every door came lampin, Maggy curst them ane and a', Clapped wi' her hands, and stampin, Lost her bauchelsl i' the snaw.
Hame, at length, she turned the gavel, Wi' a face as white's a clout,
Ragin like a very devil,
Kickin stools and chairs about.
'Ye'll sit wi' your limmers round yeHang you, sir, I'll be your death! Little hauds my hands, confound you, But I cleave you to the teeth!' Watty, wha, 'midst this oration,
Eyed her whiles, but durst na speak, Sat, like patient Resignation,
Trembling by the ingle-cheek.
Sighin aften to himsel
'Nane are free frae some vexation,
[A Pedlar's Story.]
I wha stand here, in this bare scowry coat, Was ance a packman, worth mony a groat; I've carried packs as big's your meikle table; I've scarted pats, and sleepit in a stable: Sax pounds I wadna for my pack ance taen, And I could bauldly brag 'twas a' mine ain.
Ay! thae were days indeed, that gar'd me hope,
I kenned my Kate wad grapple at me than.
Oh, sir, but lasses' words are saft and fair,
1 Old shoes.
Far in a muir, amang the whirling drift,
What great misfortunes are poured down on some!
Lang, lang I sought and graped for my pack,
Fool that I was! how little did I think That love would soon be lost for faut o' clink! The loss o' fair-won wealth, though hard to bear, Afore this-ne'er had power to force a tear. I trusted time would bring things round again, And Kate, dear Kate! would then be a' mine ain: Consoled my mind in hopes o' better luckBut, oh! what sad reverse! how thunderstruck! When ae black day brought word frae Rab my brither, That-Kate was cried and married on anither!
Though a' my friends, and ilka comrade sweet, At ance had drapped cauld dead at my feet; Or though I'd heard the last day's dreadful ca', Nae deeper horror owre my heart could fa': I cursed mysel, I cursed my luckless fate, And grat-and sabbing cried, Oh Kate! oh Kate! Frae that day forth I never mnair did weel, But drank, and ran head foremost to the deil! My siller vanished, far frae hame I pined, But Kate for ever ran across my mind; In her were a' my hopes-these hopes were vain, And now I'll never see her like again,
HECTOR MACNEILL (1746-1818) was brought up to a mercantile life, but was unsuccessful in most of his business affairs. He cultivated in secret an attachment to the muses, which at length brought him fame, though not wealth. In 1789 he published a legendary poem, The Harp, and in 1795 his moral tale, Scotland's Skaith, or the History o' Will and Jean. The object of this production was to depict the evil effects of intemperance. A happy rural pair are reduced to ruin, descending by gradual steps till the husband is obliged to enlist as a soldier, and the wife to beg with her children through the country. The situation of the little ale-house where Will begins his unlucky potations is finely described.
In a howm whose bonny burnie Whimpering rowed its crystal flood, Near the road where travellers turn aye, Neat and beild a cot-house stood: White the wa's wi' roof new theekit,
Window broads just painted red; Lown 'mang trees and braes it reekit, Haflins seen and haflins hid.