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simple and easy than what you have lately seen at Moreham Mains. But be that as it may, the heart of the man, and the fancy of the poet, are the two grand considerations for which I live: if miry ridges, and dirty dunghills are to engross the best part of the functions of my soul immortal, I had better been a rook or a magpie all at once, and then I should not have been plagued with any ideas superior to breaking of clods, and picking up grubs: not to mention barn-door cocks or mallards, creatures with which I could almost exchange lives at any time. If you continue so deaf, I am afraid a visit will be no great pleasure to either of us; but if I hear you are got so well again as to be able to relish conversation, look you to it, madam, for I will make my threatenings good. I am to be at the new year-day fair of Ayr, and by all that is sacred in the world, friend! I will come and see you.


Your meeting, which you so well describe, with your old schoolfellow and friend, was truly interesting. Out upon the ways of the world! -They spoil these social offsprings of the heart." Two veterans of the "men of the world" would have met, with little more heartworkings than two old hacks worn out on the road. Apropos, is not the Scotch phrase, "Auld lang syne," exceedingly expressive. There is

an old song and tune which has often thrilled through my soul. You know I am an enthusiast in old Scotch songs. I shall give you the verses on the other sheet, as I suppose Mr. Ker the postage.*

will save you

Light be the turf on the breast of the Heaveninspired Poet who composed this glorious fragment! There is more of the fire of native genius in it, than in half a dozen of modern English Bacchanalians. Now I am on my hobby-horse, I cannot help inserting two other old stanzas, which please me mightily.

Go fetch to me a pint o' wine, &c.—Sec Poems, p. 543.

No. 61.

To a young Lady who had heard he had been making a Ballad on her, inclosing that Ballad.


December, 1788.

I UNDERSTAND my very worthy neighbour, Mr. Riddel, has informed you that I have made you the subject of some verses. There is something so provoking in the idea of being the burden of a ballad, that I do not think Job or Moses, though such patterns of patience and

* Here follows the song of Auld lang syne, as printed,-See Poems, p. 435

meekness, could have resisted the curiosity to know what that ballad was: so my worthy friend has done me a mischief, which I dare say he never intended; and reduced me to the unfortunate alternative of leaving your curiosity ungratified, or else disgusting you with foolish verses, the unfinished production of a random moment, and never meant to have met your ear. I have heard or read somewhere of a gentleman, who had some genius, much eccentricity, and very considerable dexterity with his pencil. In the accidental group of life into which one is thrown, wherever this gentleman met with a character in a more than ordinary degree congenial to his heart, he used to steal a sketch of the face, merely, he said, as a nota bene to point out the agreeable recollection to his memory.— What this gentleman's pencil was to him, is my muse to me; and the verses I do myself the honour to send you are a memento exactly of the same kind that he indulged in.

It may be more owing to the fastidiousness of my caprice, than the delicacy of my taste, but I am so often tired, disgusted, and hurt with the insipidity, affectation and pride of mankind, that when I meet with a person "after my own heart," I positively feel what an orthodox protestant would call a species of idolatry, which acts on my fancy like inspiration; and I can no more desist rhyming on the impulse, than an

Eolian harp can refuse its tones to the streaming air. A distich or two would be the consequence, though the object which hit my fancy were grey-bearded age; but where my theme is youth and beauty, a young lady whose personal charms, wit and sentiment, are equally striking and unaffected, by heavens! though I had lived three score years a married man, and three score years before I was a married man, my imagination would hallow the very idea; and I am truly sorry that the inclosed stanzas have done such poor justice to such a subject.


No. 62.


December, 1787

MR. M.KENZIE, in Mauchline, my very warm and worthy friend, has informed me how much you are pleased to interest yourself in my fate as a man, and, (what to me is incomparably dearer) my fame as a poet. I have, Sir, in one or two instances, been patronized by those of your character in life, when I was introduced to their notice by ***** friends to them, and honoured acquaintances to me; but you are the first gentleman in the country whose benevolence and goodness of heart has interested

him for me, unsolicited and unknown. I am not master enough of the etiquette of these matters to know, nor did I stay to enquire, whether formal duty bade, or cold propriety disallowed, my thanking you in this manner, as I am convinced, from the light in which you kindly view me, that you will do me the justice to believe this letter is not the manoeuvre of the needy, sharping author, fastening on those in upper life, who honour him with a little notice of him or his works. Indeed the situation of Poets is generally such, to a proverb, as may, in some measure, palliate that prostitution of heart and talents they have at times been guilty of. I do not think prodigality is, by any means, a necessary concomitant of a poetic turn, but I believe a careless, indolent inattention to economy, is almost inseparable from it; then there must be in the heart of every bard of Nature's making, a certain modest sensibility, mixed with a kind of pride, that will ever keep him out of the way of those windfalls of fortune, which frequently light on hardy impudence and foot-licking servility. It is not easy to imagine a more helpless state than his, whose poetic fancy unfits him for the world, and whose character as a scholar, gives him some pretensions to the politesse of life-yet is as poor as I am.

For my part, I thank Heaven, my star has been kinder; learning never elevated my ideas

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