1. The hyphenation and accent of words is not uniform throughout the book. No change has been made in this.
2. The relative indentations of Poems, Epitaphs, and Songs are as printed in the original book.
POEMS, SONGS, AND CORRESPONDENCE.
A NEW LIFE OF THE POET,
NOTICES, CRITICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL,
BY ALLAN CUNNINGHAM.
BOSTON: PHILLIPS, SAMPSON, AND COMPANY. NEW YORK: J.C. DERBY. 1855
TO ARCHIBALD HASTIE, ESQ.,
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR PAISLEY
THE WORKS AND MEMOIRS OF A GREAT POET,
IN WHOSE SENTIMENTS OF FREEDOM HE SHARES,
AND WHOSE PICTURES OF SOCIAL AND DOMESTIC LIFE HE LOVES,
IS RESPECTFULLY AND GRATEFULLY INSCRIBED
NOBLEMEN AND GENTLEMEN
[On the title-page of the second or Edinburgh edition, were these words: "Poems, chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, by Robert Burns, printed for the Author, and sold by William Creech, 1787." The motto of the Kilmarnock edition was omitted; a very numerous list of subscribers followed: the volume was printed by the celebrated Smellie.]
MY LORDS AND GENTLEMEN:
A Scottish Bard, proud of the name, and whose highest ambition is to sing in his country's service, where shall he so properly look for patronage as to the illustrious names of his native land: those who bear the honours and inherit the virtues of their ancestors? The poetic genius of my country found me, as the prophetic bard Elijah did Elisha—at the PLOUGH, and threw her inspiring mantle over me. She bade me sing the loves, the joys, the rural scenes and rural pleasures of my native soil, in my native tongue; I tuned my wild, artless notes as she inspired. She whispered me to come to this ancient metropolis of Caledonia, and lay my songs under your honoured protection: I now obey her dictates.
Though much indebted to your goodness, I do not approach you, my Lords and Gentlemen, in the usual style of dedication, to thank you for past favours: that path is so hackneyed by prostituted learning that honest rusticity is ashamed of it. Nor do I present this address with the venal soul of a servile author, looking for a continuation of those favours: I was bred to the plough, and am independent. I come to claim the common Scottish name with you, my illustrious countrymen; and to tell the world that I glory in the title. I come to congratulate my country that the blood of her ancient heroes still runs uncontaminated, and that from your courage, knowledge, and public spirit, she may expect protection, wealth, and liberty. In the last place, I come to proffer my warmest wishes to the great fountain of honour, the Monarch of the universe, for your welfare and happiness.
When you go forth to waken the echoes, in the ancient and favourite amusement of your forefathers, may Pleasure ever be of your party: and may social joy await your return! When harassed in courts or camps with the jostlings of bad men and bad measures, may the honest consciousness of injured worth attend your return to your native seats; and may domestic happiness, with a smiling welcome, meet you at your gates! May corruption shrink at your kindling indignant glance; and may tyranny in the ruler, and licentiousness in the people, equally find you an inexorable foe!
I have the honour to be,
With the sincerest gratitude and highest respect,
My Lords and Gentlemen,
Your most devoted humble servant,
EDINBURGH, April 4, 1787.
I cannot give to my country this edition of one of its favourite poets, without stating that I have deliberately omitted several pieces of verse ascribed to Burns by other editors, who too hastily, and I think on insufficient testimony, admitted them among his works. If I am unable to share in the hesitation expressed by one of them on the authorship of the stanzas on "Pastoral Poetry," I can as little share in the feelings with which they have intruded into the charmed circle of his poetry such compositions as "Lines on the Ruins of Lincluden College," "Verses on the Destruction of the Woods of Drumlanrig," "Verses written on a Marble Slab in the Woods of Aberfeldy," and those entitled "The Tree of Liberty." These productions, with the exception of the last, were never seen by any one even in the handwriting of Burns, and are one and all wanting in that original vigour of language and manliness of sentiment which distinguish his poetry. With respect to "The Tree of Liberty" in particular, a subject dear to the heart of the Bard, can any one conversant with his genius imagine that he welcomed its growth or celebrated its fruit with such "capon craws" as these?
"Upo' this tree there grows sic fruit, Its virtues a' can tell, man; It raises man aboon the brute, It mak's him ken himsel', man. Gif ance the peasant taste a bit, He's greater than a lord, man, An' wi' a beggar shares a mite O' a' he can afford, man."
There are eleven stanzas, of which the best, compared with the "A man's a man for a' that" of Burns, sounds like a cracked pipkin against the "heroic clang" of a Damascus blade. That it is extant in the handwriting of the poet cannot be taken as a proof that it is his own composition, against the internal testimony of utter want of all the marks by which we know him—the Burns-stamp, so to speak, which is visible on all that ever came from his pen. Misled by his handwriting, I inserted in my former edition of his works an epitaph, beginning
"Here lies a rose, a budding rose,"
the composition of Shenstone, and which is to be found in the church-yard of Hales-Owen: as it is not included in every edition of that poet's acknowledged works, Burns, who was an admirer of his genius, had, it seems, copied it with his own hand, and hence my error. If I hesitated about the exclusion of "The Tree of Liberty," and its three false brethren, I could have no scruples regarding the fine song of "Evan Banks," claimed and justly for Miss Williams by Sir Walter Scott, or the humorous song called "Shelah O'Neal," composed by the late Sir Alexander Boswell. When I have stated that I have arranged the Poems, the Songs, and the Letters of Burns, as nearly as possible in the order in which they were written; that I have omitted no piece of either verse or prose which bore the impress of his hand, nor included any by which his high reputation would likely be impaired, I have said all that seems necessary to be said, save that the following letter came too late for insertion in its proper place: it is characteristic and worth a place anywhere.
* * * * *
TO DR. ARCHIBALD LAURIE.
Mossgiel, 13th Nov. 1786.
I have along with this sent the two volumes of Ossian, with the remaining volume of the Songs. Ossian I am not in such a hurry about; but I wish the Songs, with the volume of the Scotch Poets, returned as soon as they can conveniently be dispatched. If they are left at Mr. Wilson, the bookseller's shop, Kilmarnock, they will easily reach me.
My most respectful compliments to Mr. and Mrs. Laurie; and a Poet's warmest wishes for their happiness to the young ladies; particularly the fair musician, whom I think much better qualified than ever David was, or could be, to charm an evil spirit out of a Saul.
Indeed, it needs not the Feelings of a poet to be interested in the welfare of one of the sweetest scenes of domestic peace and kindred love that ever I saw; as I think the peaceful unity of St. Margaret's Hill can only be excelled by the harmonious concord of the Apocalyptic Zion.
I am, dear Sir, yours sincerely,
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
THE LIFE OF ROBERT BURNS
Preface to the Kilmarnock Edition of 1786
Dedication to the Edinburgh Edition of 1787
* * * * *
Winter. A Dirge
The Death and dying Words of poor Mailie
Poor Mailie's Elegy
First Epistle to Davie, a brother Poet
Address to the Deil
The auld Farmer's New-year Morning Salutation to his auld Mare Maggie
To a Haggis
A Prayer under the pressure of violent Anguish
A Prayer in the prospect of Death
Stanzas on the same occasion
A Winter Night
Remorse. A Fragment
The Jolly Beggars. A Cantata
Death and Dr. Hornbook. A True Story
The Twa Herds; or, the Holy Tulzie
Holy Willie's Prayer
Epitaph to Holy Willie
The Inventory; in answer to a mandate by the surveyor of taxes
The Holy Fair
To James Smith
Man was made to Mourn. A Dirge
To John Goudie of Kilmarnock, on the publication of his Essays
To J. Lapraik, an old Scottish Bard. First Epistle
To J. Lapraik. Second Epistle
To J. Lapraik. Third Epistle
To William Simpson, Ochiltree
Address to an illegitimate Child
Nature's Law. A Poem humbly inscribed to G.H., Esq.
To the Rev. John M'Math
To a Mouse
The Author's earnest Cry and Prayer to the Scotch Representatives of the House of Commons
Address to the unco Guid, or the rigidly Righteous
Tam Samson's Elegy
Lament, occasioned by the unfortunate issue of a Friend's Amour
Despondency. An Ode
The Cotter's Saturday Night
The first Psalm
The first six Verses of the ninetieth Psalm
To a Mountain Daisy
Epistle to a young Friend
To a Louse, on seeing one on a Lady's Bonnet at Church
Epistle to J. Rankine, enclosing some Poems
On a Scotch Bard, gone to the West Indies
Written on the blank leaf of my Poems, presented to an old Sweetheart then married
A Dedication to Gavin Hamilton, Esq.
Elegy on the Death of Robert Ruisseaux
Letter to James Tennant of Glenconner
On the Birth of a posthumous Child
To Miss Cruikshank
Verses left in the room where he slept
To Gavin Hamilton, Esq., recommending a boy
To Mr. M'Adam, of Craigen-gillan
Answer to a Poetical Epistle sent to the Author by a Tailor
To J. Rankine. "I am a keeper of the law."
Lines written on a Bank-note
A Bard's Epitaph
The Twa Dogs. A Tale
Lines on meeting with Lord Daer
Address to Edinburgh
Epistle to Major Logan
The Brigs of Ayr
On the Death of Robert Dundas, Esq., of Arniston, late Lord President of the Court of Session
On reading in a Newspaper the Death of John M'Leod, Esq.
To Miss Logan, with Beattie's Poems
The American War, A fragment
The Dean of Faculty. A new Ballad
To a Lady, with a Present of a Pair of Drinking-glasses
Verses written under the Portrait of the Poet Fergusson
Prologue spoken by Mr. Woods, on his Benefit-night, Monday, April 16, 1787
Sketch. A Character
To Mr. Scott, of Wauchope
Epistle to William Creech
The humble Petition of Bruar-Water, to the noble Duke of Athole
On scaring some Water-fowl in Loch Turit
Written with a pencil, over the chimney-piece, in the parlour of the Inn at Kenmore, Taymouth
Written with a pencil, standing by the Fall of Fyers, near Loch Ness
To Mr. William Tytler, with the present of the Bard's picture
Written in Friars-Carse Hermitage, on the banks of Nith, June, 1780. First Copy
The same. December, 1788. Second Copy
To Captain Riddel, of Glenriddel. Extempore lines on returning a Newspaper
A Mother's Lament for the Death of her Son
First Epistle to Robert Graham, Esq., of Fintray
On the Death of Sir James Hunter Blair
Epistle to Hugh Parker
Lines, intended to be written under a Noble Earl's Picture
Elegy on the year 1788. A Sketch
Address to the Toothache
Ode. Sacred to the memory of Mrs. Oswald, of Auchencruive
Fragment inscribed to the Right Hon. C.J. Fox
On seeing a wounded Hare limp by me, which a Fellow had just shot
To Dr. Blacklock. In answer to a Letter
Delia. An Ode
To John M'Murdo, Esq.
Prologue, spoken at the Theatre, Dumfries, 1st January, 1790
Scots Prologue, for Mr. Sutherland's Benefit-night, Dumfries
Sketch. New-year's Day. To Mrs. Dunlop
To a Gentleman who had sent him a Newspaper, and offered to continue it free of expense
The Kirk's Alarm. A Satire. First Version
The Kirk's Alarm. A Ballad. Second Version
On Captain Matthew Henderson, a gentleman who held the patent for his honours immediately from Almighty God
The Five Carlins. A Scots Ballad
The Laddies by the Banks o' Nith
Epistle to Robert Graham, Esq., of Fintray, on the close of the disputed Election between Sir James Johnstone, and Captain Miller, for the Dumfries district of Boroughs
On Captain Grose's Peregrination through Scotland, collecting the Antiquities of that kingdom
Written in a wrapper, enclosing a letter to Captain Grose
Tam O' Shanter. A Tale
Address of Beelzebub to the President of the Highland Society
To John Taylor
Lament of Mary Queen of Scots, on the approach of Spring
Elegy on Miss Burnet of Monboddo
Lament for James, Earl of Glencairn
Lines sent to Sir John Whitefoord, Bart., of Whitefoord, with the foregoing Poem
Address to the Shade of Thomson, on crowning his Bust at Ednam with bays
To Robert Graham, Esq., of Fintray
To Robert Graham, Esq., of Fintray, on receiving a favour
To John Maxwell, of Terraughty, on his birthday
The Rights of Women, an occasional Address spoken by Miss Fontenelle, on her benefit-night, Nov. 26, 1792
Monody on a Lady famed for her caprice
Epistle from Esopus to Maria
Poem on Pastoral Poetry
Sonnet, written on the 25th January, 1793, the birthday of the Author, on hearing a thrush sing in a morning walk
Sonnet on the death of Robert Riddel, Esq., of Glenriddel, April, 1794
Impromptu on Mrs. Riddel's birthday
Liberty. A Fragment
Verses to a young Lady
The Vowels. A Tale
Verses to John Rankine
On Sensibility. To my dear and much-honoured friend, Mrs. Dunlop, of Dunlop
Lines sent to a Gentleman whom he had offended Address spoken by Miss Fontenelle on her Benefit-night
On seeing Miss Fontenelle in a favourite character
Poetical Inscription for an Altar to Independence
The Heron Ballads. Balled First
The Heron Ballads. Ballad Second
The Heron Ballads. Ballad Third
Poem addressed to Mr. Mitchell, Collector of Excise, Dumfries, 1796
To Miss Jessy Lewars, Dumfries, with Johnson's
Poem on Life, addressed to Colonel de Peyster, Dumfries, 1796
* * * * *
EPITAPHS, EPIGRAMS, FRAGMENTS, &c.
On the Author's Father
On R.A., Esq.
On a Friend
For Gavin Hamilton
On wee Johnny
On John Dove, Innkeeper, Mauchline
On a Wag in Mauchline
On a celebrated ruling Elder
On a noisy Polemic
On Miss Jean Scott
On a henpecked Country Squire
On the same
On the same
The Highland Welcome
On William Smellie
Written on a window of the Inn at Carron
Lines on Stirling
Lines written under the Picture of the celebrated Miss Burns
Extempore in the Court of Session
The henpecked Husband
Written at Inverary
On Elphinston's Translation of Martial's Epigrams
Inscription on the Head-stone of Fergusson
On a Schoolmaster
A Grace before Dinner
A Grace before Meat
On Captain Francis Grose
Impromptu to Miss Ainslie
The Kirk of Lamington
The League and Covenant
Written on a pane of glass in the Inn at Moffat
Spoken on being appointed to the Excise
Lines on Mrs. Kemble
To Mr. Syme
To Mr. Syme, with a present of a dozen of porter
Inscription on a goblet
The Creed of Poverty
Written in a Lady's pocket-book
The Parson's Looks
On Robert Riddel
On a Person nicknamed the Marquis
Lines written on a window
Lines written on a window of the Globe Tavern, Dumfries
The Selkirk Grace
To Dr. Maxwell, on Jessie Staig's Recovery
Epitaph on William Nicol
On the Death of a Lapdog, named Echo
On a noted Coxcomb
On seeing the beautiful Seat of Lord Galloway
On the same
On the same
To the same, on the Author being threatened with his resentment
On a Country Laird
On John Bushby
The true loyal Natives
On a Suicide
Extempore, pinned on a Lady's coach
Lines to John Rankine
On Miss Jessy Lewars
On the recovery of Jessy Lewars
Tam the Chapman
"Here's a bottle and an honest friend"
"Tho' fickle fortune has deceived me"
To John Kennedy
To the same
"There's naethin' like the honest nappy"
On the blank leaf of a work by Hannah More, presented by Mrs. C
To the Men and Brethren of the Masonic Lodge at Tarbolton
Prayer for Adam Armour
* * * * *
SONGS AND BALLADS.
"I dream'd I lay where flowers were springing"
Tibbie, I hae seen the day
"My father was a farmer upon the Carrick border"
John Barleycorn. A Ballad
The Rigs o' Barley
The Mauchline Lady
The Highland Lassie
The rantin' Dog the Daddie o't
"My heart was ance as blithe and free"
My Nannie O
A Fragment. "One night as I did wander"
Bonnie Peggy Alison
Green grow the Rashes, O
"Her flowing locks, the raven's wing"
"O leave novels, ye Mauchline belles"
The Cure for all Care
The Sons of Old Killie
And maun I still on Menie doat
The Farewell to the Brethren of St. James's Lodge, Tarbolton
On Cessnock Banks
The Lass of Ballochmyle
"The gloomy night is gathering fast"
"O whar did ye get that hauver meal bannock?"
The Joyful Widower
"O Whistle, and I'll come to you, my lad"
"I am my mammy's ae bairn"
The Birks of Aberfeldy
Braw, braw Lads of Galla Water
"Stay, my charmer, can you leave me?"
Her Daddie forbad, her Minnie forbad
Up in the Morning early
The young Highland Rover
Hey the dusty Miller
Theniel Menzies' bonnie Mary
The Banks of the Devon
Weary fa' you, Duncan Gray
Landlady, count the Lawin
"Raving winds around her blowing"
"How long and dreary is the night"
Musing on the roaring Ocean
Blithe, blithe and merry was she
The blude red rose at Yule may blaw
O'er the Water to Charlie
A Rose-bud by my early walk
Rattlin', roarin' Willie
Where braving angry Winter's Storms
Bonnie Castle Gordon
My Harry was a gallant gay
The Tailor fell through the bed, thimbles an' a'
Ay Waukin O!
Beware o' Bonnie Ann
The Gardener wi' his paidle
The day returns, my bosom burns
My Love she's but a lassie yet
Jamie, come try me
Go fetch to me a Pint O' Wine
The Lazy Mist
O mount and go
Of a' the airts the wind can blaw
Whistle o'er the lave o't
O were I on Parnassus' Hill
"There's a youth in this city"
My heart's in the Highlands
John Anderson, my Jo
Awa, Whigs, awa
Ca' the Ewes to the Knowes
Merry hae I been teethin' a heckle
The Braes of Ballochmyle
To Mary in Heaven
The Battle of Sherriff-muir
Young Jockey was the blithest lad
O Willie brewed a peck o' maut
The braes o' Killiecrankie, O
I gaed a waefu' gate yestreen
The Banks of Nith
Frae the friends and land I love
Cock up your Beaver
O meikle thinks my luve o' my beauty
Gudewife, count the Lawin
There'll never be peace till Jamie comes hame
The bonnie lad that's far awa
I do confess thou art sae fair
Yon wild mossy mountains sae lofty and wide
It is na, Jean, thy bonnie face
When I think on the happy days
Whan I sleep I dream
"I murder hate by field or flood"
O gude ale comes and gude ale goes
Robin shure in hairst
Gudeen to you, Kimmer
Ah, Chloris, since it may na be
Wha is that at my bower-door
What can a young lassie do wi' an auld man
Bonnie wee thing, cannie wee thing
The tither morn when I forlorn
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever
The weary Pond o' Tow
An O for ane and twenty, Tam
O Kenmure's on and awa, Willie
The Collier Laddie
Nithsdale's Welcome Hame
As I was a-wand'ring ae Midsummer e'enin
Bessy and her Spinning-wheel
The Country Lass
Turn again, thou fair Eliza
Ye Jacobites by name
Ye flowery banks o'bonnie Doon
Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon
O Lady Mary Ann
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation
The Carle of Kellyburn braes
Jockey's ta'en the parting kiss
The Chevalier's Lament
Song of Death
Flow gently, sweet Afton
Hey ca' thro', ca' thro'
The Gallant weaver
The deuks dang o'er my Daddie
She's fair and fause
The Deil cam' fiddling thro' the town
The lovely Lass of Inverness
O my luve's like a red, red rose
Louis, what reck I by thee
Had I the wyte she bade me
Coming through the rye
Young Jamie, pride of a' the plain
Out over the Forth I look to the north
The Lass of Ecclefechan
The Cooper o' Cuddie
For the sake of somebody
I coft a stane o' haslock woo
The lass that made the bed for me
Sae far awa
I'll ay ca' in by yon town
O wat ye wha's in yon town
O May, thy morn
Lovely Polly Stewart
Bonnie laddie, Highland laddie
Anna, thy charms my bosom fire
To thee, lov'd Nith
Bannocks o' Barley
Hee Balou! my sweet wee Donald
Wae is my heart, and the tear's in my e'e
Here's his health in water
My Peggy's face, my Peggy's form
My lady's gown, there's gairs upon 't
Amang the trees, where humming bees
The gowden locks of Anna
My ain kind dearie, O
Will ye go to the Indies, my Mary
She is a winsome wee thing
Auld Rob Morris
O poortith cauld, and restless love
Wandering Willie. First Version
Wandering Willie. Last Version
Oh, open the door to me, oh!
The poor and honest sodger
Meg o' the Mill
Blithe hae I been on yon hill
"O were my love yon lilac fair"
Phillis the fair
Had I a cave on some wild distant shore
By Allan stream
O Whistle, and I'll come to you, my lad
Adown winding Nith I did wander
Come, let me take thee to my breast
Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled. First Version
Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled. Second Version
Behold the hour, the boat arrives
Thou hast left me ever, Jamie
Auld lang syne
"Where are the joys I have met in the morning"
"Deluded swain, the pleasure"
Husband, husband, cease your strife
Wilt thou be my dearie?
But lately seen in gladsome green
"Could aught of song declare my pains"
Here's to thy health, my bonnie lass
It was a' for our rightfu' king
O steer her up and haud her gaun
O ay my wife she dang me
O wert thou in the cauld blast
The Banks of Cree
On the seas and far away
Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes
Sae flaxen were her ringlets
O saw ye my dear, my Phely?
How lang and dreary is the night
Let not woman e'er complain
The Lover's Morning Salute to his Mistress
My Chloris, mark how green the groves
Youthful Chloe, charming Chloe
Lassie wi' the lint-white locks
Farewell, thou stream, that winding flows
O Philly, happy be the day
Contented wi' little and cantie wi' mair
Canst thou leave me thus, my Katy
My Nannie's awa
O wha is she that lo'es me
O lay thy loof in mine, lass
The Fete Champetre
Here's a health to them that's awa
For a' that, and a' that
O lassie, art thou sleeping yet
O tell na me o' wind and rain
The Dumfries Volunteers
Address to the Wood-lark
On Chloris being ill
Their groves o' sweet myrtle let foreign lands reckon
'Twas na her bonnie blue een was my ruin
How cruel are the parents
Mark yonder pomp of costly fashion
O this is no my ain lassie
Now Spring has clad the grove in green
O bonnie was yon rosy brier
Forlorn my love, no comfort near
Last May a braw wooer cam down the lang glen
The Highland Widow's Lament
To General Dumourier
There was a bonnie lass
O Mally's meek, Mally's sweet
Hey for a lass wi' a tocher
Jessy. "Here's a health to ane I lo'e dear"
Fairest Maid on Devon banks
* * * * *
No. I. To William Burness. His health a little better, but tired of life. The Revelations
II. To Mr. John Murdoch. His present studies and temper of mind
III. To Mr. James Burness. His father's illness, and sad state of the country
IV. To Miss E. Love
V. To Miss E. Love
VI. To Miss E. Love
VII. To Miss E. On her refusal of his hand
VIII. To Robert Riddel, Esq. Observations on poetry and human life
IX. To Mr. James Burness. On the death of his father
X. To Mr. James Burness. Account of the Buchanites
XI. To Miss ——. With a book
XII. To Mr. John Richmond. His progress in poetic composition
XIII. To Mr. John Kennedy. The Cotter's Saturday Night
XIV. To Mr. Robert Muir. Enclosing his "Scotch Drink"
XV. To Mr. Aiken. Enclosing a stanza on the blank leaf of a book by Hannah More
XVI. To Mr. M'Whinnie, Subscriptions
XVII. To Mr. John Kennedy. Enclosing "The Gowan"
XVIII. To Mon. James Smith. His voyage to the West Indies
XIX. To Mr. John Kennedy. His poems in the press. Subscriptions
XX. To Mr. David Brice. Jean Armour's return,—printing his poems
XXI. To Mr. Robert Aiken. Distress of mind
XXII. To Mr. John Richmond. Jean Armour
XXIII. To John Ballantyne, Esq. Aiken's coldness. His marriage-lines destroyed
XXIV. To Mr. David Brice. Jean Armour. West Indies
XXV. To Mr. John Richmond. West Indies The Armours
XXVI. To Mr. Robert Muir. Enclosing "The Calf"
XXVII. To Mrs. Dunlop. Thanks for her notice. Sir William Wallace
XXVIII. To Mr. John Kennedy. Jamaica
XXIX. To Mr. James Burness. His departure uncertain
XXX. To Miss Alexander. "The Lass of Ballochmyle"
XXXI. To Mrs. Stewart, of Stair and Afton. Enclosing some songs. Miss Alexander
XXXII. Proclamation in the name of the Muses
XXXIII. To Mr. Robert Muir. Enclosing "Tam Samson." His Edinburgh expedition
XXXIV. To Dr. Mackenzie. Enclosing the verses on dining with Lord Daer
XXXV. To Gavin Hamilton, Esq. Rising fame. Patronage
XXXVI. To John Ballantyne, Esq. His patrons and patronesses. The Lounger
XXXVII. To Mr. Robert Muir. A note of thanks. Talks of sketching the history of his life
XXXVIII. To Mr. William Chalmers. A humorous sally
XXXIX. To the Earl of Eglinton. Thanks for his patronage
XL. To Gavin Hamilton, Esq. Love
XLI. To John Ballantyne, Esq. Mr. Miller's offer of a farm
XLII. To John Ballantyne, Esq. Enclosing "The Banks o' Doon." First Copy
XLIII. To Mrs. Dunlop. Dr. Moore and Lord Eglinton. His situation in Edinburgh
XLIV. To Dr. Moore. Acknowledgments for his notice
XLV. To the Rev. G. Lowrie. Reflections on his situation in life. Dr. Blacklock, Mackenzie
XLVI. To Dr. Moore. Miss Williams
XLVII. To John Ballantyne, Esq. His portrait engraving
XLVIII. To the Earl of Glencairn. Enclosing "Lines intended to be written under a noble Earl's picture"
XLIX. To the Earl of Buchan. In reply to a letter of advice
L. To Mr. James Candlish. Still "the old man with his deeds"
LI. To ——. On Fergusson's headstone
LII. To Mrs. Dunlop. His prospects on leaving Edinburgh 341
LIII. To Mrs. Dunlop. A letter of acknowledgment for the payment of the subscription
LIV. To Mr. Sibbald. Thanks for his notice in the magazine
LV. To Dr. Moore. Acknowledging the present of his View of Society
LVI. To Mr. Dunlop. Reply to criticisms
LVII. To the Rev. Dr. Hugh Blair. On leaving Edinburgh. Thanks for his kindness
LVIII. To the Earl of Glencairn. On leaving Edinburgh
LIX. To Mr. William Dunbar. Thanking him for the present of Spenser's poems
LX. To Mr. James Johnson. Sending a song to the Scots Musical Museum
LXI. To Mr. William Creech. His tour on the Border. Epistle in verse to Creech
LXII. To Mr. Patison. Business
LXIII. To Mr. W. Nicol. A ride described in broad Scotch
LXIV. To Mr. James Smith. Unsettled in life. Jamaica
LXV. To Mr. W. Nicol. Mr. Miller, Mr. Burnside. Bought a pocket Milton
LXVI. To Mr. James Candlish. Seeking a copy of Lowe's poem of "Pompey's Ghost"
LXVII. To Robert Ainslie, Esq. His tour
LXVIII. To Mr. W. Nicol. Auchtertyre
LXIX. To Mr. Wm. Cruikshank. Auchtertyre
LXX. To Mr. James Smith. An adventure
LXXI. To Mr. John Richmond. His rambles
LXXII. To Mr. Robert Ainslie. Sets high value on his friendship
LXXIII. To the same. Nithsdale and Edinburgh
LXXIV. To Dr. Moore. Account of his own life
LXXV. To Mr. Robert Ainslie. A humorous letter
LXXVI. To Mr. Robert Muir. Stirling, Bannockburn
LXXVII. To Gavin Hamilton, Esq. Of Mr. Hamilton's own family
LXXVIII. To Mr. Walker. Bruar Water. The Athole family
LXXIX. To Mr. Gilbert Burns. Account of his Highland tour
LXXX. To Miss Margaret Chalmers. Charlotte Hamilton. Skinner. Nithsdale
LXXXI. To the same. Charlotte Hamilton, and "The Banks of the Devon"
LXXXII. To James Hoy, Esq. Mr. Nicol. Johnson's Musical Museum
LXXXIII. To Rev. John Skinner. Thanking him for his poetic compliment
LXXXIV. To James Hoy, Esq. Song by the Duke of Gordon
LXXXV. To Mr. Robert Ainslie. His friendship for him
LXXXVI. To the Earl of Glencairn. Requesting his aid in obtaining an excise appointment
LXXXVII. To James Dalrymple, Esq. Rhyme. Lord Glencairn
LXXXVIII. To Charles Hay, Esq. Enclosing his poem on the death of the Lord President Dundas
LXXXIX. To Miss M——n. Compliments
XC. To Miss Chalmers. Charlotte Hamilton
XCI. To the same. His bruised limb. The Bible. The Ochel Hills
XCII. To the same. His motto—"I dare." His own worst enemy
XCIII. To Sir John Whitefoord. Thanks for his friendship. Of poets
XCIV. To Miss Williams. Comments on her poem of the Slave Trade
XCV. To Mr. Richard Brown. Recollections of early life. Clarinda
XCVI. To Gavin Hamilton, Esq. Prayer for his health
XCVII. To Miss Chalmers. Complimentary poems. Creech
XCVIII. To Mrs. Dunlop. Lowness of spirits. Leaving Edinburgh
XCIX. To the same. Religion
C. To the Rev. John Skinner. Tullochgorum. Skinner's Latin
CI. To Mr. Richard Brown. His arrival in Glasgow
CII. To Mrs. Rose of Kilravock. Recollections of Kilravock
CIII. To Mr. Richard Brown. Friendship. The pleasures of the present
CIV. To Mr. William Cruikshank. Ellisland. Plans in life
CV. To Mr. Robert Ainslie. Ellisland. Edinburgh. Clarinda
CVI. To Mr. Richard Brown. Idleness. Farming
CVII. To Mr. Robert Muir. His offer for Ellisland. The close of life
CVIII. To Miss Chalmers. Taken Ellisland. Miss Kennedy
CIX. To Mrs. Dunlop. Coila's robe
CX. To Mr. Richard Brown. Apologies. On his way to Dumfries from Glasgow
CXI. To Mr. Robert Cleghorn. Poet and fame. The air of Captain O'Kean
CXII. To Mr. William Dunbar. Foregoing poetry and wit for farming and business
CXIII. To Miss Chalmers. Miss Kennedy. Jean Armour
CXIV. To the same. Creech's rumoured bankruptcy
CXV. To the same. His entering the Excise
CXVI. To Mrs. Dunlop. Fanning and the Excise. Thanks for the loan of Dryden and Tasso
CXVII. To Mr. James Smith. Jocularity. Jean Armour
CXVIII. To Professor Dugald Stewart. Enclosing some poetic trifles
CXIX. To Mrs. Dunlop. Dryden's Virgil. His preference of Dryden to Pope
CXX. To Mr. Robert Ainslie. His marriage.
CXXI. To Mrs. Dunlop. On the treatment of servants
CXXII. To the same. The merits of Mrs. Burns
CXXIII. To Mr. Robert Ainslie. The warfare of life. Books. Religion
CXXIV. To the same. Miers' profiles
CXXV. To the same. Of the folly of talking of one's private affairs
CXXVI. To Mr. George Lockhart. The Miss Baillies. Bruar Water
CXXVII. To Mr. Peter Hill. With the present of a cheese
CXXVIII. To Robert Graham Esq., of Fintray. The Excise
CXXIX. To Mr. William Cruikshank. Creech. Lines written in Friar's Carse Hermitage
CXXX. To Mrs. Dunlop. Lines written at Friar's Carse. Graham of Fintray
CXXXI. To the same. Mrs. Burns. Of accomplished young ladies
CXXXII. To the same. Mrs. Miller, of Dalswinton. "The Life and Age of Man."
CXXXIII. To Mr. Beugo. Ross and "The Fortunate Shepherdess."
CXXXIV. To Miss Chalmers. Recollections. Mrs. Burns. Poetry
CXXXV. To Mr. Morison. Urging expedition with his clock and other furniture for Ellisland
CXXXVI. To Mrs. Dunlop. Mr. Graham. Her criticisms
CXXXVII. To Mr. Peter Hill. Criticism on an "Address to Loch Lomond."
CXXXVIII. To the Editor of the Star. Pleading for the line of the Stuarts
CXXXIX. To Mrs. Dunlop. The present of a heifer from the Dunlops
CXL. To Mr. James Johnson. Scots Musical Museum
CXLI. To Dr. Blacklock. Poetical progress. His marriage
CXLII. To Mrs. Dunlop. Enclosing "Auld Lang Syne"
CXLIII. To Miss Davies. Enclosing the song of "Charming, lovely Davies"
CXLIV. To Mr. John Tennant. Praise of his whiskey
CXLV. To Mrs. Dunlop. Reflections suggested by the day
CXLVI. To Dr. Moore. His situation and prospects
CXLVII. To Mr. Robert Ainslie. His favourite quotations. Musical Museum
CXLVIII. To Professor Dugald Stewart. Enclosing some poems for his comments upon
CXLIX. To Bishop Geddes. His situation and prospects
CL. To Mr. James Burness. His wife and farm. Profit from his poems. Fanny Burns
CLI. To Mrs. Dunlop. Reflections. His success in song encouraged a shoal of bardlings
CLII. To the Rev. Peter Carfrae. Mr. Mylne's poem
CLIII. To Dr. Moore. Introduction. His ode to Mrs. Oswald
CLIV. To Mr. William Burns. Remembrance
CLV. To Mr. Peter Hill. Economy and frugality. Purchase of books
CLVI. To Mrs. Dunlop. Sketch inscribed to the Right Hon. C.J. Fox
CLVII. To Mr. William Burns. Asking him to make his house his home
CLVIII. To Mrs. M'Murdo. With the song of "Bonnie Jean"
CLIX. To Mr. Cunningham. With the poem of "The Wounded Hare"
CLX. To Mr. Samuel Brown. His farm. Ailsa fowling
CLXI. To Mr. Richard Brown. Kind wishes
CLXII. To Mr. James Hamilton. Sympathy
CLXIII. To William Creech, Esq. Toothache. Good wishes
CLXIV. To Mr. M'Auley. His own welfare
CLXV. To Mr. Robert Ainslie. Overwhelmed with incessant toil
CLXVI. To Mr. M'Murdo. Enclosing his newest song
CLXVII. To Mrs. Dunlop. Reflections on religion
CLXVIII. To Mr. ——. Fergusson the poet
CLXIX. To Miss Williams. Enclosing criticisms on her poems
CLXX. To Mr. John Logan. With "The Kirk's Alarm"
CLXXI. To Mrs. Dunlop. Religion. Dr. Moore's "Zeluco"
CLXXII. To Captain Riddel. "The Whistle"
CLXXIII. To the same. With some of his MS. poems
CLXXIV. To Mr. Robert Ainslie. His Excise employment
CLXXV. To Mr. Richard Brown. His Excise duties
CLXXVI. To Robert Graham, Esq., of Fintray. The Excise. Captain Grose. Dr. M'Gill
CLXXVII. To Mrs. Dunlop. Reflections on immortality
CLXXVIII. To Lady M.W. Constable. Jacobitism
CLXXIX. To Provost Maxwell. At a loss for a subject
CLXXX. To Sir John Sinclair. Account of a book-society in Nithsdale
CLXXXI. To Charles Sharpe, Esq. A letter with a fictitious signature
CLXXXII. To Mr. Gilburt Burns. His farm a ruinous affair. Players
CLXXXIII. To Mr. Sutherland. Enclosing a Prologue
CLXXXIV. To Mr. William Dunbar. Excise. His children. Another world
CLXXXV. To Mrs. Dunlop. Falconer the poet. Old Scottish songs
CLXXXVI. To Mr. Peter Hill. Mademoiselle Burns. Hurdis. Smollett and Cowper
CLXXXVII. To Mr. W. Nicol. The death of Nicol's mare Peg Nicholson
CLXXXVIII. To Mr. W. Cunningham. What strange beings we are
CLXXXIX. To Mr. Peter Hill. Orders for books. Mankind
CXC. To Mrs. Dunlop. Mackenzie and the Mirror and Lounger
CXCI. To Collector Mitchell. A county meeting
CXCII. To Dr. Moore. "Zeluco." Charlotte Smith
CXCIII. To Mr. Murdoch. William Burns
CXCIV. To Mr. M'Murdo. With the Elegy on Matthew Henderson
CXCV. To Mrs. Dunlop. His pride wounded
CXCVI. To Mr. Cunningham. Independence
CXCVII. To Dr. Anderson. "The Bee."
CXCVIII. To William Tytler, Esq. With some West-country ballads
CXCIX. To Crauford Tait, Esq. Introducing Mr. William Duncan
CC. To Crauford Tait, Esq. "The Kirk's Alarm"
CCI. To Mrs. Dunlop. On the birth of her grandchild. Tam O' Shanter
CCII. To Lady M.W. Constable. Thanks for the present of a gold snuff-box
CCIII. To Mr. William Dunbar. Not gone to Elysium. Sending a poem
CCIV. To Mr. Peter Mill. Apostrophe to Poverty
CCV. To Mr. Cunningham. Tam O' Shanter. Elegy on Miss Burnet
CCVI. To A.F. Tytler, Esq. Tam O' Shanter
CCVII. To Mrs. Dunlop. Miss Burnet. Elegy writing
CCVIII. To Rev. Arch. Alison. Thanking him for his "Essay on Taste"
CCIX. To Dr. Moore. Tam O' Shanter. Elegy on Henderson. Zeluco. Lord Glencairn
CCX. To Mr. Cunningham. Songs
CCXI. To Mr. Alex. Dalzel. The death of the Earl of Glencairn
CCXII. To Mrs. Graham, of Fintray. With "Queen Mary's Lament"
CCXIII. To the same. With his printed Poems
CCXIV. To the Rev. G. Baird. Michael Bruce
CCXV. To Mrs. Dunlop. Birth of a son
CCXVI. To the same. Apology for delay
CCXVII. To the same. Quaint invective on a pedantic critic
CCXVIII. To Mr. Cunningham. The case of Mr. Clarke of Moffat, Schoolmaster
CCXIX. To the Earl of Buchan. With the Address to the shade of Thomson
CCXX. To Mr. Thomas Sloan. Apologies. His crop sold well
CCXXI. To Lady E. Cunningham. With the Lament for the Earl of Glencairn
CCXXII. To Mr. Robert Ainslie. State of mind. His income
CCXXIII. To Col. Fullarton. With some Poems. His anxiety for Fullarton's friendship
CCXXIV. To Miss Davis. Lethargy, Indolence, and Remorse. Our wishes and our powers
CCXXV. To Mrs. Dunlop. Mrs. Henri. The Song of Death
CCXXVI. To Mrs. Dunlop. The animadversions of the Board of Excise
CCXXVII. To Mr. William Smellie. Introducing Mrs. Riddel
CCXXVIII. To Mr. W. Nicol. Ironical reply to a letter of counsel and reproof
CCXXIX. To Francis Grose, Esq. Dugald Stewart
CCXXX. To the same. Witch stories
CCXXXI. To Mr. S. Clarke. Humorous invitation to teach music to the M'Murdo family
CCXXXII. To Mrs. Dunlop. Love and Lesley Baillie
CCXXXIII. To Mr. Cunningham. Lesley Baillie
CCXXXIV. To Mr. Thomson. Promising his assistance to his collection of songs and airs
CCXXXV. To Mrs. Dunlop. Situation of Mrs. Henri
CCXXXVI. To the same. On the death of Mrs. Henri
CCXXXVII. To Mr. Thomson. Thomson's fastidiousness. "My Nannie O," &c.
CCXXXVIII. To the same. With "My wife's a winsome wee thing," and "Lesley Baillie"
CCXXXIX. To the same. With Highland Mary. The air of Katherine Ogie
CCXL. To the same. Thomson's alterations and observations
CCXLI. To the same. With "Auld Rob Morris," and "Duncan Gray"
CCXLII. To Mrs. Dunlop. Birth of a daughter. The poet Thomson's dramas
CCXLIII. To Robert Graham, Esq., of Fintray. The Excise inquiry into his political conduct
CCXLIV. To Mrs. Dunlop. Hurry of business. Excise inquiry
CCXLV. To Mr. Thomson. With "Poortith cauld" and "Galla Water"
CCXLVI. To the same. William Tytler, Peter Pindar
CCXLVII. To Mr. Cunningham. The poet's seal. David Allan
CCXLVIII. To Thomson. With "Mary Morison"
CCCXLIX. To the same. With "Wandering Willie"
CCL. To Miss Benson. Pleasure he had in meeting her
CCLI. To Patrick Miller, Esq. With the present of his printed poems
CCLII. To Mr. Thomson. Review of Scottish song. Crawfurd and Ramsay
CCLIII. To the same. Criticism. Allan Ramsay
CCLIV. To the same. "The last time I came o'er the moor"
CCLV. To John Francis Erskine, Esq. Self-justification. The Excise inquiry
CCLVI. To Mr. Robert Ainslie. Answering letters. Scholar-craft
CCLVII. To Miss Kennedy. A letter of compliment
CCLVIII. To Mr. Thomson. Frazer. "Blithe had I been on yon hill"
CCLIX. To Mr. Thomson. "Logan Water." "O gin my love were yon red rose"
CCLX. To the same. With the song of "Bonnie Jean"
CCLXI. To the same. Hurt at the idea of pecuniary recompense. Remarks on song
CCLXII. To the same. Note written in the name of Stephen Clarke
CCLXIII. To the same. With "Phillis the fair"
CCLXIV. To the same. With "Had I a cave on some wild distant shore"
CCLXV. To the same. With "Allan Water"
CCLXVI. To the same. With "O whistle, and I'll come to you, my lad," &c.
CCLXVII. To the same. With "Come, let me take thee to my breast"
CCLXVIII. To the same. With "Dainty Davie"
CCLXIX. To Miss Craik. Wretchedness of poets
CCLXX. To Lady Glencairn. Gratitude. Excise. Dramatic composition
CCLXXI. To Mr. Thomson. With "Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled"
CCLXXII. To the same. With "Behold the hour, the boat arrive"
CCLXXIII. To the same. Crawfurd and Scottish song
CCLXXIV. To the same. Alterations in "Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled"
CCLXXV. To the same. Further suggested alterations in "Scots wha hae" rejected.
CCLXXVI. To the same. With "Deluded swain, the pleasure," and "Raving winds around her blowing"
CCLXXVII. To the same. Erskine and Gavin Turnbull
CCLXXVIII. To John M'Murdo, Esq. Payment of a debt. "The Merry Muses"
CCLXXIX. To the same. With his printed poems
CCLXXX. To Captain ——. Anxiety for his acquaintance. "Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled"
CCLXXXI. To Mrs. Riddel. The Dumfries Theatre
CCLXXXII. To a Lady. In favour of a player's benefit
CCLXXXIII. To the Earl of Buchan. With a copy of "Scots wha hae"
CCLXXXIV. To Captain Miller. With a copy of "Scots wha hae"
CCLXXXV. To Mrs. Riddel. Lobster-coated puppies
CCLXXXVI. To the same. The gin-horse class of the human genus
CCLXXXVII. To the same. With "Werter." Her reception of him
CCLXXXVIII. To Mrs. Riddel. Her caprice
CCLXXXIX. To the same. Her neglect and unkindness
CCXC. To John Syme, Esq. Mrs. Oswald, and "O wat ye wha's in yon town"
CCXCI. To Miss ——. Obscure allusions to a friend's death. His personal and poetic fame
CCXCII. To Mr. Cunningham. Hypochondria. Requests consolation
CCXCIII. To the Earl of Glencairn. With his printed poems
CCXCIV. To Mr. Thomson. David Allan. "The banks of Cree"
CCXCV. To David M'Culloch, Esq. Arrangements for a trip in Galloway
CCXCVI. To Mrs. Dunlop. Threatened with flying gout. Ode on Washington's birthday
CCXCVII. To Mr. James Johnson. Low spirits. The Museum. Balmerino's dirk
CCXCVIII. To Mr. Thomson. Lines written in "Thomson's Collection of songs"
CCXCIX. To the same. With "How can my poor heart be glad"
CCC. To the same. With "Ca' the yowes to the knowes"
CCCI. To the same. With "Sae flaxen were her ringlets." Epigram to Dr. Maxwell.
CCCII. To the same. The charms of Miss Lorimer. "O saw ye my dear, my Phely," &c.
CCCIII. To the same. Ritson's Scottish Songs. Love and song
CCCIV. To the same. English songs. The air of "Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon"
CCCV. To the same. With "O Philly, happy be the day," and "Contented wi' little"
CCCVI. To the same. With "Canst thou leave me thus, my Katy"
CCCVII. To Peter Miller, jun., Esq. Excise. Perry's offer to write for the Morning Chronicle
CCCVIII. To Mr. Samuel Clarke, jun. A political and personal quarrel. Regret
CCCIX. To Mr. Thomson. With "Now in her green mantle blithe nature arrays"
CCCX. To Mr. Thomson. With "For a' that and a' that"
CCCXI. To the same. Abuse of Ecclefechan
CCCXII. To the same. With "O stay, sweet warbling woodlark, stay," and "The groves of sweet myrtle"
CCCXIII. To the same. With "How cruel are the parents" and "Mark yonder pomp of costly fashion"
CCCXIV. To the same. Praise of David Allan's "Cotter's Saturday Night"
CCCXV. To the same. With "This is no my ain Lassie." Mrs. Riddel
CCCXVI. To Mr. Thomson. With "Forlorn, my love, no comfort near"
CCCXVII. To the same. With "Last May a braw wooer," and "Why tell thy lover"
CCCXVIII. To Mrs. Riddel. A letter from the grave
CCCXIX. To the same. A letter of compliment. "Anacharsis' Travels"
CCCXX. To Miss Louisa Fontenelle. With a Prologue for her benefit-night
CCCXXI. To Mrs. Dunlop. His family. Miss Fontenelle. Cowper's "Task"
CCCXXII. To Mr. Alexander Findlater. Excise schemes
CCCXXIII. To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle. Written for a friend. A complaint
CCCXXIV. To Mr. Heron, of Heron. With two political ballads
CCCXXV. To Mrs. Dunlop. Thomson's Collection. Acting as Supervisor of Excise
CCCXXVI. To the Right Hon. William Pitt. Address of the Scottish Distillers
CCCXXVII. To the Provost, Bailies, and Town Council of Dumfries. Request to be made a freeman of the town
CCCXXVIII. To Mrs. Riddel. "Anarcharsis' Travels." The muses
CCCXXIX. To Mrs. Dunlop. His ill-health.
CCCXXX. To Mr. Thomson. Acknowledging his present to Mrs. Burns of a worsted shawl
CCCXXXI. To the same. Ill-health. Mrs. Hyslop. Allan's etchings. Cleghorn
CCCXXXII. To the same. "Here's a health to ane I loe dear"
CCCXXXIII. To the same. His anxiety to review his songs, asking for copies
CCCXXXIV. To Mrs. Riddel. His increasing ill-health
CCCXXXV. To Mr. Clarke, acknowledging money and requesting the loan of a further sum
CCCXXXVI. To Mr. James Johnson. The Scots Musical Museum. Request for a copy of the collection
CCCXXXVII. To Mr. Cunningham. Illness and poverty, anticipation of death
CCCXXXVIII. To Mr. Gilbert Burns. His ill-health and debts
CCCXXXIX. To Mr. James Armour. Entreating Mrs. Armour to come to her daughter's confinement
CCCXL. To Mrs. Burns. Sea-bathing affords little relief
CCCXLI. To Mrs. Dunlop. Her friendship. A farewell
CCCXLII. To Mr. Thomson. Solicits the sum of five pounds. "Fairest Maid on Devon Banks"
CCCXLIII. To Mr. James Burness. Soliciting the sum of ten pounds
CCCXLIV. To James Gracie, Esq. His rheumatism, &c. &c.—his loss of appetite
Remarks on Scottish Songs and Ballads
The Border Tour
The Highland Tour
Burns's Assignment of his Works
Robert Burns, the chief of the peasant poets of Scotland, was born in a little mud-walled cottage on the banks of Doon, near "Alloway's auld haunted kirk," in the shire of Ayr, on the 25th day of January, 1759. As a natural mark of the event, a sudden storm at the same moment swept the land: the gabel-wall of the frail dwelling gave way, and the babe-bard was hurried through a tempest of wind and sleet to the shelter of a securer hovel. He was the eldest born of three sons and three daughters; his father, William, who in his native Kincardineshire wrote his name Burness, was bred a gardener, and sought for work in the West; but coming from the lands of the noble family of the Keiths, a suspicion accompanied him that he had been out—as rebellion was softly called—in the forty-five: a suspicion fatal to his hopes of rest and bread, in so loyal a district; and it was only when the clergyman of his native parish certified his loyalty that he was permitted to toil. This suspicion of Jacobitism, revived by Burns himself, when he rose into fame, seems not to have influenced either the feelings, or the tastes of Agnes Brown, a young woman on the Doon, whom he wooed and married in December, 1757, when he was thirty-six years old. To support her, he leased a small piece of ground, which he converted into a nursery and garden, and to shelter her, he raised with his own hands that humble abode where she gave birth to her eldest son.
The elder Burns was a well-informed, silent, austere man, who endured no idle gaiety, nor indecorous language: while he relaxed somewhat the hard, stern creed of the Covenanting times, he enforced all the work-day, as well as sabbath-day observances, which the Calvinistic kirk requires, and scrupled at promiscuous dancing, as the staid of our own day scruple at the waltz. His wife was of a milder mood: she was blest with a singular fortitude of temper; was as devout of heart, as she was calm of mind; and loved, while busied in her household concerns, to sweeten the bitterer moments of life, by chanting the songs and ballads of her country, of which her store was great. The garden and nursery prospered so much, that he was induced to widen his views, and by the help of his kind landlord, the laird of Doonholm, and the more questionable aid of borrowed money, he entered upon a neighbouring farm, named Mount Oliphant, extending to an hundred acres. This was in 1765; but the land was hungry and sterile; the seasons proved rainy and rough; the toil was certain, the reward unsure; when to his sorrow, the laird of Doonholm—a generous Ferguson,—died: the strict terms of the lease, as well as the rent, were exacted by a harsh factor, and with his wife and children, he was obliged, after a losing struggle of six years, to relinquish the farm, and seek shelter on the grounds of Lochlea, some ten miles off, in the parish of Tarbolton. When, in after-days, men's characters were in the hands of his eldest son, the scoundrel factor sat for that lasting portrait of insolence and wrong, in the "Twa Dogs."
In this new farm William Burns seemed to strike root, and thrive. He was strong of body and ardent of mind: every day brought increase of vigour to his three sons, who, though very young, already put their hands to the plough, the reap-hook, and the flail. But it seemed that nothing which he undertook was decreed in the end to prosper: after four seasons of prosperity a change ensued: the farm was far from cheap; the gains under any lease were then so little, that the loss of a few pounds was ruinous to a farmer: bad seed and wet seasons had their usual influence: "The gloom of hermits and the moil of galley-slaves," as the poet, alluding to those days, said, were endured to no purpose; when, to crown all, a difference arose between the landlord and the tenant, as to the terms of the lease; and the early days of the poet, and the declining years of his father, were harassed by disputes, in which sensitive minds are sure to suffer.
Amid these labours and disputes, the poet's father remembered the worth of religious and moral instruction: he took part of this upon himself. A week-day in Lochlea wore the sober looks of a Sunday: he read the Bible and explained, as intelligent peasants are accustomed to do, the sense, when dark or difficult; he loved to discuss the spiritual meanings, and gaze on the mystical splendours of the Revelations. He was aided in these labours, first, by the schoolmaster of Alloway-mill, near the Doon; secondly, by John Murdoch, student of divinity, who undertook to teach arithmetic, grammar, French, and Latin, to the boys of Lochlea, and the sons of five neighboring farmers. Murdoch, who was an enthusiast in learning, much of a pedant, and such a judge of genius that he thought wit should always be laughing, and poetry wear an eternal smile, performed his task well: he found Robert to be quick in apprehension, and not afraid to study when knowledge was the reward. He taught him to turn verse into its natural prose order; to supply all the ellipses, and not to desist till the sense was clear and plain: he also, in their walks, told him the names of different objects both in Latin and French; and though his knowledge of these languages never amounted to much, he approached the grammar of the English tongue, through the former, which was of material use to him, in his poetic compositions. Burns was, even in those early days, a sort of enthusiast in all that concerned the glory of Scotland; he used to fancy himself a soldier of the days of the Wallace and the Bruce: loved to strut after the bag-pipe and the drum, and read of the bloody struggles of his country for freedom and existence, till "a Scottish prejudice," he says, "was poured into my veins, which will boil there till the flood-gates of life are shut in eternal rest."
In this mood of mind Burns was unconsciously approaching the land of poesie. In addition to the histories of the Wallace and the Bruce, he found, on the shelves of his neighbours, not only whole bodies of divinity, and sermons without limit, but the works of some of the best English, as well as Scottish poets, together with songs and ballads innumerable. On these he loved to pore whenever a moment of leisure came; nor was verse his sole favourite; he desired to drink knowledge at any fountain, and Guthrie's Grammar, Dickson on Agriculture, Addison's Spectator, Locke on the Human Understanding, and Taylor's Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin, were as welcome to his heart as Shakspeare, Milton, Pope, Thomson, and Young. There is a mystery in the workings of genius: with these poets in his head and hand, we see not that he has advanced one step in the way in which he was soon to walk, "Highland Mary" and "Tam O' Shanter" sprang from other inspirations.
Burns lifts up the veil himself, from the studies which made him a poet. "In my boyish days," he says to Moore, "I owed much to an old woman (Jenny Wilson) who resided in the family, remarkable for her credulity and superstition. She had, I suppose, the largest collection in the country of tales and songs, concerning devils, ghosts, fairies, brownies, witches, warlocks, spunkies, kelpies, elf-candles, dead-lights, wraiths, apparitions, cantraips, giants, enchanted towers, dragons, and other trumpery. This cultivated the latent seeds of poesie; but had so strong an effect upon my imagination that to this hour, in my nocturnal rambles, I sometimes keep a look-out on suspicious places." Here we have the young poet taking lessons in the classic lore of his native land: in the school of Janet Wilson he profited largely; her tales gave a hue, all their own, to many noble effusions. But her teaching was at the hearth-stone: when he was in the fields, either driving a cart or walking to labour, he had ever in his hand a collection of songs, such as any stall in the land could supply him with; and over these he pored, ballad by ballad, and verse by verse, noting the true, tender, and the natural sublime from affectation and fustian. "To this," he said, "I am convinced that I owe much of my critic craft, such as it is." His mother, too, unconsciously led him in the ways of the muse: she loved to recite or sing to him a strange, but clever ballad, called "the Life and Age of Man:" this strain of piety and imagination was in his mind when he wrote "Man was made to Mourn."
He found other teachers—of a tenderer nature and softer influence. "You know," he says to Moore, "our country custom of coupling a man and woman together as partners in the labours of harvest. In my fifteenth autumn my partner was a bewitching creature, a year younger than myself: she was in truth a bonnie, sweet, sonsie lass, and unwittingly to herself, initiated me in that delicious passion, which, in spite of acid disappointment, gin-horse prudence, and bookworm philosophy, I hold to be the first of human joys. How she caught the contagion I cannot tell; I never expressly said I loved her: indeed I did not know myself why I liked so much to loiter behind with her, when returning in the evenings from our labours; why the tones of her voice made my heart strings thrill like an AEolian harp, and particularly why my pulse beat such a furious ratan, when I looked and fingered over her little hand, to pick out the cruel nettle-stings and thistles. Among other love-inspiring qualities, she sang sweetly, and it was her favourite reel to which I attempted to give an embodied vehicle in rhyme; thus with me began love and verse." This intercourse with the fair part of the creation, was to his slumbering emotions, a voice from heaven to call them into life and poetry.
From the school of traditionary lore and love, Burns now went to a rougher academy. Lochlea, though not producing fine crops of corn, was considered excellent for flax; and while the cultivation of this commodity was committed to his father and his brother Gilbert, he was sent to Irvine at Midsummer, 1781, to learn the trade of a flax-dresser, under one Peacock, kinsman to his mother. Some time before, he had spent a portion of a summer at a school in Kirkoswald, learning mensuration and land-surveying, where he had mingled in scenes of sociality with smugglers, and enjoyed the pleasure of a silent walk, under the moon, with the young and the beautiful. At Irvine he laboured by day to acquire a knowledge of his business, and at night he associated with the gay and the thoughtless, with whom he learnt to empty his glass, and indulge in free discourse on topics forbidden at Lochlea. He had one small room for a lodging, for which he gave a shilling a week: meat he seldom tasted, and his food consisted chiefly of oatmeal and potatoes sent from his father's house. In a letter to his father, written with great purity and simplicity of style, he thus gives a picture of himself, mental and bodily: "Honoured Sir, I have purposely delayed writing, in the hope that I should have the pleasure of seeing you on new years' day, but work comes so hard upon us that I do not choose to be absent on that account. My health is nearly the same as when you were here, only my sleep is a little sounder, and on the whole, I am rather better than otherwise, though I mend by very slow degrees: the weakness of my nerves had so debilitated my mind that I dare neither review past wants nor look forward into futurity, for the least anxiety or perturbation in my breast produces most unhappy effects on my whole frame. Sometimes indeed, when for an hour or two my spirits are a little lightened, I glimmer a little into futurity; but my principal and indeed my only pleasurable employment is looking backwards and forwards in a moral and religious way. I am quite transported at the thought that ere long, perhaps very soon, I shall bid an eternal adieu to all the pains and uneasinesses, and disquietudes of this weary life. As for the world, I despair of ever making a figure in it: I am not formed for the bustle of the busy, nor the flutter of the gay. I foresee that poverty and obscurity probably await me, and I am in some measure prepared and daily preparing to meet them. I have but just time and paper to return you my grateful thanks for the lessons of virtue and piety you have given me, which were but too much neglected at the time of giving them, but which, I hope, have been remembered ere it is yet too late." This remarkable letter was written in the twenty-second year of his age; it alludes to the illness which seems to have been the companion of his youth, a nervous headache, brought on by constant toil and anxiety; and it speaks of the melancholy which is the common attendant of genius, and its sensibilities, aggravated by despair of distinction. The catastrophe which happened ere this letter was well in his father's hand, accords ill with quotations from the Bible, and hopes fixed in heaven:—"As we gave," he says, "a welcome carousal to the new year, the shop took fire, and burnt to ashes, and I was left, like a true poet, not worth a sixpence."
This disaster was followed by one more grievous: his father was well in years when he was married, and age and a constitution injured by toil and disappointment, began to press him down, ere his sons had grown up to man's estate. On all sides the clouds began to darken: the farm was unprosperous: the speculations in flax failed; and the landlord of Lochlea, raising a question upon the meaning of the lease, concerning rotation of crop, pushed the matter to a lawsuit, alike ruinous to a poor man either in its success or its failure. "After three years tossing and whirling," says Burns, "in the vortex of litigation, my father was just saved from the horrors of a jail by a consumption, which, after two years' promises, kindly slept in and carried him away to where the 'wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest.' His all went among the hell-hounds that prowl in the kennel of justice. The finishing evil which brought up the rear of this infernal file, was my constitutional melancholy being increased to such a degree, that for three months I was in a state of mind scarcely to be envied by the hopeless wretches who have got their mittimus, 'Depart from me, ye cursed.'"
Robert Burns was now the head of his father's house. He gathered together the little that law and misfortune had spared, and took the farm of Mossgiel, near Mauchline, containing one hundred and eighteen acres, at a rent of ninety pounds a year: his mother and sisters took the domestic superintendence of home, barn, and byre; and he associated his brother Gilbert in the labours of the land. It was made a joint affair: the poet was young, willing, and vigorous, and excelled in ploughing, sowing, reaping, mowing, and thrashing. His wages were fixed at seven pounds per annum, and such for a time was his care and frugality, that he never exceeded this small allowance. He purchased books on farming, held conversations with the old and the knowing; and said unto himself, "I shall be prudent and wise, and my shadow shall increase in the land." But it was not decreed that these resolutions were to endure, and that he was to become a mighty agriculturist in the west. Farmer Attention, as the proverb says, is a good farmer, all the world over, and Burns was such by fits and by starts. But he who writes an ode on the sheep he is about to shear, a poem on the flower that he covers with the furrow, who sees visions on his way to market, who makes rhymes on the horse he is about to yoke, and a song on the girl who shows the whitest hands among his reapers, has small chance of leading a market, or of being laird of the fields he rents. The dreams of Burns were of the muses, and not of rising markets, of golden locks rather than of yellow corn: he had other faults. It is not known that William Burns was aware before his death that his eldest son had sinned in rhyme; but we have Gilbert's assurance, that his father went to the grave in ignorance of his son's errors of a less venial kind—unwitting that he was soon to give a two-fold proof of both in "Rob the Rhymer's Address to his Bastard Child"—a poem less decorous than witty.
The dress and condition of Burns when he became a poet were not at all poetical, in the minstrel meaning of the word. His clothes, coarse and homely, were made from home-grown wool, shorn off his own sheeps' backs, carded and spun at his own fireside, woven by the village weaver, and, when not of natural hodden-gray, dyed a half-blue in the village vat. They were shaped and sewed by the district tailor, who usually wrought at the rate of a groat a day and his food; and as the wool was coarse, so also was the workmanship. The linen which he wore was home-grown, home-hackled, home-spun, home-woven, and home-bleached, and, unless designed for Sunday use, was of coarse, strong harn, to suit the tear and wear of barn and field. His shoes came from rustic tanpits, for most farmers then prepared their own leather; were armed, sole and heel, with heavy, broad-headed nails, to endure the clod and the road: as hats were then little in use, save among small lairds or country gentry, westland heads were commonly covered with a coarse, broad, blue bonnet, with a stopple on its flat crown, made in thousands at Kilmarnock, and known in all lands by the name of scone bonnets. His plaid was a handsome red and white check—for pride in poets, he said, was no sin—prepared of fine wool with more than common care by the hands of his mother and sisters, and woven with more skill than the village weaver was usually required to exert. His dwelling was in keeping with his dress, a low, thatched house, with a kitchen, a bedroom and closet, with floors of kneaded clay, and ceilings of moorland turf: a few books on a shelf, thumbed by many a thumb; a few hams drying above head in the smoke, which was in no haste to get out at the roof—a wooden settle, some oak chairs, chaff beds well covered with blankets, with a fire of peat and wood burning at a distance from the gable wall, on the middle of the floor. His food was as homely as his habitation, and consisted chiefly of oatmeal-porridge, barley-broth, and potatoes, and milk. How the muse happened to visit him in this clay biggin, take a fancy to a clouterly peasant, and teach him strains of consummate beauty and elegance, must ever be a matter of wonder to all those, and they are not few, who hold that noble sentiments and heroic deeds are the exclusive portion of the gently nursed and the far descended.
Of the earlier verses of Burns few are preserved: when composed, he put them on paper, but the kept them to himself: though a poet at sixteen, he seems not to have made even his brother his confidante till he became a man, and his judgment had ripened. He, however, made a little clasped paper book his treasurer, and under the head of "Observations, Hints, Songs, and Scraps of Poetry," we find many a wayward and impassioned verse, songs rising little above the humblest country strain, or bursting into an elegance and a beauty worthy of the highest of minstrels. The first words noted down are the stanzas which he composed on his fair companion of the harvest-field, out of whose hands he loved to remove the nettle-stings and the thistles: the prettier song, beginning "Now westlin win's and slaughtering guns," written on the lass of Kirkoswald, with whom, instead of learning mensuration, he chose to wander under the light of the moon: a strain better still, inspired by the charms of a neighbouring maiden, of the name of Annie Ronald; another, of equal merit, arising out of his nocturnal adventures among the lasses of the west; and, finally, that crowning glory of all his lyric compositions, "Green grow the rashes." This little clasped book, however, seems not to have been made his confidante till his twenty-third or twenty-fourth year: he probably admitted to its pages only the strains which he loved most, or such as had taken a place in his memory: at whatever age it was commenced, he had then begun to estimate his own character, and intimate his fortunes, for he calls himself in its pages "a man who had little art in making money, and still less in keeping it."
We have not been told how welcome the incense of his songs rendered him to the rustic maidens of Kyle: women are not apt to be won by the charms of verse; they have little sympathy with dreamers on Parnassus, and allow themselves to be influenced by something more substantial than the roses and lilies of the muse. Burns had other claims to their regard then those arising from poetic skill: he was tall, young, good-looking, with dark, bright eyes, and words and wit at will: he had a sarcastic sally for all lads who presumed to cross his path, and a soft, persuasive word for all lasses on whom he fixed his fancy: nor was this all—he was adventurous and bold in love trystes and love excursions: long, rough roads, stormy nights, flooded rivers, and lonesome places, were no letts to him; and when the dangers or labours of the way were braved, he was alike skilful in eluding vigilant aunts, wakerife mothers, and envious or suspicions sisters: for rivals he had a blow as ready us he had a word, and was familiar with snug stack-yards, broomy glens, and nooks of hawthorn and honeysuckle, where maidens love to be wooed. This rendered him dearer to woman's heart than all the lyric effusions of his fancy; and when we add to such allurements, a warm, flowing, and persuasive eloquence, we need not wonder that woman listened and was won; that one of the most charming damsels of the West said, an hour with him in the dark was worth a lifetime of light with any other body; or that the accomplished and beautiful Duchess of Gordon declared, in a latter day, that no man ever carried her so completely off her feet as Robert Burns.
It is one of the delusions of the poet's critics and biographers, that the sources of his inspiration are to be found in the great classic poets of the land, with some of whom he had from his youth been familiar: there is little or no trace of them in any of his compositions. He read and wondered—he warmed his fancy at their flame, he corrected his own natural taste by theirs, but he neither copied nor imitated, and there are but two or three allusions to Young and Shakspeare in all the range of his verse. He could not but feel that he was the scholar of a different school, and that his thirst was to be slaked at other fountains. The language in which those great bards embodied their thoughts was unapproachable to an Ayrshire peasant; it was to him as an almost foreign tongue: he had to think and feel in the not ungraceful or inharmonious language of his own vale, and then, in a manner, translate it into that of Pope or of Thomson, with the additional difficulty of finding English words to express the exact meaning of those of Scotland, which had chiefly been retained because equivalents could not be found in the more elegant and grammatical tongue. Such strains as those of the polished Pope or the sublimer Milton were beyond his power, less from deficiency of genius than from lack of language: he could, indeed, write English with ease and fluency; but when he desired to be tender or impassioned, to persuade or subdue, he had recourse to the Scottish, and he found it sufficient.
The goddesses or the Dalilahs of the young poet's song were, like the language in which he celebrated them, the produce of the district; not dames high and exalted, but lasses of the barn and of the byre, who had never been in higher company than that of shepherds or ploughmen, or danced in a politer assembly than that of their fellow-peasants, on a barn-floor, to the sound of the district fiddle. Nor even of these did he choose the loveliest to lay out the wealth of his verse upon: he has been accused, by his brother among others, of lavishing the colours of his fancy on very ordinary faces. "He had always," says Gilbert, "a jealousy of people who were richer than himself; his love, therefore, seldom settled on persons of this description. When he selected any one, out of the sovereignty of his good pleasure, to whom he should pay his particular attention, she was instantly invested with a sufficient stock of charms out of the plentiful stores of his own imagination: and there was often a great dissimilitude between his fair captivator, as she appeared to others and as she seemed when invested with the attributes he gave her." "My heart," he himself, speaking of those days, observes, "was completely tinder, and was eternally lighted up by some goddess or other." Yet, it must be acknowledged that sufficient room exists for believing that Burns and his brethren of the West had very different notions of the captivating and the beautiful; while they were moved by rosy checks and looks of rustic health, he was moved, like a sculptor, by beauty of form or by harmony of motion, and by expression, which lightened up ordinary features and rendered them captivating. Such, I have been told, were several of the lasses of the West, to whom, if he did not surrender his heart, he rendered homage: and both elegance of form and beauty of face were visible to all in those of whom he afterwards sang—the Hamiltons and the Burnets of Edinburgh, and the Millers and M'Murdos of the Nith.
The mind of Burns took now a wider range: he had sung of the maidens of Kyle in strains not likely soon to die, and though not weary of the softnesses of love, he desired to try his genius on matters of a sterner kind—what those subjects were he tells us; they were homely and at hand, of a native nature and of Scottish growth: places celebrated in Roman story, vales made famous in Grecian song—hills of vines and groves of myrtle had few charms for him. "I am hurt," thus he writes in August, 1785, "to see other towns, rivers, woods, and haughs of Scotland immortalized in song, while my dear native county, the ancient Baillieries of Carrick, Kyle, and Cunningham, famous in both ancient and modern times for a gallant and warlike race of inhabitants—a county where civil and religious liberty have ever found their first support and their asylum—a county, the birth-place of many famous philosophers, soldiers, and statesmen, and the scene of many great events recorded in history, particularly the actions of the glorious Wallace—yet we have never had one Scotch poet of any eminence to make the fertile banks of Irvine, the romantic woodlands and sequestered scenes of Ayr. and the mountainous source and winding sweep of the Doon, emulate Tay, Forth, Ettrick, and Tweed. This is a complaint I would gladly remedy, but, alas! I am far unequal to the task, both in genius and education." To fill up with glowing verse the outline which this sketch indicates, was to raise the long-laid spirit of national song—to waken a strain to which the whole land would yield response—a miracle unattempted—certainly unperformed—since the days of the Gentle Shepherd. It is true that the tongue of the muse had at no time been wholly silent; that now and then a burst of sublime woe, like the song of "Mary, weep no more for me," and of lasting merriment and humour, like that of "Tibbie Fowler," proved that the fire of natural poesie smouldered, if it did not blaze; while the social strains of the unfortunate Fergusson revived in the city, if not in the field, the memory of him who sang the "Monk and the Miller's wife." But notwithstanding these and other productions of equal merit, Scottish poesie, it must be owned, had lost much of its original ecstasy and fervour, and that the boldest efforts of the muse no more equalled the songs of Dunbar, of Douglas, of Lyndsay, and of James the Fifth, than the sound of an artificial cascade resembles the undying thunders of Corra.
To accomplish this required an acquaintance with man beyond what the forge, the change-house, and the market-place of the village supplied; a look further than the barn-yard and the furrowed field, and a livelier knowledge and deeper feeling of history than, probably, Burns ever possessed. To all ready and accessible sources of knowledge he appears to have had recourse; he sought matter for his muse in the meetings, religious as well as social, of the district—consorted with staid matrons, grave plodding farmers—with those who preached as well as those who listened—with sharp-tongued attorneys, who laid down the law over a Mauchline gill—with country squires, whose wisdom was great in the game-laws, and in contested elections—and with roving smugglers, who at that time hung, as a cloud, on all the western coast of Scotland. In the company of farmers and fellow-peasants, he witnessed scenes which he loved to embody in verse, saw pictures of peace and joy, now woven into the web of his song, and had a poetic impulse given to him both by cottage devotion and cottage merriment. If he was familiar with love and all its outgoings and incomings—had met his lass in the midnight shade, or walked with her under the moon, or braved a stormy night and a haunted road for her sake—he was as well acquainted with the joys which belong to social intercourse, when instruments of music speak to the feet, when the reek of punchbowls gives a tongue to the staid and demure, and bridal festivity, and harvest-homes, bid a whole valley lift up its voice and be glad. It is more difficult to decide what poetic use he could make of his intercourse with that loose and lawless class of men, who, from love of gain, broke the laws and braved the police of their country: that he found among smugglers, as he says, "men of noble virtues, magnanimity, generosity, disinterested friendship, and modesty," is easier to believe than that he escaped the contamination of their sensual manners and prodigality. The people of Kyle regarded this conduct with suspicion: they were not to be expected to know that when Burns ranted and housed with smugglers, conversed with tinkers huddled in a kiln, or listened to the riotous mirth of a batch of "randie gangrel bodies" as they "toomed their powks and pawned their duds," for liquor in Poosie Nansie's, he was taking sketches for the future entertainment and instruction of the world; they could not foresee that from all this moral strength and poetic beauty would arise.
While meditating something better than a ballad to his mistress's eyebrow, he did not neglect to lay out the little skill he had in cultivating the grounds of Mossgiel. The prosperity in which he found himself in the first and second seasons, induced him to hope that good fortune had not yet forsaken him: a genial summer and a good market seldom come together to the farmer, but at first they came to Burns; and to show that he was worthy of them, he bought books on agriculture, calculated rotation of crops, attended sales, held the plough with diligence, used the scythe, the reap-hook, and the flail, with skill, and the malicious even began to say that there was something more in him than wild sallies of wit and foolish rhymes. But the farm lay high, the bottom was wet, and in a third season, indifferent seed and a wet harvest robbed him at once of half his crop: he seems to have regarded this as an intimation from above, that nothing which he undertook would prosper: and consoled himself with joyous friends and with the society of the muse. The judgment cannot be praised which selected a farm with a wet cold bottom, and sowed it with unsound seed; but that man who despairs because a wet season robs him of the fruits of the field, is unfit for the warfare of life, where fortitude is as much required as by a general on a field of battle, when the tide of success threatens to flow against him. The poet seems to have believed, very early in life, that he was none of the elect of Mammon; that he was too much of a genius ever to acquire wealth by steady labour, or by, as he loved to call it, gin-horse prudence, or grubbing industry.
And yet there were hours and days in which Burns, even when the rain fell on his unhoused sheaves, did not wholly despair of himself: he laboured, nay sometimes he slaved on his farm; and at intervals of toil, sought to embellish his mind with such knowledge as might be useful, should chance, the goddess who ruled his lot, drop him upon some of the higher places of the land. He had, while he lived at Tarbolton, united with some half-dozen young men, all sons of farmers in that neighbourhood, in forming a club, of which the object was to charm away a few evening hours in the week with agreeable chit-chat, and the discussion of topics of economy or love. Of this little society the poet was president, and the first question they were called on to settle was this, "Suppose a young man bred a farmer, but without any fortune, has it in his power to marry either of two women; the one a girl of large fortune, but neither handsome in person, nor agreeable in conversation, but who can manage the household affairs of a farm well enough; the other of them, a girl every way agreeable in person, conversation, and behaviour, but without any fortune, which of them shall he choose?" This question was started by the poet, and once every week the club were called to the consideration of matters connected with rural life and industry: their expenses were limited to threepence a week; and till the departure of Burns to the distant Mossgiel, the club continued to live and thrive; on his removal it lost the spirit which gave it birth, and was heard of no more; but its aims and its usefulness were revived in Mauchline, where the poet was induced to establish a society which only differed from the other in spending the moderate fines arising from non-attendance, on books, instead of liquor. Here, too, Burns was the president, and the members were chiefly the sons of husbandmen, whom he found, he said, more natural in their manners, and more agreeable than the self-sufficient mechanics of villages and towns, who were ready to dispute on all topics, and inclined to be convinced on none. This club had the pleasure of subscribing for the first edition of the works of its great associate. It has been questioned by his first biographer, whether the refinement of mind, which follows the reading of books of eloquence and delicacy,—the mental improvement resulting from such calm discussions as the Tarbolton and Mauchline clubs indulged in, was not injurious to men engaged in the barn and at the plough. A well-ordered mind will be strengthened, as well as embellished, by elegant knowledge, while over those naturally barren and ungenial all that is refined or noble will pass as a sunny shower scuds over lumps of granite, bringing neither warmth nor life.
In the account which the poet gives to Moore of his early poems, he says little about his exquisite lyrics, and less about "The Death and dying Words of Poor Mailie," or her "Elegy," the first of his poems where the inspiration of the muse is visible; but he speaks with exultation of the fame which those indecorous sallies, "Holy Willie's Prayer" and "The Holy Tulzie" brought from some of the clergy, and the people of Ayrshire. The west of Scotland is ever in the van, when mutters either political or religious are agitated. Calvinism was shaken, at this time, with a controversy among its professors, of which it is enough to say, that while one party rigidly adhered to the word and letter of the Confession of Faith, and preached up the palmy and wholesome days of the Covenant, the other sought to soften the harsher rules and observances of the kirk, and to bring moderation and charity into its discipline as well as its councils. Both believed themselves right, both were loud and hot, and personal,—bitter with a bitterness only known in religious controversy. The poet sided with the professors of the New Light, as the more tolerant were called, and handled the professors of the Old Light, as the other party were named, with the most unsparing severity. For this he had sufficient cause:—he had experienced the mercilessness of kirk-discipline, when his frailties caused him to visit the stool of repentance; and moreover his friend Gavin Hamilton, a writer in Mauchline, had been sharply censured by the same authorities, for daring to gallop on Sundays. Moodie, of Riccarton, and Russel, of Kilmarnock, were the first who tasted of the poet's wrath. They, though professors of the Old Light, had quarrelled, and, it is added, fought: "The Holy Tulzie," which recorded, gave at the same time wings to the scandal; while for "Holy Willie," an elder of Mauchline, and an austere and hollow pretender to righteousness, he reserved the fiercest of all his lampoons. In "Holy Willie's Prayer," he lays a burning hand on the terrible doctrine of predestination: this is a satire, daring, personal, and profane. Willie claims praise in the singular, acknowledges folly in the plural, and makes heaven accountable for his sins! in a similar strain of undevout satire, he congratulates Goudie, of Kilmarnock, on his Essays on Revealed Religion. These poems, particularly the two latter, are the sharpest lampoons in the language.
While drudging in the cause of the New Light controversialists, Burns was not unconsciously strengthening his hands for worthier toils: the applause which selfish divines bestowed on his witty, but graceless effusions, could not be enough for one who knew how fleeting the fame was which came from the heat of party disputes; nor was he insensible that songs of a beauty unknown for a century to national poesy, had been unregarded in the hue and cry which arose on account of "Holy Willie's Prayer" and "The Holy Tulzie." He hesitated to drink longer out of the agitated puddle of Calvinistic controversy, he resolved to slake his thirst at the pure well-springs of patriot feeling and domestic love; and accordingly, in the last and best of his controversial compositions, he rose out of the lower regions of lampoon into the upper air of true poetry. "The Holy Fair," though stained in one or two verses with personalities, exhibits a scene glowing with character and incident and life: the aim of the poem is not so much to satirize one or two Old Light divines, as to expose and rebuke those almost indecent festivities, which in too many of the western parishes accompanied the administration of the sacrament. In the earlier days of the church, when men were staid and sincere, it was, no doubt, an impressive sight to see rank succeeding rank, of the old and the young, all calm and all devout, seated before the tent of the preacher, in the sunny hours of June, listening to his eloquence, or partaking of the mystic bread and wine; but in these our latter days, when discipline is relaxed, along with the sedate and the pious come swarms of the idle and the profligate, whom no eloquence can edify and no solemn rite affect. On these, and such as these, the poet has poured his satire; and since this desirable reprehension the Holy Fairs, east as well as west, have become more decorous, if not more devout.