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Employment hazardous and wearisome !
Housing, with God's good help, by choice or chance; 105 And in this way he gained an honest maintenance.
The old man still stood talking by my side;
And the whole body of the man did seem
Or like a man from some far region sent,
My former thoughts returned: the fear that kills
And hope that is unwilling to be fed ;
And mighty poets in their misery dead.
120 He with a smile did then his words repeat;
And said, that, gathering leeches, far and wide
“ Once I could meet with them on every side ; 125 But they have dwindled long by slow decay ;
Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may.”
While he was talking thus, the lonely place,
I seemed to see him pace
130 About the weary moors continually,
Wandering about alone and silently.
And soon with this he other matter blended, 135 Cheerfully uttered, with demeanor kind,
But stately in the main; and when he ended,
“God," said I, "be my help and stay secure; 140 I 'll think of the Leech-gatherer on the lonely moor!”
“For my own affairs, I am in a fair way of becoming as eminent as Thomas à Kempis or John Bunyan; and you máy expect henceforth to see my birthday inserted among the wonderful events, in the Poor Robin's and Aberdeen Almanacks, along with the Black Monday and the Battle of Bothwell Bridge.” So Burns wrote to a friend in the brief heyday of his prosperity at Edinburgh. When his last illness came upon him, and his life seemed a shipwreck, he told his wife: “Don't be afraid : I'll be more respected hundred years after I am dead than I am at present.”
Both of these prophecies, the jocose and the serious, have been completely verified, for the 25th of January, 1759, Robert Burns's birthday, is a date to be found in many a list of the world's memorable events; and now that he has been dead a century, his fame lives secure with that of the great poets.
His father, William Burns, at the time of the poet's birth was a gardener and farm-overseer at Alloway in Ayrshire in Scotland, and was always a poor man.
Like many others of his class in Scotland, he prized highly every mental accomplishment, and gave his children, of whom the second son Gilbert was always the most closely identified with his elder brother Robert, every advantage within his limited reach. Through him an excellent teacher was brought to the village. An autobiographical letter from Burns to a friend acknowledges his early debt to this man for sound instructions, and, no less generously, to an igno