Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

His lengthen's chin, hi. urn'd-up snout, | him resist God, and are fit only to bo His eldritch squeel and gestures,

punished ; may He "blast their name, Oh! how they fire the heart devout, Like cantharidian plasters,

who bring thy elders to disgrace, and On sic a day!

public shame.”* Burns says also: The minister grows hoarse; now " Smith

“ An honest man may like a glass,

An honest man may like a lass, opens out his cauld harangues," then

But mean revenge an' malice fause wo more ministers speak. At last

He'll still disdain ; he audience rest, “the Change-house An then cry zeal for gospel laws ills," and people begin to eat; each

Like some we ken. ... prirgs cakes and cheese from his bag ;

... I rather would be,

An atheist clean, .he young folks have their arms round Than under gospel colours hid be cheir lassies' waists. That was an at

Just for a screen." | citude to listen in! There is a great There is a beauty, an honesty, a hap, noise in the inn; the cans rattle on the piness outside the conventionalities and doard; whiskey flows, and provides hypocrisy, beyond correct preachings arguments to the tipplers commenting and proper drawing-rooms, unconnect: on the sermons. They demolish carnaled with gentlemen in white ties and reason, and exalt free faith. Argu- reverends in new bands. ments and stamping, shouts of sellers

In 1785 Burns wrote his masterpiece, and drinkers, all mingle together. It the Folly Beggars, like the Gueux of is a “holy fair :

Béranger; but how much more pic“ But now the Lord's ain trumpet touts, turesque, varied, and powerful! It is Till a' the hills are rairin',

the end of autumn, the gray leaves An' echoes back return the shouts ; float on the gusts of the wind; a joyous Black Russeil is na sparin'; His piercing words, like Highlan' swords,

band of vagabonds, happy devils, come Divide the joints and marrow.

for a junketing at the change-house of His talk o' hell, where devils dwell, Poosie Nansie: Our vera sauls does harrow Wi' fright that day.

Wi' quaffing and laughing

They ranted and they sang ; A vast unbottom'd boundless pit,

Wil jumping and thumping
Fill'd fu' o' lowin' brunstane,

The very girdle rang.
Wha's raging flame, an scorchin' heat,
Wad melt the hardest whunstane.

First, by the fire, in old red rags, is a The half-asleep start up wi' fear,

soldier, and his old woman is with him ; An' think they hear it roarin',

the jolly old girl has drunk freely; he When presently it does appear

kisses her, and she again pokes out her 'Twas but some neebor snorin' Asleep that day.

greedy lips; the coarse loud kisses

smack like “a cadger's whip.” “ Then How monie hearts this day converts O sinners and o' lasses !

staggering and swaggering, he roar'd Their hearts o stane, gin night, are gane,

this ditty up:" As saft as ony flesh is.

I lastly was with Curtis, among the floating There's some are fou o' love divine,

batt'ries, There's some are fou o' brandy." +

And there I left for witness an arm and Etc. etc.

Yet let my country need me, with Elliot te The young men meet the girls, and the devil does a better business than God.

I'd clatter on my stumps at the sound of a A fine ceremony and morality! Let drum. us cherish it carefully, and our wise

He ended ; and the kebars sheuk,

Aboon the chorus' roar; theology too, which damns men.

While frighted rattons backward lead As for that poor dog common sense,

And seek the benmost bore.” which bites so hard, let us send him across seas; let him go "and bark in Now it is the “doxy's " turn : France." For where shall we find I once was a maid, tho' I cannot tell when, better men than our “unco guid"

And still my delight is in proper young Holy Willie for instance ? He feels

Some one of a troop of dragoons was my dad himself predestinated, full of never- die, failing grace ; therefore al who resist

# Holy Willie's Prayer: • The Holy Fair.

t Ibidh:

1 Epistle to the Rev. John M Math

[ocr errors]

limb;

head me,

men..

No wonder I'm fond of a sodger laddie.

Vain is his hope, whose stay and trust is The first of my loves was a swaggering blade, In moral mercy, truth and justice !” * To rattle thr thundering drum was his trade.

Mercy! this grand word renews all The sword i forsook for the sake of the Now, as formerly, eighteen centuries

church. .. Full soon I grew sick of my sanctified sot,

ago, men rose above legal formulas and The regiment at large for a husband I got, prescriptions; now, as formerly, under From the gilded spontoon to the fife I was Virgil and Marcus Aurelius, refined ready,

sensibility, and wide sympathies emI asked no more but a sodger laddie. But the peace it reduc'd me to begin despair of the pale of society and law. Burns

braced beings who seemed forever out Till I met my old boy at a Cunningham fair; His rags regimental they flutter'd so gaudy, pities, and that sincerely, a wounded My heart it rejoic'd at a sodger laddie.

hare, a mouse whose nest was upBut whilst with both handso I can hold the turned by his plough, a mountain daisy.

glass steady, Here's to thee, my hero, my sodger laddie.” Is there such a very great difference

А l'his is certainly a free and easy style, mouse stores up, calculates, suffers

between man, beast, or plant? and the poet is not mealy-mouthed.

like a man : His other characters are in the same taste, a Merry Andrew, a raucle carlin “I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve ; (a stout beldame), a " pigmy-scraper

What then? poor beastie, thou maun live." wi' his fiddle," a travelling tinker,--all We even no longer wish to cwrse the in rags, brawlers and gipsies, who fallen angels, the grand malefactors, fight, bang, and kiss each oher, and Satan and his troop. Like the “randie, make the glasses ring with the noise gangrel bodies, who in Poosie Nancy's of their good humor :

held the splore,” they have their good “ They toomed their pocks, and pawned their points, and perhaps after all are not so duds,

bad as people say: They scarcely left to co'er their fuds,

“ Hear me, auld Hangie, for a wee, To quench their lowin' drouth."

An' let poor damned bodies be;

I'm sure sma' pleasure it can gie, And their chorus rolls about like thun

E'en to a deil, der, shaking the rafters and walls.

To skelp an' scaud poor dogs like me,

And hear us squeell . “ A fig for those by law protected ! Liberty's a glorious feast!

Then you, ye auld, snic-drawing dog! Courts for cowards were erected,

Ye came to Paradise incog.,
Churches built to please the priest!

An' played on man a cursed brogue,

(Black be your fa' I). What is title? What is treasure ?

An' gied the infant warld a shog,
What is reputation's care?

'Maist ruin'da'.
If we lead a life of pleasure,
'Tis no matter how or where!

But, fare you weel, auld Nickie-ben! With the ready trick and fable,

O wad ye tak a thought an' men'!
Round we wander all the day ;

Ye aiblins might-I dinna ken

Still hae a stake-
And at night, in barn or stable,

I'm wae to think upo' yon den,
Hug our doxies on the hay.

Ey'n for your sake." ť
Life is all a variorum,
We regard not how it goes ;

We see that he speaks to the devil as Let then cant about decorum,

to an unfortunate comrade, a disagree Who have characters to lose.

able fellow, but fallen into trouble. Let Here's to budgets, bags and wallets !

us take another step, and we will see Here's to all the wandering train I in a contemporary, Goethe, that Me Here's our ragged brats and callets!

phistopheles himself is not overmuch One and all cry out--Amen."

damned ; his god, the modern god, ilas any man better spoken the lan- | tolerates him and tells him he has guage of rebels and levellers? There is never hated such as he. For wide conhere, however, something else than the ciliating nature assembles in her cominstinct of destruction and an appeal pany, on equal terms, the ministers of to the senses; there is hatred of cant destruction and life. In this deep and return to nature. Burns sings : change the ideal changes; citizen and “ Morality, thou deadly banez,

* A Dedication to Gavin Hamilton. Thy tens o' thousands thou hast slain ;

1 Address to the Deil.

orderly life, strict Puritan duty, do not soiled the bark. Doubtless he did not exhaust all the powers of man. Burns boast about these excesses, he rather cries out in favor of instinct and enjoy- repented of them; but as to the upris ment, so as to seem epicurean. He has ing and blooming of the free poetic life genuine gayety, a glow of jocularity; in the open air, he found no fault with laughter commends itself to him; he it

. He thought that love, with the praises it as well as the good suppers of charming dreams it brings, poetry, good comrades, where wine is plentiful, pleasure, and the rest, are beautiful pleasantry abounds, ideas pour forth, things, suitable to human instincts, and ppetry sparkles, and causes a carnival therefore to the designs of God. In of beautiful figures and good-humored short, in contrast with morose Puritan people to move about in the human ism, he approved joy and spoke well brain.

of happiness.* He always was in love. He made Not that he was a mere epicurean love the great end of existence, to such on the contrary, he could be religious a degree that at the club which he When, after the death of his father, he founded with the young men of Tar- prayed aloud in the evening, he drew bolton, every member was obliged “to tears from those present; and his be the declared lover of one or more Cottar's Saturday Night is the most fair ones.” From the age of fifteen heartfelt of virtuous idyls. I even bethis was his main business. He had lieve he was fundamentally religious, for companion in his harvest toil a He advised his “pupil as he tenders sweet and lovable girl, a year younger his own peace, to keep up a regular than himself: " In short, she, alto- warm intercourse with the Deity.” gether unwittingly to herself, initiated What he made fun of was official worme in that delicious passion, which, in ship; but as for religion, the language spite of acid disappointment, gin-horse of the soul, he was greatly attached to prudence, and book-worm philosophy, it. Often before Dugald Stewart at Î hold to be the first of human joys, Edinburgh, he disapproved of the skepour dearest blessing here below." I tical jokes which he heard at the supper He sat beside her with a joy which he table. He thought he had “every did not understand, to “pick out from evidence for the reality of a life beyond her little hand the cruel nettle-stings the stinted bourne of our present exand thistles.” He had many other less istence ; ” and many a time, side by innocent fancies; it seems to me that side with a jocose satire, we find in his by his very nature he was in love with writings stanzas full of humble repentall women: as soon as he saw a pretty ance, confiding fervor, or Christian re one, he grew lively; his commonplace- signation. These, if you will, are a book and his songs show that he set poet's contradictions, but they are also off in pursuit after every butterfly, a poet's divinations; under these apgolden or not, which seemed about to parent variations there rises a new settle. Moreover he did not confine ideal; old narrow moralities are to give himself to Platonic reveries; he was as place to the wide sympathy of the mo free of action as of words ; broad jests dern man, who loves the beautiful cu op up freely in his verses. He calls wherever it meets him, and who, rehimself an unregenerate heathen, and fusing to mutilate human nature, is at he is right. He has even written ob- once Pagan and Christian scene verses; and Lord Byron refers to This originality and divining instinct a quantity of his letters, of course un-exist in his style as in his ideas. The published, than which worse could not specialty of the age in which we live, be imagined : 1 it was the excess of the and which he inaugurated, is to blot sap which overflowed in him, and out rigid distinctions of class, cate.

• He himself says: “I have been all along chism, and style; academic, moral, ou - miserable dupe to Love." His brother Gil- social conventions are falling away, anú bert said : " He was constantly the victim of we claim in society a mastery for inBume fair enslaver." + Chambers' Life of Burns, i. 12.

dividual merit, in morality for inboni Byron's Works, ed. Moore, 19 vois, ii. * See a passage from Burns' commonplace 302, Journal, Dec. 13, 1813

book in Chambers' Life of Burns, i. 93.

[ocr errors]

generosity, in literature for genuine | people. He was respected, and even feeling. Burns was the first to enter loved. A subscription brought him on this track, and he often pursues it a second edition and five hundred to the end. When he wrote verses, it pounds. He also at last had won his was not on calculation or in obedience position like the great French plebeians, to fashion : “My passions, when once amongst whom Rousseau was the first. lighted up, aged like so many devils, Unfortunately he brought thither, like till they get vent in rhyme; and then them, the vices of his condition and of the conning over my verses, like a spell, his genius. A man oes not rise witb soothed all into quiet.” * He hummed impunity, nor, above all, desire to rise them to old Scotch airs which he pas- with impunity : we also have our vices, sionately loved, as he drove his plough, and suffering vanity is the first of them and whích, he says, as soon as he sang “Never did a heart pant more ardently them, brought ideas and rhymes to his than mine to be distinguished,” said lips. That, indeed, was natural poetry; Burns. This grievous pride marred not forced in a hothouse, but born of his talent, and threw him into follies. the soil between the furrows, side by He labored to attain a fine epistolary side with music, amidst the gloom and style, and brought ridicule on himself peauty of the climate, like the violet by imitating in his letters the men of heather of the moors and the hillside. the academy and the court. He wrote We can

understand that it gave to his lady-loves with choice phrases, vigor to his tongue. For the first time full of periods as pedantic as those of this man spoke as men speak, or rather Dr. Johnson. Certainly we dare hardas they think, without premeditation, ly quote them, the emphasis is so gro: with a mixture of all styles, familiar tesque. * At other times he committed and terrible, hiding an emotion under to his commonplace-book literary exa joke, tender and jeering in the same pressions that occurred to him, and six place, apt to place side by side tap. months afterwards sent them to his oom trivialities and the high language correspondents as extemporary effuof poetry, † so indifferent was he to sions and natural improvisations. Even ules, content to exhibit his feeling as it in his verses, often enough, he fell into came to him, and as he felt it. At last, a grand conventional style ; † brought after so many years, we escape from into play sighs, ardors, Aames, even measured declamation, we hear a man's the big classical and mythological mavoice ! and what is better still, we for- chinery. Béranger, who thought or get the voice in the emotion which it called himself the poet of the people, expresses, we feel this emotion reflected did the same. A plebeian must have in ourselves, we enter into relations much courage to venture on always rewith a soul. Then form seems to fade maining himself, and never slipping on away and disappear: I think that this the court dress. Thus Burns, a Scott is the great feature of modern poetry; ish villager, avoided, in speaking, all seven or eight times has Burns reached Scotch village expressions: he was it

pleased to show himself as well-bred He has done more ; he has made his as fashionable folks. It was forcibly way, as we say, now-a-days. On the and by surprise that his genius drew publication of his first volume he be him away from the proprieties : twios came suddenly famous. Coming to out of three times his feeling was mar Edinburgh, he was feasted, caressed, red by his pretentiousness. admitted on a footing of equality in the His success lasted one winter, after best drawing-rooms, amongst the great and the learned, loved of a woman who

"O Clarinda, shall we not meet in a state. was almost a lady. For one season he lavish hand of plenty shall minister to the

some yet unknown state of being, where the was sought after, and he behaved highest wish of benevolence, and where the worthily amidst these rich and noble chill north-wind of prudence shall never blow

over the flowery fields of enjoyment?. • Chambers' Life, i. 38.

Epistle to Fames Smith : + See Tam o Shanter, Address to the Deil,

“O Life, how pleasant is thy morning, The Jolly Beggars, A Man's a Man for a' Young Fancy's rays the hills adorning, that, Groen Grow the Rashos, etc.

Cold-pausing Caution's lesson spurning!"

which the wide incurable wound of himself, begins again the next day, but plebeianism made itself felt, -I mean in a contrary direction, and ends by that he was obliged to work for his finding nothing left in him, but ruins living. With the money gained by the within and without. Burns had never second edition of his poems he took a been prudent, and was so less than little farm. It was a bad bargain; and, ever, after his s'iccess at Edinburgh. moreover, we can imagine that he had He had enjoyed too much; he hencenot the money-grubbing character ne forth felt too acutely the painful sting cessary. He says: " I might write you of modern man, namely the disproporon farming, on building, on marketing ; tion between the desire for certain but my poor distracted mind is so things and the power of obtaining them. torn, so jaded, so racked, and bedeviled Debauch had all but spoiled his fine with the task of the superlatively damno imagination, which had before been ed obligation to make one guinea do “ the chief source of his happiness ;' the business of three, that I detest, and he confessed that instead of tender abhor, and swoon at the very word reveries, he had now nothing but senbusiness.” Soon he left his farm, with sual desires. He had been kept drinkempty pockets, to fill it Dumfries the ing till six in the morning; he was small post of exciseman, which was very often drunk at Dumfries, not worth, in all, £90 a year. In this fine that the whiskey was very good, but employment he branded leather, gauged it makes thoughts to whirl about in casks, tested the make of candles, is the head; and hence poets, like the sued licenses for the transit of spirits. poor, are fond of it. Once at Mr. From his dunghills he passed to office Riddell's he made himself so tipsy that work and grocery: what a life for he insulted the lady of the house ; next such a man! He would have been un- day he sent her an apology which was happy, even if independent and rich. not accepted, and out of spite, wrote These great innovators, these poets, rhymes against her: a lamentable exare all alike. What makes them poets cess, betraying an unseated mind. At is the violent afflux of sensations. thirty-seven he was worn out. One They have a nervous mechanism more night, having drunk too much, he sat sensitive than ours; the objects which down and went to sleep in the street. leave us cool, transport them suddenly It was January, and he caught rheubeyond themselves. At the least shock matic fever. His family wanted to their brain is set going, after which call in a doctor. “ What business has they once more fall flat, loathe exist- a physician to waste his time on me?" ence, sit morose amidst the memories he said; “I am

a poor pigeon not of their faults and their lost pleasures. worth plucking.” He was horribly thin, Burns said : “My worst enemy is moi- could not sleep, and could not stand on même.. There are just two crea: his legs. “ As to my individual self I am tures I would envy: a horse in his wild tranquil. But Burns' poor widow and state traversing the forests of Asia, or half a dozen of his dear little ones, an oyster on some of the desert shores there I am as weak as a woman's tear." of Europe. The one has not a wish He was even afraid he should not e without enjoyment, the other has in peace, and had the bitterness of be neither wish nor fear." He was al-ing obliged to beg. Here is a lettes he ways in extremes, at the height of ex- wrote to a friend : “A rascal of a haber altation or in the depth of depression; dasher, taking into his head that I am in the inorning, ready to weep; in the dying, has commenced a process against evening at table or under the table; me, and will infallibly put my emaciated enamored of Jean Armour, then on her body into jail. Will you be so good as refusal engaged to another, then return to accommodate me, and that by return ing. to Jean, then quitting, her, then of post, with ten pounds ? O James ! taking her back, amidst much scandal, did you know the pride of my heart, many blots on his character, still more you would feel doubly for me ! Alas, disgust. In such heads ideas are like I am not used to beg!”* He died a cannon balls : the man, hurled onwards,

* Chambers' Life; Letter to Mr. Js. Burnus bursts througļ every thing, shatters iv. 205.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »