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INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME IV.
BURNS, in 1791, had reached the zenith of his powers. The date of Tam O'Shanter marks it. Dr. Waddell, of this period, most eloquently says: "His climax of ascension was over the Nith at Ellisland, with his countenance westward.* Such unprecedented elevation might no doubt have been prolonged, but his approaching removal to Dumfries as an officer of excise determined it.... That he still struggled with uncertain balance to retain it, is true ; but adverse influences, both natural and social, were already beginning to drag him down ; and occasional dallyings with the foreign English Muse, with exaggerated compliments to inferior rivals on the Mount of Song, whose topmost level never reached his feet, seem to indicate the approaching danger. To Dumfries, however, with darkening or illusive prospects, and dubious patronage; with multitudinous temptations and uncertain foot ; with sycophants, and spies, and tale-bearers to government and to posterity, before him, he must go. The establishment at Ellisland is dissolved; the disposal of stock and of all superfluous gear follows; the removal is accomplished. Farewell, Ellislandromantic, ill-cultivated, abortive farm !”
It was at Martinmas (November) 1791 that he removed from Ellisland to Dumfries, and, in September the following year, began his correspondence with George Thomson, from which sprang the finest collection of Songs ever penned by a single mortal.
The period covered in this volume is from October 1790 till April 1794 ; age 32 to 36.
* Meaning his mind's eye fixed on Alloway Kirk.
CONTENTS OF VOLUME IV.
The DUMFRIES PERIOD, NOVEMBER, 1791 TO JULY, 1796.
Impromptu on Dumouriez's desertion from the French Re-
Song-The last time I came o'er the Moor .
Song-Blythe hae I been on yon hill
Song-Logan Braes . .
Song-0 were my love yon lilac fair
Bonie Jean : a Ballad . .
Lines on John M'Murdo, Esq.
Epitaph on a Lap-dog
Epigrams against the Earl of Galloway