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CONTAINING HIS LIFE;
JOHN LOCKHART, ESQ.
THE POETRY AND CORRESPONDENCE
OF DR. CURRIE'S EDITION ;
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF THE POET,
BY HIMSELF, GILBERT BURNS, PROFESSOR STEWART, AND OTHERS;
FROM JOHNSON'S “ MUSICAL MUSEUM," AND "THOMPSON'S SELECT MELODIES :
SELECT SCOTTISH SONGS OF THE OTHER POETS,
FROM THE BEST COLLECTIONS,
WITH BURNS'S REMARKS.
FORMING, IN ONE WORK, THE TRUEST EXHIBITION OF THE MAN AND THE POET, AND THIR
FULLEST EDITION OF HIS POETRY AND PROSE WRITINGS HITHERTO PUBLISHED.
The following trifles are not the production of the poet, who, with all the advantages of learned art, and, perhaps, amid the elegancies and idleness of upper life, looks down for a rural theme, with an eye to Theocritus or Virgil. To the author of this, these and other celebrated names their countrymen are, at least in their original language, a fountain shut up, and a book sealed. Unacquainted with the necessary requisites for commencing poet by rule, he sings the sentiments and manners he felt and saw in him. self and rustic compeers around him, in his and their native language.Though a rhymer from his earliest years, at least from the earliest impulse of the softer passions, it was not till very lately that the applause, perhaps the partiality, of friendship, wakened his vanity so far as to make him think any thing of his worth showing; and none of the following works were composed with a view to the press. To amuse himself with the little creations of his own fancy, amid the toil and fatigues of a laborious life ; to transcribe the various feelings, the loves, the griefs, the hopes, the fears, in his own breast; to find some kind of counterpoise to the struggles of a world, always an alien scene, a task uncouth to the poetical mind-these were his motives for courting the Muses, and in these he found poetry to be its own reward.
Now that he appears in the public character of an author, he does it with fear and trembling. So dear is fame to the rhyming tribe, that even he, an obscure, nameless bard, shrinks aghast at the thought of being branded as—An impertinent blockhead, obtruding his nonsense on the world ; and, because he can make a shift to jingle a few doggerel Scotch rhymes together, looking upon himself as a poet of no small consequence, forsooth!
It is an observation of that celebrated poet, Shenstone, whose divine elegies do honour to our language, our nation, and our species, that “ Humility has depressed many a genius to a hermit, but never raised one to fame!” If any critic catches at the word genius, the author tells him once for all, that he certainly looks upon himself as possessed of some poetic abilities, otherwise his publishing in the manner he has done, would be a manœuvre below the worst character, which, he hopes, his worst enemy will ever give him. But to the genius of a Ramsay, or the glorious dawnings of the poor, unfortunate Fergusson, he, with equal unaffected sincerity, declares, that, even in his highest pulse of vanity, he has not the most distant pretensions. These two justly admired Scotch poets he has often had in his sye in the following pieces; but rather with a view to kindle at their flame, than for servile imitation.
To his subscribers, the author returns his most sincere thanks : Not the mercenary bow over a counter, but the heart-throbbing gratitude of the bard, conscious how much he owes to benevolence and friendship for gratifying him, if he deserves it, in that dearest wish of every poetic bosomto be distinguished. He begs his readers, particularly the learned and the polite, who may honour him with a perusal, that they will make every al. lowance for education and circumstances of life ; but if, after a fair, candid, and impartial criticism, he shall stand convicted of dullness and nonsense, let him he done by as he would in that case do by others- let hini be condemned, without mercy, to contempt and oblivion.