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TO A MOUNTAIN DAISY.
ON TURNING ONE DOWN WITH THE PLOUGH IN APRIL, 1786.
WEE, modest, crimson-tippèd flow'r,
NOTES TO THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT.
(The numbers refer to lines.)
THIS is the best known of Burns's longer poems. As we have already learned from our study of the poet, his father's cottage supplied the principal features. But the poem has a far wider significance. It is a description of the ideal peasant life of Scotland. In its substantial elements, an exemplification
might have been found in a thousand homes. Said an old Scotch servingwoman, to whom a copy of "The Cotter's Saturday Night " had been given for perusal, "Gentlemen and ladies may think muckle o' this; but for me it's naething but what I saw i' my faither's house every day, and I dinna see how he could hae tell't it ony ither way."
It would lead us too far to inquire particularly into the causes that have produced this beautiful peasant life. No doubt the basis of it is to be found in the native sturdiness of the Scotch character. But the immediate cause must be sought in religion. The truths and duties of Christianity occupied a large place in the daily thought and life. The sentiment of reverence, which seems to be sadly lacking at the present time, was carefully cultivated. Family worship was general; the Sabbath was strictly observed; the Bible was revered and studied to an unusual degree. "The Cotter's Saturday Night" shows us how a humble, laboring life may be glorified by a simple, earnest, reverent piety.
1. R. Aikin, to whom the poem is inscribed, was an attorney of Ayr, and a man of worth.
2. Mercenary bard. – The poem was inspired, not by the hope of pecuniary reward, but simply by the promptings of friendly affection. songs, lyric poems. A favorite word with poets in the last
class, company. Another favorite word, much used by Goldsmith in the "Deserted Village."
9. Ween think, imagine. From A. S. wenan, to imagine.
10. Sugh a sighing sound as of wind in the trees. The local features of the poem are in the Ayrshire dialect, the poet's vernacular.
12. Miry covered with mire or wet soil. — Pleugh = plough.
27. Toil. This word seems to have been pronounced tile. In the last century of frequently had the sound of long i.
31. Cannie 34. Braw
drive the plough. Literally, call. - Tentie rin
Tentie is a corruption of attentive.
trustworthy, careful. — Neebor
35. Deposit has the accent on the first syllable. — Sair-won
wages paid in money. Penny is used vaguely for money. inquires.
44. Gars auld claes, etc.
47. Younkers = youngsters. 48. Eydent diligent.
49. Jauk trifle, dally.
92. Halesome parritch = wholesome porridge, oatmeal pudding. 93. Sowpe
94. 'Yont beyond. - Hallan = screen or low partition between the fireplace and the door.
96. Weel-hain'd well kept. - Kebbuck cheese.
99. How 'twas a towmond, etc.
how it was a twelvemonth old since
flax was in the bloom; that is, the cheese was a year old last flax-blossoming.
103. Ha'-Bible =
or chief room.
hall Bible; that is, the family Bible kept in the hall
a cap or covering for the head, in common use before
the introduction of hats, and still used by the Scotch.
105. Lyart gray, mixed gray. — Haffets = temples; literally, half
107. Wales= chooses. Cf. Ger. wählen, to choose.
III. Dundee, Martyrs, Elgin = names of Scottish psalm-tunes. 113. Beets adds fuel to.
121. Amalek's ungracious progeny =
the Amalekites, a fierce and war
like Canaanitish nation. They were uncompromising in their hostility to the Israelites. See Deut. xxv. 17-19.
122. Royal bard David. See 2 Sam. xii. 16.
133. He the Apostle John.
Patmos = an island in the Ægean Sea, to which John was banished in the year 94, and where he wrote Revelation. 135. Babylon the figurative Babylon spoken of in Rev. xviii. 2-24. Usually interpreted among Protestants as referring to papal Rome. 138. From Pope's "Windsor Forest."
the national hero of Scotland. He lived in the thirteenth
TO A MOUSE.
4. Bickering brattle
5. Wad be, etc. =
= a short race.
would be loathe to run.
6. Pattle = a paddle for cleaning the soil from the plough. 13. Whyles
= rare, now and then; daimen-icker = an ear of corn now Thrave two shocks or twenty-four sheaves of corn; a consider
frail, weak. Wa's walls.