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THE BIRTHPLACE OF BURNS.
BT H. M. FIELD.
My first visit in Scotland has been to the birthplace of Robert Burns. I came last night from Ireland, and this morning went down to Ayr. I have an enthusiastic feeling for Burns; and as I set out from the town of Ayr, to walk two miles to the cottage in which he was born, my head was full of recollections of his life and of his poetry. Favourite lines, that had delighted me a thousand times in America, came fresh to mind; and I could not help repeating them over and over as I walked on. A rapid pace soon brought me to the humble roof. It is a low, one story cottage, thatched with straw; but it is neatly kept, and has a pleasing, rustic look. A little sign by the door gives notice that "In this cottage was born Robert Burns, the Ayrshire Poet, January 25, 1759." I went in, and was received by a neat Scotchwoman, who showed me a small recess in the wall of the kitchen, in which stood the bed in which the poet was born. A small window by the bed remains as it was eighty years ago; and the same stone floor is there, on which the poet played when he was a child.
Alloway Kirk is very near the cottage. It is an old stone church, now roofless. In the graveyard stands a monument to William Burns, the father of the poet, the patriarch of the Cotter's Saturday Night. This was the scene of Tam O'Shanter's encounter with the witches, and the Bridge of Doon is close by, over which he effected his escape. Here has been erected, within a few years, a chaste and beautiful monument to the memory of Burns. An untaught sculptor has executed two statues, which are placed here, of Tam O'Shanter and Souter Johnny over their cups. They are done to the life. Never was the happy, drunken look of topers, more exactly depicted. A good story is told of an Irish tar, who went in to see them while they were exhibiting in Dublin. He thought he had paid his money to see theatricals, and after gazing a while, he spoke out to Tam, who, he thought, was laughing at him, "Put yer grog in yer mouth, my boy, and get on with yer play, and don't sit there laughing, and keeping the company waiting."
In the monument is preserved with religious care, the Bible which Burns presented to his Highland Mary, and over which they pledged their love. On the fly-leaf is written, " And ye shall not swear by my name falsely; I am the Lord.—Robert Burns."
The most touching passage in the life of Burns, and the inspiration of some of his most oeautiful pieces, was his affection for Mary Campbell. The scene of their parting was
several miles above, on the banks of the Ayr. There they met on a Sunday in May, and laving their hands in the stream, vowed over Mary's Bible, love, "while the woods of Montgomery grew, and its waters ran." It is to this scene Burns alludes in the lines:
"Ye banks and braes and streams around
The Castle of Montgomery:"—
We tore ourselves asunder:
That nipt my flower so early!
Burns seems never to have got over the blow inflicted by her death, and it was with feelings of inextinguishable affection and the keenest distress, that he composed, years afterwards, on the anniversary of her loss, his most beautiful lines to "Mary in Heaven."
After lingering some time on the bridge, I walked down to the banks of the Doon, and, sitting down by the current, took out a little copy of Burns's Songs which I had brought with me, and read those lines, so full of sadness :—
"Ye banks and braes of bonny Doon,
This was a strain which he often touched. The loss of the object of his affection, and the hopeless penury which crushed him to the earth, gave a pensive tone to his mind. His feelings of grief and woe are constantly breaking out in his poetry. The peace of nature, contrasting with the agitation of his spirit, awoke his most plaintive strains. He says of himself, after describing "rejoicing nature," and the singing birds,—
"But life to me's a weary dream,
The dream of one that never wakes;
And when the lark, 'tween light and dark,
And mounts and sings on fluttering wings,
From the Doon I returned to the cottage. His father's roof and family were in the poet's mind when he wrote the "Cotter's Saturday Night." I sat down in the room in which he was born, and read over again that description of the household piety of Scotland, a description which is almost worthy to be classed with the Psalms of David. Before me was the fireplace, "blazing bonnily," around which the old man gathered his children to worship God, and the stones on which he knelt to pray.
I came away with my heart full. "Why is it," I thought, "that Burns is read and loved in all lands? Simply because he is the poet of Nature, and describes those simple affections which are felt by human hearts everywhere." He had an exquisite sensibility to the beauties of nature as well as to the charms of love. The sight of groves and streams touched his heart like plaintive music. No poet has depicted Nature by more delicate touches. Spring, autumn, and winter, all had a beauty in his eye. A glory like the sunset gilded the opening and the dying year.
"Fen winter bleak hu charms to me,
Are hoary gray;
Darkening the day."
Burns excels all other poets in describing the passion of love, and in his pictures of domestic life. His own heart was capable of strong attachments, and he described what he felt. Was there ever employed so beautiful an image to illustrate the first opening feeling of love, when the heart trembles at what it finds in itself, as this ?—
"As in the bosom of the stream
The moonbeam dwells at dewy e'en,
I cannot but think it a happy circumstance that Burns never had a classical education. If his poems had been strewn with classical allusions, he might have gained the name of a scholar, and lost the immortality of a poet. But he paints only what all see and feel as well as himself. Born under a roof of straw, and passing his life among peasants, he has written what cannot die, as long as the flowers bloom, and the birds sing, or the human heart retains a spark of simple feeling.
The life of Burns closed in gloom. He was deserted by pretended friends, even on his deathbed. It is a shame that he should have been left to struggle on through life with such difficulties. And yet one can hardly regret that he was poor. Had he been rich, or a man of fashion or of the world, he never could have written as he has. To the privations which he had to suffer is owing that plaintive strain which forms so marked and fascinating an element of his poetry.
Burns died when but thirty-seven years old. Yet the earthly existence of that mind cannot be counted brief which has made nations glad with its melodies. We learn to measure life by what it accomplishes, rather than by the period it lasts, when we think of such minds as
"Chatterton, the marvellous boy,
BT R. W. H.
Oh! thou hast haunted me! Those eyes of thine,
Through their incomparable lashes beaming,
To have hung enraptured on the liquid sound
Oh! had it been
But I had won thee! And, by earth and heaven,
I would have won thec! For the earnest will
But these are empty dreams,—imaginings
To be forgotten for all future timo,
About thy footsteps, evil hold aloof
BY ERNESTINE FITZGERALD.
"Better than the seen lies hid."
A Pure, wingless cherub comes up to mine eye,
As I call, at your bidding, my first; Not Latona in Sol more bright charms could descry,
Than on me, in fresh childhood, here burst; No Madonna e'er gazed on her radiant godborn,
With more of the rose-sweet, or less of the thorn.
Yet I, even I, while diviner I grow,
My second around you so gently may throw.
But closer you'll press me, your grief to beguile,
And summon, for solace, my calm angel-smile.
Ah! now you adore me! for round me pure Art
Hath woven sweet hues all her own; You feel, though incarnate from beats of the heart,
Her regalia, celestial, are thrown, To make me an altar all earth-fires above, My priestess a Psyche—an ether-winged Love! A VISIT TO MOSCOW.
BY AN AMERICAN.
Wednesday, the 23d of May, 18—, one o'clock p. M., found me seated in the most commodious and elegant of post-carriages. It was the coach belonging to the Imperial government, and was attached to that service of the Post Department known as the "Extra Post," in contradistinction to the other post conveyances; inasmuch as it is the fastest post in the Empire, and performs the distance between St. Petersburg and Moscow, a distance of seven hundred and twenty-eight versts, or five hundred and twenty-five miles, in forty-eight hours. It was an English carriage, made in England expressly for the service, divided into two apartments, each to hold two persons, and giving to each person plenty of elbow and leg-room— this last, especially to me, a great desideratum. The fare through to Moscow, was twenty-five roubles, silver,—about twenty dollars. I had for my companion, a young man attached to the Foreign Office—a noble, from the neighbourhood of Moscow; pleasant, inquisitive, like all the Russians, and a great talker. Two other companions I also had, who, though they did not take up much room in the coach, were nevertheless very worthy characters,—to wit, a bottle of Madeira, some sixty years old, which a lady-friend gave me from her private cellar, and a bottle of the Tardieu Brandy. I need hardly add that in this instance, if never before, I acted upon the principle that, "there's no use of having friends, if one can't use them."
Our carriage was drawn by four horses abreast, and two in front; and I may say that, from the time we left the Post-office, till our arrival at Moscow, whenever our horses were in motion, they were put at their fullest speed —a dead run. I may here remark that I have never seen such a road as that between St. Petersburg and Moscow. It could not be excelled. Setting out from St. Petersburg, it runs as straight as an arrow to Moscow; and its macadamized surface is as hard almost as the flinty rock. Indeed, I cannot compare it to anything but a railway. There is no more jar than in an ordinary railway carriage ; and the speed is almost equal to that of the steamhorse. At every verst on the road is a postsign, indicating the distance from station to station; and you fly by them so fast that you have hardly time to read the figures.
At most of the station-houses on the road, are found restaurants. These were generally well kept, and at all of them the traveller will find at least a good cup of tea, or "cAt," as it is called in Russia. This is indeed a luxury. We, in the United States and in England, do
Vol. Till. 21
not know what a good cup of tea is. I have never seen the like anywhere except in Russia; whether it is because we do not pay enough for it, or whether it is that the sea voyage destroys its natural flavour, I know not; although I have heard that the tea used in Russia, which comes over by land from China, is grown in a province of the Tartar Chinese Empire, which we in the United States, know not of; but the Russian tea is certainly delicious. It is served in tumblers, at the station-houses. We found, also, good beefsteaks; and three times a day did the conductor of the post-coach give us a half hour to satisfy our "inner man." Indeed, throughout our journey, the conductor was very attentive and obliging, no doubt expecting a fee at the end of our journey; which, by the by, he did not fail to receive. Of the towns and villages we passed on the road, I cannot say much in praise. True, I was asleep when we drove through Novgorod, Torjock, and others dignified with the name of " towns;" but of those towns I did see, viz., Voldai, Tver, and Vishney Volotckock, but littjg can be said, except of the last mentioned, wlH« certainly presents a very pretty, and, what is unusual to find in Russia, an animated view. In this town we drove along a very large and beautifully constructed canal, which was covered with barges laden for the Caspian Sea; for this canal unites the Baltic and the Caspian. We also drove by a pretty park, where I observed a good many ladies, and, I am sorry to say, not a pretty face among them. Strange that beauty has been so sparing of her charms in Russia. The men are well enough, but the women !—they are the most disagreeable-looking objects I ever looked upon.
The villages we passed are " hard-looking" enough; seldom did I see a decent house in a single village. The dwellings are all built of logs, line each side of the road, are of the same form and dimensions, and have all the same rickety, dirty, ruinous appearance. I doubt if such a thing as a paint-brush was ever known in any of the Russian villages we passed through, except for decorating a little rudelooking sign, which I observed upon each house, and which, you will grant, has a primitive meaning enough, when I tell you about it. Upon some of these signs I observed a hatchet portrayed; upon others a pitchfork, then a ladder, then a water-cart, then a pail, then a cart. I inquired the meaning of all these signs, and my neighbour told me that they served to make the occupant of the house remember that, in case of a fire in the village, he was to carry to the fire the implement represented on the sign attached to his house! What a primitive people, truly!
Another instance of this same primitivenesB I observed in the plough used by the peasants in the fields; it Whs nothing more than two rude, bent sticks, in the centre of which, in a sideway position, an old spade was fastened by ropes or cords. The country we passed through was anything but interesting—an almost dead plain, covered with low, stumpy pines. As we approached Voldai, the country became more uneven. We crossed the "Voldai Hills," which my Russian friend thought would astonish me by their height; but they do not compare with our native hills. Indeed, we in the United States, would hardly call them "hills." In most of the villages, I observed the peasant-women spinning with the distaff; and everywhere were to be seen pieces of " Russian diaper" bleaching on the ground. It is a fact not generally known, that all the thread which forms the Russia sheeting, is made by the peasants, and with the distaff.
In one of the villages I noticed a priest in his robes, blessing a log hut in process of erection. We stopped at one village to mend the wheel of ourcoach, and I and my friend entered a pefSWnt's cabin. The woman who occupied the two little rooms it contained, lived there with her nine children! It was a kind of "station-house," and for keeping it, she said she received four roubles, or about three dollars, a month! She appeared to be more intelligent than the generality of her class, but very superstitious. She was speaking of the cholera, and its ravages in the village last year, and thought it very strange that it should have continued after the people of the village had walked with the priest, carrying the cross in procession around the town. In another village I observed a number of peasants crowding round a peasant who held in his hand a chain, to one end of which was fastened a bear. Bruin was, at the suggestion of his master, cutting up some odd capoi s, much to the merriment of the rustics. My Russian friend informed me, that the peasants are very fond of taming bears, and teaching them all sorts of tricks. All along the road, at intervals, we passed numbers of peasants stretched out by the wayside, under a burning sun, asleep, like so many pigs. Poor fellows! they have no other resting-place than the ground during summer! But I must not have too much sympathy for them; they know nothing better; they are contented. "And if they are not content," says my Russian friend, "the whip will make them so." "Rather show them kindness," I replied; and the man laughed at me. "Kindness! why the peasant has a contempt for a man who is kind to him! No, my dear sir, the rod is a thing indispensable with the Russian peasant." So it is; but I cannot understand how a man will put up with the treat
ment he receives at the hands of the Russian noble.
As we advanced on our journey, I could perceive that the vegetation was farther forward than that in and about St. Petersburg; occasionally, however, even near Moscow, we passed snow-banks on the side of the road.
At a small village near Voldai I observed four or five gipsies, men and women; their hair was long and jet black, their eyes black, wild, and piercing, and their complexion very dark. One would know them at once as gipsies. At this village, three really decent-looking girls came out to the coach to sell us crackers. My Russian told me that the village was famed for its pretty women; but not one of those three would have deserved the appellation of "pretty" in any other country than Russia.
But what was to me the most interesting sight, rendered more painful by some information which the Russian communicated to me, und which cast a gloom upon my whole journey, was a number of prisoners, chained together, on foot, guarded by Cossack soldiers, and on their way to Siberia!
I must explain what I have just written. You must know, then, that, during my first winter in St. Petersburg, I met, at the house
of my friend, Prince T , a young man,
who pleased me much, and who often, during the winter, came to see me. He was of an old Muscovite family, one of the nobles of Russia. Possessed of an independent fortune, he came to St. Petersburg, entered the* Foreign Office, in hope that, some day, he might be attached to some mission abroad, for he desired to live out of Russia. He was one of the finest-looking young men I ever met with,—tall, slender, and of a faultless figure. And then he was so quiet, so soft, such a gentleman in his manners. It was no wonder that all the young girls fell in love with him—I almost loved him myself. But he seemed to shun the ladies. He always declined dancing, for he was "not fond of it;" and he was always contented when he could have a talk with me. It is now some time since we have met: and where do you think he is now? In the fortress! For what? He was implicated in the conspiracy lately discovered in St. Petersburg, to (some say) take the life of the Emperor. He was arrested with some hundred others, and what think you his sentence is? To work in the mines of Siberia during his life!! How it shocked me when I heard it; and I cannot keep it off my mind even now. And if I can almost weep for him, what must his mother, who idolized him, feel? I asked my friend if there was no hope, since his relations were so rich and influential in the Empire. His answer was, "What are riches and influence when the Emperor says 'I will V