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"The great Creator to revere,
Must sure become the creature;
But still the preaching cant forbear,
Yet ne'er with wits profane to range,
An Atheist's laugh's a poor exchange
When ranting round in pleasure's ring,
But when on life we're tempest-driven,
A conscience but a canker
A correspondence fixed wi' Heaven,
Is sure a noble anchor."
More than any other man he saw the beauty of a sincere religious life, to a portrayal of which he devoted the best of his poems. His sensibilities were extraordinarily sensitive and strong. "There is scarcely any earthly object," he says, "gives me more I do not know if I should call it pleasure but something which exalts me, something which enraptures me— than to walk in the sheltered side of a wood or high plantation in a cloudy winter day, and hear the stormy wind howling among the trees and raving over the plain. . . . I listened to the birds and frequently turned out of my path, lest I should disturb their little songs or frighten them to another station." With such a sensitive nature it is no wonder that we find contradictions in his poetry. The storm of emotion drives quickly from grave to gay, from high to low. He has written much that ought to be and will be forgotten.
But upon the whole, his poetry is elevating in its tone a treasure for which we
ought to be thankful. It is the voice of a man who, with all his weakness and sin, was still, in his best moments, honest, manly, penetrating, and powerful.
THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT.
INSCRIBED TO R. AIKIN, Esq.
"Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
My lov'd, my honour'd, much respected friend!
With honest pride I scorn each selfish end;
My dearest meed, a friend's esteem and praise:
The lowly train in life's sequester'd scene;
November chill blaws loud wi' angry sugh:
The toil-worn cotter frae his labour goes,
This night his weekly moil is at an end,
Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes,
And weary, o'er the moor, his course does hameward bend.
At length his lonely cot appears in view,
Beneath the shelter of an aged tree:
Th' expectant wee-things, toddlin', stacher thro'
To meet their dad, wi' flichterin' noise an' glee.
His wee bit ingle, blinkin' bonnily,
His clean hearth-stane, his thriftie wifie's smile, The lisping infant prattling on his knee,
Does a' his weary, carking cares beguile,
An' makes him quite forget his labour and his toil.
Belyve, the elder bairns come drappin' in,
Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman grown,
In youthfu' bloom, love sparklin' in her e'e, Comes hame, perhaps, to show a braw new gown, Or deposit her sair-won penny fee,
To help her parents dear, if they in hardship be.
Wi' joy unfeign'd, brothers and sisters meet,
The mother, wi' her needle an' her shears,
Gars auld claes look amaist as weel's the new; The father mixes a' wi' admonition due.
Their master's an' their mistress's command,
An' mind your duty, duly, morn an' night!
But hark! a rap comes gently to the door;
To do some errands, and convoy her hame.
Sparkle in Jenny's e'e, and flush her cheek; With heart-struck, anxious care, inquires his name, While Jenny hafflins is afraid to speak;
Weel pleas'd the mother hears, it's nae wild, worthless rake.
Wi' kindly welcome, Jenny brings him ben:
The father cracks of horses, pleughs, and kye.
But blate and laithfu', scarce can weel behave; The mother, wi' a woman's wiles, can spy
What makes the youth sae bashfu' an' sae grave; Weel pleas'd to think her bairn's respected like the lave.
O happy love! where love like this is found!
O heart-felt raptures! - bliss beyond compare!
I've paced much this weary, mortal round,
And sage experience bids me this declare"If heaven a draught of heavenly pleasure spare One cordial in this melancholy vale,
'Tis when a youthful, loving, modest pair,
In other's arms, breathe out the tender tale,
Is there, in human form, that bears a heart-
Curse on his perjur'd arts! dissembling smooth!
Is there no pity, no relenting ruth,
Points to the parents fondling o'er their child? Then paints the ruin'd maid, and their distraction wild?
But now the supper crowns their simple board,
That 'yont the hallan snugly chows her cood;
To grace the lad, her weel-hain'd kebbuck fell · An' aft he's prest, an' aft he ca's it guid;
The frugal wifie, garrulous, will tell,
How 'twas a towmond auld, sin' lint was i̇' the bell.
The cheerfu' supper done, wi' serious face,
The big ha' Bible, ance his father's pride;
His lyart haffets wearing thin an' bare;
And "Let us worship God!" he says, with solemn air.
They chant their artless notes in simple guise;