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While Spring1 shall pour his showers, as oft he wont,
And bathe thy breathing2 tresses, meekest Eve!
While Summer loves to sport
Beneath thy lingering light;
While sallow Autumn fills thy lap with leaves;
Or Winter, yelling through the troublous air,
Affrights thy shrinking train,
And rudely rends thy robes;
So long, regardful of thy quiet rule,
Shall Fancy, Friendship, Science, smiling Peace,
Thy gentlest influence own,
And love thy favourite name.
TO THE MEMORY OF THOMSON.3
WHILE virgin Spring, by Eden's flood,
Unfolds her tender mantle green,
Or pranks the sod in frolic mood,
Or tunes Æolian strains between;
While Summer, with a matron grace,
Retreats to Dryburgh's cooling shade,
Yet oft, delighted, stops to trace
The progress of the spiky blade;
While Autumn, benefactor kind,
By Tweed erects his aged head,
And sees, with self-approving mind,
Each creature on his bounty fed;
(1) While Spring, &c.-It has been remarked that to these three last verses Burns was indebted for the leading idea contained in the next poem. He had been reading Collins at the time he wrote it.
(2) Breathing-i e. breathing perfume; in allusion perhaps to the fragrance exhaled in the evening from trees, shrubs, and flowers (the "tresses"), after a shower.
(3) These lines were written on occasion of the crowning of the bust of Thomson, at Ednam, Roxburghshire, the place of his birth. The rivers named
in the poem are in the same district.
(4) Eolian strains-strains like those of the Æolian harp.
While maniac Winter rages o'er
The hills whence classic1 Yarrow flows,
Rousing the turbid torrent's roar,
Or sweeping, wild, a waste of snows;
So long, sweet Poet of the year,
Shall bloom that wreath thou well hast won:
While Scotia, with exulting tear,
Proclaims that THOMSON was her Son.
ISAAC ASHFORD, THE ENGLISH PEASANT.2
To pomp and pageantry in nought allied,
A noble peasant, Isaac Ashford died.
Noble he was, contemning all things mean;
His truth unquestioned, and his soul serene:
Of no man's presence Isaac felt afraid,
At no man's question Isaac looked dismayed:
Shame knew him not, he dreaded no disgrace;
Truth, simple truth, was written in his face :
Yet while the serious thought his soul approved,
Cheerful he seemed, and gentleness he loved:
To bliss domestic he his heart resigned,
And, with the firmest, had the fondest, mind.
Were others joyful, he looked smiling on,
And gave allowance, where he needed none;
Good he refused with future ill to buy,
Nor knew a joy that caused reflection's sigh:
A friend to virtue, his unclouded breast
No envy stung, no jealousy distrest;
Yet was he far from stoic pride removed:
He felt humanely, and he warmly loved:
I marked his action when his infant died,
And his old neighbour for offence was tried:
The still tears, stealing down that furrowed cheek,
Spoke pity plainer than the tongue can speak.
(1) Classic-because the Yarrow has been much celebrated in poetry.
(2) The power of Crabbe's delineations of character depends much on accumu. lation. The respective traits are often tame and uninteresting, while their combined effect is bold and striking. The passage here given will illustrate this remark.
If pride were his, 'twas not their vulgar pride,
Who, in their base contempt, the great deride;
Nor pride in learning, though my clerk agreed,
If fate should call him, Ashford might succeed;
Nor pride in rustic skill, although he knew
None his superior, and his equals few;
But if that spirit in his soul had place,
It was the jealous pride that shuns disgrace:
A pride in honest fame, by virtue gained,
In sturdy boys to virtuous labours trained;
Pride in the power that guards his country's coast,
And all that Englishmen enjoy and boast
Pride in a life that slander's tongue defied,
In fact, a noble passion, misnamed pride.
In times severe, when many a sturdy swain
Felt it his pride, his comfort, to complain;
Isaac their wants would soothe, his own would hide,
And feel in that his comfort and his pride.
I feel his absence in the hours of prayer,
And view his seat, and sigh for Isaac there;
I see no more those white locks, thinly spread
Round the bald polish of that, honoured head:
No more that awful glance on playful wight,
Compelled to kneel and tremble at the sight,
To fold his fingers, all in dread the while,
Till "Mister Ashford" softened to a smile;
No more that meek and suppliant look in prayer,
Nor the pure faith, to give it force, are there;
But he is blest, and I lament no more,
A wise, good man, contented to be poor.
THE RIVAL STATESMEN.1
To mute and to material things
New life revolving summer brings;
The vernal sun new life bestows
E'en on the meanest flower that blows;
But vainly, vainly may he shine
Where glory weeps o'er Fox's shrine;
(1) This extract is taken from the introduction to the first canto of "Marmion."
And vainly pierce the solemn gloom,
That shrouds, O Pitt, thy hallowed tomb!
For ne'er held marble in its trust
Of two such wondrous men the dust.
With more than mortal powers endowed,
How high they soared above the crowd!
Theirs was no common party race,
Jostling by dark intrigue for place;
Like fabled gods, their mighty war
Shook realms and nations in its jar;
Beneath each banner proud to stand,
Looked up the noblest of the land,
Till through the British world were known
The names of Pitt and Fox alone.
Now-taming thought to human pride !—
The mighty chiefs sleep side by side."
Drop upon Fox's grave the tear,
"Twill trickle to his rival's bier:
O'er Pitt's the mournful requiem sound,
And Fox's shall the notes rebound.
The solemn echo seems to cry,
Here let their discord with them die :
Speak not for those a separate doom,
Whom Fate made brothers in the tomb;
But search the land of living men,
Where wilt thou find their like again ?"
OR, FANCY IN NUBIBUS.
OH! it is pleasant with a heart at ease,
Just after sunset, or by moonlight skies,
To make the shifting clouds be what you please,
Or let the easily persuaded eyes
Own each quaint likeness, issuing from the mould
Of a friend's fancy; or, with head bent low,
And cheek aslant, see rivers flow of gold
"Twixt crimson banks; and then, a traveller, go
(1) Side by side-in Westminster Abbey.
From mount to mount through Cloudland, gorgeous land!
Or listening to the tide, with closed sight,
Be that blind bard, who, on the Chian strand,1
By those deep sounds possessed with inward light,
Beheld the Iliad and Odyssee
Rise to the swelling of the voiceful sea.
BLEST pair of Sirens, pledges of heaven's joy,
Sphere-born harmonious sisters, Voice and Verse,
Wed your divine sounds, and mixed power employ,
Dead things with imbreathed sense able to pierce;
And to our high-raised phantasy7 present
That undisturbed song of pure concent,8
Aye sung before the sapphire-coloured throne
To Him that sits thereon,
With saintly shout and solemn jubilee :
Where the bright seraphim, in burning row,
Their loud uplifted angel-trumpets blow;
And the cherubic host, in thousand quires,
Touch their immortal harps of golden wires,
With those just Spirits that wear victorious palms,
Hymns devout and holy psalms
That we on earth, with undiscording voice,
May rightly answer that melodious noise; 10
(1) Chian strand-It was an ancient tradition that Homer was born at Chios. (2) Beheld-i. e. with his mental eye conceived the plan of the famous poems above mentioned.
(3) At a solemn music-i. e. lines written at, or on, a sacred concert or oratorio.
(4) Pledges-i. e. earnests or foretastes of the joys of heaven.
(5) Wed your, &c.-Milton speaks in his "L'Allegro," of airs "married to immortal verse." (See p. 310.)
(6) Mixed power, &c.-i. e. employ your united power, which is able to penetrate and breathe life even into dead things, and to our, &c.
(7) Phantasy-the old spelling for fancy.
(3) Concent-from the Latin con, together, and centus (for cantus), singing, harmony-in allusion to Plato's conceit of the music of the spheres.
(10) Noise-music. So the word used to be sometimes employed in prose. See Psalm xlvii. 5: "God is gone up with a merry noise, and the Lord with the sound of the trumpet."-Cranmer's version.