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My fugitive years are all hasting away,

And I must ere long lie as lowly as they,

With a turf on my breast, and a stone at my head,
Ere another such grove shall arise in its stead.

'Tis a sight to engage me, if anything can,
To muse on the perishing pleasures of man ;
Though his life be a dream, his enjoyments, I see,
Have a being less durable even than he.1


The twentieth year is well-nigh past,
Since first our sky was overcast ;

Ah, would that this might be the last!

My Mary!

Thy spirits have a fainter flow,

I see thee daily weaker grow;

'Twas my distress that brought thee low,

My Mary!

Thy needles, once a shining store,

For my sake restless heretofore,
Now rust disused, and shine no more,

My Mary!

For though thou gladly wouldst fulfil
The same kind office for me still,
Thy sight now seconds not thy will,

My Mary!

But well thou playedst the housewife's part,
And all thy threads with magic art

Have wound themselves about this heart,

My Mary!

1 Note to Ed. of 1803. Mr Cowper afterwards altered the last stanza in the following manner :

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The change both my heart and my fancy employs,

I reflect on the frailty of man and his joys;

Short-lived as we are, yet our pleasures, we see,
Have a still shorter date, and die sooner than we.'

Thy indistinct expressions seem
Like language uttered in a dream;

Yet me they charm, whate'er the theme,
My Mary!

Thy silver locks, once auburn bright,
Are still more lovely in my sight
Than golden beams of orient light,
My Mary!

For, could I view nor them nor thee,
What sight worth seeing could I see?
The sun would rise in vain for me,

My Mary!

Partakers of thy sad decline,
Thy hands their little force resign;
Yet, gently prest, press gently mine,
My Mary!

Such feebleness of limbs thou provest,
That now at every step thou movest
Upheld by two, yet still thou lovest,
My Mary!

And still to love, though prest with ill,
In wintry age to feel no chill,
With me is to be lovely still,

My Mary!

But ah! by constant heed I know,

How oft the sadness that I show Transforms thy smiles to looks of woe,

My Mary!

And should my future lot be cast
With much resemblance of the past,
Thy worn-out heart will break at last,

My Mary!


Obscurest night involved the sky,
The Atlantic billows roared,
When such a destined wretch as I,
Washed headlong from on board,
Of friends, of hope, of all bereft,
His floating home for ever left.

No braver chief could Albion boast
Than he with whom he went,
Nor ever ship left Albion's coast
With warmer wishes sent.

He loved them both, but both in vain,
Nor him beheld, nor her again.

Not long beneath the whelming brine, Expert to swim, he lay;

Nor soon he felt his strength decline, Or courage die away;

But waged with death a lasting strife. Supported by despair of life.

He shouted: nor his friends had failed To check the vessel's course,

But so the furious blast prevailed,

That, pitiless perforce,

They left their outcast mate behind,
And scudded still before the wind.

Some succour yet they could afford;
And such as storms allow,

The cask, the coop, the floated cord,

Delayed not to bestow.

But he (they knew) nor ship nor shore,

Whate'er they gave, should visit more.

Nor, cruel as it seemed, could he
Their haste himself condemn,
Aware that flight, in such a sea,
Alone could rescue them;

Yet bitter felt it still to die
Deserted, and his friends so nigh.

He long survives, who lives an hour
In ocean, self-upheld;

And so long he, with unspent power,
His destiny repelled;

And ever, as the minutes flew,
Entreated help, or cried 'Adieu !'

At length, his transient respite past,
His comrades, who before

Had heard his voice in every blast,

Could catch the sound no more:
For then, by toil subdued, he drank
The stifling wave, and then he sank.

No poet wept him; but the page
Of narrative sincere,

That tells his name, his worth, his age,
Is wet with Anson's tear :

And tears by bards or heroes shed
Alike immortalize the dead.

I therefore purpose not, or dream,
Descanting on his fate,

To give the melancholy theme
A more enduring date:

But misery still delights to trace

Its semblance in another's case.

No voice divine the storm allayed,
No light propitious shone,

When, snatched from all effectual aid,

We perished, each alone:

But I beneath a rougher sea,

And whelmed in deeper gulfs than he



THE passion for song-writing which seized upon Scotland in the eighteenth century may be compared-if small things may be compared with great-with the passion for play writing which seized upon England in the latter days of Queen Elizabeth and throughout the reign of her successor. In both periods we have a supreme outcome, the plays of Shakespeare in the one case and the poetry of Burns in the other; but the excitement by which the powers of these central figures were stimulated was general. When Burns came into the world the competition was universal for the prize which fell to the lot of masterful genius, and throughout his lifetime all classes in Scotland were eager to distinguish themselves as song-writers. Ambition did not always light upon faculty, but the ambition was everywhere. If we look at the results of the lyric movement in Scotland during the eighteenth century, it is surprising to see how very various were the conditions in life of the authors and authoresses of the best songs, the songs which took root and still survive. Peers, members of the Supreme Court of Law, diplomatists, lairds, clergymen, schoolmasters, men of science, farmers, gardeners, compositors, pedlars-all were trying their hands at patching old songs and making new songs. The writer of Auld Robin Gray was a daughter of the Earl of Balcarres; the writer of Ca' the Yowes to the Knowes, which stands first in Miss Aitken's Selection of the choicest lyrics of Scotland, was an Ayrshire 'lucky' who kept an alehouse and sold whisky without a licence. And it was not merely in the south of Scotland that this passion for song-writing made itself felt; it was as active in the north of Scotland as in the south.

The contributors to Allan Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany form one of the earliest groups of song-writers in the eighteenth century. They were not called into existence by Ramsay's

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