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The dramatic style which prevails so much in the Scottish songs, while it contributes greatly to the interest they excite, also shows that they have originated among a people in the earlier stages of society. Where this form of composition appears in songs of a modern date, it indicates that they have been written after the ancient model.*

The Scottish songs are of very unequal poetical merit, and this inequality often extends to the different parts of the same song. Those that are humorous or characteristic of manners have in general the merit of copying nature; those that are serious are tender and often sweetly interesting, but seldom exhibit high powers of imagination, which, indeed, do not easily find a place in this species of composition. The alliance of the words of the Scottish songs with the music has, in some instances, given to the

* That the dramatic form of writing characterises the productions of an early, or, what amounts to the same thing, of a rude stage of society, may be illustrated by a reference to the most ancient compositions that we know of, the Hebrew scriptures and the writings of Homer. The form of dialogue is adopted in the old Scottish ballads even in narration, whenever the situations described become interesting. This sometimes produces a very striking effect, of which an instance may be given from the ballad of dom o Gordon, a composition apparently of the sixteenth century. The story of the ballad is shortly this :—The castle of Rhodes, in the absence of its lord, is attacked by the robber Edom o' Gordon. The lady stands on her defence, beats off the assailants, and wounds Gordon, who, in his rage, orders the castle to be set on fire. That his orders are carried into effect, we learn from the expostulation of the lady, who is represented as standing on the battlements and remonstrating on this barbarity. She is interrupted

O then bespake her little son,

Sate on his nourice knee ;
Says, “Mither dear, gi' owre this house,

For the reek it smithers me.”

“I wad gie a' my gowd, my childe,

Sae wad I a' my fee,
For ae blast o' the westlin' wind,

To blaw the reek frae thee."

The circumstantiality of the Scottish love songs, and the dramatic form which prevails so generally in them, probably arises from their being the descendants and successors of the ancient ballads. In the beautiful modern song of Mary of Castle-Cary, the dramatic form has a very happy effect. The same may be said of Donald and Flora, and Come under my Plaidie, by the same author, Mr. Macniel.

former a popularity which otherwise they would not have obtained.

The association of the words and the music of these songs with the more beautiful parts of the scenery of Scotland contributes to the same effect. It has given them not merely popularity but permanence; it has imparted to the works of man some portion of the durability of the works of nature. If, from our imperfect experience of the past, we may judge with any confidence respecting the future, songs of this description are of all others least likely to die. In the changes of language they may, no doubt, suffer change, but the associated strain of sentiment and of music will perhaps survive while the clear stream sweeps down the vale of Yarrow, or the yellow broom waves on Cowdenknowes.

The first attempts of Burns in song-writing were not very successful. His habitual inattention to the exactness of rhymes and to the harmony of numbers, arising probably from the models on which his versification was formed, were faults likely to appear to more disadvantage in this species of composition than in any other, and we may also remark that the strength of his imagination and the exuberance of his sensibility were with difficulty restrained within the limits of gentleness, delicacy, and tenderness, which seemed to be assigned to the love songs of his nation. Burns was better adapted by nature for following in such compositions the model of the Grecian than that of the Scottish muse. By study and practice he, however, surmounted all these obstacles. In his earlier songs there is some ruggedness, but this gradually disappears in his successive efforts, and some of his later compositions of this kind may be compared in polished delicacy with the finest songs in our language, while in the eloquence of sensibility they surpass them all.

The songs of Burns, like the models he followed and excelled, are often dramatic, and, for the greater part, amatory, and the beauties of rural nature are everywhere associated with the passions and emotions of the mind. Disdaining to copy the works of others, he has not,

like some poets of great name, admitted into his descriptions exotic imagery. The landscapes he has painted, and the objects with which they are embellished, are, in every single instance, such as are to be found in his own country. In a mountainous region, especially when it is comparatively rude and naked, the most beautiful scenery will always be found in the valleys and on the banks of the wooded streams. Such scenery is peculiarly interesting at the close of a summer day. As we advance northward the number of the days of summer, indeed, diminishes ; but from this cause, as well as from the mildness of the temperature, the attraction of the season increases, and the summer night becomes still more beautiful. The greater obliquity of the sun's path on the ecliptic prolongs the grateful season of twilight to the midnight hours, and the shades of evening seem to mingle with the morning's dawn. The rural poets of Scotland, as may be expected, associate in their songs the expressions of passion with the most beautiful of their scenery in the fairest season of the year, and generally in those hours of the evening, when the beauties of nature are most interesting.*

*A lady, of whose genius the editor entertains high admiration (Mrs. Barbauld), has fallen into an error in this respect. In her prefatory address to the works of Collins, speaking of the natural objects that may be employed to give interest to the descriptions of passion, she observes, “They present an inexhaustible variety, from the Song of Solomon, breathing of cassia, myrrh, and cinnamon, to the Gentle Shepherd of Ramsay, whose damsels carry their milking-pails through the frosts and snows of their less genial, but not less pastoral country.". The damsels of Ramsay do not walk in the midst of frost and snow. Almost all the scenes of the Gentle Shepherd are laid in the open air, amidst beautiful natural objects, and at the most genial season of the year. Ramsay introduces all his acts with a prefatory description to assure us of this. The fault of the climate of Britain is not that it does not afford us the beauties of summer, but that the season of such beauties is comparatively short, and even uncertain. There are days and nights, even in the northern division of the island, which equal, or, perhaps, surpass, what are to be found in the latitude of Sicily or of Greece. Buchanan, when he wrote his exquisite Ode to May, felt the charm as well as the transientness of these happy days—

Salve fugacis gloria seculi,
Salve secunda digna dies nota,
Salve vetustæ vitæ imago,
Et specimen venientis Ævi.

To all these adventitious circumstances, on which so X much of the effect of poetry depends, great attention is paid by Burns. There is scarcely a single song of his in which particular scenery is not described, or allusions made to natural objects, remarkable for beauty or interest; and though his descriptions are not so full as are sometimes met with in the older Scottish songs, they are in the highest degree appropriate and interesting. Instances in proof of this might be quoted from the Lea Rig, Highland Mary, The Soldier's Return, Logan Water; from that beautiful pastoral, Bonnie Jean, and a great number of others. Occasionally the force of his genius carried him beyond the usual boundaries of Scottish song, and the natural objects introduced have more of the character of sublimity. An instance of this kind is noticed by Mr. Syme, and many others might be adduced

Had I a cave on some wild distant shore,
Where the winds howl to the waves' dashing roar;

There would I weep my woes,
There seek my lost repose,
Till grief my eyes should close,

Ne'er to wake more.

In one song, the scene of which is laid in a winter night, the wan moon is described as "setting behind the white waves”; in another the storms

are apostrophised, and commanded to "rest in the cave of their slum bers."

On several occasions the genius of Burns loses sight entirely of his archetypes and rises into a strain of uniform sublimity. Instances of this kind appear in Libertie, a Vision; and in his two war songs, Bruce to his Troops and the Song of Death. These last are of a description of which we have no other in our language. The martial songs of our nation are not military, but naval. If we were to seek a comparison of these songs of Burns with others of a similar nature, we must have recourse to the poetry of ancient Greece or of modern Gaul.

Burns has made an important addition to the songs of Scotland. In his compositions the poetry equals and some

times surpasses the music. He has enlarged the poetical scenery of his country. Many of her rivers and mountains, formerly unknown to the muse, are now consecrated by his immortal verse. The Doon, the Lugar, the Ayr, the Nith, and the Cluden will in future, like the Yarrow, the Tweed, and the Tay, be considered as classic streams, and their borders will be trodden with new and superior emotions.

The greater part of the songs of Burns were written after he removed into the county of Dumfries. Influenced, perhaps, by habits formed in early life, he usually composed while walking in the open air. While engaged in writing these songs his favourite walks were on the banks of the Nith or of the Cluden, particularly near the ruins of Lincluden Abbey; and this beautiful scenery he has very happily described under various aspects as it appears during the softness and serenity of evening, and during the stillness and solemnity of the moonlight night.

There is no species of poetry, the productions of the drama not excepted, so much calculated to influence the morals as well as the happiness of a people as those popular verses which are associated with national airs, and which, , being learnt in the years of infancy, make a deep impression on the heart before the evolution of the powers of the understanding. The compositions of Burns of this kind, now presented in a collected form to the world, make a most important addition to the popular songs of his nation. Like all his other writings, they exhibit independence of sentiment; they are peculiarly calculated to increase those ties which bind generous hearts to their native soil, and to the domestic circle of their infancy; and to cherish those sensibilities which, under due restriction, form the purest happiness of our nature. If in his unguarded moments he composed some songs on which this praise cannot be bestowed, let us hope that they will speedily be forgotten. In several instances where Scottish airs were allied to words objectionable in point of delicacy, Burns has substituted others of a purer character. On such occasions, without changing the subject, he has changed the sentiments. A proof of this may be seen in the air of John

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