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from which they were derived, they certainly bear the stamp of the author's manner and genius. They are not, however, of his purest metal or marked with his finest die; several of them have appeared in print already, and the songs are, as usual, the best. This little lamentation of a desolate damsel is tender and pretty
My father put me frae his door,
My friends they hae disown'd me a';
The bonnie lad that's far awa'.
A pair o'gloves he gave to me,
And silken snoods he gave me twa;
The bonnie lad that's far awa'.
The weary winter soon will pass,
And spring will cleed the birkenshaw;
Vol. v., pp. 432, 433.
We now reluctantly dismiss this subject. We scarcely hoped, when we began our critical labours, that an opportunity would ever occur of speaking of Burns as we wished to speak of him, and therefore we feel grateful to Mr. Cromek for giving us this opportunity. As we have no means of knowing with precision to what extent his writings are known and admired in the southern part of the kingdom, we have perhaps fallen into the error of quoting passages that are familiar to most of our readers, and dealing out praise which every one of them had previously awarded. We felt it impossible, however, to resist the temptation of transcribing a few of the passages which struck us the most on turning over the volumes, and reckon with confidence on the gratitude of those to whom they are new, while we are not without hopes of being forgiven by those who have been used to admire them.
We shall conclude with two general remarks—the one national, the other critical. The first is, that it is impossible to read the productions of Burns along with his
history without forming a higher idea of the intelligence, taste, and accomplishments of our peasantry than most of those in the higher ranks are disposed to entertain. Without meaning to deny that he himself was endowed with rare and extraordinary gifts of genius and fancy, it is evident from the whole details of his history, as well as from the letters of his brother and the testimony of Mr. Murdoch and others to the character of his father, that the whole family and many of their associates, who never emerged from the native obscurity of their condition, possessed talents, and taste, and intelligence, which are little suspected to lurk in those humble retreats. His epistles to brother poets in the rank of small farmers and shopkeepers in the adjoining villages, the existence of a book society and debating club among persons of that description, and many other incidental traits in his sketches of his youthful companions—all contribute to show that not only good sense and enlightened morality, but literature and talents for speculation are far more generally diffused in society than is commonly imagined, and that the delights and the benefits of those generous and humanising pursuits are by no means confined to those whom leisure and affluence have courted to their enjoyment. That much of this is peculiar to Scotland, and may be properly referred to our excellent institutions for parochial education, and to the natural sobriety and prudence of our nation, may certainly be allowed; but we have no doubt that there is a good deal of the same principle in England, and that the actual intelligence of the lower orders will be found there also very far to exceed the ordinary estimates of their superiors. It is pleasing to know that the sources of rational enjoyment are so widely disseminated, and in a free country it is comfortable to think that so great a proportion of the people is able to appreciate the advantages of its condition, and fit to be relied on in all emergencies where steadiness and intelligence may be required.
Our other remark is of a more limited application, and is addressed chiefly to the followers and patrons of that
new school of poetry, against which we have thought it our duty to neglect no opportunity of testifying. Those gentlemen are outrageous for simplicity, and we beg leave to recommend to them the simplicity of Burns.
He has copied the spoken language of passion and affection, with infinitely more fidelity than they have ever done, on all occasions which properly admitted of such adaptation ; but he has not rejected the helps of elevated language and habitual associations, nor debased his composition by an affectation of babyish interjections and all the puling expletives of an old nursery-maid's vocabulary. They may look long enough among his nervous and manly lines before they find any “Good lacks !” “Dear hearts !" or “As a body may says” in them, or any stuff about dancing daffodils and sister Emmelines. Let them think with what infinite contempt the powerful mind of Burns would have perused the story of Alice Fell and her duffle cloak, of Andrew Jones and the half-crown, or of Little Dan without breeches and his thievish grandfather. Let them contrast their own fantastical personages of hysterical schoolmasters and sententious leech-gatherers with the authentic rustics of Burns's Cotter's Saturday Night and his inimitable songs, and reflect on the different reception which those personifications have met with from the public. Though they will not be reclaimed from their puny affectations by the example of their learned predecessors, they may perhaps submit to be admonished by a self-taught and illiterate poet, who drew from Nature far more directly than they can do, and produced something so much liker the admired copies of the masters whom they have abjured.
By SIR WALTER SCOTT.
From “THE QUARTERLY REVIEW,” February, 1809.
A REVIEW OF “RELIQUES OF ROBERT BURNS.”
We opened a book bearing so interesting a title with no little anxiety. Literary reliques vary in species and value almost as much as those of the Catholic or of the antiquary. Some deserve a golden shrine for their intrinsic merit; some are valued from the pleasing recollections and associations with which they are combined ; some, reflecting little honour upon their unfortunate authors, are dragged by interested editors from merited obscurity. The character of Burns, on which we may perhaps hazard some remark in the course of this article, was such as to increase our apprehensions. The extravagance of genius with which this wonderful man was gifted, being in his later and more evil days directed to no fixed or general purpose, was, in the morbid statė of his health and feelings, apt to display itself in hasty sallies of virulent and unmerited severity—sallies often regretted by the bard himself; and of which justice to the living and to the dead alike demanded the suppression. Neither was this anxiety lessened when we recollected the pious care with which the late excellent Dr. Currie had performed the task of editing the works of Burns. His selection was limited, as much by respect to the fame of the living as of the dead. He dragged from obscurity none of those satirical effusions which ought to be as ephemeral as the transient offences which called them forth. He excluded everything approaching to licence, whether in morals or religion, and
thus rendered his collection such as, doubtless, Burns himself, in his moments of sober reflection, would have most highly approved. Yet applauding, as we do most highly applaud, the leading principles of Dr. Currie's selection, we are aware that they sometimes led him into fastidious and over-delicate rejection of the bard's most spirited and happy effusions. A thin octavo published at Glasgow in 1801, under the title of " Poems ascribed to Robert Burns, the Ayrshire bard,” furnishes valuable proofs of this assertion. It contains, among a good deal of rubbish, some of his most brilliant poetry. A cantata in particular, called The Jolly Beggars, for humorous description and nice discrimination of character, is inferior to no poem of the same length in the whole range of English poetry. The scene, indeed, is laid in the very lowest department of low life, the actors being a set of strolling vagrants met to carouse and barter their rags and plunder for liquor in a hedge ale-house. Yet even in describing the movements of such a group, the native taste of the poet has never suffered his pen to slide into anything coarse or disgusting. . The extravagant glee and outrageous frolic of the beggars are ridiculously contrasted with their maimed limbs, rags, and crutches the sordid and squalid circumstances of their appearance are judiciously thrown into the shade. Nor is the art of the poet less conspicuous in the individual figures than in the general mass. The festive vagrants are distinguished from each other by personal appearance and character, as much as any fortuitous assembly in the higher orders of life. The group, it must be observed, is of Scottish character, and doubtless our northern brethren are more familiar with its varieties than we are; yet the distinctions are too well marked to escape even the Southron. The most prominent persons are a maimed soldier and his female companion, a hackneyed follower of the camp, a stroller, late the consort of a Highland ketterer or sturdy beggar_"but weary fu' the waefu' woodie!” Being now at liberty she becomes an object of rivalry between a "pigmy scraper with his fiddle" and a strolling tinker. The latter, a desperate bandit, like