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Of his poems, which have been so often printed and so eagerly read, it is unnecessary to enter into a critical examination. All readers of taste and sensibility assign him the first place among the poets of his country; and acknowledge the presence of that “light from heaven” which consecrates and eternizes every monument of genius.
TO THE FIRST EDITION.
The following trifles are not the production of the poet who, with all the advantages of learned art, and perhaps amid the elegances and idleness of upper life, looks down for a rural theme, with an eye to Theocritus or Virgil. To the author of this, these and other celebrated names, their countrymen, are, at least in their original language, a fountain shut up, and a book sealed. Unacquainted with the necessary requisites for commencing poetry by rule, he sings the sentiments and manners he felt and saw in himself, and his rustic compeers around him, in his and their native language. Though a rhymer from his earliest years, at least from the earliest impulses of the softer passions, it was not till very lately that the applause, perhaps the partiality of friendship, wakened his vanity so far as to make him think any thing of his worth showing; and none of the following works were composed with a view to the press. To amuse himself with the little creations of his own fancy, amid the toil and fatigues of a laborious life; to transcribe the various feelings, the loves, the griefs, the hopes, the fears, in his own breast; to find some kind of counterpoise to the struggles of a world, always an alien scene, a task uncouth to the poetical mind, - these were his motives for courting the muses, and in these he found Poetry to be its own reward.
Now that he appears in the public character of an au«
thor, he does it “with fear and trembling." So dear is fame to the rhyming tribe, that even he, an obscure, nameless bard, shrinks aghast at the thought of being branded as an impertinent blockhead, obtruding his nonsense on the world ; and, because he can make a shift to jingle a few doggerel Scotch rhymes together, looking upon him. self as a poet of no small consequence, forsooth.
It is an observation of that celebrated poet, Shenstone, whose divine elegies do honor to our language, our nation, and our species, that “Humility has depressed many a genius to a hermit, but never raised one to fame !” If any critic catches at the word genius, the author tells him, once for all, that he certainly looks upon himself as possessed of some poetic abilities, otherwise his publishing in the manner he has done, would be a manæuvre below the worst character which, he hopes, his worst enemy will ever give him. But to the genius of a Ramsay, or the glorious dawnings of the poor, unfortunate Ferguson, he, with equal unaffected sincerity, declares, that, even in his highest pulse of vanity, he has not the most distant pretensions. These two justly-admired Scotch poets he has often had in his eye in the following pieces; but rather with a view to kindle at their flame, than for servile imitation.
To his subscribers, the author returns his most sincere thanks, -- not the mercenary bow over a counter, but the heart-throbbing gratitude of the bard, conscious how much he owes to benevolence and friendship, for gratifying him, if he deserves it, in that dearest wish of every poetic bos
to be distinguished. He begs his readers, particu. larly the learned and the polite, who may honor him with a perusal, that they will make every allowance for education and circumstances of life; but, if, after a fair, candid, and impartial criticism, he shall stand convicted of dullness and nonsense, let him be done by as he would in that case do by others; - let him be condemned, without mercy, to contempt and oblivion.
My Lords and Gentlemen :
A SCOTTISH bard, proud of the name, and whose highest ambition is to sing in his country's service where shall he so properly look for patronage, as to the illustrious names of his native land; those who bear the honors and inherit the virtues of their ancestors ? The poetic genius of my country found me, as the prophetic bard, Elijah, did Elisha at the plough ; and threw her inspiring mantle
She bade me sing the loves, the joys, the rural scenes, and rural pleasures, of my native soil, in my native tongue; I tuned my wild, artless notes, as she inspired. She whispered me to come to this ancient metropolis of Caledonia, and lay my songs under your honored protection.
Though much indebted to your goodness, I do not approach you, my Lords and Gentlemen, in the usual style of dedication, to thank you for past favors. That path is so hackneyed by prostituted learning, that honest rusticity is ashamed of it. Nor do I present this address with the venal soul of a servile author, looking for a continuation of those favors: I was bred to the plough, and am independent. I come to claim the common Scottish name with you, my illustrious countrymen ; and to tell the world that I glory in the title. I come to congratulate my country that the blood of her ancient heroes still runs uncontaminated; and that from your courage, knowledge, and public spirit, she may expect protection, wealth, and liberty. In the last place, I come to proffer my warmest wishes to the great Fountain of honor, the Monarch of the Universe, for your welfaro and happiness. When you go forth to waken the echoes, in the ancient and favorite amusement of your forefathers, may Pleasure ever be of your party, and may social Joy await your return! When harassed in courts or camps with the jostlings of bad men and bad measures, may the honest consciousness of injured worth attend your return to your native seats; and may domestic Happiness, with a smiling welcome, meet you at your gates! May corruption shrink at your kindling, indignant glance; and may tyranny in the ruler, and licentiousness in the people, equally find you an inexorable foe!