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some knowledge of the French language, but it does not appear that he was ever much conversant in French literature, nor is there any evidence of his having derived any of his poetical stores from that source. With the English classics he became well acquainted in the course of his life, and the effects of this acquaintance are observable in his later productions; but the character and style of his poetry were formed very early, and the model which he followed, in so far as he can be said to have had one, is to be sought for in the works of the poets who have written in the Scottish dialect—in the works of such of them more especially as are familiar to the peasantry of Scotland. Some observations on these may form a proper introduction to a more particular examination of the poetry of Burns. The studies of the editor in this direction are, indeed, very recent and very imperfect. It would have been imprudent for him to have entered on this subject at all, but for the kindness of Mr. Ramsay of Ochtertyre, whose assistance he is proud to acknowledge, and to whom the reader must ascribe whatever is of any value in the following imperfect sketch of literary compositions in the Scottish idiom.

It is a circumstance not a little curious, and which does not seem to be satisfactorily explained, that in the thirteenth century the language of the two British nations, if at all different, differed only in dialect, the Gaelic in the one, like the Welch and Armoric in the other, being confined to the mountainous districts.* The English under the Edwards, and the Scots under Wallace and Bruce, spoke the same language. We may observe also that in Scotland the history of poetry ascends to a period nearly as remote as in England. Barbour, and Blind Harry, James the First, Dunbar, Douglas, and Lindsay, who lived in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, were coeval with the fathers of poetry in England; and, in the opinion of Mr. Wharton, not inferior to them in genius or in composition. Though the language of the two countries gradually deviated from each

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* Historical Essay on Scottish Song, p. 20, by Mr. Ritson.

other during this period, yet the difference on the whole was not considerable; not perhaps greater than between the different dialects of the different parts of England in our own time.

At the death of James the Fifth, in 1542, the language of Scotland was in a flourishing condition, wanting only writers in prose equal to those in verse. Two circumstances, propitious on the whole, operated to prevent this. The first was the passion of the Scots for composition in Latin; and the second, the accession of James the Sixth to the English throne. It may easily be imagined that if Buchanan had devoted his admirable talents, even in part, to the cultivation of his native tongue, as was done by the revivers of letters in Italy, he would have left compositions in that language which might have incited other men of genius to have followed his example,* and given duration to the language itself. The union of the two crowns in the person of James overthrew all reasonable expectation of this kind. That monarch, seated on the English throne, would no longer suffer himself to be addressed in the rude dialect in which the Scottish clergy had so often insulted his dignity. He encouraged Latin or English only, both of which he prided himself on writing with purity, though he himself never could acquire the English pronunciation, but spoke with a Scottish idiom and intonation to the last. Scotsmen of talents declined writing in their native language, which they knew was not acceptable to their learned and pedantic monarch; and at a time when national prejudice and enmity prevailed to a great degree, they disdained to study the niceties of the English tongue, though of so much easier acquisition than a dead language. Lord Stirling and Drummond of Hawthornden, the only Scotsmen who wrote poetry in those times, were exceptions. They studied the language of England, and composed in it with precision and elegance. They were, however, the last of their countrymen who deserved to be considered as poets in that century. The muses of Scotland sunk into silence, and did not again raise their voices for a period of eighty years.

* e.g. The Authors of the Deliciæ Poetarum Scotorum, &c.

To what causes are we to attribute this extreme depression among a people comparatively learned, enterprising, and ingenious ? Shall we impute it to the fanaticism of the Covenanters, or to the tyranny of the house of Stuart after their restoration to the throne? Doubtless these causes operated, but they seem unequal to account for the effect. In England similar distractions and oppression took place, yet poetry flourished there in a remarkable degree. During this period Cowley and Waller and Dryden sung, and Milton raised his strain of unparalleled grandeur. To the causes already mentioned, another must be added in accounting for the torpor of Scottish literature—the want of a proper vehicle for men of genius to employ. The civil wars had frightened away the Latin muses, and no standard has been established of the Scottish tongue, which was deviating still further from the pure English idiom.

The revival of literature in Scotland may be dated from the establishment of the Union, or rather from the extinction of the rebellion in 1715. The nations being finally incorporated, it was clearly seen that their tongues must in the end incorporate also; or rather, indeed, that the Scottish language must degenerate into a provincial idiom, to be avoided by those who would aim at distinction in letters, or rise to eminence in the united legislature.

Soon after this a band of men of genius appeared, who studied the English classics and imitated their beauties in the same manner as they had studied the classics of Greece and Rome. They had admirable models of composition lately presented by the writers of the reign of Queen Anne; particularly in the periodical papers published by Steele, Addison, and their associated friends, which circulated widely through Scotland, and diffused everywhere a taste for purity of style and sentiment and for critical disquisition. At length, the Scottish writers succeeded in English composition, and a union was formed of the literary talents, as well as of the legislatures of the

two nations. On this occasion the poets took the lead. While Henry Home,* Dr. Wallace, and their learned associates were only laying in their intellectual stores, and studying to clear themselves of their Scottish idioms, Thomson, Mallet, and Hamilton of Bangour had made their appearance before the public, and been enrolled on the list of English poets. The writers in prose followeda numerous and powerful band-and poured their ample stores into the general stream of British literature. Scotland possessed her four universities before the accession of James to the English throne. Immediately before the Union she acquired her parochial schools. These establishments combining happily together, made the elements of knowledge of easy acquisition, and presented a direct path by which the ardent student might be carried along into the recesses of science or learning. As civil broils ceased, and faction and prejudice gradually died away, a wider field was opened to literary ambition, and the influence of the Scottish institutions for instruction, on the productions of the press, became more and more apparent.

It seems, indeed, probable that the establishment of the parochial schools produced effects on the rural muse of Scotland also, which have not hitherto been suspected, and which, though less splendid in their nature, are not, however, to be regarded as trivial, whether we consider the happiness or the morals of the people.

There is some reason to believe that the original inhabitants of the British Isles possessed a peculiar and an interesting species of music, which, being banished from the plains by the successive invasions of the Saxons, Danes, and Normans, was preserved with the native race in the wilds of Ireland and in the mountains of Scotland and Wales. The Irish, the Scottish, and the Welsh music differ, indeed, from each other, but the difference may be considered as in dialect only, and probably produced by the influence of time, and like the different dialects of their common language. If this conjecture be true, the

* Lord Kaimes.


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Scottish music must be more immediately of a Highland origin, and the Lowland tunes, though now of a character somewhat distinct, must have descended from the mountains in the remote ages. Whatever credit may be given

. to conjectures, evidently involved in great uncertainty, there can be no doubt that the Scottish peasantry have been long in possession of a number of songs and ballads composed in their native dialect, and sung to their native music. The subjects of these compositions were such as most interested the simple inhabitants, and in the succession of time varied probably as the condition of society varied. During the separation and the hostility of the two nations these songs and ballads, as far as our imperfect documents enable us to judge, were chiefly warlike, such as the Huntis of Cheviot, and the Battle of Harlaw. After the union of the two crowns, when a certain degree of peace and tranquillity took place, the rural muse of Scotland breathed in softer accents. “In the want of real evidence respecting the history of our songs," says Mr. Ramsay of Ochtertyre, recourse may be had to conjecture. One would be disposed to think that the most beautiful of the Scottish tunes were clothed with new words after the union of the crowns. The inhabitants of the Borders, who had formerly been warriors from choice and husbandmen from necessity, either quitted the country or were transformed into real shepherds, easy in their circumstances and satisfied with their lot. Some sparks of that spirit of chivalry, for which they are celebrated by Froissart, remained, sufficient to inspire elevation of sentiment and gallantry towards the fair sex. The familiarity and kindness which had long subsisted between the gentry and the peasantry could not all at once be obliterated, and this connection tended to sweeten rural life. In this state of innocence, ease, and tranquillity of mind the love of poetry and music would still maintain its ground, though it would naturally assume a form

a congenial to the more peaceful state of society. The minstrels, whose metrical tales used once to rouse the borderers like the trumpet's sound, had been, by an order

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