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the style and subjects of his youthful prototype. The resemblance, however, was only temporary and incidental. Burns had a manner of his own, and though he sometimes condescended, like Shakspeare, to work after inferior models, all that was rich and valuable in the composition was original and unborrowed. He had an excessive admiration for the writings of Fergusson, and even preferred them to those of Ramsay, an opinion in which few will concur. The forte of Fergusson lay, as we have stated, in his representations of town-life. The King's Birth-day, The Sitting of the Session, Leith Races, &c., are all excellent. Still better is his feeling description of the importance of Guid Braid Claith, and his Address to the Tron Kirk Bell. In these we have a current of humorous observations, poetical fancy, and genuine idiomatic Scottish expression. The Farmer's Ingle suggested the Cotter's Saturday Night of Burns, and it is as faithful in its descriptions, though of a humbler class, Burns added passion, sentiment, and patriotism to the subject: Fergusson's is a mere sketch, an inventory of a farmhouse, unless we except the concluding stanza, which speaks to the heart:
Peace to the husbandman, and a his tribe, Whase care fells a' our wants frae year to year! Lang may his sock and cou’ter turn the glebe, And banks of corn bend down wi' laded ear! May Scotia's simmers aye look gay and green; Her yellow hairsts frae scowry blasts decreed! May a her tenants sit fu snug and bien, Frae the hard grip o' ails and poortith freedAnd a lang lasting train o' peacefu' hours succeed!
In one department—lyrical poetry-whence Burns draws so much of his glory-Fergusson does not seem, though a singer, to have made any efforts to excel. In English poetry, he utterly failed; and if we consider him in reference to his countrymen, Falconer or Logan—he received the same education as the latter—his inferior rank as a general poet will be apparent.
The Arno and the Tiber lang Hae run fell clear in Roman sang; But, save the reverence o' schools, They’re baith but lifeless, dowie pools. Dought they compare wi' bonny Tweed, As clear as ony lammer bead? Or are their shores mair sweet and gay Than Fortha's haughs or banks o' Tay? Though there the herds can jink the showers 'Mang thriving vines and myrtle bowers, And blaw the reed to kittle strains, While echo's tongue commends their pains; Like ours, they canna warm the heart Wi’ simple saft bewitching art. On Leader haughs and Yarrow braes, Arcadian herds wad tyne their lays,
To hear the mair melodious sounds
When father Adie first pat spade in
A cauler burn o' siller sheen,
His bairns had a', before the flood,
The fuddlin' bardies, now-a-days,
My Muse will no gang far frae hame,
This is the name that doctors use,
! Mr Hamilton of Bangour, author of the beautiful ballad The Braes of Yarrow.
But we’ll hae nae sic clitter-clatter;
Though joints be stiff as ony rung,
Though colic or the heart-scad tease us;
Were’t no for it, the bonny lasses
The fairest, then, might die a maid, And Cupid quit his shootin' trade; For wha, through clarty masquerade, Could then discover Whether the features under shade Were worth a lover?
As simmer rains bring simmer flowers,
What maks Auld Reekie's dames sae fair?
On May-day, in a fairy ring,
O may they still pursue the way
[A Sunday in Edinburgh.] [From Auld Reckie.]
On Sunday, here, an altered scene O' men and manners meets our een. Ane wad maist trow, some people chose To change their faces wi' their clo'es,
1 St Anthony's Well, a beautiful small spring, on Arthur's Seat, near Edinburgh. Thither it is still the practice of young Edinburgh maidens to resort on May-day. Arthur's Seat, a hill somewhat resembling a lion, is represented in the adjoining ": of Edinburgh. *
And fain wad gar ilk neibour think
After the publication of Fergusson's poems, in a collected shape, in 1773, there was an interval of about thirteen years, during which no writer of eminence arose in Scotland who attempted to excel in the native language of the country. The intellectual taste of the capital ran strongly in favour of metaphysical and critical studies; but the Doric muse was still heard in the rural districts linked to some popular air, some local occurrence or favourite spot, and was much cherished by the lower and middling classes of the people. In the summer of 1786, RoRERT BURNs, the Shakspeare of Scotland, issued his first volume from the obscure press of Kilmarnock, and its influence was immediately felt, and is still operating on the whole imaginative literature of the kingdom.” Burns was then in his
* The edition consisted of 600 copies. A second was published in Edinburgh in April 1787, no less than 2800 copies being subscribed for by 1500 individuals. After his unexampled popularity in Edinburgh, Burns took the farm of Ellisland, near Dumfries, married his “bonny Jean, and entered
fortnight's French, and was one summer-quarter at land-surveying. He had a few books, among which
upon his new occupation at Whitsunday 1788. He had obtained —what he anxiously desired as an addition to his means as a farmer—an appointment in the Excise; but the duties of this office, and his own convivial habits, interfered with his management of the farm, and he was glad to abandon it. In 1791 he removed to the town of Dumfries, subsisting entirely on his situation in the Excise, which yielded £70 per annum. Here he published, in 1793, a third edition of his poems, with the addition of Tam o'Shanter, and other pieces composed at Ellisland. He died at Dumfries on the 21st of July 1796, aged thirty-seven years and about six months. The story of his life is so well known, that even this brief statement of dates seems unnecessary. In 1798 a fourth edition of his works was published in Edinburgh. Two years afterwards, in 1800, appeared the valuable and complete edition of Dr Currie, in four volumes, containing the correspondence of the poet, and a number of songs, contributed to Johnson's Scots Musical Museum, and Thomson's Select Scottish Melodies. The editions of Burns since 1800 could with difficulty be ascertained; they were reckoned a few years ago at about a hundred. His poems circulate in every shape, and have not yet "gathered all their fame."
were the Spectator, £ works, Allan Ramsay, and a collection of English songs. Subsequentlyabout his twenty-third year—his reading was enlarged with the important addition of Thomson, Shenstone, Sterne, and Mackenzie. Other standard works soon followed. As the advantages of a liberal education were not within his reach, it is scarcely to be regretted that his library was at first so small. What books he had, he read and studied thoroughly —his attention was not distracted by a multitude of volumes—and his mind grew up with original and robust vigour. It is impossible to contemplate the life of Burns at this time, without a strong feeling of affectionate admiration and respect. His manly integrity of character—which, as a peasant, he guarded with jealous dignity—and his warm and true heart, elevate him, in our conceptions, almost as much as the native force and beauty of his poetry. We see him in the veriest shades of obscurity toiling, when a mere youth, ‘like a galley-slave, to support his virtuous parents and their household, yet grasping at every opportunity of acquiring knowledge from men and books-familiar with the – 95