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Highness, George Prince of Wales, being Regent of the United Kingdom, and a munificent subscriber to the edifice, the foundation stone of this monument, erected by public subscription in honour of the genius of Robert Burns, the Ayrshire poet, was laid by Alexander Boswell, Esq., Auchiuleck, M.P., Worshipful Depute-Grand Master of the Most Ancient Mother Lodge of Kilwinning (attended by all the mason lodges in Ayrshire) according to the ancient usages of masonry. Thomas Hamilton, jr., Edinburgh, architect. John Connell, jr., builder and contractor.” At the conclusion of the ceremony the Grand Master delivered the following brief but beautiful oration :
BRETHREN,—May corn, wine, and oil abound ; may all that is useful and ornamental be cultivated amongst us; and may all that can invigorate the body or enliven the soul shed their blest influence on our native land. We have at length assembled to pay a grateful, although a tardy, tribute to the genius of RORERT Burns, our Ayrshire poet and the bard of Coila. There surely lives not the man so dull, so flinty, or phlegmatic, who could witness this event without emotion. But to those whose heart-strings have thrilled responsive to the chords of the poet's lyre-whose bosoms have swelled, like his, with love and friendship, with tenderness and sympathy, have glowed with patriotism, or panted for glory—this hour must be an hour of exultation. Whether we consider the time, the place, or the circumstance, there is enough to interest in each; but these combined, and at once in operation on our feelings and our fancies—his muse, alas! is mute, who could alone have dared to paint the proud breathings of such an assembly at such a moment. When we consider the time, we cannot forget that this day is the anniversary of that which gave our poet to the light of Heaven. Bleak is the prospect around us ; the wood, the hawthorn, and the birken shaw,' are leafless; not a thrush has yet essayed to clear the furrowed brow of winter; but this we know shall pass away, give place, and be succeeded by the buds of spring and the blossoms of sum
Chill and cheerless was our poet's natal day; but soon the wild flowers of poesy sprung as it were beneath his boyish tread ; they opened as he advanced, expanded as he matured, until he revelled in all the richness of luxuriance. Poverty and disappointment hung frowning around him, and haunted
his path ; but soothed and charmed by the fitful visits of his native muse, and crowned, as in a vision, with the holly wreath, he wantoned in a fairy land, the bright creation of his own vivid and enrapt imagination. His musings have been our delight. Men of the loftiest talents and of tastes the most refined have praised them—men of strong and swelling but untutored intellect have admired them—the poet of the heart is the poet of mankind. When we consider the place, let us remember that these very scenes which we now look upon, awakened in his youthful breast that animating spark which burst upon the world in a blaze of inspiration. In yonder cottage he first drew breath. In that depository of the lowly dead sleeps the once humble now immortal model of the cottage life-—there rests his pious father—and there it was his fond and anxious wish that his dust should have been mingled with the beloved and kindred ashes. Below us flows the Doon, the classic Doon, but made classic by his harmony; there gliding through the woods, and laving his banks and braes, he rolls his clear and far-fetch'd waters' to the ocean. Before us stand the ruins of Kirk Alloway, shrouded in all the mystic imagery with which it is enveloped by his magic spells—Kirk Alloway! to name it is enough. If, then, the time and place are so congenial with our fond impressions, the circumstances which have enabled us to carry into effect this commemoration of our bard must give delight to every enthusiastic mind. In every region where our language is heard, the songs of Burns give rapture-and from every region, and from climes the most remote, the votive offerings have poured in to aid our undertaking ; and the edifice which we have now begun shall stand a proud and lasting testimony of the world's admiration. Not on the banks of Doon alone, or hermit Ayr, or the romantic Lugar, echo repeats the songs of Burns; but amidst the wild forests of Columbia, and scorching plains of Hindostan—on the banks of the Mississipi, the St Lawrence, and the Ganges, his heart-touching melodies float upon the breeze. This monument rises like a pile cairn over our warriors of old-each man casts a stone; and in honour of him, the son of a cottar, and himself a ploughman, our Prince, with the true feelings of true greatness, and more illustrious by this act of generosity, pays here his tribute at the shrine of genius. May the work prosper ;
and when happily completed, then may it tell to future generations that the age which could produce a Burns was rich also in those who could appreciate his talents, and who, while they felt and owned the power of his muse, have honoured his name.”
After the applause which followed this eloquent speech had subsided, the Rev. Hamilton Paul of Broughton closed the proceedings with an appropriate prayer, and with three hearty cheers the assemblage commenced the return journey to the town.
Towards evening the Grand Lodge was “opened” in the King's Arms Hall, and many patriotic toasts were proposed and heartily responded to, but the toast of the evening was 6 The Admirers of Burns.” When proposing it, the Grand Master (Mr Boswell) mentioned some particulars regarding the subscriptions raised for the erection of the Monument, and, amongst other things, said that its success was in a great measure due to the exertions of Sir James Shaw and William Fairlie of London, for they had remitted large sums in furtherance of the undertaking which they had been instrumental in collecting in London, America, and the East Indies, where, he affirmed, a greater enthusiasm prevailed in favour of Burns and his writings than in his native country. After the toast had been duly honoured, the Grand Master sang the following song which he had composed for the occasion :
“Vain thought! but had Burns ever witnessed a meeting
Of souls so congenial, and warm’d with such fire,
Ah! what might have been the bold notes of his lyre?
His bosom had swelled to your cheering reply,
A smile for his mirth, for his sorrow a sigh.
His struggles we know, and his efforts we prize ;
He rose, self-embalm’d, and detraction defies.
Had never decoyed him from home and his team,
And snatching reality, left him a—dream.
To rank and to title, due deference owing,
We bow, as befitting society's plan;
We pass all distinctions, and rest upon-man.
With industry's pride to his hovel returns,
If soul independent be found, 'twas in Burns.
How blithely he caroll'd in praise of the fair;
How sweet were his notes on the banks of the Ayr!
And mark'd by the bard on the tablets of fame,
We'll raise a proud tribute to honour his name.
On the 4th of July, 1823, Mr Fullarton of Skeldon-in presence of a vast assemblage of Freemasons and subscribers -placed the tripod on the summit of the Monument, and pronounced it finished.
He afterwards delivered an appropriate address.
“ But what to us the sculptor's art,
His funeral columns, wreaths, and urns ?
The name of ROBERT BURNS ?"
THE HOTEL AND SHELL PALACE—THE AULD BRIG O' DOON—THE
NEW BRIG AND ITS PETITION-VIEW FROM THE HEIGHTS IN ITS
VICINITY—NEWARK CASTLE-GREENAN CASTLE-THE RETURN
It has been said that a toothache would speedily bring to earth the loftiest flight of the philosopher, and certainly hunger and fatigue would speedily dispel the enthusiasm one feels when visiting celebrated places. There is no use denying it, a good inn or hotel is occasionally essential, and I never stood in greater need of the comfort one or either affords than I did on the occasion of my visit to the banks of Doon.
The hotel referred to in last chapter was completely crowded with excursionists, and it was not without considerable jostling that I managed to get into a room, where, despite an atmosphere of tobacco smoke and the music of a party who persistently sang
“ Landlady count the lawen,
The day is near the dawin :
And I'm jolly fu',' I managed to enjoy the rest and refreshment which my long walk had rendered necessary.
My stay was short, but before leaving I paid a visit to “The Shell Palace," as a small grotto in the grounds of the establishment is termed. It is a curiosity in its way, being clad on the inside with countless shells and decked with mirrors, in which the visitor finds his form reflected again and again ; but beyond the chair made out of the prolific rafters of Alloway Kirk, it contains nothing of interest. The garden, however, is delightfully situated between the Old and New Brigs o' Doon, and commands an excellent view of both structures.