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temper, and a cheerful vacancy of thought, steals through life, generally indeed in poverty and obscurity; but poverty and obscurity are only evils to him who can sit gravely down, and make a repining comparision between his own situation and that of others; and lastly, to grace the quorum, such are, generally, those whose heads are capable of all the towerings of genius, and whose hearts are warmed with all the delicacy of feeling.
As the grand end of human life, is to cultivate an intercourse with that being to whom we owe life, with every enjoyment that can render life delightful ; and to maintain an integritive conduct towards our fellow creatures; that so by forming piety and virtue into habit, we may be fit members for that society of the pious and the good, which reason and revelation teach us, to expect beyond the grave: I do not sec that the turn of mind, and pursuits of any son of poverty and obscurity, are in the least more inimical to the sacred interests of piety and virtue, than the, even lawful, bustling and straining after the world's riches and honors; and I do not see but that he may gain Heaven as well, (which by the bye is no mean consideration) who steals through the vale of life, amusing himself with every little flower that for
tune throws in his way; as he who straining straight forward, and perhaps bespattering all about him, gains some of life's little eminences, where, after all, he can only see, and be seen a little more conspicuously, than what, in the pride of his heart, he is apt to term, the poor, indolent devil he has left behind him.
There is a noble sublimity, a heart melting tenderness in some of our ancient ballads, which shew them to be the work of a masterly hand ; and it has often given me many a heart-ach to reflect that such glorious old bards—bards who very probably owed all their talents to native genius; yet have described the exploits of heroes, the pangs of disappointment, and the meltings of love, with such fine strokes of nature—that their very names (O how mortifying to a bard's vanity!) are now “Buried among the wreck of things which were.”
O ye illustrious names unknown ! who could feel so strongly, and describe so well; the last, the meanest of the muses' train-one who though far inferior to your flights, yet eyes your path, and with trembling wing would sometimes soar after you—a poor rustic bard unknown, pays this sym
pathetic pang to your memory. Some of you tell us, with all the charms of verse, that you have been unfortunate in the world--unfortunate in love: he, too, has felt the loss of his little fortune, the loss of friends, and, worse than all, the loss of the woman he adored. Like you, all his consolation was his muse: she taught him in rustic measures to complain. Happy, could he have done it with your strength of imagination, and flow of verse! May the turf lie lightly on your bones! and may you now enjoy that solace and rest, which this world gives to the heart, tuned to all the feelings of poesy and love !
This is all, worth quoting, in my MSS, and more than all.
To Mr. AIKEN,
(The Gentleman, to whom the Cotter's Saturday
Night is addressed.)
I WAS with Wilson, my printer, t'other day, and settled all our by-gone matters between us. After I had paid him all demands, I made him the offer of the second edition, on the hazard of being paid out of the first and readiest, which he declines. By his account, the paper of a thousand copies would cost about twenty-seven pounds, and the printing about fifteen or sixteen: he offers to agree to this for the printing, if I will advance for the paper, but this, you know, is out of
my power ; so farewell hopes of a second edition ’till I grow richer! an epocha, which, I think, will arrive at the payment of the British national debt.
There is scarcely any thing hurts me so much in being disappointed of my second edition, as not having it in my power to shew my gratitude to Mr. Ballantine, by publishing my poem of The Brigs of Ayr. I would detest myself as a wretch, if I thought I were capable in a very long life of forgetting the honest, warm, and tender delicacy, with which he enters into my interests. I am sometimes pleased with myself in my grateful sensations; but, I believe, on the whole, I have very little merit in it, as my gratitude is not a virtue, the consequence of reflection ; but sheerly the instinctive emotion of a heart, too inattentive to allow worldly maxims and views to settle into selfish habits.
I have been feeling all the various rotations and movements within, respecting the excise. There are many things plead strongly against it ; the uncertainty of getting soon into business; the consequences of my follies, which may perhaps make it impracticable for me to stay at home; and besides I have for some time been pining under secret wretchedness, from causes which you