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the struggle between Burns's soaring imagination and his sordid needs, between his powerful passions and the painfully narrow horizons of his situation. There has been no futile and immortal endeavor to hide the bare and repulsive facts in his career; but there has been, even among hardened Pharisees, a recognition of a moral problem too complicated for the touch-and-go judgments of those inferior courts whose opinions are often mere records of the blindness of human understanding. Burns made grievous mistakes in the direction of his life and paid heavily in health, art, and reputation; he had also great and generous qualities of nature, an innate nobility of spirit sometimes obscured but never obliterated, and a genius for making the heart speak which has given him

access to the homes of the Englishspeaking world.

With Shakespeare and Lincoln, he has been haled into the court of public opinion as a witness to the fallacy that genius supersedes education and that to those whose lips have been touched by the divine fire no training is necessary. It happens that each of these apparent exceptions to the rule that nothing great and enduring is ever done without some form of preparation had the best of luck in specific training for his particular work. Burns was singularly fortunate in finding early precisely the material vitally adapted to his genius; and this was true of Shakespeare and Lincoln as well.

It is true, Burns was born in a cottage built of clay, on the side of


the road that runs from Ayr to the bridge of Doon, past the ruin of "Alloway's auld haunted Kirk"; that a few days after his birth a wild January storm blew down a gable of the house and in a bleak dawn he was carried to a neighbor's for shelter— "A blast o' Janwar' win'

Blew hansel in on Robin; "

that his father was a kind of peasant farmer, of a noble rectitude, a spirited temper, and a devout spirit, who, for all his force, was bitterly beaten in the fight for comfort; that his school life, begun at the age of five, was soon over, and that for him the road ended where it usually begins for boys of easier condition.

These are, however, the accidents of condition; education is a matter of vitalization, inspiration, nourish

ment; and all these fell to the lot of Burns. He had rare teachers in those years when real teachers plant deep in a rich soil, and one of these was his father. Robert and his brother Gilbert not only learned many facts about the world, but were taught to see and think; they were especially drilled by a country schoolmaster of uncommon sense in the use of words, their meaning, their order, their simple and their poetic uses; and no small part of Burns's achievement was his magical skill in making plain words serve the highest uses of the imagination. In the years when a child's nature lies open to every influence like an unshaded field, the gentle Ayrshire lass who was his mother poured into him a wealth of Scotch poetry in songs, ballads, legends, history -the very

stuff of which poetry is made. There were a few books in the house of the right sort at a time when books were held in great honor: lives of Wallace and other Scotch heroes, The Spectator, a few of Shakespeare's plays, Pope's translation of Homer; a few books which supplied the intellectual gymnastic which has given the mind. of Scotland such vigorous fiberLocke on "The Human Understanding," Boyle's Lectures, treatises on theology dear to the Scottish heart; and, above all, a collection of songs. "I pored over them driving my cart," wrote Burns, "or walking to labor, song by song, verse by verse, carefully noting the true, tender, or sublime, from affectation and fustian. I am convinced I owe to this practice much of my critic-craft, such as it is." After a generation's experi

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