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ELEGY ON THE LATE MISS BURNET,
PULSIFE ne'er exulted in so rich a prize
16 As Burnet, lovely from her native skies; W W Nor envious death so triumph'd in a
blow, As that which laid th' accomplish'd Burnet low.
* Burns' admiration of Miss Burnet was very great. He not only celebrated her charms in his “ Address to Edinburgh,” but spoke of her with enthusiasm in many of his letters. This beautiful young woman died of consumption, in her twenty-fifth year, in 1789. Cunningham, in a letter to the Poet from Edinburgh, on the 25th May, 1789, observes, in answer to one from him in the preceding February, wherein he mentioned her as being “ dear to her guardian angel,” “ It was remarkable your introducing the name of Miss Burnet, at a time when she was in such ill health; and I am sure it will grieve your gentle heart to hear of her being in the last stage of consumption. Alas! that so much beauty, innocence, and virtue, should be nipt in the bud. Hers was the smile of cheerfulness-of sensibility, not of allurement; and her elegance of manners corresponded with the purity and elevation of her mind.”
On the 23rd of January, 1791, Burns informed Cunningham, “I have these several months been hammering at an elegy on the amiable and accomplished Miss Burnet. I have got, and can get, no farther than the following fragment; on which please give me your strictures. In all kinds of poetic composition, I set great store by your opinion; but in sentimental verses, in the poetry of the beart, no Roman catholic ever set more value on the infallibility of the holy father than I do on yours.”
Early in the ensuing month he wrote to Mrs. Dunlop :
Thy form and mind, sweet maid, can I forget ?
In vain ye flaunt in summer's pride, ye groves ;
Thou crystal streamlet with thy flowery shore, Ye woodland choir that chant your idle loves, 11
Ye cease to charm—Eliza is no more!
Ye heathy wastes, immix'd with reedy fens;
Ye mossy streams, with sedge and rushes stor'd; Ye rugged cliffs o'erhanging dreary glens,
To you I fly, ye with my soul accord. Princes, whose cumbrous pride was all their worth,
Shall venal lays their pompous exit hail ? And thou, sweet excellence! forsake our earth,
And not a Muse in honest grief bewail ? 20
We saw thee shine in youth and beauty's pride, And virtue's light, that beams beyond the
spheres ; But like the sun eclips'd at morning tide,
Thou left’st us darkling in a world of tears.
“I do not remember if ever I mentioned to you my having an idea of composing an elegy on the late Miss Burnet of Monboddo. I had the honour of being pretty well acquainted with her, and have seldom felt so much at the loss of an acquaintance, as when I heard that so amiable and accomplished a piece of God's work was no more. I have as yet gone no farther than the following fragment, of which please let me have your opinion. You know that Elegy is a subject so much exhausted, that any new idea on the business is not to be expected; 'tis well if we can place an old idea in a new light."
The parent's heart that nestled fond in thee,
That heart how sunk, a prey to grief and care; So deckt the woodbine sweet yon aged tree;
So from it ravish’d, leaves it bleak and bare.*
THE FOLLOWING POEM WAS WRITTEN
TO A GENTLEMAN WHO HAD SENT
HIM A NEWSPAPER, AND OFFERED TO CONTINUE
IT FREE OF EXPENSE.
I ND Sir, I've read your paper through, M And, faith, to me, 'twas really new! NB How guess'd ye, Sir, what maist I
* This verse does not occur in the copy which Burns sent to Cunningham on the 23rd January, 1791, but it is in the copy which he enclosed to Mrs. Dunlop on the 7th of February following.
Were sayin' or takin’aught amiss :
And pray a' guid things may attend you !
LINES ON AN INTERVIEW WITH
por THIS wot ye all whom it concerns, 9 I Rhymer Robin, alias Burns,
October twenty-third, A ne'er to be forgotten day, * Basil William, Lord Daer, son and heir apparent of Dunbar, fourth Earl of Selkirk, died, unmarried, in his
Sae far I sprackled up the brae,
I dinner'd wi' a Lord.
I've been at druken writers' feasts,
Wi' rev'rence be it spoken;
Their hydra drouth did sloken.
Up higher yet, my bonnet !
As I look o'er my sonnet.
And how he star'd and stammer'd
He in the parlour hammer'd.
Like some portentous omen;
thirty-second year, in 1794. He was introduced to the Poet by Dugald Stewart, at Edinburgh, on the 23rd of October, 1786, and was the first man of rank whom Burns ever met in society. The young nobleman's kind and frank manners made a favourable impression on his mind which was never removed. In a letter to Dr. M‘Kenzie, at Mauchline, he says, “ the foregoing verses were really extempore, but a little corrected since.”