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ONE HUNDRETH BIRTHDAY.
Ayr gurgling kiss'd his pebbled shore,
O’erhung with wild woods, thick’ning green;
Twin'd am'rous round the raptur'd scene.
The birds sang love on ev'ry spray, -
Proclaim'd the speed of winged day.
And fondly broods with miser care!
As streams their channels deeper wear.
Where is thy blissful place of rest?
Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast ?” Three characteristics of Burns's poetry are, strong sense, simple manly vigour, intense feeling. Like the ancient prophets and bards he was a seer. His sensitive mind received distinct images of what he saw, and he transmitted them in sun-pictures of nature in her beauty and grandeur, her brightness and gloom, in portraits of men and manners, coloured according to the moods of his mind, mirthful, melancholy, humourous, rejoicing, overflowing with tenderness and pity, vehement with passion or glowing with rapture(applause). The soul of a sincere and great poet speaks to your soul in tones that thrill and vibrate through your whole being. This is true poetry, true eloquence. Possessing these qualities, his flowing verse, animating songs and lyrical compositions, are unsurpassed. His best works, composed in the intervals of labour, during a short life—for he died in his 38th year-indicate a power which, with more of learned leisure, might have achieved those higher results of continued industry, on which the fame of the greatest masters in the art depends. But he had great industry, great energy, and, notwithstanding his occupations, trials, difficulties, and temptations, the vision of his youth was realized, for Scotland has bound the holly round his head and crowned him her national bard, and she says of Burns, as a favourite poet of England said of his country
“With all thy faults, I love thee still.” In every library, in every house, aye, in every cottage whose inmates can read and how few of the Scottish peasantry cannot read ?-is the favourite volume; and in their bibles and standard books of divinity that wellinstructed peasantry have the best corrective of what is evil both in life and in literature, the best preparation to appreciate what is pure and excellent in both-(hear, hear). Not only are the poems and songs of Burns read and sung by the fireside and in the field; the expatriated Scotchman takes them as the companions of his exile to Canadian wilds, or to a tropical climate. There the glowing lines of the rustic bard recall fair visions of the purple mountains, the woody vales, the banks and the braes where his boyhood wandered, till he seems to feel the breeze from his native hills fan and revive his languid frame,-to see the well-known river, to hear the dash of its waterfalls, and listen to the murmuring flow of its crystal streams at the magic touch of genius. And if among heathen temples, and shapeless idols, and polluted rites, the sacred day has been unhallowed, haply “The Cotter's Saturday Night” may remind him of the coming morn, and the simple worship of his father's home. This is what we commemorate when we approach the poet's tomb to hang our grateful garland there (cheers). And if every epitaph were as candid as that which his own hand inscribed, how much posthumous flattery would disappear
“Is there a man whose judgment clear
Wild as the wave ?
Survey this grave.”
ONE HUNDRETH BIRTHDAY.
Who can survey it without mingled admiration and sorrow? Who will survey it in any other spirit than that of the lowly publican ?-(loud applause). Had I been born in a clay-built cottage, cradled in adversity, with a loving, ardent, lofty, impetuous soul, raised suddenly from the depths of despair to the perilous heights of fame, from frugal poverty to scenes which realized the voluptuous den of Comus and his crew, how should I have broken the spell and escaped the snare? Down, censorious pride ; be humble, be contented, be grateful. It is thus we would pay the tribute due to genius, yet render that higher homage we owe to truth and virtue. (The Chairman resumed his seat amidst long continued and enthusiastic cheering).
CHAPTER II. Burns compared with Gray and other poets. -Opinions as to his
poetry of Lord Lytton, Wordsworth, Byron, Crabbe, Pitt. -His generosity. ---Despondency.- Visit to Edinburgh, and Address to it.--Tours in Scotland. ---Clarinda.—Marriage.-- Poems to his bride. -Ellisland.–Social habits of the age. -Cunningham's description of Burns. His method of Composition. The poetical temperament.--Letter to Mrs. Dunlop.-Notices of him by Mr. Gray and Mr. Ramsay. - Religious sentiments. Concluding remarks.
> URNS overrated the poems of Ossian; he SPK also considered Gray and Shenstone to be
models whom he could not aspire to equal. The best judges now estimate very differently the comparative merits of those English poets and the Scottish bard. Lord Lytton
wrote of Burns, that although “conscious “of the influences which formed him into a poet, he “ was unable to tell how he trained his genius into art; “yet an artist he indisputably was, and it is astonishing “how marvellously correct, both in details and as “wholes, most of his writings are. He is one of the “most correct poets that the world has known. In his “smallest pieces the conception is thoroughly carried “out; in his easiest lines there is never a word too “much nor too little; his simplicity has in it the best “characteristics of Grecian art. He is a poet for critics, “and those songs which seem to gush so spontaneously ** from the fervid heart of the writer, would furnish the “severest lecturer with his happiest illustrations of “ classical concinnity and completeness.
LORD LYTTON'S OPINIOX.
“That Burns was a great genius every one knows, “but the world has been too apt to consider him, as “the world once held Shakspere, to be somewhat rude “and careless, and his energy is more conceded than “his skill. Yet, if a judicious reader were to take the “trouble of comparing some of the most familiar of his “ stanzas with the most elaborate lines of the polished “ Pope, or the fastidious Gray, it would be found that “the merit of superior correctness would, in nine “ cases out of ten, be awarded to Burns. Grar is, “indeed, one of the most inaccurate, precisely because “one of the most artificial of poets. Of this the “ melodious opening of his greatest and most careful “poem affords an example
“The curfew tolls the knell of parting dar,
The lowing herds wind slowly o'er the lea;
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimmering landscape,' &c.
“That we may not appear hypercritical for the sake of “our own argument, we will borrow, with some abridg“ment, the shrewd and sound observations that we find “in the appendix of the edition we now review. The “ curfew tolls-Ist. The word toll is not the appropriate “verb—the curfew-bell was not a slow bell tolling for “the dead; 2ndly.—Long before the curfew tolled the “ploughman had wended his way homeward; 3rdly:“The day was not parting, when the curfew tolled it “had long since parted; 4thly.-If the world were left “to darkness in one line, how happens it, first, that in “the very next line, 'the glimmering landscape fades ?' “and, secondly, that we are almost immediately after“wards told that 'the moping owl is complaining to the “moon?' These are not mere verbal criticisms; they “are proofs that the writer is incorrect in his whole “picture, because he does not portray what he is seeing, “or has seen; he is heaping together incongruous