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Bloody dissectors, worse than ten Munroes ;-
His heart by causeless, wanton malice wrung,
So, by some hedge, the generous steed deceas'd, For half-starv'd snarling curs a dainty feast; By toil and famine worn to skin and bone, Lies senseless of each tugging bitch's son.
O Dulness! portion of the truly blest! Calm shelter'd haven of eternal rest! Thy sons ne'er madden in the fierce extremes Of Fortune's polar frost, or torrid beams. If mantling high she fills the golden cup, With sober selfish ease they sip it up; Conscious the bounteous meed they well deserve, They only wonder “some folks” do not starve. The grave sage hern thus easy picks his frog, And thinks the mallard a sad worthless dog. When disappointment snaps the clue of hope, And thro' disastrous night they darkling grope, With deaf endurance sluggishly they bear, And just conclude that "fools are Fortune's care.” So, heavy, passive to the tempest's shocks, Strong on the sign-post stands the stupid ox.
Not so the idle Muses' mad-cap train, Not such the workings of their moon-struck brain ; In equanimity they never dwell, By turns in soaring heav'n, or vaulted hell.
I dread thee, Fate, relentless and severe, With all a poet's, husband's, father's fear! Already one stronghold of hope is lost,
Glencairn, the truly noble, lies in dust;
While at Ellisland, among the other titles to the respect and gratitude of his neighbours, Burns, at the suggestion of Mr. Riddel, of Friar's Carse, superintended the formation of a subscription library in the parish. His letters to the booksellers on this subject, writes Mr. Lockhart, do him much honour. His choice of authors (which business was naturally left to his discretion) being in the highest degree judicious. Such institutions are now common-almost universal indeed -in the rural districts of Southern Scotland; but it should never be forgotten that Burns was among the first, if not the very first, to set the example. “He was. “So good,” says Mr. Riddel, “as to take the whole “management of this concern; he was treasurer, “librarian, and censor to our little society, who will “long have a grateful sense of his public spirit and “exertions for their improvement and information.”
One of his best known and most admired letters to Mrs. Dunlop was written on the ist of January, 1789:“This, dear Madam is a morning of wishes, and would “to God that I came under the Apostle James's des“cription, the prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” “In that case, Madam, you should welcome in a year “. full of blessings; every thing that obstructs or disturbs “tranquillity and self-enjoyment should be removed, “and every pleasure that frail humanity can taste should “ be yours. I own myself so little a Presbyterian, that “I approve of set times and seasons of more than ordi“ nary acts of devotion, for breaking in on that habitual
“routine of life and thought, which is so apt to reduce “our existence to a kind of instinct, or even sometimes, “and with some minds, to a state very little superior to “mere machinery. This day; the first Sunday of May; "a breezy, blue-skyed noon some time about the begin“ning, and a hoary morning and calm sunny day about “the end, of Autumn; these, time out of mind, have “ been with me a kind of holiday. I believe I owe this “ to that glorious paper in the Spectator, “The Vision of “Mirza ;' a piece that struck my young fancy before I “ was capable of fixing an idea to a word of three “syllables: “On the fifth day of the moon, which, “according to the custom of my forefathers, I always “ keep holy, after having washed myself, and offered up “my morning devotions, I ascended the high hill of “ Bagdat, in order to pass the rest of the day in medita“tion and prayer.'
“We know nothing, or next to nothing, of the sub“stance or structure of our souls, so cannot account for “those seeming caprices in them, that one should be
particularly pleased with this thing, or struck with “that, which, on minds of a different cast, make no “extraordinary impression. I have some favourite “flowers in spring, among which are the mountain “ daisy, the harebell, the foxglove, the wild-briar rose, “the budding birch, and the hoary hawthorn, that I “ view and hang over with particular delight. I never “heard the loud, solitary whistle of the curlew, in a “summer noon, or the wild mixing cadence of a group “ of grey plover in an autumnal morning, without feel“ing an elevation of soul like the enthusiasm of devotion “or of poetry. Tell me, my dear friend, to what can “this be owing? Are we a piece of machinery, which, “ like the Æolian harp, passively takes the impression “ of the passing accident? Or do these workings “argue something within us above the trodden clod ? “I own myself partial to such proofs of those awful “and important realities—a God who made all things“man's immaterial and immortal nature—and a world “ of weal or woe beyond death and the grave.”
These and other all-important truths he learned in his father's cottage from the “big Ha' Bible.” Those early impressions survived ; and if allured by sirens to turn aside from his course, he found it difficult to be regained by striving in gloom and tempest to guide his bark aright; with what intense interest do we watch the struggle, and listen at times to the human wail of that “sad wisdom folly leaves behind ;" while heavenly harmonies resounding from his lyre inspire the longing wish and hope for final safety.
His friend, the Rev. James Gray, who knew him well, described him thus:-“ While the keen eye of Burns “was pregnant with fancy and feeling, and his voice “attuned to the very passion which he wished to com“municate, it would hardly have been possible to con“ceive any being more interesting and delightful. I “may likewise add, that, to the very end of his life, “reading was his favourite amusemerit. I have never “known any man so intimately acquainted with the “elegant English authors. He seemed to have the “poets by heart. The prose authors he could quote “either in their own words, or clothe their ideas in “language more beautiful than their own.' Nor was “there ever any decay in any of the powers of his mind. “To the last day of his life, his judgment, his memory, “his imagination, were fresh and vigorous, as when he “composed the “Cotter's Saturday Night. The truth “is, that Burns was seldom intoxicated. The drunkard “ soon becomes besotted, and is shunned even by the “convivial. Had he been so, he could not long have “ continued the idol of every party. It will be freely “confessed, that the hour of enjoyment was often pro“longed 'beyond the limit marked by prudence; but "what man will venture to affirm, that in situations “where he was conscious of giving so much pleasure, “he could at all times have listened to her voice? The “men with whom he generally associated were not of “the lowest order. He numbered among his intimate “friends, many of the most respectable inhabitants of “Dumfries and the vicinity. Several of those were
*attached to him by ties that the hand of calumny, “busy as it was, could never snap asunder. They “admired the poet for his genius, and loved the man “ for the candour, generosity, and kindness of his nature. .“ His early friends clung to him through good and bad "report, with a zeal and fidelity that prove their dis“ belief of the malicious stories circulated to his dis“advantage. Among them were some of the most “ distinguished characters in this country, and not a few • females, eminent for delicacy, taste, and genius.”
When young and impetuous, he was encouraged to engage in theological disputation as a partisan and zealous controversialist. In such discussions Christian truths are often unduly exaggerated out of just proportion, and distorted so as to become error, and are set in opposition to other truths with which they should harmoniously unite, as component parts of the great scheme of salvation. The partial views thus early adopted he continued to hold with but little change; nor were they favourable to steadfast faith, strong abiding hope, comfort and peace in life's trials, troubles, and temptations. If the Christian religion, as set forth in the teaching, and exemplified in the lives of such eminent divines as Archbishop Leighton, of the Scottish Episcopalian Church, before his time, and afterwards by Dr. Chalmers, of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, had been cordially embraced by Burns, they would have yielded in him more abundantly “the peaceable fruits of righteousness.” For it is not by bringing down scriptural truth from its high unerring standard to the lower level of our imperfect faith and obedience, that man can be justified, or his awakened and accusing conscience can be quieted and appeased. But to all of us, having sinned, being truly penitent, “ remission of “sins that are past is declared through the forbearance 66 of God—that He may be just, and the justifier of him “that believeth in Jesus, who has died for our sins, and * risen again for our justification, that we may always 'serve Him in pureness of living and truth.”
The religion of Christ and His holy life supply a per