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with a haze that seems almost to be of tears. Therefore, the poetry of Burns will continue to charm, as long as Nith flows, Criffel is green, and the bonny blue of the sky of Scotland meets with that in the eyes of her maidens, as they walk up and down her hills silent or singing to kirk or market.

Let us picture to ourselves the Household in which Burns grew up to manhood, shifting its place without much changing. its condition, from first to last always fighting against fortune, experiencing the evil and the good of poverty, and in the sight of men obscure. His father may be said to have been an elderly man when Robert was born, for he was within a few years of forty, and had always led a life of labour; and labour it is that wastes away the stubbornest strength-among the tillers of the earth a stern ally of time. "His lyart haffets wearing thin and bare" at an age when many a forehead hardly shows a wrinkle, and when thick locks cluster darkly round the temples of easy-living men. The sire who "turns o'er wi' patriarchal pride the big Ha-Bible," is indeed well-stricken in years, but he is not an old man, for

"The expectant wee things, toddlin, stacher through
To meet their dad wi' flichterin noise and glee;
His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonnily;

His clean hearth-stane, his thriftie wifie's smile,

The lisping infant prattling on his knee,

Does a' his weary carking cares beguile,

And makes him quite forget his labour and his toil."

That picture, Burns, as all the world knows, drew from his father. He was himself, in imagination, again one of the "wee things" that ran to meet him; and "the priest-like father" had long worn that aspect before the poet's eyes, though he died before he was threescore. "I have always considered William Burnes," says the simple-minded tenderhearted Murdoch, " as by far the best of the human race that ever I had the pleasure of being acquainted with, and many a worthy character I have known. He was a tender and affectionate father; he took pleasure in leading his children in the paths of virtue, not in driving them, as some people do, to the performance of duties to which they themselves are averse. He took care to find fault very seldom; and, therefore, when he did rebuke, he was listened to with a kind of

reverential awe. I must not pretend to give you a description of all the manly qualities, the rational and Christian virtues, of the venerable William Burnes. I shall only add that he practised every known duty, and avoided everything that was criminal; or, in the apostle's words, 'herein did he exercise himself, in living a life void of offence towards God and towards man.' Although I cannot do justice to the character of this worthy man, yet you will perceive, from these few particulars, what kind of a person had the principal part in the education of the poet." Burns was as happy in a mother, whom, in countenance, it is said he resembled; and as sons and daughters were born, we think of the “auld clay biggin" more and more alive with cheerfulness and peace.

His childhood, then, was a happy one, secured from all evil influences and open to all good, in the guardianship of religious parental love. Not a boy in Scotland had a better education. For a few months, when in his sixth year, he was at a small school at Alloway Mill, about a mile from the house in which he was born; and for two years after under the tuition of good John Murdoch, a young scholar whom William Burnes and four or five neighbours engaged to supply the place of the schoolmaster, who had been removed to another situation, lodging him, as is still the custom in some country places, by turns in their own houses. "The earliest composition I recollect taking pleasure in, was 'The Vision of Mirza,' and a hymn of Addison's, beginning, 'How are thy servants bless'd, O Lord!' I particularly remember one half-stanza which was music to my boyish ear,

'For though on dreadful whirls we hang,
High on the broken wave.'

I met with these pieces in Mason's English Collection, one of my school-books. The two first books I ever read in print, and which gave me more pleasure than any two books I ever read since, were the Life of Hannibal, and the History of Sir William Wallace. Hannibal gave my young ideas such a turn, that I used to strut in raptures up and down after the recruiting drum and bagpipe, and wished myself tall enough to be a soldier; while the story of Wallace poured a tide of Scottish prejudice into my veins, which will boil along there till the floodgates of life shut in eternal rest." And speaking of the

same period and books to Mrs Dunlop, he says, "For several of my earlier years I had few other authors; and many a solitary hour have I stole out, after the laborious vocations of the day, to shed a tear over their glorious but unfortunate stories. In these boyish days I remember, in particular, being struck with that part of Wallace's story, where these lines occur—

'Syne to the Leglen wood, when it was late,
To make a silent and a safe retreat.'

I chose a fine summer Sunday, the only day my line of life
allowed, and walked half-a-dozen miles to pay my respects to
the Leglen wood, with as much devout enthusiasm as ever
pilgrim did to Loretto; and explored every den and dell where
I could suppose my heroic countryman to have lodged."
Murdoch continued his instructions until the family had been
about two years at Mount Oliphant, and there being no school
near us, says Gilbert Burns, and our services being already
useful on the farm, "my father undertook to teach us arith-
metic on the winter nights by candle-light; and in this way
my two elder sisters received all the education they ever had."
Robert was then in his ninth year, and had owed much, he
tells us, to " an old woman who resided in the family, remark-
able for her ignorance, credulity, and superstition. She had,
I suppose, the largest collection in the country of tales and
songs concerning devils, ghosts, fairies, brownies, witches,
warlocks, spunkies, kelpies, elf-candles, dead-lights, wraiths,
apparitions, cantrips, giants and enchanted towers, dragons,
and other trumpery.
This cultivated the latent seeds of
poetry; but had so strong an effect on my imagination, that
to this hour, in my nocturnal rambles, I sometimes keep a
sharp look-out on suspicious places; and though nobody can
be more sceptical than I am in such matters, yet it often takes
an effort of philosophy to shake off these idle terrors."

We said that not a boy in Scotland had a better education than Robert Burns, and we do not doubt that you will agree with us; for in addition to all that may be contained in those sources of useful and entertaining knowledge, he had been taught to read, not only in the Spelling Book, and Fisher's English Grammar, and "The Vision of Mirza," and Addison's Hymns, and Titus Andronicus (though on Lavinia's entrance "with her hands cut off, and her tongue cut out," he threatened

to burn the book), but in THE NEW TESTAMENT and the Bible, -and all this in his father's house, or in the houses of the neighbours,―happy as the day was long, or the night, and in the midst of happiness; yet even then, sometimes saddened, no doubt, to see something more than solemnity or awfulness on his father's face, that was always turned kindly towards the children, but seldom wore a smile.

Wordsworth had these memorials in his mind when he was conceiving the boyhood of the Pedlar in his great poem The Excursion.

"But eagerly he read and read again,

Whate'er the minister's old shelf supplied;
The life and death of martyrs, who sustained,
With will inflexible, those fearful pangs
Triumphantly displayed in records left
Of persecution, and the Covenant,-times
Whose echo rings through Scotland to this hour;
And there, by lucky hap, had been preserved
A straggling volume, torn and incomplete,
That left half-told the preternatural tale,
Romance of giants, chronicle of fiends,
Profuse in garniture of wooden cuts
Strange and uncouth; dire faces, figures dire,
Sharp-knee'd, sharp-elbowed, and lean-ankled too,

With long and ghastly shanks-forms which once seen
Could never be forgotten. In his heart
Where fear sate thus, a cherished visitant,
Was wanting yet the pure delight of love
By sound diffused, or by the breathing air,
Or by the silent looks of happy things,
Or flowing from the universal face

Of earth and sky. But he had felt the power
Of nature, and already was prepared,
By his intense conceptions, to receive
Deeply the lesson deep of love, which he
Whom nature, by whatever means, has taught
To feel intensely, cannot but receive.

Such was the boy; but his studies had now to be pursued by fits and snatches, and therefore the more eagerly and earnestly, during the intervals or at the close of labour that before his thirteenth year had become constant and severe.

"The cheerless gloom of a hermit, with the unceasing moil of a galley-slave!" These are his own memorable words, and they spoke the truth. "For nothing could be more retired," says Gilbert, "than our general manner of living at Mount Oliphant; we scarcely saw any but members of our own family. There were no boys of our own age, or near it, in the neighbourhood." They all worked hard from morning to night, and Robert hardest of them all. At fifteen he was the principal labourer on the farm, and relieved his father from holding the plough. Two years before he had assisted in thrashing the crop of corn. The two noble brothers saw with anguish the old man breaking down before their eyes; nevertheless, assuredly, though they knew it not, they were the happiest boys "the evening sun went down upon." "True," as Gilbert tells us, "I doubt not but the hard labour and sorrow of this period of his life was in a great measure the cause of that depression of spirits with which Robert was so often afflicted through his whole life afterwards. At this time he was almost constantly afflicted in the evenings with a dull headache, which at a future period of his life was exchanged for a palpitation of the heart, and a threatening of fainting and suffocation in his bed in the night-time." Nevertheless, assuredly both boys were happy, and Robert the happier of the two; for if he had not been so, why did he not go to sea? Because he loved his parents too well to be able to leave them, and because, too, it was his duty to stay by them, were he to drop down at midnight in the barn and die with the flail in his hand. But if love and duty cannot make a boy happy, what can? Passion, genius, a teaming brain, a palpitating heart, and a soul of fire. These, too, were his, and idle would have been her tears, had Pity wept for young Robert Burns.


Was he not hungry for knowledge from a child? During these very years he was devouring it; and soon the dawn grew day. My father," says Gilbert," was for some time the only companion we had. He conversed familiarly on all subjects with us, as if we had been men; and was at great pains, while we accompanied him in the labours of the farm, to lead the conversation to such subjects as might tend to increase our knowledge, or confirm us in virtuous habits. He borrowed Salmon's Geographical Grammar for us, and endea

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