Abbildungen der Seite
PDF

more than sufficient for his present demands, he de- to gather a wreath of "henbane-nettles and nighttermined to gratify a desire he had long entertained shade," of visiting some of the most interesting districts of

" To twine his native country. For this purpose he left Edin

The illustrious brow of Scotch nobility," burgh on the 6th of May, 1787; and after visiting poor Burns was necessarily brought into contact various places celebrated in the rural songs of Scot- with low associates, and intemperance soon became land, he returned to his family in Mossgiel, where his tyrant. Unable to reconcile the two occupations, he arrived about the 8th of July. The reception his farm was in a great measure abandoned to his he met with at home was enthusiastic ; and among servants, and agriculture but seldom occupied his those who were now willing to renew his acquaint- thoughts. Meantime, there were seldom wanting ance, was the family of Jane Armour, with whom persons to lead him to a tavern; to applaud the Burns was speedily reconciled. After remaining sallies of his wit; and to witness at once the strength for a few days only at Mossgiel, he made a short and degradation of his genius. The consequences tour to Inverary, and afterward to the highlands, may be easily imagined : at the expiration of about whence he returned to Edinburgh, and remained three years, he was compelled to relinquish his lease, there during the greater part of the winter of 1787-8, and to rely upon his income of 701. per annum, as again entering freely into society and dissipation. an exciseman, till he should obtain promotion. With Having settled with his publisher, in February, 1788, this intention, he removed to a small house in Dumhe was delighted to find there was a balance due fries, about the end of the year 1791. In 1792, he to him, as the actual profit of his poems, of nearly contributed to Thomson's collection of Scottish 5001. At this juncture, he was confined to the house songs; and, about the same time, formed a sort of “ with a bruised limb, extended on a cushion ;" but book society in his neighbourhood. In the mean as soon as he was able to bear the journey, he rode time, he appears to have given offence to the board to Mossgiel, advanced his brother Gilbert (who was of excise, by some intemperate conduct and expresstruggling with many difficulties) the sum of 2001., sions relative to the French revolution, particularly married Jane Armour, and, with the remainder of in attempting to send a captured smuggler as a his capital, took the farm of Elliesland, on the banks present to the French convention; and an inquiry of the Nith, six miles above Dumfries.

was in consequence instituted into his conduct. A short time previously to this, it should be men- The result was, upon the whole, favourable; but tioned, that Burns had obtained, through a friend, an impression, injurious to Burns, was still left upon an appointment in the excise ; but with no inten- | the minds of the commissioners, and he was told tion of making use of his commission except on that his promotion, which was deferred, must depend some reverse of fortune. He now took possession on his future behaviour. This seems to have morof his farm ; but as the house required rebuilding, tified him keenly, and to have made him feel his Mrs. Burns could not, for some time, remove thither, dependent situation as a degradation to his future a circumstance peculiarly unfortunate, as it caused fame. “Often,” he says, in a letter to a gentleman, him to lead a very irregular and unsettled life. giving an account of the above circumstances, " in The determination, which he had formed, of aban- blasting anticipation, have I listened to some future doning his dissipated pursuits was broken in upon, hackney scribbler, with heavy malice of savage and his industry was frequently interrupted by vi- stupidity, exultingly asserting that Burns, notwithsiting his family in Ayrshire. As the distance was standing the fanfaronade of independence to be found too great for a single day's journey, he generally in his works, and after having been held up to public spent a night at an inn on the road, and on such occa- view and to public estimation as a man of some sions, falling into company, all his resolutions were genius, yet quite destitute of resources within himforgotten. Temptation also awaited him nearer self to support his borrowed dignity, dwindled into home : he was received at the tables of the neigh- a paltry exciseman ; and slunk out the rest of his bouring gentry with kindness and respect, and these insignificant existence in the meanest of pursuits, social parties too often seduced him from the labours and among the lowest of mankind.” of his farm, and his domestic duties, in which the It seems, however, that the board of excise did happiness and welfare of his family were now in- not altogether neglect Burns, who was, the year volved. Mrs. Burns joined her husband at Ellies- previous to his death, permitted to act as a superland, in November, 1788; and as she had, during visor. From October, 1795, to the January followthe autumn, lain-in of twins, they had now five ing, illness confined him to his house ; but, going childrenfour boys and a girl. On this occasion, out a few days after, he imprudently dined at a Burns resumed, at times, the occupation of a labour tavern, and returned home about three o'clock in er, and found neither his strength nor his skill im- | a very cold morning, benumbed and intoxicated. paired. Sentiments of independence cheered his | This occasioned a severe relapse, and he soon himmind, -pictures of domestic content and peace rose self became sensible that his constitution was sinkon his imagination,—and a few “golden days” | ing, and his death approaching. He, however, repassed away,-the happiest, perhaps, which he had paired to Brow, in Annandale, to try the effects of ever experienced. But these were not long to last: sea-bathing; which, though it relieved his rheumathe farming speculation was soon looked on with tic pains, was succeeded by a fresh accession of despondence, and neglected; and the excise became fever, and he was brought back to his own house the only resource. In this capacity, in reference in Dumfries, on the 18th of July, 1796. He remained to which beggarly provision for their bard, Mr. for three days in a state of feebleness, accompanied Coleridge indignantly calls upon his friend Lamb, by occasional delirium, and expired on the 21st of

July, in the thirty-eighth year of his age. He was A nod, accompanied by a significant movement of interred, with military honours, by the Dumfries the forefinger, brought Kate to the doorway or trance, volunteers, to which body he belonged, and his re- and I was near enough to hear the following words mains were followed to the grave by nearly ten distinctly uttered :- Kate, are ye mad? D'ye no thousand spectators. He left a widow and four sons, ken that the supervisor and me will be in upon you for whom the inhabitants of Dumfries opened a in the course of forty minutes ? Guid-by to ye at suhucrption, which, in itself considerable, was aug- present.' Burns was in the street, and in the midst merted by the profits of the edition of his works, of the crowd in an instant; and I had reason to in four volumes, octavo, published in 1800, by Dr. know that his friendly hint was not neglected. It Currie, with a life of the poet.

saved a poor widow woman from a fine of several Burns was within two inches of six feet in height, pounds.”—Though totally free from presumption, with a robust, yet agile frame; a finely formed face, in the presence of the superior circles of society to and an uncommonly interesting countenance. His which he was admitted, he did not hesitate to exwell-raised forehead indicated great intellect, and press his opinions strongly and boldly. A certain his eyes are described as having been large, dark, well-known provincial bore, as Mr. Lockhart deand full of ardour and animation. His conversation scribes him, having left a tavern-party, of which was rich in wit and humour, and occasionally dis- Burns was one, he, the bard, immediately demanded played profound thought, and reflections equally a bumper, and, addressing himself to the chair, said, serious and sensible ; for no one possessed a finer, “ I give you the health, gentlemen all, of the waiter discrimination between right and wrong. Though that called my Lord — out of the room." He his moral aberrations, for which he felt the keenest was no mean extemporizer; and the following verse remorse, have been exaggerated, the latter years of is said to have been introduced by him, in a song, his life were undoubtedly disgraceful, both to the in allusion to one of the company who had been man and to the poet; yet, amid his career of intem- boasting, somewhat preposterously, of his aristoperance, he preserved a warmth and generosity of cratic acquaintances : heart, and an independence of mind not less surprising or peculiar than his genius.

"Of lordly acquaintance you boast, Mr. Lockhart, in his life of Burns, gives several

And the dukes that you dined wi' yestreen,

Yet an insect's an insect at most, instances, which show that " he shrunk with horror

Though it crawl on the curl of a queen." and loathing from all sense of pecuniary obligation, no matter to whom.” In answer to a letter from The poetry of Burns, who has acquired almost equal Mr. Thomson, enclosing him 51. for some of his songs, fame by his prose, is now too universally acknowhe says, “ I assure you, my dear sir, that you truly ledged and appreciated, to require further analysis hurt me with your pecuniary parcel. It degrades or criticism. “ Fight, who will, about words and me in my own eyes. However, to return it would forms,” says Byron, “ Burns's rank is in the first savour of affectation ; but, as to any more traffic of class of his art ;” but, as Mr. Lockhart observes, that debtor and creditor kind, I swear, by that honour" to accumulate all that has been said of Burns, which crowns the upright statue of Robert Burns's even by men like himself, of the first order, would integrity-on the least motion of it, I will indig. fill a volume.” We shall conclude, therefore, with nantly spurn the by-past transaction, and from that an observation of Mr. Campbell, that “ viewing moment commence entire stranger to you.”—The him merely as a poet, there is scarcely another following anecdote is told of him in his character of regret connected with his name, than that his proexciseman, by a writer in the Edinburgh Literary ductions, with all their merit, fall short of the talents Journal, who saw him at Thornhill fair. “An in- which he possessed.” formation," he says,“ had been lodged against a poor Burns's character is, upon the whole, honestly widow woman, of the name of Kate Wilson, who drawn by his own pen, in the serio-comic epitaph, had ventured to serve a few of her old country friends written on himself, concluding with the following with a draught of unlicensed ale, and a lacing of verse :whisky, on this village jubilee. I saw him enter “ Reader, attend—whether thy soul her door, and anticipated nothing short of an imme

Soars fancy's flights beyond the pole, diate seizure of a certain gray beard and barrel,

Or darkling grubs this earthly hole,

In low pursuit ; which, to my personal knowledge, contained the

Know, prudent, cautious self-control, contraband commodities our bard was in quest of. I

Is wisdom's root."

THE TWA DOGS,

A TALE.

He rises when he likes himsel;
His flunkies answer at the bell;
He ca's his coach, he ca’s his horse ;
He draws a bonnie silken purse
As lang's my tail, whare, through the steeks,
The yellow letter'd Geordie keeks.

'Twas in that place o' Scotland's isle,
That bears the name o' Auld King coil,
Upon a bonnie day in June,
When wearing through the afternoon,
Twa dogs that were na thrang at hame,
Forgather'd ance upon a time.

The first I'll name, they ca'd him Cæsar, Was keepit for his honour's pleasure: His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs, Show'd he was nane o' Scotland's dogs ; But whalpit some place far abroad, Where sailors gang to fish for cod.

Frae morn to e'en it's naught but toiling,
At baking, roasting, frying, boiling;
An' though the gentry first are stechin,
Yet e'en the ha' folk fill their pechan
Wi' sauce, ragouts, and sicklike trashtrie,
That's little short o' downright wastrie.
Our whipper-in, wee blastit wonner,
Poor worthless elf, it eats a dinner,
Better than ony tenant man
His honour has in a' the lan':
An' what poor cot-folk pit their painch in,
I own it's past my comprehension.

LUATH.
Trowth, Cæsar, whyles they're fash't eneugh;
A cottar howkin in a sheugh,
Wi’ dirty stanes biggin a dyke,
Baring a quarry, and sic like,
Himself, a wife, he thus sustains,
A smytrie owee duddie weans,
An' naught but his han’darg, to keep
Them right and tight in thack an' rape.

[ocr errors][merged small]
[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Nae doubt but they were fain o'ither, An' unco pack anothick thegither ; Wi' social nose whyles snuft'd and snowkit, Whyles mice an’ moudieworts they howkit; Whyles scour'd awa' in lang excursion, An' worry'd ither in diversion ; Until wi' daffin weary grown, Upon a knowe they sat them down, And there began a lang digression About the lords o' the creation.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

LUATH.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Our laird gets in his racked rents, His coals, his kain, and a' his stents;

Then chance an' fortune are sae guided, They're aye in less or mair provided; An' though fatigued wi' close employment, | A blink o' rest's a sweet enjoyment.

*Cuchullin's dog in Ossian's Fingal.

The dearest comfort o' their lives, Their grushie weans an’ faithfu' wives ; The prattling things are just their pride, That sweetens a' their fire side.

LUATH. Hech man! dear sirs! is that the gate They waste sae mony a braw estate! Are we sae foughten an? barass'd For gear to gang that gate at last !

An' whyles twalpennie worth o' nappy Can mak the bodies unco happy; They lay aside their private cares, To mend the kirk and state affairs; They'll talk o' patronage and priests, Wi' kindling fury in their breasts, Or tell what new taxation's coming, An' ferlie at the folk in Lon'on.

O would they stay aback frae courts, An' please themsels wi' kintra sports, It wa’d for every ane be better, The laird, the tenant, and the cotter! For thae frank, rantin, ramblin billies, Fient haet o' them's ill-hearted fellows; Except for breakin o' their timmer, Or speakin lightly o' their limmer, Or shootin o' a hare or moor-cock, The ne'er a bit they're ill to poor fo'k.

As bleak-faced Hallowmass returns, They get the jovial, ranting kirns, When rural life, o' ev'ry station, Unite in common recreation ; Love blinks, Wit slaps, an’ social Mirth, Forgets there's care upo' the earth.

[ocr errors][merged small]

That merry day the year begins, They bar the door on frosty winds; The nappy reeks wi' mantling ream, An' sheds a heart-inspiring steam; The luntin pipe, an' sneeshin mill, Are handed round wi' richt guid will; The cantie auld folks crackin crouse, The young anes rantin through the house, My heart has been sae fain to see them, That I for joy hae barkit wi' them.

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

It's true they need na starve or sweat, Through winter's cauld, or simmer's heat; They've nae sair wark to craze their banes, An'fill auld age wi' gripes an' granes : But human bodies are sic fools, For a' their colleges and schools, That when nae real ills perplex them, They make enow themselves to vex them; An'aye the less they hae to sturt them, In like proportion less will hurt them. A country fellow at the pleugh, His acres till’d, he's right eneugh; A kintra lassie at her wheel, Her dizzens done, she's unco weel : But gentlemen, an'ladies warst, Wi’ev'ndown want o wark are curst. They loiter, lounging, lank, an' lazy; Though deil haet ails them, yet uneasy ; Their days, insipid, dull, an' tasteless; Their nights unquiet, lang, an' restless ; An'e'en their sports, their balls an' races, Their galloping through public places. There's sic parade, sic pomp, an’art, The joy can scarcely reach the heart. The men cast out in party matches, Then sowther a' in deep debauches; Ae night they're mad wi' drink an' wh-ring, Niest day their life is past enduring. The ladies arm-in-arm in clusters, As great and gracious a'as sisters; But hear their absent thoughts o'ither, They're a' run deils an' jads thegither. Whyles o’er the wee bit cup an' platie, They sip the scandal portion pretty ; Or lee-lang nights, wi' crabbit leuks Pore owre the devil's pictured beuks; Stake on a chance a farmer's stackyard, An' cheat like onie unhang'd blackguard.

There's some exception, man an' woman; | But this is gentry's life in common.

There, at Vienna or Versailles He rives his father's auld entails; Or by Madrid he takes the rout, To thrum guitars, and fecht wi' nowt; Or down Italian vista startles, Wh-re-hunting among groves o' myrtles ; Then bouses drumly German water, To mak himsel look fair and fatter, An' clear the consequential sorrows, Love-gifts of carnival signoras. For Britain's guid ! for her destruction ! Wi' dissipation, feud, an' faction.

By this, the sun was out o' sight,

It spak right howe,—“My name is Death, An' darker gloaming brought the night!

But be na fley'd.”—Quoth I, “ Guid faith, The bum-clock humm'd wi' lazy drone;

Ye’re may be come to stap my breath ; The kye stood rowtin i’ the loan;

But tent me, billie : When up they gat, and shook their lugs,

I red ye weel, tak care o' skaith,
Rejoiced they were na men but dogs;

See, there's a gully!”
An' each took aff his several way,
Resolved to meet some ither day.

« Guidman," quo' he,“ put up your whittle,
I'm no design'd to try its mettle ;
But if I did, I wad be kittle

To be mislear'd,

I wad na mind it, no, that spittle
DEATH AND DR. HORNBOOK.

Out-owre my beard.”
A TRUE STORY.

“ Well, weel!” says I, “a bargain be't; SOME books are lies frae end to end,

Come, gies your hand, an’ sae we're gree't ; And some great lies were never penn'd,

We'll ease our shanks ; an’tak a seat,
E’en ministers, they hae been kenn'd

Come, gies your news;
In holy rapture,

This while* ye hae been monie a gate
A rousing whid, at times to vend,

At monie a house.'
And nail't wi' Scripture.

“Ay, ay !” quo' he, an' shook his head, But this that I am gaun to tell,

“It's e'en a lang, lang time indeed
Which lately on a night befell,
Is just as true's the deil's in h-Il

Sin' I began to nick the thread,
Or Dublin city:

An' choke the breath :
That e'er he nearer comes oursel

Folk maun do something for their bread,

An' sae maun Death. 'S a muckle pity. The Clachan yill had made me canty,

“ Sax thousand years are near hand fled I was na fou, but just had plenty;

Sin' I was to the butching bred,
I stacher'd whyles, but yet took tent aye

An' monie a scheme in vain's been laid,
To free the ditches;

To stap or scar me;
An' hillocks, stanes, an’ bushes, kenn'd aye Till ane Hornbook'st ta'en up the trade,
Frae ghaists an' witches.

An' faith, he'll waur me. The rising moon began to glow'r

6 Ye ken Jock Hornbook i' the Clachan, The distant Cumnock hills out-owre:

Deil mak his king's-hood in a spleuchan !
To count her horns, wi' a' my power,

He's grown sae well acquaint wi’ Bucbant
I set mysel;

An' ither chaps,
But whether she had three or four,

That weans haud out their fingers laughin
I cou'd na tell.

And pouk my hips.
I was come round about the hill,

“ See, here's a sithe, and there's a dart, And toddlin down on Willie's mill,

They hae pierced mony a gallant heart;
Setting my staff wi' a' my skill,

But Doctor Hornbook, wi' his art,
To keep me sicker:
Though leeward whyles, against my will,

And cursed skill,

Has made them baith not worth a f-t,
I took a bicker.

Damn'd haet they'll kill.
I there wi' something did forgather,
That put me in an eerie swither;

« 'Twas but yestreen, nae further gaen, An awfu’ sithe, out-owre ae showther,

I threw a noble throw at ane;
Clear-dangling, hang; Wi’ less, I'm sure, I've hundreds slain ;
A three-tae'd leister on the ither

But deil-ma-care,
Lay, large an' lang.

It just play'd dirl on the bane,

But did nae mair.
Its stature seem'd lang Scotch ells twa,
The queerest shape that e'er I saw,

“ Hornbook was by, wi' ready art, For fient a wame it had ava!

And had sae fortified the part,
And then, its shanks, That when I looked to my dart,
They were as thin, as sharp an' sma'

It was sae blunt,
As cheeks o' branks.

Fient haet o't wad hae pierced the heart

Of a kail-runt.
« Guid-e'en," quo’I;“ Friend ! hae ye been mawin,
When ither folk are busy sawin ?"**
It seem'd to mak a kind o'stan',

* An epidemical fever was then raging in that country. But naething spak;

This gentleman, Dr. Hornbook, is professionally, a At length, says I, “ Friend, whare ye gaun, brother of the sovereign order of the ferula; but, by Will ye go back ?”

intuition and inspiration, is at once an apothecary, sur.

geon, and physician. • This rencounter happened in seed-time, 1786. | Buchan's Domestic Medicine.

« ZurückWeiter »