Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

21

THE ORIGINAL OF THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT. of Prince Charles Edward. !

Perhaps the Christian volume is the theme, attachment, the heroic valour, and the final

How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed;

[name, misfortunes of the adherents of the house

How he who bore in heaven the second of Stuart, touched with sympathy his youth Had not on earth whereon to lay his head, ful and ardent mind, and influenced his How his first followers and servants sped ; original political opinions. (29)

The precepts sage they wrote to many a The father of our poet is described by

land;

How he, who lone in Patmos banished, one who knew him towards the latter end

Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand, of his life, as above the common stature, And heard great Babylon's doom pronounced, thin, and bent with labour. His counte by Heaven's command! nance was serious and expressive, and the

Then kneeling down to heaven's eternal scanty locks on his head were grey. He King,

(prays; was of a religious turn of mind, and, as The saint, the father, and the husband, is usual among the Scottish peasantry, a

* Hope springs exulting on triumphant wing,'

[days; good deal conversant in speculative theology.

That thus they all shall meet in future There is, in Gilbert's hands, a little manual

There ever bask in uncreated rays, of religious belief, in the form of a dialogue No more to sigh, or shed the bitter tear, between a father and his son, composed Together hymning their Creator's praise, by him for the use of his children, in In such society, yet still more dear ; which the benevolence of his heart seems to

While circling time moves round in an eternal

sphere. have led him to soften the rigid Calvinism of the Scotch church, into something ap

Then homeward all take off their several proaching to Arminianism. He was a | way; devont man, and in the practice of calling The youngling cottagers retire to rest : his family together to join in prayer. It is

The parent pair their secret homage pay,

And offer up to Heaven the warın request: known that the following exquisite picture,

That He who stills the raven's clani'rous in the Cotter's Saturday Night, represents

nest, William Burnes and his family at their And decks the lily fair in flowery pride, evening devotions:

Would, in the way his wisdom sees the best,

For them and for their little ones provide ; “ The cheerful supper done, with serious But, chiefly, in their hearts with grace divine face,

(wide;

preside!” They, round the ingle (30), form a circle The sire turns o'er, with patriarchal grace,

1 Of a family so interesting as that which The big hall-Bible, once his father's pride: | inhabited the cottage of William Burnes, and His bonnet rev'rently is laid aside, [bare; I particularly of the father of the family, the

His lyart haffets (31) wearing thin and reader will perhaps be willing to listen to Those strains that once did sweet in Zion | some farther account. What follows is given glide,

scare;

by one already mentioned with so much He wales (32) a portion with judicious And 'Let us worship God!” he says with

honour in the narrative of Gilbert Burns, solenın air.

Mr. Murdoch, the preceptor of our poet, They chant their artless notes in simple who, in a letter to Joseph Cooper Walker, guise;

saim : Esq., of Dublin, author of the Historical They tune their hearts, hy far the noblest Memoirs of the Irish Bards, and of the His. Perhaps Dundee's (33) wild warbling mea- torical Memoir of the Italian Tragedy, thus sures rise,

[name; Or plaintive Martyrs (34), worthy of the

expresses himself: . Or noble Elgin (35) beets (36) the heavenly

“SIR.-I was lately favoured with a letter flame,

from our worthy friend, the Rev. Wm. The sweetest far of Scotia's holy lays ; Adair, in which he requested me to con. Compar'd with these Italian trills are tame, I municate to you whatever particulars I The tickled ears no heart-lelt raptures i could recollect concerning Robert Burns. raise ;

(praise. No unison' have they with our Creator's

the Ayrshire poet. My business being at The priest-like father reads the sacred page,

present multifarious and harassing, my (37)

attention is consequently so much divided, HowAbram was the friend of God on high: and I am so little in the habit of expressa Or Moses bade eternal welfare wage

ing my thoughts on paper, that at this With Amalek's ungracious progeny; distance of time I can give but a very imOr how the royal bard did groaning lie, sire;

perfect sketch of the early part of the life Beneath the stroke of Heaven's avenging Or Job's pathetic plaint, and wailing cry;

of that extraordinary genius, with which Or rapt Isaiah wild seraphic fire ;

alone I am acquainted. Or other holy seers that tune the sacred lyre. William Burnes, the father of the poet,

was born in the shire of Kincardine, and syllables by rule, spelling without book, pass.

Ayrshire ten or twelve years before I were generally at the upper end of the class, knew him, and had been in the service of even when ranged with boys by far their Mr. Crawford of Doonside. He was afterwards seniors. The books most commonly used employed as a gardener and overseer by in the school were the Spelling Book, 'the Provost Ferguson of Doonholm, in the parish New Testament, the Bible, Mason's Collecof Alloway, which is now united with that tion of Prose and Verse, and Fisher's of Ayr. In this parish, on the roadside, a English Grammar. They committed to Scotch mile and a half from the town of Ayr, memory the hymns, and other poems of and half a mile from the bridge of Doon, that collection, with uncommon facility. Willian Burnes took a piece of land, consist- This facility was partly owing to the method ing of about seven acres; part of which he pursued by their father and me in instructe laid out in garden ground, and part of ing them, which was, to make them thowhich he kept to graze a cow, &c., still roughly acquainted with the meaning of continuing in the employ of Provost Fer- every word in each sentence that was guson. Upon this little farm was erected be committed to memory. By the bye, this a humble dwelling, of which William Burnes may be easier done, and at an earlier was the architect. It was, with the excep-period, than is generally thought. As soon tion of a little straw, literally a tabernacle as they were capable of it. I taught them of clay. In this mean cottage, of which to turn verse into its natural prose order ; I myself was at times an inhabitant, Il sometimes to substitute synonymous exreally believe there dwelt a larger portion pressions for poetical words, and to supply of content than in any palace in Europe. all the ellipses. These, you know, are the The Cotter's Saturday Night will give some means of knowing that the pupil understands idea of the temper and manners that pre- his author. These are excellent helps to the vailed there."

arrangement of words in sentences, as well “In 1765, about the middle of March, as to a variety of expression." Mr. W. Burnes came to Ayr, and sent to “Gilbert always appeared to me to pos. the school where I was improving in writ. sess a more lively imagination, and to be ing, under my good friend Mr. Robinson, more of the wit, than Robert. I attempted desiring that I would come and speak to to teach them a little church-music. Here him at a certain inn, and bring my writing i they were left far behind by all the rest book with me. This was immediately com- of the school. Robert's ear, in particular, plied with. Having examined my writing, was remarkably dull, and his voice un he was pleased with it--you will readily I tunable. It was long before I could get allow he was not difficult--and told me them to distinguish one tune from another. that he had received very satisfactory infor- Robert's countenance was generally grave, mation of Mr. Tennant, the master of the and expressive of a serious, contemplative, English school, concerning my improvement and thoughtful mind. Gilbert's face said, in English, and in his method of teach- | Mirth, with thee I mean to live ; and cering. In the month of May following, I was tainly, if any person who knew the two boys engaged by Mr. Burnes, and four of his had been asked which of them was the neighbours, to teach, and accordingly began most likely to court the muses, he would to teach the school at Alloway, which was surely never have guessed that Robert had situated a few yards from the argillaceous a propensity of that kind." fabric above-mentioned. My five employers “In the year 1767, Mr. Burnes quitted undertook to board me by turns, and to his mud edifice, and took possession of a make up a certain salary, at the end of the farm (Mount Oliphant), of his own improv. year, provided my quarterly payments from ing, while in the service of Provost Fergu. the different pupils did not amount to that son. This farm being at a considerable sum."

distance from the school, the boys could "My pupil, Robert Burns, was then be- not attend regularly; and some changes tween six and seven years of age; his taking place among the other supporters of preceptor about eighteen, Robert, and his the school, I left it, having continued to younger brother, Gilbert, had been grounded conduct it for nearly two years and a half.” a little in English before they were put “In the year 1772, I was appointed under my care. They both made a rapid (being one of five candidates who were progress in reading, and a tolerable progress examined) to teach the English school at in writing. In reading, dividing words into | Ayr; and in 1773, Robert Burns came to

1

DURNS STUDIES FRENCH. board and lodge with me, for the purpose of always rational information in view, had revising English grammar, &c., that he still some questions to propose to my might be better qualified to instruct his more learned friends, upon moral or natural brothers and sisters at home. He was now philosophy, or some such interesting subject. with me day and night, in school, at all Mrs. Burnes, too, was of the party as much meals, and in all my walks. At the end of į as possible; one week, I told him, that, as he was now i

"But still the house affairs would draw her pretty much master of the parts of speech,

thence,

(patch, &c., I should like to teach him something which ever as she could with haste dis' of French pronunciation; that when he She'd come again, and with a greedy ear, should meet with the name of a French Devour up their discourse' town, ship officer, or the like, in the news and particularly that of her husband. At papers, he might be able to pronounce it

all times, and in all companies, she listened something like a French word. Robert was to him

? to him with a more marked attention than glad to hear this proposal, and immediately we attacked the French with good i situs fan

to any body else. When under the neces.

ith goou sity of being absent while he was speak. courage."

iny, she seenied to regret, as a real loss, that “Now there was little else to be heard but the declension

cara she had missed what the good man had

of nouns, the con- said. This worthy woman. Agnes Brown. jugation of verbs, &c. When walking had the most thorough esteem for her hus. together, and even at meals, I was con

band of any woman I ever knew. I can stantly telling him the names of different

" by no means wonder that she highly objects, as they presented themselves, in

esteemed him; for I myself have always French; so that he was hourly laying in

considered William Burnes as by far the à stock of words, and sometimes little best of the human race that ever I had phrases. In short, he took such pleasure in

the pleasure of being acquainted with learning, and I in teaching, that it is

and many a worthy character I have known. difficult to say which of the two was most

& I can cheerfully join with Robert in the last zealous in the busine33; and about the end

' line of his epitaph (borrowed from Gold. the second week ofour study of the French, i

smith), we began to read a little of the Adventures of Telemachus, in Fenelon's own words.” l'And ev'n his failings lean'd to virtue's side.'

“But now the plains of Mount Oliphant “He was an excellent husband, if I may began to whiten, and Robert was sum- judge from his assiduous attention to the moned to relinquish the pleasing scenes that ease and comfort of his worthy partner, surround the grotto of Calypso, and, armed i and from her affectionate behaviour to with a sickle, to seek glory by signalising him, as well as her unwearied attention to himself in the field of Ceres--and so he the duties of a mother.” did; for, although but about fifteen, I was "He was a tender and affectionate father ; told that he performed the work of a man.” he took pleasure in leading his children in

“Thus was I deprived of my very apt pupil, the path of virtue, not in driving them, as and consequently agreeable companion, at some parents do, to the performance of the end of three weeks, one of which was duties to which they themselves are averse, spent entirely in the study of English, and He took care to find fault but very seldom; the other two chiefly in that of French and therefore, when he did rebuke, he was I did not, however, lose sight of him, but listened to with a kind of reverential awe. was a frequent visitant at his father's house, A look of disapprobation was felt; a rewhen I had my half holiday; and very proof was severely so; and a strip with often went, accompanied with one or two the tawz, eren on the skirt of the coat, persons more intelligent than myself, that gave heart-felt pain, produced a loud lamengood William Burnes might enjoy a mental i tation, and brought forth a flood of tears." feast. Then the labouring oar was shifted i "He had the art of gaining the esteem to some other hand. The father and the land goodwill of those that were labourers 8on sat down with us, when we enjoyed a under him. I think I never saw him angry conversation, wherein solid reasoning, sensi. but twice; the one time, it was with the ble remark, and a moderate seasoning of foreman of the band, for not reaping the jocularity, were so nicely blended, as to 1 field as he was desired; and the other render it palatable to all parties. Robert time, it was with an old man, for using had a hundred questions to ask me about smutty inuendoes and double entendres. the French, &c.; and the father, who had Were every foul-mouthed old man to receive a reasonable check in this way, it would be but it is mislaid. Please remember me, in to the advantage of the rising generation. ! the best manner, to my worthy friend Mr. As he was at no time overbearing to ! Adair, when you see him, or write to him." inferiors, he was equally incapable of that Hart Street. Bloomsburu Square. passive, pitiful, paltry spirit, that induces

London, Feb. 22, 1799." some people to keep booing and booing in the presence of a great man. He always treated As the narrative of Gilbert Burns was superiors with a becoming respect; but he written at a time when he was ignorant of never gave the smallest encouragement to the existence of the preceding narrative of aristocratical arrogance. But I must not his brother, so this letter of Mr. Murdoch pretend to give you a description of all the | was written without his having any knowmanly qualities, the rational and Christian ledge that either of his pupils had been virtues, of the venerable William Burnes. employed on th

ect. The three Time would fail me. I shall only add relations serve, therefore, not merely to that he carefully practised every known illustrate, but to authenticate each other. duty, and avoided every thing that was | Though the information they convey might criminal; or, in the apostle's words, Herein have been presented within a shorter comdid he exercise himself, in living a life void pass, by reducing the whole into one of offence towards God and towards men. unbroken narrative, it is scarcely to be Oh for a world of inen of such dispositions ! doubted, that the intelligent reader will be We should then have no wars. I have often far more gratitied by a sight of these original wished, for the good of mankind, that it documents themselves. were as custom:try to honour and perpetuate [The poet mentions in his own narrative the meinory of those who excel in moral his visit in his nineteenth summer to Kirkrectitude as it is to extol what are called Oswald parish, and his mingling in scenes heroic actions: then would the mausoleum l of dissipation there amongst the Carrick of the friend of my youth overtop and smugylers. The following additional par. surpass most of the monuments I see in ticulars respecting this period of his life will Westminster Abbey."

probably be interesting: they were col“Although I cannot do justice to the cha-lected by the present editor, but appeared racter of this worthy man, yet you will originally in Chambers Edinburgh Journal. perceive, from these few particulars, what If Burns be correct in stating that it was kind of person had the principal hand in the his nineteenth summer which he spent in education of our poet. He spoke the Kirkoswald parish, the date of his residence English language with more propriety (both there must be 1777. What seems to have with respect to diction and pronunciation) | suggested his going to Kirkoswald school, than any man I ever knew with no greater was the comection of his mother with advantages. This had a very good effect that parish. She was the daughter of on the boys, who began to talk, and reason Gilbert Brown, farmer of Craigenton, in like men, much sooner than their neighbours. this parochial division of Carrick, in which I do not recollect any of their contempo she had many friends still living, parraries, at my little seminary, who afterwards ticularly a brother, Sannuel Brown, who made any great degree as literary charac- resided, in the miscellaneous capacity of ters, except Dr. Tennant, who was chaplain farm-labourer, fisherman, and dealer in wool, to Colonel Fullarton's regiment, and who is at the farm-house of Ballochneil, above a now in the East Indies. He is a man of mile from the village of Kirkoswald. This genius and learning; yet affable, and free Brown, though not the farmer or guidman from pedantry.”

of the place, was a person held to be “Mr. Burnes, in a short time, found that in creditable circumstances in a district he had overrated Mount Oliphant, and where the distinction between master and that he could not rear his numerous family servant was, and still is, by no means great. upon it. After being there some years, he His wife was the sister of Niven, the removed to Lochlea, in the parish of Tar- tenant; and he lived in the “chamber" bolton, where, I believe, Robert wrote most or better portion of the farm-house, but of his poems."

was now a widower. It was with Brown "But here, sir, you will permit me to pause. that Burns lived during his attendance at I can tell you but little more relative to our | Kirkoswald school, walking every morning poet. I shall, however, in my next, send to the village where the little seminary you a copy of one of his letters to me, of learning was situated, and returning at about the year 1783. I received one since, night.

HUGH RODGER THE SCHOOLMASTER.

25

The district into which the young poet of pany him, and stay till it was time for both Kyle was thus thrown, has many features of to come back to school on Monday morning.

remarkable kind. Though situated on the There was also an interval between the shore of the Firth of Clyde, where steamers morning and afternoon meetings of the are every hour to be seen on their passage school, which the two youths used to spend between enlightened and busy cities, it is to together. Instead of amusing themselves this day the seat of simple and patriarchal with ball or any other sport, like the rest of usages. Its land, composed of bleak green the scholars, they would take a walk by uplands, partly cultivated and partly pas- themselves in the outskirts of the village, toral, was, at the time alluded to, occupied and converse on subjects calculated to im. by a generation of primitive small farmers, prove their minds. By and bye, they fell many of whom, while preserving their native upon a plan of holding disputations or argusimplicity, had superadded to it some of ments on speculative questions, one taking the irregular habits arising from a concern one side, and the other the other, without in the trade of introducing contraband much regard to their respective opinions on goods on the Carrick coast. (38) Such the point, whatever it might be, the whole dealings did not prevent superstition from object being to sharpen their intellects. flourishing amongst them in a degree of They asked several of their companions to vigour of which no district of Scotland come and take a side in these debates, but now presents any example. The parish | not one would do so; they only laughed at has six miles of sea coast; and the village, the young philosophers. The matter at where the church and school are situated, is | length reached the ears of the master, who, in a sheltered situation about a couple ! however skilled in mathematics, possessed of miles inland.

but a narrow understanding and little geneThe parish schoolmaster, Hugh Rodger, ral knowledge. With all the bigotry or the enjoyed great local fame as a teacher of old school, he conceived that this supereromensuration and geometry, and was much i gatory employment of his pupils was a piece employed as a practical land surveyor. On of absurdity, and he resolved to correct them the day when Burns entered at the school, 1 in it. One day, therefore, when the school anoti er youth, a little younger than himself, I was fully met, and in the midst of its usual also entered. This was a native of the business, he went up to the desk where neighbouring town of Maybole, who having Burns and Willie were sitting opposite to there completed a course of classical study, each other, and began to advert in sarcastic was now sent by his father, a respectable i terms to what he had heard of them. They sliopkeeper, to acquire arithmetic and men. I had become great debaters, he understood, suration under the famed mathematician and conceived themselves fit to settle affairs of Kirkoswald. It was then the custom, of importance, which wiser heads usually let when pupils of their age entered at a alone. He hoped their disputations would school, to take the master to a tavern, and not ultimately become implement the engagement by treating him they would never think of coming from to some liquor. Burns and the Maybole words to blows; and so forth. The jokes of youth, accordingly united to regale Rodger schoolmasters always succeed amongst the with a potation of ale, at a public house in boys, who are too glad to find the awful the village, kept by two gentlewomanly sort man in any thing like good humour, to of persons named Kennedy-Jean and question either the moral aim or the point Anne Kennedy—the former of whom was of his wit. They therefore, on this occae destined to be afterwards married to im- sion, hailed the master's remarks with hearty mortal verse, under the appellation of peals of laughter. Nettled at this, Willie Kirkton Jean, and whose house, in con resolved he would “speak up” to Rodger; sideration of some pretensions to birth or but first he asked Burns in a whisper if he

was always called | would support him, which Burns promised “the Leddies' House." From that time, to do. He then said that he was sorry to Burns and the Maybole youth became find that Robert and he had given offence; intimate friends, insomuch, that, during this it had not been intended. And indeed he summer, neither had any companion with j had expected that the master would have whom he was more frequently in company been rather pleased to know of their endeathan with the other. Burns was only at the vours to improve their minds. He could village during school hours; but when his assure him that such improvement was the friend Willie returned to the paternal dome sole object they had in view. Rodger on Saturday nights, the poet would accom- sneered at the idea of their improving their

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »