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The whole course of the Ayr is fine; but | fare, and wished it preserved from the the banks of that river, as it bends to the rudely-browsing cattle, or the withering easteastward above Mauchline, are singularly ern blast? Such was the scene, and such the beautiful, and they were frequented, as may hour, when, in a corner of my prospect, I be imagined, by our poet in his solitary spied one of the fairest pieces of nature's walks. Here the muse often visited him.workmanship that ever crowned a poetic In one of these wanderings, he met among landscape, or met a poet's eye; those vision. the woods, a celebrated beauty of the west ary bards excepted who hold commerce with of Scotland-a lady, of whom it is said that aërial beings! Haà calumny and villany the charms of her person correspond with taken my walk, they had at that moment the character of her mind. (47) This inci- sworn eternal peace with such an object. dent gave rise, as might be expected, to a “What an hour of inspiration for a poet! poem, of which an account will be found in It would have raised plain, dull, historic The following letter, in which he enclosed it prose into metaphor and measure. to the object of his inspiration :
“The enclosed song was the work of my
return home; and perhaps it but poorly "To Miss
answers what might have been expected "Mossgiel, 18th November, 1786. from such a scene. (48) * * * “ MADAM.--Poets are such outré beings,
“I have the honour to be, madam, your 80 much the the children of wayward fancy
most obedient, and very humble servant, and capricious whim, that I believe the
“ROBERT BURNS." world generally allows them a larger latitude
'Twas even the dewy fields were green,
On every blade the pearls hang : (49) in the laws of propriety, than the sober sons
The Zephyr wanton'd round the bean, of judgment and prudence. I mention this
And bore its fragrant sweets alang; as an apology for the liberties that a name In every glen the mavis sang, less stranger has taken with you in the All nature listening seemed the while, enclosed poem, which he begs leave to pre
Except where greenwood echoes rang, sent you with. Whether it has poetical
Amang the braes O' Ballochmyle. merit any way worthy of the theme, I am
With careless step I onward strayed, not the proper judge, but it is the best
My heart rejoiced in nature's joy,
When, musing in a lonely glade, my abilities can produce: and what to a
A maiden fair I chanced to spy ; good heart will perhaps be a superior grace, Her look was like the morning's eye, it is equally sincere as fervent.
Her hair like nature's vernal smile, “The scenery was nearly taken from real Perfection whispered passing by, life, though I dare say, madam, you do not
Behold the lass o' Ballochmyle! (50) recollect it, as I believe you scarcely noticed
Fair is the morn in flowery May, the poetic reveur as he wandered by you.
And sweet is night in Autumn mild ;
When roving through the garden gay, I had roved out as chance directed, in the
Or wandering in the lonely wild : favourite haunts of my muse, on the banks But woman, Nature's darling child ! of the Ayr, to view nature in all the gaiety There all her charms she does compile; of the vernal year. The evening sun was / Even there her other works are foil'd flaming over the distant western hills ; not
By the bony lass o' Ballochmyle. a breath stirred the crimson openiny
Oh had she been a country maid, blossom, or the verdant spreading leaf. It
And I the happy country swain!
Though sheltered in the lowest shed was a golden moment for a poetic heart.
That ever rose on Scotland's plain, I listened to the feathered warblers, pouring Through weary winter's wind and rain, their harmony on every hand, with a con With joy, with rapture I would toil; genial kindred regard, and frequently And nightly to my bosomn strain turned out of my path, lest I should disturb The bonny lass o' Ballochmyle. their little songs, or frighten them to Then pride might climb the slippery steep, another station. Surely, said I to myself, 1
Where fame and honours lofty shine; i he must be a wretch indeed, who, regard
And thirst of gold might tempt the deep,
Or downward seek the Indian mine; less of your harmonious endeavours to
Give me the cot below the pine, please him, can eye your elusive flights to To tend the flocks, or till the soil, discover your secret recesses, and to rob you And every day have joys divine of all the property nature gives you, your
With the bony lass o' Ballochmyle." dearest comforts, your helpless nestlings. In the manuscript book in which our poet Even the hoary hawthorn twig that shot has recounted this incident, and into which across the way, what heart at such a time the letter and poem are copied, he complains abut must have been interested in its well that the lady made no reply to his effusions,
SUSCEPTIBILITY OF BURNS.
and this appears to have wounded his self: 1 of this passion died early in life, and the imlove. It is not, however, difficult to find an pression left on the mind of Burns seems to excuse for her silence. Burns was at this have been deep and lasting. (51) Several time little known; and, where known at all, years afterwards, when he was removed to noted rather for the wild strength of his Nithsdale, he gave vent to the sensibility of huniour, than for those strains of tenderness his recollections in the following impassioned in which he afterwards so much excelled. To lines. In the manuscript book from which the lady herself his name had, perhaps, never we extract them, they are addressed To Mary been maitioned, and of such a poem she in Heaven! might not consider herself as the proper - Thou lingering star, with less'ning ray, judge. Her modesty might prevent her That lov'st to greet'the early morn. from perceiving that the muse of Tibullus Again thou usher'st in the day breathed in this nameless poet, and that her ! My Mary from my soul was torn. beauty was awakening strains destined to im- on,
Oh, Mary! dear departed shade! mortality on the banks of the Ayr. It may
Where is thy place of blissful rest?
V Seest thou thy lover lowly laid ? be conceived, also, that supposing the verse i
Hear'st thou thegroans that rend his breast? duly appreciated, delicacy might find it diffi-|
That sacred hour can I forget, cult to express its acknowledgments. The can I forget the hallowed urove. fervent imagination of the rustic bard pos- Where by the winding Ayr we met sessed more of tenderness than of respect. To live one day Instead of raising himself to the condition of Eternity will not efface the object of his admiration, he presumed to l_ Those records dear of transports past;
Thy image at our last embrace; reduce her to his own, and to strain this i
Ah! little thought we'twas our last ! high-born beauty to his daring bosom. It is! true, Burns might have found precedents for
1 Ayr gurgling kissed his pebbled shore,
o'erhungo with wild woods, thick’ning. such freedoms among the poets of Greece green; and Rome, and, indeed, of every country. The fragrant birch, and hawthorn hoar, And it is not to be denied, that lovely wo- Twin'd amorous round the raptured scene. men have generally submitted to this sort of | The flowers sprang wanton to be prest.
The birds sang love on every spray, profanation with patience, and even with impiù
Till too, too soon, the glowing west good humour. To what purpose is it to re Proclaim'd the speed of winged day. pine at a misfortune which is the necessary still o'er these scenes my mem'ry wakes. consequence of their own charms, or to re And fondly broods with miser care ; monstrate with a description of men who are Time but the impression stronger makes, incapable of control?
As streams their channels deeper wear. “The lunatic, the lover, and the poet,
My Mary, dear departed shade!
Where is thy place of blissful rest ? Are of imagination all compact."
Seest thou thy lover lowly laid ? (breast ?" Itinay be easily presunied, that the beau
Hear'st thou the groans that rend his tiful nymph of Ballochmyle, whoever she may have been, did not reject with scorn the To the delineations of the poet by himself, adorations of our poet, though she received by his brother, and by his tutor, these addithem with silent modesty and dignified tions are necessary, in order that the reader reserve.
may see his character in its various aspects, The sensibility of our bard's temper, and and may have an opportunity of forming a the force of his imagination, exposed him, in just notion of the variety, as well as of the a particular manner, to the impressions of power of his original genius. (52) beauty; and these qualities, united to his We have dwelt the longer on the early impassioned eloquence, gave him in turn a part of his life, because it is the least known, powerful influence over the female heart. and because, as has already been mentioned, The banks of the Ayr formed the scene of this part of his history is connected with youthful passions of a still tenderer nature, some views of the condition and manners of the history of which it would be improper to the humblest ranks of society, hitherto little reveal, were it even in our power; and the observed, and which will perhaps be found traces of which will soon be discoverable only neither useless nor uninteresting. in those strains of nature and sensibility to About the time of his leaving his native which they gave birth. The song entitled county, his correspondence commences; and Highland Mary is known to relate to one of in the series of letters given to the world, these attachmeuts. “It was written,” says the chief incidents of the remaining part of our bard, "on one of the most interesting his life will be found. This authentic, passages of my youthful days." The object I though melancholy record, will supersede in
future the necessity of any extended narra- 1 on the 23rd of October, 1786, when he dined tive.
at my house in Ayrshire, together with our Burns set out for Edinburgh in the month common friend Mr. John Mackenzie, surgeon of November, 1786. He was furnished with in Mauchline, to whom I am indebted for the a letter of introduction to Dr. Blacklock pleasure of his acquaintance. I am enabled (53), from the gentleman to whom the doctor to mention the date particularly, by some had addressed the letter which is represented verses which Burns wrote after he returned by our bard as the immediate cause of his home, and in which the day of our meeting visiting the Scottish metropolis. He was is recorded. Myexcellent and much lamented acquainted with Mr. Stewart, Professor of friend, the late Basil, Lord Daer, happened Moral Philosophy in the university, and to arrive at Catrine the same day, and by had been entertained by that gentleman at the kindness and frankness of his manners, Catrine, his estate in Ayrshire. He had left an impression on the mind of the poet been introduced by Mr. Alexander Dalzeil which was never effaced. (56) The verses I (54) to the Earl of Glencairn, who had ex- allude to are among the most imperfect of pressed his high approbation of his poetical his pieces; but a few stanzas may perhaps talents. He had friends, therefore, who be an object of curiosity to you, both on
roduce him into the circles of lite- account of the character to which they relate, rature as well as of fashion, and his own and of the light which they throw on the manners and appearance exceeding every situation and feelings of the writer, before expectation that could have been formed of his name was known to the public. them, he soon became an object of general I cannot positively say, at this distance of curiosity and admiration. (55) The following time, whether, at the period of our first circumstance contributed to this in a con acquaintance, the Kilmarnock edition of his siderable degree :--At the time when Burns poems had been just published, or was yet arrived in Edinburgh, the periodical paper, in the press. I suspect that the latter was entitled The Lounyer, was publishing, every the case, as I have still in my possession Saturday producing a successive number. / copies in his own handwriting of some of his His poems had attracted the notice of the favourite performances; particularly of his
emen engaged in that undertaking, and verses On Turning up a Mouse with his the ninety-seventh number of those unequal, Plough; on the Mountain Daisy ; and The though frequently beautiful essays, is devoted | Lament. On my return to Edinburgh, I to An Account of Robert Burns, the Ayrshire showed the volume, and mentioned what I Plougliman, with extracts from his Poems, knew of the author's history to several of written by the elegant pen of Mr. Mackenzie. my friends; and among others to Mr. Henry The Loui
nsive circulation Mackenzie, who first recommended him to among persons of taste and literature, not public notice in the 97th number of The in Scotland only, but in various parts of Lounger. England, to whose acquaintance, therefore, “At this time Burns's prospects in life our bard was immediately introduced. The were so extremely gloomy, that he had paper of Mr. Mackenzie was calculated to seriously former
ng out to introduce him advantageously. The extracts Jamaica in a very humble situation, not are well selected; the criticisms and reflec- however without lamenting that his want of tions are judicious as well as generous; and patronage should force him to think of a in the style and sentiments there is that project so repugnant to his feelings, when happy delicacy, by which the writings of the his ambition aimed at no higher an object author are so eminently distinguished. The than the station of an exciseman or gauger extracts from Burns's poems in the ninety | in his own country. seventh number of The Lounger, were copied "His manners were then, as they continued into the London as well as into many of the ever afterwards, simple, manly, and indeprovincial papers, and the fame of our bard pendent; strongly expressive of conscious spread throughout the island. Of the genius and worth, but without any thing that manners, character, and conduct of Burns at indicated forwardness, arrogance, or vanity. this period, the following account has beenHe took his share in conversation, but not given by Mr. Stewart, Professor of Moral more than belonged to him; and listened Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh, with apparent attention and deference on in a letter to the editor, which he is particu- subjects where his want of education delarly happy to have obtained permission to prived him of the means of information. If insert in these memoirs :
there had been a little more of gentleness “The first time I saw Robert Burns was , and accommodation in his temper, he would,
BURNS VISITS EDINBURGH.
I think, have been still more interesting ; | happiness and the worth which they conbut he had been accustomed to give law in tained. the circle of his ordinary acquaintance; and “In his political principles he was then a his dread of any thing approaching to mean-Jacobite; which was perhaps owing partly ness or servility, rendered his manner some- to this, that his father was originally from what decided and hard. Nothing, perhaps, the estate of Lord Mareschal. Indeed, he was more remarkable among his various at, did not appear to have thought much on tainments, than the fluency, and precision, such subjects, nor very consistently. He and originality of his language, when he had a very strong sense of religion, and exspoke in company; more particularly as he pressed deep regret at the levity with which aimed at purity in his turn of expression, he had heard it treated occasionally in some and avoided more successfully than most convivial meetings which he frequented. I Scotchmen the peculiarities of Scottish speak of him as he was in the winter of phraseology.
1786-7; for afterwards we met but seldom, "He came to Edinburgh early in the winter and our conversations turned chiefly on his following, and remained there for several i literary projects, or his private affairs. months. By whose advice he took this “I do not recollect whether it appears or step, I am unable to say. Perhaps it was not from any of your letters to me, that suggested only by his own curiosity to see a you had ever seen Burns. (57) If you have, little more of the world; but, I confess, I it is superfluous for me to add, that the dreaded the consequences from the first, idea which his conversation conveyed of the and always wished that his pursuits and powers of his mind, exceeded, if possible, habits should continue the same as in the that which is suggested by his writings. former part of life with the addition of, Among the poets whom I have happened to what I considered as then completely within know, I have been struck, in more than one his reach, a good farm on moderate terms, in instance, with the unaccou a part of the country agreeable to his taste. between their general talents, and the occa
“The attentions he received during his stay sional inspirations of their more favoured in town froin all ranks and descriptions of moments. But all the faculties of Burns's persons, were such as would have turned mind, were, as far as I could judge, equally any head but his own. I cannot say that I vigorous; and his predilection for poetry could perceive any unfavourable effect was rather the result of his own enthusiastic which they left on his mind. He retained and impassioned temper, than of a genius the same simplicity of manners and ap- exclusively adapted to that species of compearance which had struck me so forcibly position. From his conversation I should when I first saw him in the country; nor have pronounced him to be fitted to excel in did he seem to feel any additional self-im- | whatever wal.
whatever walk of ambition he had chosen to portance from the number and rank of his exert his abilities. new acquaintance. His dress was perfectly “Among the subjects on which he was suited to his station, plain and unpretend- accustomed to dwell, the characters of the iug, with a sufficient attention to neatness. / individuals with shom he happened to meet, If I recollect right, he always wore boots; was plainly a favourite one. The remarks and, when on more than usual cereinony, he made on them were always shrewd and buckskin breeches.
pointed, though frequently inclining too “The variety of his engagements, while in much to sarcasm. His praise of those he Edinburgh, prevented me from seeing him loved was sometimes indiscriminate and 80 often as I could have wished. In the extravagant; but this, I suspect, proceeded course of the spring, he called on me once rather rather from the caprice and humour or twice, at my request, early in the morn- of the moment, than from the effects of ing, and walked with me to Braid Hills, in attachment in blinding his judgment. His the neighbourhood of the town, when he wit was ready, and always impressed with charmed me still more by his private con- the marks of a vigorous understanding; but, versation than he had ever done in company. to my taste, not often pleasing or happy, He was passionately fond of the beauties of His attempts at epigram, in his printed nature; and I recollect once he told me, works, are the only performances, perhaps, when I was admiring a distant prospect in that he has produced totally unworthy of one of our morning walks, that the sight of his genius. so many smoking cottages gave a pleasure “In summer 1787, I passed some weeks to his mind, which none could understand in Ayrshire, and saw Burns occasionally. who had not witnessed, like himself, the / I think that he made a pretty long excur. sion that season to the Highlands, and that him a passage or two in Franklin's works, he also visited what Beattie calls the Arca- which I thought very happily executed, dian ground of Scotland, upon the banks of upon the model of Addison; but he did not the Teviot and the Tweed.
appear to relish, or to perceive the beauty "I should have mentioned before, that, not- which they derived from their exquisite withstanding various reports I heard during simplicity, and spoke of them with indiffe the preceding winter, of Burns's predilection rence, when compared with the point, and for convivial, and not very select society, I antithesis, and quaintness of Junius. The should have concluded in favour of his influence of this taste is very perceptible in habits of sobriety, from all of him that ever his own prose compositions, although their fell under my own observation. He told me great and various excellences render some indeed himself, that the weakness of his of them scarcely less objects of wonder stomach was such as to deprive him entirely than his poetical performances. The late of any merit in his temperance. I was, Dr. Robertson used to say, that considering however, somewhat alarmed about the effect his education, the former seemed to him the of his now comparatively sedentary and more extraordinary of the two. luxurious life, when he confessed to me, the “ His memory was uncommonly retentive, first night he spent in my house after his at least for poetry, of which he recited to me, winter's campaign in town, that he had irequently long compositions with the most been much disturbed when in bed, by a minute accuracy. They were chiefly ballads, palpitation at his heart, which, he said, was and other pieces in our Scottish dialect; a complaint to which he had of late become yreat part of them, he told me, he had subject.
learned in his childhood from his mother, "In the course of the same season, I was who delighted in such recitations, and whose led by curiosity to attend for an hour or two poetical taste, rude as it probably was, gave, & Mason Lodge in Mauchline, where Burus it is presumable, the first direction to hier presided. He had occasion to make some son's genius. short unpremeditated compliments to differ- “Of the more polished verses which acci. ent individuals from whom he had no reason dentally fell into his hands in his early to expect a visit, and everything he said years, he mentioned particularly the recom. was happily conceived, and forcibly as well mendatory poems by different authors, preas fuently expressed. If I am not mistaken, fixed to Hervey's Meditations; a book he told me, that in that village, before going which has always had a very wide circulato Edinburgh, he had belonged to a small tion among such of the country people of club of such of the inhabitants as had a Scotland as affect to unite some degree of taste for books, when they used to converse taste with their religious studies. And and debate on any interesting questions that these poems (although they are certainly occurred to them in the course of their below mediocrity) he continued to read with readiny. His manner of speaking in public in dezree of rapture beyond expression. He
le marks of some practice in took notice of this fact himself, as a proof extempore elocution.
how much the taste is liable to be influ"I must not omit to mention, what I have enced by accidental circumstances. always considered as characteristical in a “His father appeared to me, from the high degree of true genius, the extreme account he gave of him, to have been a facility and good-nature of his taste, in respectable and worthy character, possessed judging of the compositions of others of à inind superior to what might have been where there was any real ground for praise expected from his station in life. He as. I repeated to him many passages of English cribed much of his own principles and feel. poetry with which he was unacquainted, and ings to the early impressions he had received have more than once witnessed the tears of from his instructions and example. I recoladiniration and rapture with which he heard lect that he once applied to him (and, he them. The collection of songs by Dr. / added, that the passage was a literal stateAikin, which I first put into his hands, he ment of the fact) the two last lines of the read with unmixed delight, notwithstanding following passage in the Minstrel, the whole his former efforts in that very difficult of wliich he repeated with great enthusiasm : species of writing; and I have little doubt
Shall I be left forgotten in the dust, that it had some effect in polishing his sub
When fate, relenting, lets the flower revive; sequent compositions.
Shall nature's voice, to man alone unjust, In judging of prose, I do not think his Bid him, though doom'd to perish, hope to taste was equally sound. I once read to live?