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SENSIBILITY OF BURNS.
in his scrions poems, he becomes more ge- which he was attached by sentiments of nerally intelligible. It is difficult to decide affection, gratitude, or patriotism. The whether the Address to a Mouse, whose nest second duan, or canto, of this poem, in was turned up with the plough, should be which Coila describes her own nature and considered as serious or comic. Be this as occupations, particularly her superintenit may, the poem is one of the happiest and dence of his infant genius, and in which she most finished of his productions. If we reconciles him to the character of a bard, is smile at the “bickering brattle" of this little an elevated and solemn strain of poetry, flying animal, it is a smile of tenderness | ranking in all respects, excepting the har. and pity. The descriptive part is admirable; mony of numbers, with the higher producthe moral reflections beautiful, and arising tions of the English muse. The concluding directly out of the occasion; and in the con- stanza, compared with that already quoted, clusion there is a deep melancholy, a sen- will show to what a height Burns rises in timent of doubt and dread, that rises to this poem, from the point at which he set the sublime. The address to a Mountain out:Daisy, turned down with the plough, is a
"And wear thou this-she solemn said, poem of the same nature, though somewhat
And bound the holly round my head; inferior in point of originality, as well as in
The polished leaves, and berries red, the interest produced. To extract out of
Did rustling play: incidents so common, and seemingly so tri And, like a passing thought, she fled vial as these, so fine a train of sentiment
In light away." and imagery, is the surest proof, as well as
In various poems, Burns has exhibited the most brilliant triumph, of original ge- the picture of a mind under the deep im. nius. The vision, in two cantos, from which pressions of real sorrow. The Lament, the a beautiful extract is taken by Mr. Mackenzie, i Ode to Ruin. Despondency, and Winter, a in the 97th number of The Lounger, is a Dirge are of this character. In the first of poem of great and various excellence. The these poems, the 8th stanza, which describes opening, in which the poet describes his own į a sleepless night from anguish of mind, iss state of mind, retiring in the evening, wea
particularly striking. Burns often indulgedi ried from the labours of the day, to moralise
in those melancholy views of the nature and on his conduct and prospects, is truly
condition of man, which are so congenial interesting. The chamber, if we may so
to the temperament of sensibility. The term it, in which he sits down to muse, is
poem entitled Man was Made to Mourn, an exquisite painting :
affords an instance of this kind, and the “There, lanely, by the ingle cheek
Winter Night is of the same description. I sat and ey'd the spewing reek,
The last is highly characteristic, both of the That filled wi' hoast-provoking smeek
temper of mind, and of the condition of The auld clay biggin; And heard the restless rattons squeak
Burns. It begins with a description of a About the riggin."
dreadful storm on a night in winter. The To reconcile to our imagination the en- poet represents hir
poet represents himself as lying in bed, and trance of an aërial being into a mansion of this
listening to its howling. In this situation kind. required the powers of Burns-he! he naturally turns his thoughts to the owrie however succeeds. Coila enters, and her | (143) cattle, and silly (144) sheep, exposed countenance, attitude, and dress, unlike
to all the violence of the tempest. Having those of other spiritual beings, are distinctly
lamented their fate, he proceeds in the fol pourtrayed. To the painting on her mantle,
lowing manner :on which is depicted the most striking “Ilk happing bird-wee, helpless thing! scenery, as well as the most distinguished That, in the merry months o' spring, characters, of his native countrry, some ex- | Delighted me to hear thee sing, ceptions may be made. The mantle of Coila,
What comes o' thee? like the cup of Thyrsis, and the shield of
Whare wilt thou cow'r thy chittering wing, Achilles, is too much crowded with figures,
And close thy ee?" and some of the objects represented upon Other reflections of the same nature it are scarcely admissible, according to the occur to his mind; and as the midnight principles of design. The generous tem-1 moon “muffled with clouds” casts her perament of Burns led him into these dreary light on his window, thoughts of a exuberances. In his second edition he en- darker and more melancholy nature crowd targed the number of figures originally upon him. In this state of mind, he hears introduced, that he might include objects to a voice pouring through the gloom a solemn
and plaintive strain of reflection. Thel And dim our dolefu' days wi' bairnly fear; mourner compares the fury of the elements
res the fury of the elements The mind's aye cradled when the grave is with that of man to his brother man, and
near.” finds the former light in the balance.
In the meantime, the farmer, wearied with “ See stern Oppression's iron grip,
the fatigues of the day, stretches himself at Or mad Ambition's gory hand,
length on the settle, à sort of rustic couch Sending, like bloodhounds from the slip, which extends on one side of the fire, and Woe, want, and murder, o'er the land.”
the cat and house-dog leap upon it to reHe pursues this train of reflection ceive his caresses. Here resting at his ease, through a variety of particulars, in the he gives his directions to his men-servants course of which lie introduces the following for the succeeding day. The housewife animated apostrophe :
follows his example, and gives her orders to “Oh, ye! who, sunk in beds of down, the maidens. By degrees the oil in the Feel nota want but what yourselves create, cruise begins to fail, the fire runs low, sleep Think, for a moment, on his wretched fate, steals on this rustic group, and they move Whom friends and fortune quite disown!
off to enjoy their peaceful slumbers. The Ill-satisfied keen nature's clam'rous call, Stretch'd on his straw he lays him down to
te l poet concludes by bestowing his blessings sleep,
on the “ husbandman and all his tribe.” While thro' the ragged roof and chinky wall, This is an original and truly interesting
Chillo'er his slumbers piles the drifty heap." | pastoral. It possesses every thing required
The strain of sentiment which runs in this species of composition. We might through this poem is noble, though the exe
have perhaps said every thing that it admits, cution is unequal, and the versification is
had not Burns written his Cotter's Saturday defective. Among the serious poems of Burns, The
The cottager returning from his labours, Cotter's Saturday Night is perhaps entitled has no servants to accompany him, to to the first rank. The Farmer's Ingle of partake of his fare, or to receive his instrucFergusson evidently suggested the plan of
tions. The circle which he joins, is comthis poemas has been already mentioned : posed of his wife and children only ; and if
it admits of less variety, it affords an opporbut after the plan was formed, Burns trusted entirely to his own powers for the execution.
tunity for representing scenes that more Fergusson's poem is certainly very beautiful.
strongly interest the affections. The It has all the charms which depend on rural
| younger children running to meet him, and characters and manners happily pourtrayed,
1 clambering round his knee-the elder, reand exhibited under circumstances highly
| turning from their weekly labours with the grateful to the imagination. The Farmer's
neighbouring farmers, dutifully depositing Ingle begins with describing the return of their little gains with their parents, and reevening. The toils of the day are over, and
Iceiving their father's blessing and instructhe farmer retires to his comfortable fireside.
a tions--the incidents of the courtship of The reception which he and his men-servants
: Jenny, their eldest daughter, “woman receive from the careful housewife, is pleas
grown”-are circumstances of the most iningly described. After their supper is over,
teresting kind, which are most happily dethey begin to talk on the rural events of the
lineated ; and after their frugal supper, the day.
representation of these humble cottagers
forming a wider circle round their hearth, * 'Bout kirk and market eke their tales gaeon, How. Juck woo'd Jenny here to be his bride;
and uniting in the worship of God, is a And there how Marion for a bastard son,
picture the most deeply affecting of any Upo' the cutty-stool was forced to ride, which the rural muse has ever presented to The waefu' scauld o' our Mess John to bide." the view. Burns was admirably adapted to The "guidame” is next introduced as
this delineation. Like all men of genius, forming a circle round the fire, in the midst
he was of the temperament of devotion, of her grandchildren, and while she spins! a
1 and the powers of memory co-operated in from the ruck, and the spindle plays on her ; this instance with the sensibility of his "russet lap," she is relating to the young
heart, and the fervour of his imaginaones tales of witches and ghosts. The poet
tion. (145) The Cotter's Saturday Night is exclaims,
tender and moral, it is solemn and devo“Oh, mock na this, my friends ! but rather
tional, and rises at length into a strain of
grandeur and sublimity, which modern mourn, Ye in life's brawest spring wi' reason clear, poetry has not surpassed. The noble sentiWi' eild our idle fancies a' return,
I ments of patriotisme with which it con
cludes, correspond with the rest of the tenderness and affection, which do not poem. In no age or country have the entirely absorb the lover, but permit him to pastoral muses breathed such elevated associate his emotions with the charms of accents, if the Messiah of Pope be excepted, external nature, and breathe the accents of which is indeed a pastoral in form only. It purity and innocence, as well as of love. In is to be regretted that Burns did not employ these respects, the love-songs of Scotland his genius on other subjects of the same are honorably distinguished from the most nature, which the manners and customs of admired classical compositions of the same the Scottish peasantry would have amply kind; and by such associations, a variety, as supplied. Such poetry is not to be esti- well as liveliness, is given to the representamated by the degree of pleasure which it tion of this passion, which are not to be bestows; it sinks deeply into the heart, and found in the poetry of Greece or Rome, or is calculated, far beyond any other human perhaps of any other nation. Many of the means, for giving permanence to the scenes love-songs of Scotland describe scenes of and characters it so exquisitely describes. rural courtship; many may be considered
Before we conclude, it will be proper to as invocations from lovers to their mis. offer a few observations on the lyric produc-tresses. On such occasions a degree of intions of Burns. His compositions of this terest and reality is given to the sentiments, kind are chiefly songs, generally in the by the spot destined to these happy interScottish dialect, and always after the model views being particularized. The lovers of the Scottish songs, on the general cha- | perhaps meet at the Bush aboon Traquair, racter and moral influence of which some or on the banks of Ettrick; the nymphs observations have already been offered. We are invoked to wander among the wilds of may hazard a few more particular remarks. Roslin, or the woods of Invermay. Nor is
Of the historic or heroic ballads of Scot- the spot merely pointed out; the scenery is land, it is unnecessary to speak. Burns has often described as well as the characters, so nowhere imitated them, a circumstance to be as to present a complete picture to the regretted, since in this species of composi-fancy. (147) Thus the maxim of Horace ut tion, from its admitting the more terrible as pictura poesis, is faithfully observed by these well as the softer graces of poetry, he was rustic bards, who are guided by the same eminently qualified to have excelled The impulse of nature and sensibility which inScottish songs which served as a model to fluenced the father of epic poetry, on whose Burns, are, almost without exception, pas- example the precept of the Roman poet was toral, or rather rural. Such of them as are ! perhaps founded.
nded. By this means the i comic, frequently treat of a rustic courtship | nation is employed to interest the feelings. or a country wedding; or they describe the When we do not conceive distinctly, we do differences of opinion which arise in mar- not sympathise deeply in any human affecried life. Burns has imitated this species, tion; and we conceive nothing in the aband surpassed his models. The song, be- stract. Abstraction, so useful in morals, ginning, “Husband, husband, cease your and so essential in science, must be abanstrife," may be cited in support of this ob- | doned when the heart is to be subdued by servation. (146) His other comic songs ! the powers of poetry or of eloquence. The ure of equal merit. In the rural songs of bards of a ruder condition of society paint Scotland, whether humorous or tender, the individual objects; and hence, among other sentiments are given to particular characters, causes, the easy access they obtain to the and very generally, the incidents are re- heart. Generalization ferred to particular scenery. This last whose learning overpowers their genius; of circumstance may be considered as the dis- poets of a refined and scientific age. tinguishing feature of the Scottish songs, The dramatic style which prevails so and on it a considerable part of their attrac- much in the Scottish songs, while it con. tion depends. On all occasions the senti- tributes greatly to the interest they excite, ments, of whatever nature, are delivered in also shows that they have originated aniong the character of the person principally in- i a people in the earlier stages of society. terested. If love be described, it is not as / Where this form of composition appears in it is observed, but as it is felt; and the songs of a modern date, it indicates that passion is delineated under a particular they have been written after the ancient aspect. Neither is it the fiercer impulses of model. (148) desire that are expressed, as in the celebrated The Scottish songs are of very unequal ode of Sappho, the model of so many poetical merit, and this inequality often modern songs, but those gentler emotions of extends to the different parts of the same song. Those that are humorous, or cha- of others, he has not, like some poets of racteristic of manners, have in general the great name, admitted into his descriptions merit of copying nature; those that are exotic imagery. The landscapes he has serious, are tender, and often sweetly painted, and the objects with which they are interesting, but seldom exhibit high powers embellished, are, in every single instance, of imagination, which indeed do not easily such as are to be found in his own country. find a place in this species of composition. In a mountainous region, especially when it The alliance of the words of the Scottish is comparatively rude and naked, the most songs with the music, has in some instance beautiful scenery will always be found in the given to the former a popularity, which vallies, and on the banks of the wooded otherwise they would not have obtained. streams. Such scenery is peculiarly inter.
The association of the words and the esting at the close of a summer-day. As we music of these songs, with the more beau-advance northwards, the number of the days tiful parts of the scenery of Scotland, of summer, indeed diminishes; but from contributes to the same effect. It has given this cause, as well as from the mildness of them not merely popularity, but perma- the temperature, the attraction of the nence; it has imparted to the works of man season increases, and the summer night some portion of the durability of the works becomes still more beautiful. The greater of nature. If, from our imperfect ex- obliquity of the sun's path on the ecliptic, perience of the past, we may judge with prolongs the grateful season of twilight to any confidence respecting the future, songs the midnight hours; and the shades of the of this description are of all others least evening seem to mingle with the morning's likely to die. In the changes of language dawn. The rural poets of Scotland, as may they may no doubt suffer change; but the be expected, associate in their songs the associated strain of sentiment and of music expressions of passion with the most will perhaps survive, while the clear stream beautiful of their scenery, in the fairest sweeps down the vale of Yarrow, or the season of the year, and generally in those yellow broom waves on Cowden-Knowes. hours of the evening when the beauties of
The first attempts of Burns in song- nature are most interesting. (149.) writing were not very successful. His To all these adventitious circumstances, habitual inattention to the exactness of on which so much of the effect of poetry rhymes, and to the harmony of numbers, depends, great attention is paid by Burns. arising probably from the models on which There is scarcely a single song of his, in his versification was formed, were faults which particular scenery is not described, or likely to appear to more disadvantage in allusions made to natural objects, remarkable this species of composition than in any for beauty or interest; and though his other; and we may also remark, that the descriptions are not so full as are sometimes strength of his imagination, and the met with in the older Scottish songs, they
his sensibility, were with are in the highest degree appropriate and difficulty restrained within the limits of interesting. Instances in proof of this gentleness, delicacy, and tenderness, which might be quoted from the Lea Rig, Highseemed to be assigned to the love-songs of land Mary, the Soldier's Return, Logan his nation. Burns was better adapted by Water; from that beautiful pastoral, nature for following, in such compositions, Bonnie Jean, and a great number of others. the model of the Grecian than of the Occasionally the force of his genius carries Scottish muse. By study and practice, he him beyond the usual boundaries of Scottish however surmounted all these obstacles. , song, and the natural objects introduced In his earlier songs, there is some rugged- have more of the character of sublimity. Au ness, but this gradually disappears in his instance of this kind is noticed by Mr. successive efforts; and some of his later Syme, and many others might be adduced : compositions of this kind may be compared,
“Had I a cave on some wild distant shore, in polished delicacy, with the finest songs in 1 posutu utucacy: will be mest songs m Where the winds howl to the wave's dashing our language, while in the eloquence of
roar; sensibility they surpass them all.
There would I weep my woes, The songs of Burns, like the models he There seek my lost repose, followed and excelled, are often dramatic, Till grief my eyes should close, and for the greater part amatory; and the
Ne'er to wake more." beauties of rural nature are everywhere In one song, the scene of which is laid in associated with the passions and emotions a winter night, the “wan moon” is desof the mind. Disdaining to copy the works cribed as “setting behind the white waves ;"
REMARKS ON THE DIALECT.
in another, the "storms" are apostrophised, fancy; and to cherish those sensibilities and commanded to "rest in the cave of which, under due restriction, form the purest their slumbers.” On several occasions, the happiness of our nature. If in his unguarded genius of Burns lost sight entirely of his moments he composed some songs on which archetypes, and rises into a strain of uniform this praise cannot be bestowed, let us hope sublimity. Instances of this kind appear in that they will speedily be forgotten. In Libertie, a Vision; and in his two war several instances where Scottish airs were songs, Bruce to his Troops, and the So
and the Song of allied to words objectionable in point of Death. These last are of a description of delicacy, Burns has substituted others of a which we have no other in our language. purer character. On such occasions, without The martial songs of our nation are not changing the subject, he has changed the military, but naval. If we were to seek a sentiments. A proof of this may be seen in comparison of these songs of Burns with the air of John Anderson my Joe, which is others of a similar nature, we must have now united to words that breathe a strain of recourse to the poetry of ancient Greece, or conjugal tenderness, that is as highly moral of modern Gaul.
as it is exquisitely affecting Burns has made an important addition to ! Few circumstances could afford a more the songs of Scotland. In his compositions, striking proof of the strength of Burns's the poetry equals and sometimes surpasses genius, than the general circulation of his the music. He has enlarged the poetical poems in England, notwithstanding the scenery of his country, Many of her rivers dialect in which the greater part are written, and mountains, formerly unknown to the and which might be supposed to render them muse, are now consecrated by his immortal here uncouth or obscure. In some instances verse. The Doon, the Lugar, the Ayr, the he has used this dialect on subjects of a Nith, and the Cluden, will in future, like sublime nature; but in general he confines the Yarrow, the Tweed, and the Tay, be it to sentiments or description of a tender considered as classical streams, and their or humorous kind; and, where he rises into borders will be trodden with new and elevation of thought, he assumes a purer superior emotions.
English style. The singular faculty he pos. The greater part of the songs of Burns sessed of mingling in the same poem humowere written after he removed into the rous sentiments and descriptions with imagery county of Dumfries. Influenced, perhaps, of a sublime and terrific nature, enabled him by habits formed in early life, he usually to use this variety of dialect on some occacomposed while walking in the open air. sions with striking effect. His poem of Tam When engaged in writing these songs, hiso' Shanter affords an instance of this. There favourite walks were on the banks of the he passes from a scene of the lowest humour Nith, or of the Cluden, particularly near the to situations of the most awful and terrible ruins of Lincluden Abbey; and this beauti- kind. He is a musician that runs from the ful scenery he has very happily described lowest to the highest of his keys; and the under various aspects, as it appears during use of the Scottish dialect enables him to the softness and serenity of evening, and add two additional notes to the bottom of during the stillness and solemnity of the his scale. moonlight night.
Great efforts have been made by the inThere is no species of poetry, the produc- habitants of Scotland, of the superior ranks, tions of the drama not excepted, so much to approximate in their speech to the pure calculated to influence the morals, as well as English standard. Yet an Englishman who the happiness of a people, as those popular | understands the meaning of the Scottish verses which are associated with national words, is not offended, nay, on certain subjects, airs: and which being learnt in the years of he is, perhaps, pleased with the rustic dialect. infancy, make a deep impression on the But a Scotchman inhabiting his own heart before the evolution of the powers of country, if a man of education, and more the understanding. The compositions of especially if a literary character, has banished Burns of this kind, now presented in a cold such words from his writings, and has atlected form to the world, make a most im- tempted to banish them from his speech. portant addition to the popular songs of his A dislike of this kind is, however, acnation. Like all his other writings, they cidental, not natural. It is of the species exhibit independence of sentiment; they are of disgust which we feel at seeing a female peculiarly calculated to increase those ties of high birth in the dress of a rustic; which bind generous hearts to their native which, if she be really young and beautiful, soil, and to the domestic circle of their in- a little habit will enable us to overcome. A