« AnteriorContinuar »
i produced persons of high distinction in
every branch of philosophy and literature ; Though the dialect in which many of the and her history, while a separate and indehappiest effusions of ROBERT BURNS are pendent nation, has been successfully ex. composed be peculiar to Scotland, yet his plored. But the present character of the reputation has extended itself beyond the people was not then formed, the nation then limits of that country, and his poetry has presented features similar to those which been admired as the offspring of original | the feudal system and the Catholic religion genius, by persons of taste in every part of had diffused over Europe, modified, indeed, the sister islands. It seems proper, there by the peculiar nature of her territory and fore, to write the memoirs of his life, not climate. The Reformation, by which such with the view of their being read by Scotch- important changes were produced on the men only, but also by natives of England, national character, was speedily followed by and of other countries where the English the accession of the Scottish monarchs to language is spoken or understood.
| the English throne; and the period which Robert Burns was, in reality, what he has elapsed from that accession to the Union, been represented to be, a Scottish peasant. has been rendered memorable, chiefly, by To render the incidents of his humble story those bloody convulsions in which both generally intelligible, it seems, therefore, divisions of the island were involved, and advisable to pretix some observations on the which, in a considerable degree, concealed character and situation of the order to which from the eye of the historian the domestic he belonged--a class of men distinguished history of the people, and the gradual variaby many peculiarities: by this means we tions in their condition and manners. Since shall form a more correct notion of the the Union, Scotland, though the seat of advantages with which he started, and of two unsuccessful attempts to restore the the obstacles which he surmounted. A few house of Stuart to the throne, has enjoyed observations on the Scottish peasantry will a comparative tranquillity; and it is since not, perhaps, be found unworthy of atten- this period that the present character of her tion in other respects and the subject is, peasantry has been in a great measure in a great measure, new. Scotland has formed, though the political causes affectin;
it are to be traced to the previous acts of | be spared from his professional studies useful her separate legislature.
to others as well as to himself, by assuming A slight acquaintance with the peasan- the respectable character of a schoolmaster. try of Scotland will serve to convince an It is common for the established schools, unprejudiced observer, that they possess a even in the country parishes of Scotland, to degree of intelligence not generally found enjoy the means of classical instruction; among the same class of men in the other and many of the farmers, and some even countries of Europe. In the very humblest of the cottagers, submit to much privation, condition of the Scottish peasants, every that they may obtain, for one of their one can read, and most persons are more or sons at least, the precarious advantage of less skilled in writing and arithmetic; and, a learned education. The difficulty to be under the disguise of their uncouth appear-surmounted arises indeed, not from the ance, and of their peculiar manners and expense of instructing their children, but dialect, a stranger will discover that they from the charge of supporting them. In the possess a curiosity, and have obtained a country parish schools, the English landegree of information, corresponding to guage, writing and accounts, are generally these acquirements.
taught at the rate of six shillings, and These advantages they owe to the legal Latin at the rate of ten or twelve shillings, provision made by the Parliament of Scot- per annum. In the towns the prices are land in 1646, for the establishment of a somewhat higher. school in every parish throughout the It would be improper in this place to kingdom, for the express purpose of educa- inquire minutely into the degree of instructing the poor—a law which may challenge tion received at these seminaries, or to comparison with any act of legislation to attempt any precise estimate of its effects, be found in the records of history, whether either on the individuals who are the subwe consider the wisdom of the ends in jects of this instrnction, or on the comview, the simplicity of the means employed, munity to which they belong. That it is, or the provisions-made to render these on the whole, favourable to industry and means effectual to their purpose. This ex- į morals, though doubtless with some indicellent statute was repealed on the accession vidual exceptions, seems to be proved by of Charles II. in 1660, together with all the the most striking and other laws passed during the Common- and it is equally clear, that it is the cause of wealth, as not being sanctioned by the Royal | that spirit of emigration and of adventure assent. It slept during the reigns of Charles so prevalent among the Scotch. Knowledge and James II., but was re-enacted precisely has, by Lord Verulam, been denominated in the same terms, by the Scottish Parlia- power; by others it has, with less propriety, ment, in 1696, after the Revolution; and been denominated virtue or happiness: v this is the last provision on the subject. may with confidence consider it as motion. Its effects on the national character may be A human being, in proportion as he is considered to have commenced about the informed, has his wishes enlarged, as well period of the Union, and doubtless it co as the means of gratifying those wishes. operated with the peace and security arising He may be considered as taking within the from that happy event, in producing the sphere of his visi
portion of the extraordinary change in favour of industry i globe on which we tread, and discovering and good morals, which the character of the advantage at a greater distance on its surcommon people of Scotland has since under- | face. His desires or arnbition, once excited. gone.
are stimulated by his imagination; and The church establishment of Scotland distant and uncertain objects, giving freer happily coincides with the institution just scope to the operation of this faculty, often mentioned, which may be called its school | acquire, in the mind of the youthful advenestablishment. The clergyman, being every- turer, an attraction from their very distance where resident in his particular parish, and uncertainty. If, therefore, a greater debecomes the natural patron and superinten gree of instruction be given to the peasantry dant of the parish school, and is enabled in of a country comparatively poor, in the various ways to promote the comfort of the neighbourhood of other countries rich in teacher, and the proficiency of the scholars. natural and acquired advantages, and if The teacher himself is often a candidate the barriers be removed that kept them for holy orders, who, during the long course separate, emigration from the former to the of study and probation required in the latter will take place to a certain extent, Scottish church, renders the time which can by laws nearly as uniform as those by
which heat diffuses itself among surrounding national church; and hence the first and bodies, or water finds its level when left to most constant exercise of ingenuity among its natural course. By the articles of the the peasantry of Scotland, is displayed in Union, the barrier was broken down which religious disputation. With a strong attachdivided the two British nations, and know ment to the national creed, is conjoined a ledge and poverty poured the adventurous bigoted preference for certain forms of wornatives of the north over the fertile plains ship; the source of which would be often of England; and more especially, over the altogether obscure, if we did not recollect
ttled in the east that the ceremonies of the Scottish Church and in the west. The stream of population | were framed in direct opposition, in every continues to flow from the north to the point, to those of the Church of Rome. south, for the causes that originally impelled The eccentricities of conduct, and singuit continue to operate; and the richer larities of opinion and manners, which chacountry is constantly invigorated by the racterised the English sectaries in the last accession of an informed and hardy race century, afforded a subject for the comic of men, educated in poverty, and prepared muse of Butler, whose pictures lose their for hardship and danger; patient of labour | interest since their archetypes are lost. and prodigal of life.
Some of the peculiarities common among The preachers of the Reformation in the more rigid disciples of Calvinism in Scotland were disciples of Calvin, and Scotland, in the present times, have given brought with them the temper as well as scope to the ridicule of Burns, whose the tenets of that celebrated heresiarch. humour is equal to Butler's, and whose The Presbyterian form of worship and of drawings from living manners are singularly church government was endeared to the expressive and exact. Unfortunately, the people, from its being established by them correctness of his taste did not always corselves. It was endeared to them, also, by respond with the strength of his genius. the struggle it had to maintain with the The information and the religious educa. Catholic and Protestant episcopal churches; tion of the peasantry of Scotland, promote over both of which, after a hundred years sedateness of conduct, and habits of thought of fierce, and sometimes bloody contention, and reflection. These good qualities are not it finally triumphed, receiving the counte-counteracted by the establishinent of poor nance of government and the sanction of laws. Happily, in Scotland, the same legislaw. During this long period of contention lature which established a system of instrucand of suffering, the teinper of the people tion for the poor, resisted the introduction became more and more obstinate and of a legal provision for the support of bigoted; and the nation received that deep poverty; hence it will not appear surprising, tinge of fanaticism which coloured their | if the Scottish peasantry have a more than public transactions, as well as their private usual share of prudence and reflection, if virtues, and of which evident traces may be they approach nearer than found in our own times. When the public order usually do to the definition of a schools were established, the instruction man--that of "a being that looks before communicated in them partook of the re- and after." These observations must indeed ligious character of the people. The Cate- be taken with many exceptions; the favourchism of the Westminster Divines was the able operation of the causes just mentioned universal school-book, and was put into the is counteracted by others of an opposite hands of the young peasant as soon as he tendency; and the subject, if fully examined, had acquired a knowledge of his alphabet; would lead to discussions of great extent. and his first exercise in the art of reading, When the Reformation was established in introduced him to the most mysterious Scotland, instrumental music was banished doctrines of the Christian faith. This prac- from the churches, as savouring too much
imes. After the of “profane minstrelsy." Instead of being Assembly's Catechism, the Proverbs of Solo- regulated by an instrument, the voices of mon, and the New and Old Testament follow the congregation are led and directed by a in regular succession; and the scholar del person under the name of a precentor, and parts, gifted with the knowledge of the the people are all expected to join in the sacred writings, and receiving their doctrines tune which he chooses for the psalm which according to the interpretation of the West is to be sung. Church music is therefore a minster Confession of Faith. Thus, with the part of the education of the peasantry of instruction of infancy in the schools of Scotland, in which they are usually inScotland, are blended the dogmas of the structed in the long winter nights by the parish schoolmaster, who is generally the The prevalence of this taste, or rather precentor, or by itinerant teachers, more passion, for dancing, among a people so celebrated for their powers of voice. This deeply tinctured with the spirit and doc. branch of education had, in the last reign, trines of Calvin, is one of those contrafallen into some neglect, but was revived dictions which the philosophic observer so about thirty or forty years ago, when the often finds in national character and manners. music itself was reformed and improved. It is probably to be ascribed to the Scottish The Scottish system of psalmody is, how-music, which, throughout all its varieties, ever, radically bad. Destitute of taste or is so full of sensibility, and which, in its harmony, it forms a striking contrast with livelier strains, awakes thiose vivid emotions the delicacy and pathos of the profane airs. that find in dancing their natural solace and Our poet, it will be found, was taught church relief. music, in which, however he attained little This triumph of the music of Scotland proficiency.
over the spirit of the established religion, That dancing should also be very gene- has not however, been obtained, without rally a part of the education of the Scottish long-continued and obstinate struggles. The peasantry, will surprise those who have only numerous sectaries who dissent from the seen this description of men; and still more Establishment on account of the relaxation those who reflect on the rigid spirit of Cal- which they perceive, or think they perceive, vinism, with which the nation is so deeply in the Church, from her original doctrines affected, and to which this recreation is so and discipline, universally condemn the pracstrongly abhorrent. The winter is also the tice of dancing, and the schools where it is season when they acquire dancing, and, taught; and the more elderly and serious indeed, almost all their other instruction. part of the people, of every persuasion, They are taught to dance by persons gene-tolerate rather than approve these meetings rally of their own number, many of whom of the young of both sexes, where dancing work at daily labour during the summer is practised to their spirit-stirring music, months. The school is usually a barn, and where care is dispelled, toil is forgotten, the arena for the performers is generally and prudence itself is sometimes lulled to a clay floor. The dome is lighted by l sleep. (1) candles stuck in one end of a cloven stick, The Reformation, which proved fatal to the other end of which is thrust into the the rise of the other fine arts in Scotland, wall. Reels, strathspeys, contra-dances, and probably impeded, but could not obstruct, hornpipes, are here practised. The jig, the progress of its musicma circumstance so much in favour among the English that will convince the impartial inquirer, peasantry, has no place among them. The that this music not only existed previously attachment of the people of Scotland of to that era, but had taken a firm hold of every rank, and particularly of the peasan- the nation, thus affording a proof of its try, to this amusement, is very great. antiquity stronger than any produced by After the labours of the day are over, the researches of our antiquaries. (2) young men and women walk many miles, The impression which the Scottish music in the cold and dreary nights of winter, has made on the people, is deepened by its to these country dancing-schools; and the union with the national songs, of which instant that the violin sounds a Scottish / various collections of unequal merit are air, fatigue seems to vanish, the toil-bent before the public. These songs, like those rustic becomes erect, his features brighten of other nations, are many of them huwith sympathy, every nerve seems to thrill morous, but they chiefly treat of love, war, with sensation, and every artery to vibrate and drinking. Love is the subject of the with life. These rustic performers are greater proportion. Without displaying indeed less to be admired for grace than the higher powers of the imagination, they for agility and animation, and for their exhibit a perfect knowledge of the human accurate observance of time. Their modes heart, and breathe a spirit of affection, and of dancing, as well as their tunes, are com- sometimes of delicate and romantic tenmon to every rank in Scotland, and are derness, not to be surpassed in modern now generally known. In our own day poetry, and which the more polished strains they have penetrated into England, and of antiquity have seldom possessed. have established themselves even in the The origin of this amatory character in circle of royalty. In another generation the rustic muse of Scotland, or of the they will be naturalised in every part of greater number of these love-songs themthe island.
selves, it would be difficult to trace; they
SOCIAL INTERCOURSE OF THE SEXES.
have accumulated in the silent lapse of | modified by moral causes beyond any other time, and it is now perhaps impossible to affection of the mind. Of these, music and give an arrangement of them in the order poetry are the chief. Among the snows of of their date, valuable as such a record of Lapland, and under the burning sun of taste and manners would be. Their present Angola, the savage is seen hastening to his influence on the character of the nation is, mistress, and everywhere he beguiles the however, great and striking. To them we weariness of his journey with poetry and must attribute, in a great measure, the song. (3) romantic passion which so often character. In appreciating the happiness and virtue ises the attachments of the humblest of of a community, there is perhaps no single the people of Scotland, to a degree that, if criterion on which so much dependence may we mistake not, is seldom found in the be placed, as the state of the intercourse same rank of society in other countries. | between the sexes. Where this displays The pictures of love and happiness exhibited i ardour of attachment, accompanied by purity in their rural songs, are early impressed on i of conduct, the character and the influence the mind of the peasant, and are rendered of women rise in society, our imperfect more attractive from the music with which nature mounts in the scale of moral excelthey are united. They associate themselves lence; and, from the source of this single with his own youthful emotions; they ele affection, a stream of felicity descends, vate the object as well as the nature of his which branches into a thousand rivulets that attachment; and give to the impressions enrich and adorn the field of life. Where of sense the beautiful colours of imagination. the attachment between the sexes sinks into Hence, in the course of his passion, a Scottish an appetite, the heritage of our species is peasant' often exerts a spirit of adventure, comparatively poor, and man approaches the of which a Spanish cavalier need not be condition of the brutes that perish, “If we ashamed. After the labours of the day are could with safety indulge the pleasing supover, he sets out for the habitation of his position that Fingal lived and that Ossian mistress, perhaps at many miles' distance, surig" (4), Scotland, judging from this crite. regardless of the length or the dreariness rion, might be considered as ranking high of the way. He approaches her in secrecy, in happiness and virtue in very remote ayes. under the disguise of night. A signal at To appreciate her situation by the same the door or window, perhaps agreed on, and criterion in our own times, would be a understood by none but her, gives in. delicate and a difficult undertaking. After formation of his arrival; and sometimes it considering the probable influence of her is repeated again and again, before the ca- popular songs and her national music, and pricious fair-one will obey the summons. examining how far the effects to be expected But if she favours his addresses, she escapes from these are supported by facts, the inunobserved, and receives the vows of her quirer would also have to examine the lover under the gloom of twilight or the influence of other causes, and particularly deeper shade of night. Interviews of this of her civil and ecclesiastical institutions, by kind are the subjects of many of the Scottish which the character, and even the manners songs, some of the most beautiful of which of a people, though silently and slowly, are Burns has imitated or improved. In the often powerfully controlled. In'the point art which they celebrate he was perfectly of view in which we are considering the skilled; he knew and had practised all its subject, the ecclesiastical establishments of mysteries. Intercourse of this sort is indeed Scotland may be supposed peculiarly fauniversal, even in the humblest condition vourable to purity of conduct. The disso. of man in every region of the earth. But luteness of manners among the Catholic it is not unnatural to suppose that it may clergy, which preceded, and in some measure exist in a greater degree, and in a more produced the Reformation, led to an exromantic form, among the peasantry of a traordinary strictness on the part of the country who are supposed to be more than reformers, and especially in that particular commonly instructed ;--who find in their in which the licentiousness of the clergy rural songs expressions for their youthful had been carried to its greatest height emotions ;-and in whom the embers of
bers of the intercourse between the sexes. On this passion are continually fanned by the point, as on all others connected with austebreathings of a music full of tenderness rity of manners, the disciples of Calvin and sensibility. The direct influence of assumed a greater severity than those of physical causes on the attachment between the Protestant Episcopal church. The the sexes is comparatively small, but it is ) punishment of illicit connection between