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which imagination can diversify a million-fold, and so accommodate as to make them the perpetual theatre of all that he has been taught to remember concerning those who have lived before him, and all that he invents to increase the pleasures of memory, to those that shall come after him. For it is not from the real and visible presence of things that the poet copies and displays; wherever he is, whatever climes he sees, his "heart" is "still untravelled;" and it is from the cherished recollections of what early affected him, and could never afterward be forgotten (having grown up into ideal beauty, grandeur, and excellence in his own mind), that he sings, and paints, and sculptures out imperishable forms of fancy, thought, and feeling. In this respect, all the compositions of Burns are homogeneous. He is in every style, in every theme, not only the patriot, the Scotchman, but the Scotchman, the patriot of Ayrshire; so dear and indissoluble are the ties of locality to minds the most aspiring and independent.
Burns, according to his own account, was distinguished in childhood by a very retentive memory. In the stores of that memory we discover the hidden treasures of his muse, which enabled her, with a prodigality like that of nature, to pour forth images and objects of every form, and colour, and kind, while, with an economy like that of the most practised art, she selected and combined the endless characteristics of pleasing or magnificent scenery, with such simplicity and effect, under every aspect of sky or season, that the bard himself seems rather to be a companion pointing out to the eye the loveliness or horror of a prospect within our own horizon, than the enchanter creating a fairy scene visible only to imagination. He appears to invent nothing, while in truth he exercises a much higher faculty than what is frequently called invention, but which is little more than an arbitrary collocation of things, harmonious only when arranged by the hand
that built the universe, or faithfully copied from original models of that hand by an earthly one, which presumes not to add a lineament of its own. The genius of Burns, like his native stream, confined to his native district, reflects the scenery on "the Banks of Ayr" with as much more truth and transparency than factitious landscapes are painted in the opaque pages of more ostentatious poets, as the reflections of trees, cottages, and animals are more vivid and diversified in water than the shadows of the same objects are on land.
While yet a child, in addition to his school-learning, the Life of Hannibal, and afterward the History of Wallace, fell into his hands. These were the first books that Burns had read alone,-and in all the luxury of solitary indulgence, he stole away from toil and from pastime to enjoy them without interruption. These were also the books best suited to his genius at that age: they awoke the boldest energies of his mind, and kindled an inextinguishable flame of heroic ardour and patriotic devotion in his bosom. The child became a soldier immediately, as every lad does in his turn: the drum and the bagpipe spake a new language to his ear, and were answered in corresponding tones from the recesses of his heart. He left his boyish sports, and strutted after the recruiting sergeant in the spirit of Hannibal overrunning Italy, or Wallace repelling the rav agers of his country. Thus, the character of grandeur was stamped upon his soul while it was soft in the mould: he became a hero before he was a man ; and, which was of much greater consequence to his future glory, before he was a lover. His genius was hewn out of the quarry with the strength and proportions of a Hercules: love, indeed, afterward touched it down into a gentler form, but love himself could not reduce it to an Adonis; the original majesty remained after the original ruggedness had been chiselled away. The graces may be added to
the noblest character without degrading it, but when they precede the heroic virtues they preclude them. Two stanzas from "The Cotter's Saturday Night" will exemplify the style of his patriotic poetry :
"O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to heaven is sent, Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content; And O may heaven their simple lives prevent
From luxury's contagion, weak and vile; Then howe'er crowns and coronets be rent,
A virtuous populace may rise the while,
"O Thou, who pour'd the patriotic tide,
That streamed through Wallace's undaunted heart, Who dared to robly stem tyrannic pride,
Or nobly die, the second glorious part; The patriot's God peculiarly Thou art,
His friend, inspirer, guardian, and reward; O never, never Scotia's realm desert;
But still the patriot and the patriot-bard,
In bright succession raise, her ornament and guard."
Love at length found him, who was to be preeminently the poet of love. Then, as the morning mists, when they retire from the risen sun, leave the landscape more beautiful, diversified, and spacious than the traveller could have supposed it before,so, when the selfishness of the child and the obstinacy of the boy were dissolved in the growing ardour of youth, Burns discovered a new creation of social feelings and generous sentiments in his soul, all referring to one object, and that the dearest and the loveliest, both to his eye and his fancy, that he had ever yet beheld. Religion had already warmed his affections, and heroism exalted his imagination; love, therefore, found him a prompt disciple, and, unfortunately for his future peace and honour, love soon became lord of the ascendant in his horoscope, and thenceforward the load-star of his genius-the master-passion of his life.
Hitherto he had gazed with admiration on the heavens as displaying the glory of God, and on the earth as being filled with his goodness; while, in more romantic mood, he had imagined his native hills and valleys the Alps overcome and the battlefields traversed by Hannibal, or had contemplated them as the actual scenes of the achievements and misfortunes of Wallace: now he looked upon the face of nature and of his beloved with the same tenderness and enthusiasm; whatever charms he descried in the features of the one, his lively fancy could attribute to those of the other. Sometimes he saw nature supereminently fair, because its beauties reminded him of her whom, with the idolatry of passion, he adored; again, the beauties of his mistress appeared all perfect, because they reminded him of whatever was lovely and attractive in creation. In her presence, and even in the idea of her presence,―
"The common air, the earth, the skies,
Such joyous emotions as now began to visit his bosom were too restless to be confined there, too exhilarating to be told in ordinary language, and too evanescent to be revealed in verse, without the aid of glowing imagery. Then it was, according to his own scriptural allusion, not profanely intended, that the "poetic genius of his country found him, as the prophet-bard Elijah did Elisha, at the plough, and threw her inspiring mantle over him. She bade him sing the loves, the joys, the rural scenes, and rural pleasures of his native soil, in his native tongue."
It is not expedient here to pursue his personal history; nor necessary to expose the follies, vices, and sorrows of his latter days. The powers of his mind had grown to their full stature and strength before the period of his well-known and ever-to-be-lamented
arrival in Edinburgh. Thenceforward they underwent no extraordinary change either of improvement or deterioration, until their final and premature extinction, after a brief but brilliant career of fame, and a merry but miserable career of dissipation.
As a writer, when worthily employing his talents, Burns is the poet of truth, of nature, and of Scotland. Allusion has already been made to the singular advantages, neither few nor small, which he derived from the privilege of availing himself of the whole vocabulary of his mother-tongue, in addition to the whole scope of the English language. His subjects are never remote, abstracted, or factitious; they are such as come in his way, and therefore shine in his song, as the clouds which meet the sun are adorned by his rays. His scenery is purely native, and pre sents the very objects that engaged his attention when the themes with which they are associated were revolving in his mind. The reader sees, hears, feels with the poet in such descriptions as these:—
"As I stood by yon roofless tower,
Where the wa' flower scents the dewy air,
The stars they shot along the sky;
And the distant echoing vales reply."
A poet ought to have the eye of the deaf, and the ear of the blind, with every other sense quickened in proportion, as though it alone were exercised to supply the deficiency of all the rest. Burns was thus exquisitely organized; and these lines prove it. It is manifest, also, that he wrote less consciously from memory than perception: not after slow deliberation and long choosing, but from instantaneous impulse acting upon abundant and susceptible materials, treasured up for any occasion that might