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like inspiration ; and I can no more desist rhyming on the impulse, than an Æolian harp can refuse its tones to the streaming air. A distich or two would be the consequence, though the object which hit my fancy were grey-bearded age; but where my theme is youth and beauty, a young lady whose personal charms, wit, and sentiment, are equally striking and unaffected, by heavens ! though I had lived three score years a married man, and three score years before I was a married man, my imagination would hallow the very idea : and I am truly sorry that the inclosed stanzas have done such poor justice to such a subject.
From Mr. G. BURNS.
Mossgiel, 1st Jan. 1789. I have just finished my new-year's day breakfast in the usual form, which naturally makes me call to mind the days of former years, and the society in which we used to begin them; and when I look at our family vicissitudes, “ thro' the dark postern of time long elapsed," I cannot help re. marking to you, my dear brother, how good the God of Seasons is to us; and that, however some clouds may seem to lour over the portion of time before us, we have great reason to hope that all will turn out well.
Your mother and sisters, with Robert the second, join me in the compliments of the season to you and Mrs. Burns, and beg you will remember us in the same manner to William, the first time you see him.
I am, dear brother, yours,
To Mrs. DUNLOP.
Ellisland, new-year-day morning, 1789. This, dear madam, is a morning of wishes, and would to God, that I came under the apostlo James' description !--the prayer of a righteous man availeth much. In that case, madam, you should welcome in a year full of blessings : every thing that obstructs or disturbs tranquillity and self-enjoyment, should be removed, and every pleasure that frail humanity can taste, should be yours. I own myself so little a Presbyterian, that I approve of set times and seasons of more than ordinary acts of devotion, for breaking in on that habitual routine of life and thought, which is so apt to reduce our existence to a kind of instinct, or even sometimes, and with some minds, to a state very little superior to mere machinery.
This day; the first Sunday of May; a breezy, blue-skyed noon some time about the beginning, and a hoary morning and calm. sunny day about the end, of autumn ; these, time out of mind, havebeen with me a kind of holiday.
I believe I owe this to that glorious paper in the Spectator, “ The Vision of Mirza ;" a piece that struck my young fancy before I was capable of fixing an idea to a word of three syllables: “On the 5th day of the moon, which, according to the custom of my fore-fathers, I always keep holy, after having washed myself, and offered up my morning devotions, I ascended the high hill of Bagdat, in order to pass the rest of the day in meditation and prayer."
We know nothing, or next to nothing, of the substance or structure of our souls, so cannot account for those seeming caprices in them, that one
should be particularly pleased with this thing, or struck with that, which, on minds of a different cast, makes no extraordinary impression. I have some favourite flowers in spring, among which are the mountain-daisy, the hare-hell, the fox-glove, the wild brier-rose, the budding birch, and the hoary hawthorn, that I view and hang over with particular delight. I never hear the loud, solitary whistle of the curlew, in a summer noon, or the wild mixing cadence of a troop of grey plovers, in an autumnal morning, without feeling an ele. vation of soul like the enthusiasm of devotion or poetry. Tell me, my dear friend, to what can this be owing? Are we a piece of machinery, which, like the Eolian barp, passive, takes the impression of the passing accident? Or do these workings ar. gue something within us above the trodden clod? I own myself partial to such proofs of those awful and important realities--a God that made all things-man's immaterial and immortal natureand a world of weal or woe beyond death and the grave.
To Dr. MOORE.
Ellistand, near Dumfries, 4th January, 1789. Sir,
As often as I think of writing to you, which has been three or four times every week these six months, it gives me something so like the idea of an ordinary sized statue offering at a conversation with the Rhodian colossus, that my mind misgives me, and the a fair always miscarries somewhere between purpose and resolve. Í have, at last, got some business with you, and business letters are written by the style-book. I say my business is
with you, sir, for you never had any with me, except the business that benevolence has in the mansion of poverty.
The character and employment of a poet were formerly my pleasure, but are now my pride. I know that a very great deal of my late eclat was owing to the singularity of my situation, and the honest prejudice of Scotsmen; but still, as I said in the preface to my first edition, I do look upon myself as having some pretensions from nature to the poetic character. I have not a doubt but the knack, the aptitu to learn the uses' trade, is a gift bestowed by Him, “ who forms the secret bias of the soul;"-but I as firmly believe, that excellence in the profession is the fruit of industry, labour, attention, and pains. At least I am resolved to try my doctrine by the test of experience. Another appearance from the press I put off to a very distant day, a day that may never arrive-but poesy
I am determined to prosecute with all my vigour. Nature has given very few, if any, of the profession, the talents of shining in every species of composition. I shall try (for until trial it is impossible to know) whether she has qualified me to shine in any one. The worst of it is, by the time one has finished a piece, it has been so often viewed and reviewed before the mental eye, that one loses, in a good measure, the powers of critical discrimination. Here the best criterion I know is a friend-not only of abilities to judge, but with good-nature enough, like a pru. dent teacher with a young learner, to praise perhaps a little more than is exactly just, lest the thin-skinned animal fall into that most deplorable of all poetic diseases-heart-breaking despondency of him. self. Dare I, sir, already immensely indebted to your goodness, ask the additional obligation of your being that friend to me? I inclose you an essay of mine in a walk of poesy to me entirely new.; I mean the epistle addressed to R. G. Esq. or Ro. bert Graham, of Fintry, Esq. a gentleman of uncommon worth, to whom I lie under very great obo
ligations. The story of the poem, like most of my poems, is connected with my own story, and to give you the one, I must give you something of the other. I cannot boast of
I believe I shall, in whole, 1001. copy-right included, clear about 4001., some little odds; and even part of this depends upon what the gentleman has yet to settle with me. I give you this information, because you did me the honour to interest yourself much in my welfare,
To give the rest of my story in brief, I have married “my Jean,” and taken a farm : with the first step I have every day more and more reason to be satisfied ; with the last, it is rather the re
I have a younger brother, who supports my aged mother ;' another still younger brother, and three sisters, in a farm. On my last return from Edinburgh, it cost me about 1801., to save them from ruin. Not that I have lost so muchI only interposed between my brother and his impending fate by the loan of so much. I give my. self no airs on this, for it was mere selfishness on my part : I was conscious that the wrong scale of the balance was pretty heavily charged, and I thought that throwing a little filial piety, and fraternal affection, into the scale in my favour, might help to smooth matters at the grand reckoning, There is still one thing would make my circumstances quite easy: I have an excise officer's commission, and I live in the midst of a country division. My request to Mr. Graham, who is one of the commissioners of excise, was, if in his power, to procure me that division. If I were very sanguine, I might hope that some of my great pa