« ForrigeFortsett »
happy; not like the gallant, the gay Lothario, but in the simplicity of rural enjoyment, unmixed with regret at the remembrance of the days of other years*.”
I saw Mr. Dunbar put under the cover of your newspaper, Mr. Wood's poem on Thomson. This poem has suggested an idea to me which you alone are capable to execute :-a song adapted to each season of the year. The task is difficult, but the theme is charming: should you succeed, I will undertake to get new music worthy of the subject. What a fine field for your imagination ! and who is there alive can draw so many beauties from nature and pastoral imagery as yourself? It is, by the way, surprizing that there does not exist, so far as I know, a proper song for each season. We have songs on hunting, fishing, skaiting, and one autumnal song, Harvest Home. As your muse is neither spavined nor rusty, you may mount the hill of Parnassus, and return with a sonnet in your pocket for every season. For my suggestions, if I be rude, correct me; if impertinent, chastise me ; if presuming, despise me. But if you blend all my weaknesses, and pound out one grain of insinceri. ty, then am I not thy
Faithful friend, &c.
To Mrs. DUNLOP.
November, 1790. “ As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.”
Fate has long owed me a letter of good news from you, in return for the many tidings of sorrow
* The person here alluded to, is Mr. S. who en. gaged the editor iu this undertaking. See the dee dication. E
which I have received. In this instance I most cordially obey the apostle“ Rejoice with them that do rejoice"-for me, to sing for joy, is no new thing ; but to preach for joy, as I have done in the commencement of this epistle, is a pitch of extravagant rapture to which I never rose before.
I read your letter-I literally jumped for joy:How could such a mercurial creature as a poet, lumpishly keep his seat on the receipt of the best news from his best friend ! I seized my gilt-headed Wangee rod, an instrument indispensably neces. sary in my left hand, in the moment of inspiration and rapture; and stride, stride-quick and quicker -out skipt I among the broomy banks of Nith, to muse over my joy by retail. To keep within the bounds of prose was impossible. Mrs. Little's is a more elegant, but not a more sincere compliment to the sweet little fellow, than I extempore almost poured out to him, in the following verses. See the poem On the Birth of a Posthumous Child, vol. jii.
I am much flattered by your approbation of my Tam o' Shanter, which you express in your former letter ; though, by the bye, you load me in that said letter with accusations heavy and many; to all which I plead, not guilty! Your book is, I hear, on the road to reach me. As to printing of poetry, when you prepare it for the press, you have only to spell it right, and place the capital letters properly: as to the punctuation, the printers do that themselves.
I have a copy of Tam o Shanter ready to send you by the first opportunity : it is too heavy to send by post.
I heard of Mr. Corbet lately. He, in consequence of your recommendation, is most zealous to serve me. Please favour me soon with an account of your good folks ; if Mrs. H. is recovering, and the young gentleman doing well.
To Mr. CUNNINGHAM.
Ellisland, 23d January, 1791. Many happy returns of the season to you, iny dear friend! As many of the good things of this life, as is consistent with the usual mixture of good and evil, in the cup of Being !
I have just finished a poem, which you will receive enclosed. It is my first essay in the way of tales.
I have these several months been hammering at an elegy on the amiable and accomplished Miss Burnet. I have got, and can get, no farther than the following fragment, on which, please give me your strictures, In all kinds of poetic composition, I set great store by your opinion; but in senti. mental verses, in the poetry of the heart, no Roman catholic ever set more value on the infallibility of the holy father, than I do on yours.
I mean the introductory couplets, as text verses.
On the late Miss Burnet of Monboddo.
Life ne'er exulted in so rich a prize,
Thy form, and mind, sweet maid, can I forget!
In vain ye flaunt in summer's pride, ye groves ;
Thou crystal streamlet with thy flowery shore,
Ye woodland choir that chaunt your idle loves,
Ye cease to charm; Eliza is no more.
Ye heathy wastes, unmix'd with reedy fens ;
Ye mossy streams, with sedge and rushes stor'd ; Ye rugged cliffs o'erhanging dreary glens,
To you I fly, ye with my soul accord.
Princes whose cumb'rous pride was all their worth,
Shall venal lays their pompous exit hail ? And thou, sweet excellence! forsake our earth,
And not a muse in honest grief bewail?
We saw thee shine in youth and beauty's pride,
Aid virtue's light that beams beyond the spheres: But, like the sun eclips'd at morning tide,
Thou left'st us darkling in a world of tears.
Let me hear from you soon.
To Mr. PETER HILL.
17th January, 1791. Take these two guineas, and place them over against that ****** account of yours ! which has gagged my mouth these five or six months! I can as little write good things as apologies to the man I owe money to. O, the supreme curse of making three guineas do the business of five ! Not all the labours of Hercules ; not all the Hebrews' three centuries of Egyptian bondage, were such an insuperable business, such an ******** task !! Poverty! thou half-sister of death, thou cousin-german of hell! where shall I find force of execra. tion equal to the amplitude of thy demerits ? Oppressed by thee, the venerable ancient, grown hoary in the practice of every virtue, laden with years and wretchedness, implores a little-little aid to support his existence, from a stony-hearted son of Mammon, whose sun of prosperity never knew a eloud ; and is by him denied and insulted. Oppressed by thee, the man of sentiment, whose heart glows with independence, and melts with sensibibility, inly pines under the neglect, or writhes in bitterness of soul under the contumely, of arrogant, unfeeling wealth. Oppressed by thee, the son of genius, whose ill-starred ambition plants him at the tables of the fashionable and polite, must see, in suffering silence, his remark neglected, and his person despised, while shallow greatness, in his ideot attempts at wit, shall meet with countenance and applause. Nor is it only the family of worth that have reason to complain of thee: the children of folly and vice, though, in common with thee, the offspring of evil, smart equally under thy rod. Owing to thee, the man of unfortunate disposition and neglected education, is condemned as a fool for his dissipation, despised and shunned as a needy wretch, when his follies as usual bring him to want; and when his unprincipled necessities drive him to dishonest practices, he is abhorred as a miscreant, and perishes by the justice of his country. But far otherwise is the lot of the man of family and fortune. His early follies and extravagance, are spirit and fire; his consequent wants, are the embarrassments of an honest fellow ; and when, to remedy the matter, he has gained a legal commission to plunder distant provinces, or massacre peaceful nations, he returns, perhaps, laden with the spoils of rapine and murder ; lives wicked and respected, and dies a ******* and a lord.-Nay, worst of all, alas for helpless woman! the needy prostitute, who has shivered at the corner of the street, waiting to earn the wages of casual prostitution, is left neglected and insulted, ridden down by the chariot wheels of the coroneted rip, harrying on to the guilty assignation ; she, who without the same