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forgive my mentioning as an uncommon merit in the work, I mean the language. To clothe abstract philosophy in elegance of style, sounds something like a contradiction in terms ; but you have convinced me that they are quite compatible.
I inclose you some poetic bagatelles of my late composition. The one in print is my first essay in the way of telling a tale,
I am, sir, &c.
EXTRACT OF A LETTER
To Mr. CUNNINGHAM.
12th March, 1791. If the foregoing piece be worth your strictures let me have them. For my own part, a thing that I have just composed, always appears through a double portion of that partial medium in which an author will ever view his own works. I believe, in general, novelty has something in it that inebriates the fancy, and not unfrequently dissipates and fumes away like other intoxication, and leaves the poor patient, as usual, with an aching heart. A striking instance of this might be adduced, in the revolution of many a hymeneal honeymoon. But lest I sink into stupid prose, and so sacrilegiously intrude on the office of my parish priest, I shall fill up the page in my own way, and give you another song of my late composition, which will appear perhaps in Johnston's work, as well as the former.
You must know a beautiful Jacobite air, There'll never be peace 'till Jamie comes hame. When po litical combustion ceases to be the object of princes and patriots, it then, you know, becomes the lawfal prey of histortans and poets
By yon castle wa' at the close of the day,
The church is in ruins, the state is in jars,
blameThere'll never be peace 'till Jamie comes hame.
My seven braw sons for Jamie drew sword,
yerd : It brak the sweet heart o' my faithfu'auld dame There'll never be peace 'till Jamie comes hame.
Now life is a burden that bows me down,
If you like the air, and if the stanzas hit your fancy, you cannot imagine, my dear friend, how much you would oblige me, if, by the charms of your delightful voice, you would give my honest effusion to the memory of joys that are past,” to the few friends whom you indulge in that pleasure. But I have scribbled on till I hear the clock has intimated the near approach of
** That hour o’night's black arch the key-stane."
So good night to you ! Sound be your sleep, and delectable your dreams! Apropos, how do you like this thought in a ballad, I have just now on the tapis ?
I look to the west, when I gae to rest,
For far in the west, is he I lo'e best,
The lad that is dear to my babie and me!
Good night, once more, and God bless you.
To Mrs. DUNLOP,
Ellisland, 11th April, 1791. I am once more able, my honoured friend, to return you, with my own hand, thanks for the many instances of your friendship, and particularly for your kind anxiety in this last disaster, that my evil genius had in store for me. However, life is chequered-joy and sorrow-for on Saturday morning last, Mrs. Burns made me a present of a fine boy; rather stouter, but not so handsome as your godson was at his time of life. Indeed I look on your little namesake to be my chef d'oeuvre in that species of manufacture, as I look on Tam o' Shanter to be my standard performance in the poetical line. 'Tis true, both the one and the other discover a spice of roguish waggery, that might, perhaps, be as well spared ; but then they also shew, in my opinion, a force of genius, and a finishing polish, that I despair of ever excelling. Mrs. Burns is getting stout again, and laid as lustily about her to day at breakfast, as a reaper from the corn-ridge. That is the peculiar privilege and blessing of our hale, sprightly damsels, that are bred among the hay and heather. We cannot hope for that highly polished mind, that charming delicacy of soul, which is found among the female world in the more elevated stations of life, and which is certainly by far the most bewitching charm in the famous cestus of Venus. It is indeed such an inestimable treasure, that,
where it can be had in its native heavenly purity, unstained by some one or other of the many shades of affectation, and unallayed by some one or other of the inany species of caprice, I declare to heaven, I should think it cheaply purchased at the expence of every other earthly good! But as this angelic creature is, I am afraid, extremely rare in any station and rank of life, and totally denied to such an humble one as mine; we meaner mortals must put up with the next rank of female excellence-as fine a figure and face we can produce as any rank of life whatever; rustic, native grace ; unaffected modesty, and unsullied purity; nature's mother-wit, and the rudiments of taste; a simpli. city of soul, unsuspicious of, because unacquainted with, the crooked ways of a selfish, interested, disjugenuous world; and the dearest charm of all the rest, a yielding sweetness of disposition, and a generous warmth of heart, grateful for love on our part, and ardently glowing with a more than equal return; these, with a healthy frame, a sound, vigorous constitution, which your higher ranks can searcely ever hope to enjoy, are the charins of lovely woman in my humble walk of life.
This is the greatest effort my broken arm has yet made. Do, let me hear, by first post, how cher petit monsieur comes on with his small-pox. May almighty goodness preserve and restore him!
* No. CXVI.
I am exceedingly to blame in not writing you long ago; but the truth is, that I am the most indolent of all human beings; and when I matriculate in the herald's office, I intend that my supporters shall be two sloths, my crest a slow-worm, and the motto “ Deil tak the foremost," So mach
by way of apology for not thanking you sooner for your kind execution of my commission.
I would have sent you the poem ; but somehow or other it found its way into the public papers, where you must have seen it.
I am ever, dear sir, yours sincerely,
To Mr. CUNNINGHAM.
11th June, 1791. Let me interest you, my dear Cunningham, in behalf of the gentleman who waits on you with this. He is a Mr. Clarke, of Moffat, principal schoolmaster there, and is at present suffering severely under the ****** of one or two powerPul individuals of his employers. He is accused of harshness to **** that were placed under his care. God help the teacher, if a man of sensibility and genius, and such is my friend Clarke, when a booby father presents him with his booby son, and insists on lighting up the rays of science, in a fellow's head whose skull is impervious and inaccessible by any other way than a positive fracture with a cudgel : a fellow whom in fact it sa. vours of impiety to attempt making a scholar of, as he has been marked a blockhead in the book of fate, at the almighty fiat of his Creator.
The patrons of Moffat school are, the ministers, magistrates, and town-council of Edinburgh, and as the business comes now before them, let me beg my dearest friend to do every thing in his power to serve the interests of a man of genius and worth, and a man whom I particularly respect and es. teem. You know some good fellows among tho