1796 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

Anonymous, "Written in the blank Leaf of Burns' Poems" Aberdeen Magazine 1 (October 1796) 247.



When first I heard thy simple strains,
O Burns, what music fill'd my ear!
Methought once more on Scotia's plains,
Another Ossian would appear.

Thro' rustic guise I trac'd the gleam
Of Genius, pure celestial light!
As the mild star's bright quivering beam,
Shines thro' the sable shade of night.

I fondly hop'd the kindling frame,
Might yet with future lustre burn;
But now, alas! Death stops thy fame,
And bids the sons of Genius mourn.

O hadst thou, yet to fame unknown,
Contented with thy humble fate,
Admir'd the Ploughman's joys alone,
Nor sought to change that happy state;

On Ayr's green banks thou might'st have stray'd,
At solemn evening's pensive hour;
Or wander'd through the waving shade,
Or mark'd the "wildly scatter'd flower."

In the calm scenes of rural life,
Thou might'st have liv'd obscurely blest
Far from the "crowd's ignoble strife,"
And sunk unnotic'd into rest.

But soon ambitious views inspire
Thy soul to seek a Poet's name;
The breast that feels poetic fire,
Must ever feel — the love of Fame.

To "fair Edina's lofty towers,"
Ambition led thy devious way,
And Fashion's gay fantastick powers,
Soon o'er thy reason gain'd the sway.

The "banks of Ayr" can charm no more,
The Lark's gay song no longer please,
The voice of praise is sweeter far,
And, ah! what scenes can vie with these.

Deluded youth! — in search of praise,
To join the gay promiscuous throng,
To plunge in Error's guileful maze,
To know the right — and do the wrong!

But let thy errors be forgot,
And still thy memory claim the tear;
While pity mourns the Poet's lot,
Who falls in early life's career.

And may thy spirit rest in peace;
The cares of life with thee are o'er,
"Despondency" and pain shall cease,
And Pleasure's voice allure no more.