1790 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

K., "To Robert Burns" Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (14 August 1790).



Ah! wherefore dost thou drop thy sounding lyre?
That wont to set the bosom in a flame,
That wont to fill my soul with noble fire,
And bade me still at high exertions aim;

That wont to cherish each unsocial hour
Which we in life's dull phantoms idly spend,
When thou art still — we want the soothing power
That leads us quiet and calmly to our end.

Thy verse each tender feeling has inspir'd,
Taught ev'ry gen'rous sentiment to flow,
Taught whatso'er the barren mind requir'd,
And with the love of science made it glow.

In the lone desart's dark and rugged way,
Where no kind spirit guides my wand'ring eye,
Thy verses reach my heart; and fair as day
I view the right, and from oblivion fly.

As the young plant, in winter's chilly day,
Feels not the genial pow'r that can enliv'n,
So faded had my bloom — had not thy lay
Rous'd with its warmth, and turn'd mine eye to heav'n.

The lively bloom of Nature's wide domain,
The ocean's loud and desultory roar,
The craggy mountain, and the flow'ry plain,
Thy happy numbers lead me to explore.

In bless'd Philosophy's unerring road,
I tread the steps of astronomic lore;
She leads to Nature, and to Nature's God;
Gives joy to youth, to age gives wisdom's store.

Gay thro' the cloud the sun may dart his ray,
The moon's mild beam may still the night illume,
And not unworthy — Poesy's soft lay
May banish darkness from the dungeon's gloom:

But, ah! how slow the heavy moments roll!
Pale expectation lingers on with me;
Yet — not a line to cheer the drooping soul,
Nor any song, soft-number'd, comes from thee.

Then, touch again thy easy moving string;
Let the soft melody be heard around:
Sweet as the strain of Ossian canst thou sing;
Well canst thou charm the bosom with the sound.
Edinburgh, Aug. 4, 1790.