1827 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Langhorne

Walter Scott to John Gibson Lockhart, 1827; Lockhart, Life of Scott (1837-38; 1902) 1:120.



The only thing I remember which was remarkable in Burns's manner was the effect produced upon him by a print of Burnbury's, representing a soldier lying dead on the snow, his dog sitting in misery on the one side, on the other his widow, with a child in her arms. These lines were written beneath,—

Cold on Canadian hills, on Minden's plain,
Perhaps that parent wept her soldier slain;
Bent o'er her babe, her eye dissolved in dew,
The big drops, mingling with the milk he drew,
Gave the sad passage of his future years,
The child of misery baptized in tears.

Burns seemed much affected by the print, or rather the ideas which it suggested to his mind. He actually shed tears. He asked whose the lines were, and it chanced that nobody but myself remembered that they occur in a half-forgotten poem of Langhorne's, called by the unpromising title of The Justice of the Peace. I whispered my information to a friend present, who mentioned it to Burns, who rewarded me with a look and a word, which, though of mere civility, I then received, and still recollect, with very great pleasure.