1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

John Wilson, in Essay on the Genius and Character of Burns (1844); Allibone, Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:302.



Burns is by far the greatest poet that ever sprung from the bosom of the people and lived and died in an humble condition. Indeed, no country in the world but Scotland could have produced such a man; and he will be forever regarded as the glorious representative of the genius of his country. He was born a poet, if ever man was, and to his native genius alone is owing the perpetuity of his fame. For he manifestly had never deeply studied poetry as an art, nor reasoned much about its principles, nor looked abroad into the wide ken of intellect for objects and subjects on which to pour out his inspiration.... The strings of his lyre sometimes yield their finest music to the sighs of remorse or repentance. Whatever, therefore, be the faults or defects of the poetry of Burns — and no doubt it has many — it has, beyond all that was ever written, this greatest of all merits, intense, life-pervading, and life-breathing truth.