1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

James Hogg, in Autobiography, 1832; Works (1865) 2:444.



The first time I ever heard of Burns was in 1797, the year after he died. One day during that summer a half-daft man, named John Scott, came to me on the hill, and to amuse me repeated Tam O'Shanter. I was delighted! I was far more than delighted. I was ravished! I cannot describe my feelings; but, in short, before Jock Scott left me, I could recite the poem from beginning to end, and it has been my favourite poem ever since. He told me it was made by one Robert Burns, the sweetest poet that ever was born; but that he was now dead, and his place would never be supplied. He told me all about him, how he was born on the 25th of January, bred a ploughman, how many beautiful songs and poems he had composed, and that he had died the last harvest, on the 21st of August.

This formed a new epoch in my life. Every day I pondered on the genius and fate of Burns. I wept, and always thought with myself — what is to hinder me from succeeding Burns? I too was born on the 25th of January, and I have much more time to read and compose than any ploughman could have, and can sing more old songs than ever ploughman could in the world. But then I wept again because I could not write. However, I resolved to be a poet, and to follow in the steps of Burns.