1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

John Struthers, "Written for a Meeting of the Paisley Burns' Annivesary Society, 29th January 1806" The Peasant's Death (1806) 89-96.



Again we mark the changeful year,
Ride forth upon the stormy gale;
While musing Fancy starts to hear,
Lone echo's wild and weary wail;
And peaceful met, once more we hail
Our rustic Poet's natal day,
Who strung, in life's sequester'd vale,
The lyre to many a lofty lay.

Thy aid, inspiring Nature grant,
Thy influence be o'er all confest;
While ribaldry, and creeping cant,
Afar, with mother Dulness rest.
Let Reason spread the frugal feast,
And Friendship give the flow of soul,
Benevolence warm every breast,
And healthful Temperance mix the bowl.

So may no good man wounded grieve,
Nor moralist, in melancholy,
While thus the garland fresh we weave,
With withering look pronounce it folly.
To wanton, wild, in scenes unholy,
Regardless of their country weeping,
We leave to Peers, and Courtiers jolly,
In sock and mask their revels keeping.

My heart! my heart! who can refrain
To give humanity a tear,
As thus the woe denouncing strain
Rings loud and louder on the ear?
The furbish'd sword, the glittering spear,
Though drunk, still ravening to destroy,
Bid cautious Doubt and trembling Fear,
Chastise the beamy smile of Joy.

Father of light, of life, and grace,
How long wilt thou these things endure?
How long shall Nimrod's iron race
Thy image here below devour?
The spirit meek when wilt thou pour,
In love uniting soul to soul,
That holy hands, and prayers pure,
May rise sublime from pole to pole?

It comes! on Hope's prophetic wing
Borne forward far, I see the day!
I hear the gladden'd nations sing,
Rejoicing in its sevenfold ray.
The simple ploughman, whistling gay,
Drives soft along the peaceful team;
And frisking flocks unnumber'd play,
Beside the osier shaded stream.

Through all his melancholy bounds,
In vernal bloom the desart smiles;
And Nature, cur'd of all her wounds,
Tyrannic man no more reviles.
No more, in Error's mazy toils,
Guilt erring man bewilder'd lies;
But even from Ocean's utmost isles
The seraph songs of rapture rise.

Delightful view; but, ah! between,
What scenes of dark confusion lye?
What horrid forms are dimly seen
To glide along the murky sky?
Blasted and thin, of saffron dye,
There Envy leers with sullen scowl,
And low-born selfish Apathy,
Who binds in frost the melting soul.

And rising awful fierce and foul,
Hell raging in her burning breast,
Ambition shrieks with horrid howl,
In Glory's glittering garment drest!
Her blazing breath, with baleful blast,
Burns up the living beams of day;
And underneath her power opprest,
In blood the mountains melt away.

Lo! yonder, where with breezy wings
The wild wind sweeps the foamy wave,
She speaks and looks tremendous things
Against the island of the brave.
Why point ye to the bloody grave!
Ye spirits of our fathers say?
Ages unborn, what would ye have,
That thus ye rush upon the day?

Fathers, we keep our sacred trust;
We burn to emulate your flame;
And children ye shall find us just,
We own we feel your passing claim.
And Freedom, fair unspotted fame!
A portion precious shall be yours;
Or, scorning death and dastard shame,
Bright Honour's bloody bed is ours.

To steel our hearts, as thus the storm
Rolls big with half creation's doom,
And string our nerves, when dangers form,
Gigantic, stalks across the gloom—
First born of Freedom, Valour! come,
Forsake not e'en our festive hours,
But, lest it wither Fancy's bloom,
Hide, then, thy blazing sword in flowers.

Peace, Love, and Honour, undismay'd,
Beneath the shadow pleas'd shall play;
And safe, reclining by thy side,
The Muse shall prompt the rapturous lay.
And come, ye Virtues, smiling gay,
In braided dance the chorus join,
And Wisdom, to direct our way,
Hold thou the trump of Truth divine.

"Thy aid, inspiring Nature! grant,
Thy influence be on all confess'd;
While ribaldry, and creeping cant,
Afar, with mother Dullness rest.
Let Reason spread the frugal feast,
And Friendship give the flow of soul,
Benevolence warm every breast,
And healthful Temperance mix the bowl."