1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

William Roscoe, "Elegy, on the Death of the Scottish Poet Burns" Morning Chronicle (28 July 1800).



Rear high thy bleak, majestic Hills,
And shelter'd Vallies proudly spread,
And, SCOTIA, pour thy thousand rills
And wave thy Heaths with Blossoms red!
But, ah, what Poet now shall tread
Thy airy heights, thy woodland reign,
Since he, the sweetest Bard, is dead
That ever breath'd the soothing strain?

As green thy tow'ring Pines may grow,
As clear thy Streams may speed along,
As bright thy Summer Suns may glow,
And wake again thy feath'ry throng:
But now, unheeded is the Song,
And dull and lifeless all around:
For his wild Harp lies all unstrung—
And cold the hand that wak'd its sound!

What, tho' thy vig'rous offspring rise,
In Arts, in Arms, thy sons excel;
The Beauty in thy daughter's eyes,
And Health in ev'ry feature dwell;
Yet who shall now their praises tell
In strains impassion'd, fond, and free,
Since HE no more the Song shall swell
To Love, and Liberty, and Thee?

With step-dame eye and frown severe
His hapless Youth why didst thou view?
For all thy joys to him were dear,
And all his vows to thee were due:
Nor greater bliss his bosom knew,
In op'ning Youth's delightful prime,
Than when thy fav'ring ear he drew,
To listen to thy chaunted Rhyme!

Thy lonely wastes and frowning skies
To him were all with rapture fraught;
He heard with joy the tempest rise
That wak'd him to sublimer thought;
And oft thy winding Dells he sought,
Where wild flow'rs pour'd their rathe perfume,
And with sincere devotion brought
To thee the Summer's earliest bloom.

But, ah, no fond, maternal smile
His unprotected Youth enjoy'd;
His limbs inur'd to early toil,
His days with early hardships tried!
And, more to mark the gloomy void
And bid him feel his misery,
Before his infant eyes would glide
Day-dreams of Immortality!

Yet, not by cold neglect depress'd,
With sinewy arm he turn'd the soil,
Sunk with the Ev'ning Sun to rest,
And met at Morn his earliest smile!
Wak'd by his rustic Pipe, meanwhile
The pow'rs of Fancy came along,
And sooth'd his lengthen'd hours of toil
With native Wit and sprightly Song!

Ah Days of Bliss too swiftly fled,
When vig'rous Health from labour springs,
And bland Contentment smooths the bed,
And sleep his ready opiate brings;
And, hov'ring round on airy wings,
Floats the light forms of young Desire,
That of unutterable things
The soft and shadowy hope inspire!

Now, Spells of mightier pow'r, prepare—
Bid brighter Phantoms round him dance:—
Let FLATT'RY spread her viewless snare,
And FAME attract his vagrant glance;
Let sprightly PLEASURE too advance,
Unveil'd her eyes, unclasp'd her zone,
'Till, lost in Love's delirious Trance,
His scorns the joys his Youth has known!

Let FRIENDSHIP pour her brightest blaze,
Expanding all the Bloom of Soul;
And MIRTH concentre all her rays,
And point them from the sparkling Bowl;
And, let the careless Moments roll
In social Pleasures unconfin'd;
And CONFIDENCE, that spurns controul,
Unlock the inmost springs of Mind!

And lead his steps those Bow'rs among
Where ELEGANCE with SPLENDOUR vies,
Or SCIENCE bids her favour'd throng
To more refin'd sensations rise!
Beyond the Peasants humbler joys,
And freed from each laborious strife,
Then let him learn the Bliss to prize
That waits the Sons of polish'd Life!

Then, whilst his throbbing veins beat high
With ev'ry impulse of Delight,
Doth from his lips the Cup of Joy—
And shroud the scene in shades of Night!
Then let DESPAIR, with wizard light,
Disclose the yawning gulf below,
And pour incessant on his sight
Her specter'd ills and shapes of woe!

And shew beneath a cheerless shed,
With sorrowing heart and streaming eyes,
In silent grief where droops her head—
The Partner of his early Joys!
And let his Infants' tender cries
His fond parental succour claim,
And bid him hear in agonies
A Husband and a Father's name!

'Tis done — the pow'rful Charm succeeds;
His high reluctant Spirit bends;
In bitterness of Soul he bleeds,
Nor longer with his Fate contends!
An Ideot-laugh the welkin rends
As Genius thus degraded lies,
'Till pitying Heav'n the veil extends
That shrouds the Poet's ardent eyes!

Rear high thy bleak, majestic Hills—
Thy shelter'd Vallies proudly spread—
And, SCOTIA, pour thy thousand rills,
And wave thy Heaths with blossoms red!
But never more shall Poet tread
Thy airy heights, thy woodland reign,
Since HE, the sweetest Bard, is Dead,
That ever breath'd the soothing strain!