1791 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

James Graham, "On Burns, the Scottish Poet" 1791 ca.; Poems, in English, Scotch, and Latin (1794) 43-45.



The bard whose song still echoes in the vale,
The bard whose song each lovely tongue recites,
Is left to moil like men of common mould;
The song still charms us; but the bard's forgot.
'Tis thus the thrush, sweet minstrel of the spring,
His woodnotes wild pours from the milk-whitethorn;
But when stern Winter chills the leafless grove,
Shivering he's left to glean his scanty food,
Nor ever is the woodland path bestrewn,
Save with intent to lure him to the snare.

Ungrateful country! ill-requited Burns!
Shall he who sung, in Scotia's Doric lays,
"The lowly train in life's sequester'd scene,"
Remain neglected in the scene he paints,
And ask, perhaps in vain, "for leave to toil?"
Shall he who sung far sweeter than the lark,
When upward springing from the daisy's side
To greet the purpling east,
Be driven from the fields cheer'd by his song?
Who e'er with truth and yet with dignity
Like him rehears'd the annals of the poor?
Did e'er religion half so lovely seem
In temples, as in his low lonely cot?
"The Power incens'd the pageant will desert,
The pompous strain, the sacerdotal stole,
And haply in some cottage far apart
May hear, well-pleas'd, the language of the soul;
And in his book of life the inmates poor inrol."

Ye patrons of the mighty dead, who strive
T' immortalize immortal Thomson's name,
Rear not to angels mole-hill monuments,
While living merit owns no sheltering roof:
Rather would Thomson's gentle spirit see
A mansion rais'd for his neglected Burns,
Than gorgeous mausoleums for himself.
[Written several years ago.]