1797 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

Anonymous, "Stanzas, to the Memory of Robert Burns" The Monthly Magazine 3 (January 1797) 53-54.



Portentous sigh'd the hallow blast,
Which, sorrow-freighted, southward pass'd;
I heard the sound, and stood aghast
In solemn dread:
The mournful truth is told at last,
And BURNS is dead!

Ah! sweetest minstrel, nature's child,
Could not thy "native woodnotes wild,"
Thy manly sense, thy manners mild,
And sprightly glee,
The ghastly tyrant have beguil'd
To set thee free?

Unfriended, desolate, and young,
Misfortune o'er thy cradle hung;
And penury had check'd thy song,
But check'd in vain;
Till Death, resistless in his wrong,
Has clos'd the strain!

Thus, 'midst the cold of winter's snows,
The unprotected snow-drop blows;
Awhile in native beauty glows,
And charms the eyes;
Till past some ruthless spoiler goes,
And crops the prize!

But not for thee, O bard, the lot,
In cold oblivion's shade to rot;
Like those, unhonour'd, and forgot,
Th' unfeeling great,
Who knew thy worth, but hasten'd not
To sooth thy fate.

Whilst love to beauty pours the sigh,
Whilst genius shall with nature vie,
Whilst pity from the melting eye
Shall claim regard;
Thy honour'd name shall never die,
Immortal bard!

But oft, as winter o'er the plain
Shall pour at eve the beating rain,
The hind shall call his little train
Around the fire,
To listen to some thrilling strain
Of thy lov'd lyre.

Whether to Heav'n's eternal King
Thou strike the deep-resounding string,
Whilst, rising on devotion's wing,
Hope soars above,
To happier realms of endless spring,
And boundless love;

Or whether lighter themes beguile
The moments of relaxing toil,
Bidding, on labour's front, the smile
Of pleasure sit;
The roof re-echoing all the while
To genuine wit;

Or if wild fancy seize the rein,
Whilst horror thrills thro' ev'ry vein,
And sprites and elves, an awful train,
Their orgies keep;
And warlocks o'er the frighted plain
At midnight sweep:

As works the spell, the list'ning band
Aghast in mute attention stand;
Again thou wav'st thy magic wand,
Of pow'r so rare,
And all the scene, by Fancy plann'd,
Dissolves in air.

Thine too the charm of social hearts,
Where wit its vivid light'ning darts,
And Converse keen to age imparts
The fire of youth,
Whilst, from the fierce concussion, starts
The spark of truth.

What tho' thy wild untutor'd strain
The Critic's pedant laws disdain,
Not all the wire-cag'd minion train
E'er pour'd a note
So sweet, as echoing o'er the plain
The woodlark's throat.

Old Coila, first whose brakes among,
Thy infant hands the wild harp strung,
Shall flourish in thy deathless song
With lasting fame;
And Ayr shall henceforth roll along,
A classic stream.

But thou, O Bard, in silence laid—
Ah! what shall sooth thy pensive shade,
For worth and genius ill repaid,
With bounty scant;
And hours of sorrow unallay'd,
And toil and want?

See o'er thy song, as loud it swells,
The lordly Thane delighted dwells;
Or to his fair his rapture tells,
By thee inspir'd;
His bosom, as the strain impels,
Or thaw'd or fir'd.

Around him, see, to guard his state,
A train of pamper'd minions wait;
And see, to form his daily treat,
Each climate join;
While Iceland's frost, and Asia's heat,
Their gifts combine.

Yet, whilst he revels unconfin'd
Thro' all the treasures of thy mind,
No gen'rous boon, to thee consign'd,
Relieves thy care;
To Folly or to Vice assign'd
What Pomp can spare!

For rights withheld, or freedom sold,
Corruption asks the promis'd gold;
Or, in licentious splendour bold,
Some titled Dame
Squanders, in riot uncontroll'd,
What Worth should claim!

From hill to hill, from plain to plain,
Wide spreads the Chieftain's proud domain,
That, half a desert, asks in vain
For culture due;
Whilst cold inaction chills thy vein,
And rusts thy plough.

Meanwhile thy youthful vigour flies,
The storms of life unpitying rise,
And wounded Superstition tries
To thwart thy way;
And loath'd Dependance ambush'd lies,
To seize her prey.

Yet high above thy reptile foes
Thy tow'ring soul unconquer'd rose—
Love and the Muse their charms disclose—
The hags retire;
And thy expanded bosom glows
With heav'nly fire.

Go, Builder of a deathless name!
Thy Country's glory, and her shame!
Go, and th' immortal guerdon claim,
To Genius due;
Whilst rolling centuries thy fame
Shall still renew!