1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

Anonymous, "Spoken at a Meeting held on the 29th of January, 1806, in Greenock, to celebrate the Anniversary of the Birth of Robert Burns" The Monthly Magazine 21 (June 1806) 430-31.



Illustrious Bard! who now attun'st thy lay
With kindred songsters in eternal day,
Where streams of living light incessant flow,
Far, far beyond the reach of human woe,—
O grant a spark of thy celestial fire,
To warm my fancy, and our Muse inspire,
While to thy mem'ry here we pour the lay,
And solemnize with song thy natal day;
To thy immortal name attempt to raise
The annual tribute of our willing praise,
And sing the mysteries of thy humble birth,
How, like the daisy, first thou "glented" forth,
'Mid storms of life, and poverty severe,
I' th' "auld clay "bigging" on the banks of Ayr.

See, in that sterile soil, the Scottish Muse,
With fostering care, the seeds of song infuse
Into thy infant breast, while round thy brow
She binds her sacred gift, the holly bough;
And heaven-born Genius, from the realms of day,
Pour on those germs the intellectual ray;
Then glowing visions, rich, luxuriant, strong,
Sublimely rise in thy harmonious song.
Nature unveils to thy poetic eye
Her every form, her every varied dye;
Then with a master's hand we see thee trace
Her every feature with a charming grace;
Draw forth the landscape in the strain sublime,
From every season and from every clime.

See virgin Spring, by thee in daisies drest,
The blossom'd hawthorn deck her fragrant breast;
And dazzling Summer, mistress of the year,
In robes of light, of rosy hue, appear;
See mellow Autumn, rich, by plenty crown'd,
Serenely smiling, deal her blessings round;
And ruthless Winter, raging o'er the plain,
With storms and tempests howling in her train.

The Passions, too, upon thy call attend,
And to thy tuneful strains submissive bend;
Love, first in power, demands the votive song;
In melting measures then the harp is strung;
To scenes of transport, 'mong the broomy knows,
Where happy lovers breathe their mutual vows;
The fond embrace, the sweet half-granted kiss;
The tender sigh, that wakes a world of bliss;
Those dear bewitching, modest smiles that dart
Their powerful influence on th' enraptur'd heart:
These balmy breathings of thy heaven-taught lyre
With every heart, set every soul on fire.

Hope, dear companion of the spotless breast,
Points to some distant bliss yet unpossest;
With views of future happiness she cheers
The woe-worn pilgrim in this vale of tears.

Next trembling Fear, unable to controul
The dark forebodings of the guilty soul;
"Lo there she goes unpitied and unblest;
She goes, but not to realms of everlasting rest."

See Sorrow mourning o'er those ills of life
Man heaps on man, by cruelty and strife,
When mad Ambition mounts the blood-stain'd car,
And wields the desolating sword of War,
Till some great Wallace rise and strike the blow
That hurls a tyrant to the shades below;
Then Peace, fair daughter of the cloudless sky,
Descends, and wipes the tear from every eye.
Discord and Hatred, with their bloated train
Of selfish aims, shall vanish from the plain,
And man to man, by mutual good allied,
Shall brothers be, and lay their feuds aside.

Mirth next in sportive measure trips along,
And beats responsive to thy 'witching song;
Around th' inspiring bowl her joyous crew
The laugh, the song, and merry tale, pursue;
Or mingling in the dance upon the green,
With cheerful rustics hail their rural queen.

Now sly Hypocrisy comes gravely on,
Assumes the saint, and heaves a godly groan;
While from her hollow rotten heart arise
Fraud, scandal, long loud prayers, and lies:
Her voice is lifted up in holy wrath,
To wither frailty with her poisoning breath;
Presumes to wield Heav'n's own avenging rod,
And pour on ma th' imputed wrath of God.

But see true Piety benign appear,
And o'er weak Nature shed the pitying tear,
And softly say, as said her Lord before,
Thee I condemn not, go and sin no more:
Relive pale Misery from the jaws of Want;
To suffering Worth her aid in secret grant.
Then see her, when her pleasing task is o'er,
Of yielding succour to the humble poor,
Bend o'er the "big ha' Bible," and her God adore.

Thus sung th' immortal Bard, whose honour'd name
Now ranks with Heroes in the rolls of fame,
His slumbering harp unstrung, now hangs supine,
No minstrel left to wakes its powers divine:
The mighty master met his hapless doom,
Untimely call'd to fill an early tomb.

O Scotia! to thy Burns some trophy raise,
To waft his sacred named to future days.
No monument yet rears his grateful head,
To mark his worth, or soothe his tuneful shade;
No tombstone o'er his hallow'd ashes rise,
To tell the stranger where thy poet lies:
The first of bards e'er tun'd thy oaten reed,
Sleeps undistinguish'd 'mong the common dead.
But yet, when ages shall have pass'd away,
And stately domes have moulder'd down to clay,
When brazen statues yield (as yield they must,)
To wasting age, and crumble into dust,
The lasting labours of his Muse sublime
Shall stand unhurt amid the wrecks of time—
A touring column of immortal fame,
And bards unborn shall celebrate his name,
Warm'd by a spark of his ethereal flame!