1797 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

Edward Rushton, "On the Death of Robert Burns, the Ayrshire Ploughman" Time Piece [New York] (10 November 1797).



Poor, wildly sweet, uncultur'd flower!
Thou lowliest of the muse's bower!
"Stern ruin's ploughshare, mang the stoure,
Has crush'd thy stem,"
And sorrowing verse shall mark the hour,
"Thou bonie gem!"

'Neath the green turf, dear Nature's child!
Sublime, pathetic, artless, wild,
Of all thy quips and cranks despoil'd,
Cold dost thou lie,
And many a youth and maiden mild
Shall o'er thee sigh.

Those powers that, eagle-wing'd could soar,
That heart, — which ne'er was cold before,
That tongue which caus'd the table's roar,
Are now laid low,
And Scotia's sons shall hear no more
Thy rapturous flow.

Warm'd with a "spark of nature's fire"
From the rough plough thou didst aspire,
To make a sordid world admire,
And few like thee,
O! BURNS, have swept the minstrel's lyre
With ecstacy.

Ere winter's icy vapours fail,
The violet in th' uncultur'd dale
So sweetly scents the passing gale,
That shepherd boys,
Led by the fragrance they inhale,
Soon find their prize.

So, when to life's chill glens confin'd,
Thy rich, tho' rough, untutor'd mind,
Pour'd on the sense of each rude hind
Such sonsie lays,
That to thy brow was soon assign'd
The wreath of praise.

Anon! with nobler daring blest,
The wild notes throbbing at thy breast,
Of friends, wealth, fortune, unpossess'd,
Thy fervid mind
Tow'rds fame's proud turrets boldly press'd,
And pleas'd mankind.

But what avail'd thy powers to please?
When want approach'd, and pale disease,
Could these thy infant brood appease
That wail'd for bread?
Or could they, for a moment, ease
Thy woe-worn head?

Applause, poor child of minstrelsey!
Was all the world e'er gave to thee;
Unmov'd, by pinching penury
They saw thee torn,
And now, kind souls, with sympathy
Thy loss they mourn.

Oh! how I loathe the bloated train
Who oft had heard thy witching strain,
Yet, when thy frame was rack'd with pain,
Could keep aloof,
And eye, with opulent disdain,
Thy lowly roof.

Yes! proud Dumfries! Oh! would to Heaven,
Thou hadst from that cold spot been driv'n,
Thou might'st have found some sheltering haven
On this side Tweed;
Yet, ah! e'en here poor bards have striv'n,
And died in need.

True genius scorns to flatter knaves
Or crouch amidst a race of slaves;
His soul, while fierce the tempest raves,
No tremor knows,
And, with unshaken nerve he braves
Life's pelting woes.

No wonder then, that thou shouldst find
Th' averted glance of half mankind,
Should'st see the sly, slow, supple mind
To wealth aspire,
While scorn, neglect, and want, combin'd
To quench thy fire.

While wintry winds pipe loud and strong,
The high perch'd storm-cock pours his song;
So thy Aeolian lyre was strung
Midst chilling times,
Yet cheerly didst thou roll along
Thy "routh of rhymes."

And ah! that routh of rhymes shall raise
For thee a lasting pile of praise;
Haply some wing, in these our days,
Has higher soar'd;
But from the heart more melting lays
Were never pour'd.

Where Ganges rolls his yellow tide,
Where blest Columbia's waters glide,
Old Scotia's sons, spread far and wide,
Shall oft rehearse,
With sorrow some, but all with pride,
Thy witching verse.

In early spring, thy earthy bed
Shall be with many a wild flow'r spread,
The violet there its sweets shall shed,
In humble guise,
And there the "mountain-daisie's" head
Shall duly rise.

While darkness reigns, should bigotry,
With boiling blood and bended knee,
Scatter the weeds of infamy
O'er thy cold clay,
Those weeds, at light's first blush, shall be
Soon swept away.

And when thy scorners are no more,
The lonely glens and sea-beat shore,
Where thou hast croon'd thy fancies o'er
With soul elate,
Oft shall the bard at eve explore,
And mourn thy fate.