1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

Anonymous, "Address written for the Anniversary of Burns's Birth-Day" Edinburgh Magazine NS 10 (January 1822) 70-71.



When Homer, parent of the epic strain,
Sung chiefs in arms, on Ilion's hapless plain,
Greece prais'd the song; but, to the bard unkind,
Left him to wander, helpless, old, and blind;
But when she saw inscrib'd th' immortal name,
The first — the brightest on the roll of fame,
Contending cities claim'd him as their son,
Their proudest boast, the bays of Homer won.

And such, when Nature, with benignant smile,
Inspir'd a BURNS, the glory of our isle—
Such was his hapless fate, while old and young,
Admiring, listen to his tuneful tongue;
The hills — the vales re-echo back his lays;
From shore to shore resounds the ploughman's praise;
The grave, the gay, the peasant, and the peer,
All read with wonder, or with rapture hear.

They lead the bard where wealth and rank resort,
Like Manoah's son, to make the Heathen sport;
They prompt his passions with unhallow'd fire,
With wit and wine the Bard degrades his lyre;
While wanton jest, and loose, licentious song,
Inspire the orgies of the revelling throng;
And he, inglorious, wakes his flow of soul,
That richer zest may sparkle in the bowl:
Their wonder sated — tir'd the gazing eye,
They send him home — to droop — despair — and die!

Blush, Scotia, blush! for that insulting meed,
Which made his soul in bitter anguish bleed!
Lur'd from the plain — from life's sequester'd way,
Led forth to mingle with the great and gay;
Admir'd, caress'd, and flatter'd by the fair,
Taught all the sweets of polish'd life to share;
Till tame and dull appear'd the rural cot,
And guileless joys, that bless'd his early lot;
His heart of peace and simple bliss beguil'd,
His patrons fix the Muses' fav'rite child
The lowest minion holding post or place,
Ev'n there to dread expulsion and disgrace;
And doom'd his manly, independent mind,
To sink a slave — a bye-word to mankind;
Till Heav'n in mercy nipt the blighted bloom,
And hid his griefs and frailties in the tomb.

The dews of heaven fell on his clay-cold bed,
And bleak the night-winds rav'd around his head,
While on his turf the reckless peasant trod,
And crush'd the daisy blooming on his sod;
Till year on year, and seasons roll'd away,
And Fame proclaim'd his name should ne'er decay;
Gave conscious shame, and self-approving pride,
Gave to his shade what they to him denied;
And those who scorn'd to cheer his humble home,
Too late repentant, rais'd the splendid dome.

But marble monuments to dust shall turn,
And silent time o'erthrow the sculptur'd urn;
A nobler record of his fame we find
In the rich treasures of his matchless mind,
Who makes our bosoms glow at his command,
And rules the passions with his magic wand.

Say, is there one whose aspirations rise
To Him whose throne is fix'd above the skies?
Who would not with the pious cottars kneel,
His full heart panting for the hopes they feel?
Each parent, sure, must feel the hallow'd fire,
And every child revere the hoary sire.

Who would not sigh for innocence betray'd—
"Sweet artless blossom of the rural shade?"
What bosom bleeds not o'er his tale of woe,
When love's keen shaft produc'd th' anguish'd throw?
Or lives the man by love e'er doom'd to mourn,
Who would not weep o'er Highland Mary's urn?

His Mountain Daisy, and the Mouse's Nest,
Wake keen reflection in each thinking breast,
Inspire our sympathy, excite our fears,
And raise our views beyond this vale of tears.

But when, in vision wrapt, he sings sublime,
And boundless Fancy soars o'er space and time,
With living light the fairy landscape glows,
And green the holly glistens round his brows!

When tempests howl, and thunder shakes the skies,
Where Alloway's old haunted ruins rise,
The picture lives; — in Promethean fire
The figures start at his enchanting lyre;
And such the magic of his wizard spell,
We mark each motion in the imps of hell.

The faithful paintings of his glowing page
Delight the young, and soothe the cares of age;
Their years forgot, they mingle in each scene;
List to his Dogs; sport in his Hallow-e'en;
Fond Fancy guides them to the glen and grove,
To whisper, soft, their wonted tales of love;
Or lone, complaining to the Harvest Moon,
Address the "Banks and Braes o' bonny Doon;"
Or join the Plough-boy, whistling o'er the plain,
And, joyous, live their youthful years again.

Peace to his shade! and sacred be his fame!
While Scotia's sons revere the Muses' flame,
While blushing loves her daughters' cheeks adorn,
Their bosoms spotless as the dews of morn;
So long his lays shall over time prevail,
Speed with the light, and float upon the gale;
Till love and beauty, song and Scotian lore,
Brown hills, green vales, and music charm no more!