1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

Thomas Sanderson, "Elegy to the Memory of Robert Burns, the Scottish Bard" Original Poems (1800) 187-90, 236-37n.



Heard you the sigh of SORROW breathe,
Where yonder ancient hawthorn grows?
Saw you the cypress's mournful wreath,
Where AYR, in bright meanders, flows?

That sigh was pour'd o'er COLIN'S grave,
Whose artless reed so sweetly play'd;
And Shepherds bade that garland wave,
Where COLIN with the Muses stray'd.

No more the voice of rural MIRTH
Is heard, at eve, in wood or dale;
No more, to cheer the Peasant's hearth,
Goes round the sprightly song or tale.

And still shall gentle COLIN'S name
In Mem'ry's fond regard, be dear?
Still shall departed Genius claim
Those sacred rites — a sigh, a tear!

To him the magic tones were known
That from the chords of MUSIC dart;
The human breast he made his own,
By pow'rs that scorn'd the aid of art.

Sweet NATURE'S child, he lov'd to taste
The simple pleasures NATURE yields;
Oft view'd the wildness of the waste,
And oft the grandeur of the fields!

Amidst the music floating round,
From vocal dell and murm'ring stream,
He oft in yonder vale was found,
Rapt in some sweet poetic dream!

Oft would he 'mid the wild wood view
Soft Ev'ning's shades steal o'er the rose;
Oft would he, while the Zephyr's blew,
Upon a bed of flow'rs repose.

HEALTH then its glowing colours spread,
And Temp'rance nerv'd his mental pow'rs;
While many a guiltless moment shed
Its sunshine o'er his silent bow'rs!

He watch'd his flocks, when morning-light
With liquid pearls, illum'd each spray;
He wander'd home, when yonder height
Was colour'd with departing day.

'Mid joys like these he lov'd to live,
Obscurely safe in humble fame;
And great! if song and virtue gave
A grandeur to a Shepherd's name!

But soon a gather'd cloud o'ercast
A scene of bliss so mildly pure;
Next him ILLUSIVE PLEASURE past,
And lur'd him from his peaceful bow'r.

Ah! then, to themes of rural praise,
No more his magic lyre was strung;
INTEMP'RANCE, o'er his sum of days,
The shade of many a mis'ry flung!

But in the grave, where rests his head,
In peace may COLIN'S frailties lie;
And may his tale, by Shepherds read,
From ev'ry bosom draw a sigh!


It is much to be regretted that the Scottish Gentlemen, who professed to be the Patrons of BURNS, had not shewn their respect to his genius in a different manner than that of introducing him to the luxuries of their tables, by which the simplicity of his manners was corrupted, and those habits of intemperance superinduced, which ultimately led to his misery and ruin.
Instead of taking him from his farm, and opening upon him views which could neither improve his mind nor his morals, they ought to have made him easy in his rural situation, by some pecuniary allowance annually paid, and in such a manner as not to have hurt his feelings; for dependance, when felt, depresses an ingenuous mind as much, if not more, that poverty.
Amidst the simple comforts of a pastoral life, with few wants, and those easily supplied, he would, in all probability, have remained innocent and happy; and, like TITYRUS under his beachen shade, have expressed his happiness and his gratitude in all the melody of verse; for "POETRY (says COWLEY) was born among the Shepherds."