1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Burns

James Montgomery, "Robert Burns. Written on occasion of the Anniversary of his Birth-day being celebrated at Sheffield" The Star (22 May 1820).



What bird, in beauty, flight, or song,
Can with the Bard compare,
Who sang as sweet, and soar'd as strong,
As ever child of air?

His plume, his note, his form, could BURNS
For whim or pleasure change;
He was not one, but all by turns,
With transmigration strange:

The Blackbird, oracle of spring,
When flow'd his moral lay;
The Swallow, wheeling on the wing,
Capriciously at play:

The Humming-bird, from bloom to bloom,
Inhaling heavenly balm;
The Raven, in the tempest gloom;
The Halcyon in the calm;

In "Auld Kirk Alloway" the Owl
At 'witching time of night:
By "bonny Doon" the earliest fowl
That carol'd to the light.

He was the Wren amidst the grove,
When is his homely vein;
At Bannockburn the Bird of Jove,
With thunder in his train!

The Woodlark in his mournful hours;
The Goldfinch in his mirth;
The Thrush, a spendthrift of his pow'rs,
Enrapturing Heaven and Earth!

The Swan, in majesty and grace,
Contemplative and still;
But rous'd, — no Falcon in the chace
Could like his satire kill!

The Linnet, in simplicity;
In tenderness the Dove;—
But, more than all beside, was He
The Nightingale, in love!

Oh, had he never stoop'd to shame,
Nor lent a charm to Vice,
How had Devotion lov'd to name
That Bird of Paradise!

Peace to the dead! — in Scotia's choir
Of Minstrels, great and small,
He sprang from his spontaneous fire,
The Phoenix of them all!