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A Day with the Poet Burns   By:

A Day with the Poet Burns by Anonymous

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[Illustration: Rose Emblem]

A Day with Burns.

Painting by W. J. Neatby.


My Luve is like a red, red rose That's newly sprung in June: My Luve is like the melodie That's sweetly played in tune

As fair thou art, my bonnie lass, So deep in luve am I: And I will love thee still, my dear, Till a' the seas gang dry.

[Illustration: Lady with Rose]



In the same Series.

Longfellow. Tennyson. Keats. Browning. Wordsworth.


There are few figures which appeal more picturesquely to the imagination than that of the ploughman poet swarthy, stalwart, black eyed, striding along the furrow in the grey of a dreary dawn. Yet Burns was far from being a mere uncultured peasant, nor did he come of peasant stock. His forefathers were small yeoman farmers, who had risked themselves in the cause of the Young Pretender: they had a certain amount of family pride and family tradition. Robert Burns had been educated in small schools, by various tutors, and by his father, a man of considerable attainments. He had acquired some French and Latin, studied mensuration, and acquainted himself with a good deal of poetry and many theological and philosophical books.

Painting by E. W. Haslehust.


The man in hodden grey and rough top boots who might be seen going out on dusky mornings from his little farmstead of Ellisland near Dumfries.

[Illustration: Man on Horseback Leaving Farm]

So that the man who may be seen going out this dusky morning from his little farmstead of Ellisland near Dumfries the dark and taciturn man in hodden grey and rough top boots is not precisely a son of the soil. He is a hard worker in the field by dint of necessity, but his strenuous and impetuous mind is set upon other thoughts than the plough, as he drives his share along the Nithsdale uplands. It is exactly the season of the year that he delights in. "There is scarcely any earthly object," he has written, "which gives me more I do not know if I should call it pleasure, but something that exalts me, something that enraptures me than to walk in the sheltered side of a wood or high plantation on a cloudy winter's day, and hear the stormy wind howling among the trees, or raving over the plains.... I take a peculiar pleasure in the season of winter, more than the rest of the year.... There is something that raises the mind to a serious sublimity, favourable to everything great and noble." And there is also something secretly akin to the poet's wild and passionate soul. For this is not a happy man, but an embittered one, and ready to "rail on Lady Fortune in good set terms." He takes the storm wind for an interpreter:

'The sweeping blast, the sky o'ercast,' The joyless winter day, Let others fear, to me more dear Than all the pride of May: The tempest's howl, it soothes my soul, My griefs it seems to join; The leafless trees my fancy please, Their fate resembles mine!

Thou Power Supreme, whose mighty scheme These woes of mine fulfil, Here firm I rest; they must be best, Because they are Thy will! Then all I want O do Thou grant This one request of mine! Since to enjoy Thou dost deny, Assist me to resign .

His brief meteoric reign of popularity in Edinburgh is now at an end: from being a popular idol of society, caressed and fĂȘted, he has been let to sink back into his native obscurity. And, being poignantly proud, he suffers accordingly. The consciousness of genius burns within him, a flame that devours rather than illumines: and he finds vent for his bitterness, as he treads the clogging fallow, in the immortal lines: A Man's a Man for a' that.

Is there for honest poverty That hings his head, an' a' that; The coward slave we pass him by, We dare be poor for a' that! For a' that, an' a' that, Our toils obscure an' a' that, The rank is but the guinea's stamp, The Man's the gowd for a' that... Continue reading book >>

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