Слике страница

venerable Abbey. “ In the church.yard (says Dr. Adair) two broad flag-stoncs marked the grave of Robert Bruce, for whose menory Burus had more than common veneration. He knelt and kissed the stone with sacred fervour, and heartily execrated the worse than Gothic neglect of this first of Scotish heroes."

These journeys, however, so far from satisfying our Bard's curiosity, served only to redouble it. Accordingly, about the end of August, 1787, he again set off in a post-chaise from Edinburgh, on a more extensive tour to the Highlands, in com. pany with Mr. William Nicol, one of the masters of the Edin. burgh Grammar School. This gentleman, who was indebted to his parents for little more than existence, had raised himself, by his own abilities and perseverance, to the highest pitch of classical eminence.

Mr. Nicol and our poet having in the course of this journey visited the most remarkable parts of the Highlauds as far north as loverdess, they returned along the shore of the German Ocean to Edinburgh, where Burns spent the following winter amid the gay and festive society of the metropolis.

Towards the end of this year, he was seized with a severe attack of the rheumatism, which confined him upwards of six weeks to his room. His spirits became so low, that he was unable to read, write, or think. He therefore resolved to leave Edinburgh, as soon as the state of lsis health would permit.

Having settled accounts with his publisher, in February, 1788, Burns became master of nearly 500l. With this sum he returned to Ayrshire, where be found his brother Gilbert struggling to support their aged mother, a youvger broiber, and three sisters, in the farm of Mossgeil. He immediately advanced 2001. to their relief. With the remainder, and what further profit might accrue to him from his poems, Burus seriously resolved to settle for lise, and resume the occupation of agriculture.

Mr. Miller, of Dalswinton, offered him the choice of a farm on his estate at his own terms. Burns readily accepted this generous offer, and fixed on the farm of Ellisland, about six iniles abore Dumfries, on the banks of the Nith. Previously to this period, however, he had been recommended to the Board of Excise, by Mr. Graham, of Fintry, and had bis name enrolled among the list of candidates for the humble office of an excise.


It has already been observed, that the heart of Burn was always replete with honour and sensibility. Often would the forlora condition of liis lovely Jean' obtrude on bis mind, amid The gagest scenes of mirth and festivity, and embitter all his enjoyments. No sooner had he arranged the plau of his future parsuits, than bis whole thouglies were bent towards the object who had ever been nearest and dearest to his heart. They were immediately married, and thus their union made permanent for life.

By this laudable step, he not only restored that long-lost tran. quillity to the bosom of her he adored, but aavihilated those cor. roding reflections which bad ofteu embittered his peace even amid the gayest scenes of mirth and festivity. He had now found a comfortable residence for his family, which he hoped would prove an asylum for his old age. As a poet, his fame had reached the most distant corvers of the earth. He had enlarged Iris happiness by relieving the wants of his aged mother, his brothers, aud sisters. He had seen the feeling vanities of life, and resolved to bestow bis whole future attention in promoting the welfare of his family.

At Ellisland, Burns spent several happy months, amidst the polite attention aud esteem of a genteel neighbourhood. Their social parties, however, too often seduced him from his rustic labours, overthrew the unsteady fabric of his resolutions, aud in. flamed those propensities which temperance might have weaken. ed, and prudence ultimately suppressed. It was not loog, therefore, before Buros began to view his farm with disgust.Unfortunately, too, he at length received his appointment as au exciseman. The duties of this situation, besides exposing him to numberless temptations, occupied that part of his time which ought to have beeu bestowed in cultivating his farm; which, after this, was in a great measure abandoned to servants. It is easy to conjecture the consequences. Notwithstanding the moderation of the rent, and the prudent management of Mrs. Burns, he fouud it necessary to resign his farm into the hands of Mr. Miller. The stock and crop being afterwards sold by public auction, he removed, with his family, to a small house iu Dum. fries, about the end of the year 1791.

He resided four year at Dumfries. During this time, he had hoped for promotion in the excise ; but the eagerness in politics to which his warm feelings betrayed him, defeated those hopes.

The extraordinary events which ushered in the revolution of France were beneld with delight and astonishment by men iu every corner of Europe. Buros' geuerous soul embraced with Ardour those hopes of happiness woich seemerl to dawn upon mankind. Uuder these impressions, he did not always conduct himself with the circumspection and prudence which his depeu. dent situation seemed to demand. Information of this was given to the Board of Excise, with the exaggerations so general in such cases. A superior officer in that department was authorized to eoquire into his conduct. Burns defended himself iu a letter addressed to one of the Board, written with great independence of spirit, and with more than his accustomed eloquence. The officer appointed to enquire into his conduct gave a favourable report. His steady friend, Mr. Graham, of Fintry, interposed his good offices in his behalf, and he was suffered to retain his situation, but was given to understand that his promotion was deferred, and must depend upon his future behaviour.

This circumstance made a deep impression on the miud of Burns. Fame exaggerated his misconduct, and represeutea him as actually dismissed from his office. And this report induced a gentleman of much respectability to propose a subscription in bis favour. The offer was refused by our poet in a letter of great elevation of sentiments, in which he gives an account of the whole of this transaction, and defends himself from the im. putations of disloyal sentiments on the one hand, and on the other from the charge of having made submission, for the sake of office, unworthy of his character.

The partiality of my countrymen,” he observes, “ has brought me forward as a map of geuius, and has given me a character to support. In the poet I have avowed manly and independent sentiments, which I hope have been found in the man. Reasons of no less weight than the support of a wife and childreu have pointed out my present occupation as the only eligible line of life within my reach. Still my honest fame is my dearest cou. cern; and a thousand times have I'trembled at the idea of the degrading epithets that malice or misrepresentation may affix to my name. Often in blasting anticipation have I listened to some future hackney scribbler, with the heavy malice of savage stupidity, exultiug that Burns, notwithstanding the fanfaronade of jodependence to be found in his works, and after having been held up to public view and 10 public estimation, as a man of some genius; yet, quite destitute of resources within himself to support his borrowed dignity, dwindled into a paltry exciseman, aod slunk out the rest of his insignificant existence in the mean. est of pursuits, and among the lowest of mankind.

“In your illustrious lands, Sir, permit me to lodge my strong disavowal and defiance of such slanderous falsehoods, BURNS was a poor man from his birth, and an exciseman from gecessity; but I will say it, THE STERLING OF HIS HONEST WORTH POVERTY COULD NOT DEBASE; AND HIS INDEPENDENT BRITISH SPIRIT OPPRESSION MIGHT BEND, BUT COULD NOT SUBDUE!"

In 1796, Buros took a residence at Armandale, 10 miles froni Dumfries, for the benefit of his health ; but being attacked by a violent fever, he returned again to Dumfries; and, on the fourth day after liis return, his sufferivgs were terminated by death, in the 37th year of his age.

A liberal subscription of his countrymen, and the sale of the Copyright of his Works, which produced 10001. afforded his widow and poor children a comfort. able subsistence.






Hail, Burns ! wba can the heart engage,
Thou shame an'glory o'our age!
Thy strong, expressive, pictur'd page,

While time remains,
Shall melt with love, or fire with rage,

Thy native swains.


The beautiful Epitaph written by Burns, on himself, is so strongly illustrative of his character, that we are persuaded a better finish cannot be given to this sketch thav by its insertion here. Precept, when founded on the deductions of experience, becomes of ten-fold greater value then wheu its crude advice is the simple interference of reflection.

Is there a whim-inspir'd fool,
Owre fash for thought, owie hot for rule,
Owre blate to seek, owre proud to spool,

Let him draw pear,
And ovre this grassy heap sing dool,

And drap a tear.

Is there a Bard of rustic song
Who, notely, steals the crowds among,
That weekly this area throng?

Oh! pass not by,
But, with a frater-feeling strong,

Here heave a sigh!

Is there a man, whose judgement clear
Can others teach the course to steer,
Yet runs himself life's mad career,

Wild as the wave!
Here pause--and, through the starting tear,

Survey this grave!

The poor inhabitant below
Was quiek to learn and wise to know,
And keenly felt the friendly glow,

Aod softer flame;
But thoughtless follies laid him low,

And stain'd his pame.

Reader, attend, whether thy soul
Soars fancy's flights beyond the pole,
Or darkling grubs this earthly hole,

In low pursuit,
Know, prudent, caution, self-controul,

Is wisdom's root.

« ПретходнаНастави »