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ou the violin but a pleasant man, and not a little of a wit. The Bard refers happily to his musical skill :
• Come wealth, come poortith, late or soon,
Heaven send your heart-strings ay in tune,
An' screw your temper-pins aboon
A fifth or mair,
The melancholious lazie croon
The unfortunate termination of his courtship with Jean
Armour was often present to his mind : he alludes to it
in the verse beginning with
“ But by yon moon !—and that's high swearin,' and contemplated his voyage to the West in the succeeding stanza. Some of the lines as well as the sentiments will remind the reader of the verses Scotch Bard gone to the West Indies."
To David Auld of Ayr, I am indebted for a copy of this
poem from the original in his possession. To him, as well as to the talents of my friend Thom, the admirers of Burns owe much. From the chisel of the latter came those clever personations of Tam O'Shanter and Souter Johnny, which attracted so much notice wherever they were exhibited and to the love of the former for his native district, the little world of Ayrshire owes the continuance of those rustic statues on the banks of the Doon. They have found a not unsuitable sanctuary, and that, too, in the midst of the scene made immortal by the Bard.
INSCRIBED TO J. BALLANTYNE, ESQ., AYR.
The simple Bard, rough at the rustic plough,
Learning his tuneful trade from ev'ry bough;
The chanting linnet, or the mellow thrush,
Hailing the setting sun, sweet, in the green thorn
bush; The soaring lark, the perching red-breast shrill, Or deep-ton'd plovers, gray, wild-whistling o'er the
Shall he, nurst in the peasant's lowly shed,
To hardy independence bravely bred,
By early poverty to hardship steel'd,
And train’d to arms in stern misfortune's field
Shall he be guilty of their hireling crimes,
The servile, mercenary Swiss of rhymes ?
Or labour hard the panegyric close,
With all the venal soul of dedicating prose?
No! though his artless strains he rudely sings,
And throws his hand uncouthly o'er the strings,
He glows with all the spirit of the Bard,
Fame, honest fame, his great, his dear reward !
Still, if some patron's gen'rous care he trace,
Skill'd in the secret to bestow with grace ;
When Ballantyne befriends his humble name,
And hands the rustic stranger up to fame,
With heartfelt throes his grateful bosom swells,
The godlike bliss, to give, alone excels.
'Twas when the stacks get on their winter-hap, And thack and rape secure the toil-won crap; Potatoe-bings are snugged up frae skaith Of coming Winter's biting, frosty breath ; The bees, rejoicing o'er their summer toils, Unnumber'd buds an’ flow'rs' delicious spoils, Seal'd up with frugal care in massive waxen piles, Are doom'd by man, that tyrant o'er the weak, The death o'devils smoor'd wi' brimstone reek : The thundering guns are heard on ev'ry side, The wounded coveys, reeling, scatter wide ; The feather'd field-mates, bound by Nature's tie, Sires, mothers, children, in one carnage lie: (What warm, poetic heart, but inly bleeds, And execrates man's savage, ruthless deeds !) Nae mair the flow'r in field or meadow springs ; Nae mair the grove with airy concert rings, Except, perhaps, the robin's whistling glee, Proud o' the height o' some bit half-lang tree :
The hoary morns precede the sunny days,
Mild, calm, serene, wide-spreads the noon-tide blaze,
While thick the gossamour waves wanton in the rays.
'Twas in that season, when a simple bard,
Unknown and poor, simplicity's reward,
Ae night, within the ancient brugh of Ayr,
By whim inspired, or haply prest wi' care,
He left his bed, and took his wayward rout,
And down by Simpson's * wheeld the left about :
(Whether impell'd by all-directing Fate,
To witness what I after shall narrate;
Or whether, rapt in meditation high,
He wander'd out he knew not where nor why)
The drowsy Dungeon-clock, f had number'd two,
And Wallace Tow'rt had sworn the fact was true :
The tide-swoln Firth, with sullen sounding roar,
Through the still night dash'd hoarse along the shore.
All else was hush'd as Nature's closed e'e :
The silent moon shone high o'er tow'r and tree :
The chilly frost, beneath the silver beam,
Crept, gently-crusting, o'er the glittering stream.-
When, lo! on either hand the list’ning Bard,
The clanging sugh of whistling wings is heard ;
Two dusky forms dart thro' the midnight air,
Swift as the gos I drives on the wheeling hare ;
Ane on th’ Auld Brig his airy shape uprears,
The ither flutters o'er the rising piers :
Our warlock Rhymer instantly descry'd
The Sprites that owre the Brigs of Ayr preside.
(That Bards are second-sighted is nae joke,
And ken the lingo of the sp'ritual folk ;
Fays, Spunkies, Kelpies, a', they can explain them,
And ev’n the vera deils they brawly ken them.)
Auld Brig appear’d of ancient Pictish race,
The very wrinkles gothic in his face :
He seem'd as he wi' Time had warstl'd lang,
Yet, teughly doure, he bade an unco bang.
New Brig was buskit in a braw new coat,
That he at Lon'on, frae ane Adams, got ;
In's hand five taper staves as smooth's a bead,
Wi' virls and whirlygigums at the head.
The Goth was stalking round with anxious search,
Spying the time-worn flaws in ev'ry arch ;-
It chanc'd his new-come neebor took his e'e,
And e'en a vex'd and angry heart had he!
Wi' thieveless sneer to see his modish mien,
He, down the water, gies him this guide'en :
I doubt na', frien', ye'll think ye’re nae sheep
shank, Ance ye were streekit o'er frae bank to bank !