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ON THE DEATH OF
SIR JAMES HUNTER BLAIR.
The lamp of day with ill-presaging glare,
Dim, cloudy, sunk beneath the western wave; Th' inconstant blast howl'd thro' the darkening air,
And hollow whistled in the rocky cave.
Lone as I wander'd by each cliff and dell,
Once the lov'd haunts of Scotia’s royal train ; * Or mus'd where limpid streams once hallow'd well, †
Or mould'ring ruins mark the sacred fane. I
Th'increasing blast roared round the beetling rocks,
The clouds, swift-wing'd, flew o'er the starry sky, The groaning trees untimely shed their locks,
And shooting meteors caught the startled eye.
The paly moon rose in the livid east,
And ʼmong the cliffs disclos'd a stately form, In weeds of woe that frantic beat her breast,
And mix'd her wailings with the raving storm.
* The King's Park, at Holyrood-house. † St. Anthony's Well.
# St. Anthony's Chapel.
Wild to my heart the filial pulses glow,
'Twas Caledonia's trophied shield I view'd : Her form majestic droop'd in pensive woe,
The lightning of her eye in tears imbued.
Revers'd that spear, redoubtable in war,
Reclined that banner, erst in fields unfurl'd, That like a deathful meteor gleam'd afar,
And brav'd the mighty monarchs of the world.
My patriot son fills an untimely grave !"
With accents wild and lifted arms- she cried ; “ Low lies the hand that oft was stretch'd to save,
Low lies the heart that swell’d with honest pride.
“ A weeping country joins a widow's tear,
The helpless poor mix with the orphan's cry; The drooping arts surround their patron's bier,
And grateful science heaves the heart-felt sigh !
“ I saw my sons resume their ancient fire ;
I saw fair freedom's blossoms richly blow : But ah! how hope is born but to expire !
Relentless fate has laid their guardian low.
“My patriot falls, but shall he lie unsung,
While empty greatness saves a worthless name! No; every muse shall join her tuneful tongue,
And future ages hear his growing fame.
“ And I will join a mother's tender cares,
Thro' future times to make his virtue last; That distant years may boast of other Blairs !"
She said, and vanish'd with the sweeping blast.
In one of the Poet's memorandum-books I once saw these verses written with a pencil : he intimated that he had just composed them, and noted them down lest they should escape from his memory. No alterations appeared in any of the lines, and I remember enough of them to enable me to say that they differed in nothing from the printed copy.
They were admitted into the first Liverpool edition, but excluded from others : I now replace them among the works of Burns. The observations which were made on his English compositions apply forcibly to these verses: the sentiments are natural, but the language is too cumbrous—the Poet labours, but not very successfully.
TO HUGH PARKER.
In this strange land, this uncouth clime,
* His mare.
Jenny, my Pegasean pride!