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their notice was an honour, found themselves speedily overawed by the presence of a man who bore himself with dignity, and who possessed a singular power
of correcting forwardness and of repelling intrusion. But though jealous of the respect due to himself, Burns : never enforced it where he saw it was willingly paid; and though inaccessible to the approaches of pride, he was open to every advance of kindness and of benovolence. His dark and haughty countenance easily relaxed into a look of good-will, of pity, or of tenderness; and, as the various emotions succeeded each other in his mind, assumed with equal ease the expression of the broadest humour, of the most extravagant mirth, or of the most sublime emotion."
For a full review of the literary merits of Burns, the reader is referred to the pages of his numerous biographers and critics. His poems may be divided into serious, humorous, satirical, descriptive, and lyrical
. Our! limits will not admit of a minute enumeration of his most admired pieces in each of these departments. At the head of his serious compositions, should be placed the “Cotter's Saturday Night,” which Hazlitt has characterized as "a noble and pathetic picture of huma: manners," mingled with a fine religious awe. It comes over the mind like a slow and solemn strain of mus The soul of the poet aspires from this scene of lowthoughted care, and reposes, in trembling hop on the bosom of its Father and its God." Nothir: can be more beautiful and moral than Burns's stand: “To a Mountain Daisy," and "To a Mouse,” show... not only the force of his genius, but the extreme te derness of his nature. In humorous description, poem of “Tam o' Shanter" is unrivalled. It is a maste piece of comic painting. As a perfect specimen local customs and scenery, delineated with grap! fidelity, where is any piece to be found, in ancient modern poetry, equal to the “Hallowe'en,” the “ Add to the De'il,” and “Death and Dr. Hornbook ?* “Holy Fair” is objectionable on moral grounds, presents an inimitable example of those powers sarcasm which the poet possessed in so eminent a deg
It is, however, in the lyrical department of the muse that he has surpassed all other writers. None of his other poetry exerts so powerful and permanent an infuence over the hearts and minds of his readers. Not. withstanding the grave objections against the moral tendency of many of his songs, those in particular of an amorous and convivial character, it is in them that the splendour and originality of his genius are most conspicuously exhibited.
“His lyre," says the eloquent American critic, so often quoted in this volume, “is wreathed with wild flowers. Its tones are simple and glowing. Their music is like the cordial breeze of his native hills. It still cheers the banquet, and gives ex pression to the lover's thought. Its pensive melody has a twilight sweetness; its tender ardour is melting as the sunbeams. Around the cottage and the moor, the scene of humble affection, the site of lowly piety, it has thrown a hallowed influence, which embalms the memory of Burns in the hearts of mankind.”
Craik, in his "Sketches of the History of Literature,” has praised warmly and eloquently the poetical merit of Burns; but he awards the palm of superiority to his lyrical effusions “ Even out of his own country,” says this able critic, “his songs, to be sure, have taken all hearts and they are the very
flamebreath of his own. No truer poetry exists in any
language, or in any form. But it is the poetry of the heart much more than of either the head or the imagination. Burns's songs do not at all resemble the exquisite lyrical snatches with which Shakspeare, and also Beaumont and Fletcher, have sprinkled some of their dramas -enlivening the busy scene and progress of the action as the progress of the wayfarer is enlivened by the voices of birds in the hedgerows, or the sight and scent of wild-flowers that have sprung up by the road-side. They are never in any respect exercises of ingenuity, but alwaye utterances of passion, and simple and direct as a shout of laughter or a gush of tears. Whatever they have of fancy, whatever they have of melody, is born of real emotion—is merely the natural expression of the poet's feeling at the moment, seeking and finding
vent in musical words. Since 'burning Sappho' loved and sung in the old isles of Greece, not much poetry has been produced so thrillingly tender as some of the best of these songs." Sir Walter Scott, Hazlitt, Campbell
, Professor Wilson, and other distinguished critical judges, have paid reve rential homage to the talents of Scotland's favourite poet, as the “supreme lyric singer of that high-souled land." We can only refer generally to their beautiful encomiums, as we must make room for another extract from the pen of Carlyle, worthy of that gifted and original writer:—“The excellence of Burns is indeed among the rarest, whether in poetry or prose; but, at the same time, it is plain and easily recognised it is his sincerity_his indisputable air of truth. Here are no fabulous woes or joys; no hollow fantastic sentimentalities; no wire-drawn refinings, either in thought or feeling; the passion that is traced before us has glowed in a living heart; the opinion he utters has risen in his own understanding, and been a light to his own steps. He does not write from hearsay, but from sight and experience: they are the scenes that he has lived and laboured amongst that he describes; those scenes, rude and humble as they are, have kindled beautiful emotions in his soul-noble thoughts and definite resolves—and he speaks forth what is in him, not from any outward call of vanity or interest, but because his heart was too full.to be silent. He speaks it too with such modulation as he can, and though but in homely rustic jingle, it is his own, and genuine. This is the grand secret for finding readers and retaining them: let him who would move and convince others, be first moved and convinced himself. But indepen. dently of this essential gift of true poetic feeling, there is a certain rugged, sterling worth, pervades whatever Burns has written. A virtue, as of green fields and mountain breezes, dwells in his poetry-it is redolent of natural life, and of hardy, natural men. There is s decisive strength in him, and yet frequently a sweet native gracefulness. He is tender, and he is vehement; yet without constraint or visible effort. He melts the
heart, or inflames it with a power which seems habitual and familiar to him. He has a consonance in his bosom for every note of human feeling; the high and the low
-the sad and the ludicrous the mournful and the joyful are welcome in their turns, to his all-conceiving spirit. And then, with what a prompt and eager force he grasps bis subject, be it what it may! How he fixes, as it were, the full image of the matter in his eye, full and clear in every lineament, and catches the real type and essence of it, among a thousand incidents and superficial circumstances-no one of which misleads kim! No poet, of any age or nature, is more graphic than Burns. The characteristic features disclose themselves to him at a glance. Three lines from his hand, and we have a likeness.”
The universal popularity of Burns, and the extraordinary influence of his works, particularly of his exquisite national lyrics, on the feelings of his countrymen, have never been depicted with more feeling, taste, and elegance of diction, than in the subjoined passage from his life, by Allan Cunningham :-"A lyric poet, with more than the rustic humour and exact truth of Ramsay, with simplicity surpassing Crawford's, and native elegance exceeding Hamilton's, and with a genius which seemed to unite all the distinguishing excellences of our elder lyrics, appeared in Robert Burns. He was the first who brought deep passion to the service of the lyric muse, who added sublimity to simplicity, and found grace and elegance among the cottages of his native land. The beauty and the variety of his songs, their vanderness and truth, their pathetic sweetness, their inextinguishable humour, their noble scorn of whatever is mean and vile, and their deep sympathy with the feelings of humble worth, are felt by all, and acknowledged by all. His original power, and his happy spirit, were only equalled by his remarkable gift of entering into the characters of our ancient songs, and the skill with which he abated their indelicacy, or eked out their imperfections. No one felt more fondly the presence of beauty, could express admiration, hope, or desire, in more glowing language, or sing of the calm joys of wedded love, or the unbounded rapture of single hearts and mutual affection, with equal force or felicity. All his songs are distinguished, more or less, by a happy carelessness, by a bounding elasticity of spirit, a singular and natural felicity of expression, by the ardour of an enthusiastic heart, and the vigour of a clear understanding. He had the rare gift of expressing himself according to the rank and condition of mankind, the stateliness of matron pride, the modesty of virgin affeetion, the querulousness of old age, and the overflowing enthusiasm and vivacity of youth. His simplicity is the simplicity of strength: he is never mean, never weak, seldom vulgar, and but rarely coarse; and his unrivalled power of clothing his thoughts in happy and graceful language never forsakes him. Capricious and wayward as his musings sometimes are, mingling the moving with the comic, and the sarcastic with the solemn, all he says is above the mark of other men—he sheds a redeeming light all he touches; whatever his eye glances on rises into life and beauty, and stands consecrated and imperishable. His language is familiar, yet dignified, careless, yet concise; and he touches on the most perilous or ordinary themes with a skill so rare and felicitous, that good fortune seems to unite with good taste in carrying him over the mire of rudeness and vulgarity, in which, since his time, so many inferior spirits have wallowed. His love, his enthusiasm, his devotion, his humour, his domestic happiness, and his homeliest joy, are everywhere characterized by a brief and elegant simplicity, at once easy to him and unattainable to others. No one has such power in adorning the humble, and dignifying the plain, and in extracting sweet and impassioned poetry from the daily occurrences of human life: his simplicity is without childishness, his affection without exaggeration, and his sentiment without conceit.
“The influence which the genius of Burns has obtained over the heart of Scotland is indeed great, and promises to be lasting. He alarms, it is true, very sensitive and fastidious persons by the freedom of his speculations, and the masculine vigour of his mode of expression; but these are rather the casual lapses of the muse, the overflowings of an ardent heart and