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ST. LOUIS NIGHTS WI' BURNS

To the Immortal Memory, the Burns Club of St. Louis dedicates its fourth tribute in printer's ink. "Poems and Letters in Facsimile" was the club's initial contribution to Burns literature. This was followed by "Burns Nights in St. Louis." More recently was reproduced in facsimile the "Lines to Burns" by Chang Yow Tong, a member of the Imperial Chinese Commission at the World's Fair.. The cordial reception given to these privately issued publications by lovers of Burns in many parts of the world encouraged the club to present “St. Louis Nights wi' Burns."

This club exists, in the words of the by-laws, "for the purpose of commemorating the life and genius of Robert Burns." The purpose had its original expression in the Burns Cottage at the World's Fair of 19c4. Reproductions of palaces, copies of historic mansions, imposing types of architecture of many lands were grouped in "The Place of Nations," as it was called. In the midst of them was the replica of the clay-walled, straw-thatched birthplace of him who "brought from Heaven to man the message of the dignity of humanity." It was built and maintained by the Burns Cottage Association, composed of men who had found inspiration in the creed of Burns. The Burns Club of St. Louis succeeded the Cottage Association. It has a permanent home in the upper chamber of the quaint house of the Artists' Guild. Here, about the great fireplace, the club has assembled treasured relics of Burns' life. Upon the walls are portraits of Burns, sketches of scenes made familiar by his writings and facsimilies of many poems in his handwriting. The chamber is open to the rafters. It has little windows high up under the eaves. The whole interior architecture accords with the collection of Burnsiana and with the uses to which the chamber is put by the club.

Anniversaries of Burns are observed by the Burns Club of St. Louis in ways original. Not forgotten are the

oatmeal cake, the haggis, the Scotch shortbread. There are "barley bree an' sic like at ca."

"But nane need drink that are na dry."

By way of introduction to the dinner the president repeats the Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat, and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thanket.

In numbers the club is not unwieldy. The members fill comfortably the table running the length of the chamber, with room for a congenial guest or two. There is enough Scotch blood in the gathering to save the flavor of Scotch speech. But the membership ranges widely in nativity, in creed and in vocation. The spirit of Burns pervades and abides. Lines with which this spirit is invoked are found by the president of the club in such quotations from Burns as the bard's own farewell to the brethren of St. James lodge at Tarbolton:

A last request permit me here
When yearly ye assemble a,'
One round, I ask it with a tear,
To him, the Bard, that's far awa'.

As the night progresses, there are stories of Burns; there are spirited discussions on opinions about Burns; there are quotations and interpretations; there is singing of songs of "rantin' rovin' Robin."

The more formal event of the evening is a thoughtful address on Burns, sometimes given by a member of the club, sometimes delivered by a guest. A member of the club returning to his chair from the most recent of these St. Louis Nights wi Burns gave this editorial expression to his feeling:

One of the proofs of the greatness of Robert Burns as a poet is the fact that his birthday celebrations are unsurpassed as feasts of reason and flow of soul. The subject is inexhaustibly rich and enjoyable.

The editor had sat for an hour under the spell of Rev. Dr. Bitting's vivid tracing of relationship between Robert Burns and religious matters. W. B. S.

BURNS AND RELIGIOUS MATTERS

By Rev. Dr. W. C. Bitting,

Pastor, Second Baptist Church, St. Louis

January 25, 1913

ONLY the most surprising results of original

research could yield anything new about Robert Burns. Every Scotchman has exhausted himself, and almost everybody else, in the effort to find a fresh ray for the aureole of the Ayrshire poet. Even invention has not been ignored. He has already passed the first stage in his canonization, since some of his Caledonian adorers do not deem sober facts ample enough to account for the real and imaginary glories of Burns. They have also allured other nationalities into their growing cult. The puzzles of the personality of their fellow countryman have entrapped the interest of many nations. Burns is high up on the Scotch totem pole.

It is most natural that any reader of the poet should use his own spectacles. I have therefore chosen "Robert Burns and Religious Matters" as my topic for this evening. We must not put upon him our modern twentieth century ideals, because they are developments since his day. He must be judged only by the standards of his own times. Scarcely anything could be more fertile in error and misconception than to thrust back upon any past age attainments and ideals of which it knew nothing. It should not be condemned for failure to stand the test of a higher life developed later than itself. And yet this is the foolish way in which the ignorant always study the Bible, or religion, and all things else. To judge of Burns' attitude to religious matters we must know the conditions in his times. He was a true son of his age.

Burns was an incarnation of contradictions. They appear in his poems, life and letters. He was equally

at home with the philosophers in Edinburgh or the roistering bacchanalians in Poosie Nansie's dram shop. Salon and saloon alike allured him. He was dainty and dirty in the same poem, saintly and satanic in the same amour. He satirized and sanctified the church in the same criticism. Angel and demon are equally in evidence in his own heart. He could write glorious lines for his father's epitaph, and erotic boasts of his own. shame at the same time. As Carlyle says, "Wild desires and wild Repentance alternately oppress him." We would amend by substituting simultaneously for "alternately." "His mind was at variance with itself," is an accurate judgment by the same biographer. He was a lover at once devilish and divine. All this shows itself in what he wrote because it was his life. In 1786, at the age of twenty-seven years, he wrote to Robert Aiken, "Even in the hour of social mirth, my gaiety is the madness of an intoxicated criminal under the hands of the executioner." And in this he was not alone. St. Paul himself had the same strife (Ro. 7:19-23). All of us know the same experience. It is inevitable. It is the evidence of our slow human evolution from beasts into men. It is absent from no heart and life. Only, these two elements vary in different persons. In Burns both shone brilliantly. Now we are sure that the holy life will triumph, and now we are certain that he has resigned himself to carnality, and finally the old puzzle remains unsolved, and insoluble except as an illustration of the upward pull of man, and the downward pull of the beast, in their eternal tug of war over our souls.

But this mixture glows in its perplexity in Burns only to those who fail to realize a very splendid trait of character revealed in all that he was and did. He was sincere. This showed itself in two ways. He had a mind like the sensitive plate of a camera. It photographed things. He painted what he saw, whether the uprooted daisy, the limping hare, the field mouse, the

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