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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
O Winter! ruler of the inverted year, Thy scattered air with sleet like ashes filled, Thy breath congealed upon thy lips, thy cheeks Fringed with a beard made white with other snows Than those of age, thy forehead wrapt in clouds, A leafless branch thy sceptre, and thy throne A sliding car, indebted to no wheels, But urged by storms along its slippery way,I love thee, all unlovely as thou seemest, And dreaded as thou art. Thou hold'st the sun A prisoner in the yet undawning east, Shortening his journey between morn and noon, And hurrying him, impatient of his stay, Down to the rosy west; but kindly still Compensating his loss with added hours Of social converse and instructive ease, And gathering, at short notice, in one group The family dispersed, and fixing thought, Not less dispersed by daylight and its cares. I crown thee king of intimate delights, Fireside enjoyments, homeborn happiness, And all the comforts that the lowly roof Of undisturbed retirement and the hours Of long, uninterrupted evening know. No rattling wheels stop short before these gates; No powdered pert, proficient in the art Of sounding an alarm, assaults these doors Till the street rings; no stationary steeds Cough their own knell, while, heedless of the sound, The silent circle fan themselves and quake: But here the needle plies its busy task, The pattern grows, the well-depicted flower, Wrought patiently into the snowy lawn, Unfolds its bosom; buds and leaves and sprigs
And curling tendrils, gracefully disposed,
LESSON 48. BURNS. “One element, the passionate treatment of love, had been on the whole absent from our poetry since the Restoration. It was restored by ROBERT BURNS, 1759–1796. In his love songs we hear again, only with greater truth of natural feeling, the same music which in the age of Elizabeth enchanted the world. It was as a love-poet that he began to write, and the first edition of his poems appeared in 1786.
He was not only the poet of love, but also of the new excitement about Man. Himself poor, he sang the poor. Neither poverty nor low birth made a man the worse—the man was 'a man for a' that. He did the same work in Scotland in 1786 which Crabbe began in England in 1783 and Cowper in 1785, and it is worth remarking how the dates run together. As in Cowper so also in Burns, the further widening of human sympathies is shown in the new tenderness for animals. The birds, sheep, cattle, and wild creatures of the wood and field fill as large a space in the poetry of Burns as in that of Wordsworth and Coleridge.
He carried on also the Celtic elements of Scotch poetry, but he mingled them with others specially English. The rattling fun of the Jolly Beggars and of Tam o'Shanter is united to a life-like painting of human character which is peculiarly
English. A certain large gentleness of feeling often made his wit into that true humor which is more English than Celtic, and the passionate pathos of such poems as Mary in Heaven is connected with this vein of humor, and is also more English than Scotch. The special nationality of Scotch poetry is as strong in Burns as in any of his predecessors, but it is also mingled with a larger view of man than the merely national one. Nor did he fail to carry on the Scotch love of nature, though he shows the English influence in using natural description, not for the love of nature alone, but as a background for human love. It was the strength of his passions and the weakness of his moral will which made his poetry and spoilt his life.
With Robert Burns poetry written in the Scotch. dialect may be said to say its last word of genius, though it lingered on in JAMES Hogg's pretty poem of Kilmeny in The Queen's Wake, 1813, and continues a song-making existence to the present day.”
“Burns' poetry shares with all poetry of the first order of excellence the life and movement not of one age but of all ages, that which belongs to what Wordsworth calls 'the essential passions' of human nature. It is the voice of nature which we hear in his poetry, and it is of that nature one touch of which makes the whole world kin. It is doubtful whether any other poet, ancient or modern, has evoked as much personal attachment of a fervid and perfervid quality as Burns has been able to draw to himself. It is an attachment the amount and quality of which are not to be explained by anything in the history of the man, anything apart from the exercise of his genius as a poet. What renders it at all intelligible is, that human nature, in its most ordinary shapes, is more poetical than it looks, and that, exactly at those moments of its consciousness in which it is most truly, because most vividly and powerfully and poetically, itself, Burns has a voice to give to it.
He is not the poet's poet, which Shelley no doubt meant to be, or the philosopher's poet, which Wordsworth, in spite of himself, is. He is the poet of homely human nature, not half so homely or prosaic as it
The passions which live in his poetry and by which it lives are the essential passions of human nature. His imagination, humor, pathos, the qualities in respect to which his genius is most powerful
and opulent, are without reserve placed at their disposal and submitted to their dictation. His claim to be considered the first of song-writers is hardly disputed. His lyrical passion drew its strength from various and opposite sources, from the clashing experiences, habits, and emotions of a nature which needed nothing so much as regulation and harmony. But it is itself harmony as perfect as the song of the linnet and the thrush piping to a summer evening of peace on earth and glory in the western sky. Whatever the poet's eye had seen of beauty, or his heart had felt of mirth or sadness or madness, melts into and becomes a tone, a chord of music of which, but for one singer, the world should hardly have known the power to thrill the universal heart." -John Service.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. BURNS.-Chambers' Life and Works of; T. Carlyle's Essays ; Eng. Men of Let. Series ; H. Giles' Illus. of Genius ; Howitt's Homes and Haunts of Brit. Poets; John Wilson's Essays; Ward's Anthology; H. Miller's Essays; At. Monthly, v. 6, 1860; Nat. Quar. Rev., v, 6, 1863, and v. 18, 1869; N. Br. Rev., v. 16, 1851-2.
Burns' Afton Water.