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a force which derives increase from the flight of the years. So, therefore, we meet to-day, as the 19th century almost closes on its hinges, to pause and reflect together on the historical fact that one hundred years have elapsed since Burns left this planet for the regions of the Immortals. He lived and struggled here for thirty-seven years, and died too soon for himself and for Scotland. He lives now, though one hundred years have flown since then, securely enshrined in our midst, his words on our lips and his influence on our lives. (Loud applause.) Instead of the 19th century having poured over his memory the waters of oblivion, it has ministered to the brightness of his fame. On 25th January, 1859, we celebrated right joyously the centenary of his birth. In 1896 we commemorate with all our ardour the centenary of his death, and have we not filled up every year between with a birth-day festival in his honour ? It has been truly said by an able and appreciative writer that Burns when he died on 21st July, 1796, passed from the judgment of Dumfries and appealed to time. We are assembled here to-day in response to that appeal, for it is one we delight to honour, even if we thereby do no more than acknowledge the mighty debt we owe. Nor do we care to dwell, were it only for a moment, on the prosaic or painful facts of his life. These we are prone to lay aside and forget, at least for the present, for here on this centenary occasion Burns stands forth to our view, and will stand forth for centuries o come, as the greatest Master of the Lyre Scotland has ever produced; as one who, through the deep tragedy of his life shone with lonely brilliance as a marvellous example of manhood, as a powerful exponent of the brotherhood of humanity, and as the relentless foe of oppression and wrong, of hypocrisy and imposture. (Loud applause.) In his case sympathy was not the theory of a moral sentiment, but the inexhaustible and profound expression of interest in, and kinship with, his fellow-men in all time. Nor did that intensity of the altruistic feeling cease even there. For
"Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie” he has a good word to say and a kindly advice to offer. With the lower scale of animal nature he is on the most friendly terms. The Hare and the Mouse, the Dog and the Pet Ewe, the Auld Mare, the Fox and the Louse, could each count on receiving from him a considerate regard. This regard took sometimes even a peculiar form, as in lamenting the death of a sportsman whom he esteemed, he could not help imagining that
“ On his mould'ring breast,
Some spitefu' moorfowl bigs her nest.” To his love likewise for inanimate nature we are indebted for his Ode to a Mountain Daisy. In him also do we find, in an unusual degree, that duality and those antagonisms of mind and character which have sometimes engaged the attention of philosophical thinkers. Combined with an extraordinary knowledge of the good, the beautiful, and the true, do we not find an equal knowledge and appreciation of the forces and effects of evil? “The Cottar's Saturday Night” is an immortal illustration of the one; the fragment on “Remorse" found in the Poet's Common-place Book under date September, 1783, when only 24 years of age, a startling
example of the other. When we remember that productions so opposite in conception and expression as the “Cottar's Saturday Night” and “The Holy Fair” emanated from the same far-reaching mind; that the man who wrote the little gem, “To a Mouse,” had only to turn the leaf and write “Scots Wha Hae,” we begin to feel into what an august presence of poetic power this celebration has brought us. (Applause.) As humorist and satirist, Burns, among writers north of the Tweed, stands unrivalled. Nay, I will go further. You may master, if you choose, the satires of Horace and of Juvenal; you may dwell upon the quaint verses of Hudibras, or dip into the pages of Cervantes ; the acrid sentiments of Dean Swift, or study almost with bewilderment the terrific diatribes of Victor Hugo; but, after these excursions into satiric literature, you will always come back to Burns, for in his writings you find the work of a master hand, of one who, poising a lance-shast with unerring aim, transfixes the objects of his attacks, and holds them up in imperishable words to the scorn of Scotland and of the world. (Loud applause.) To indulge in quotations to you of passages from Burns would, I feel, be like trying to quote “Hamlet” to Sir Henry Irving, or “Much Ado About Nothing” to Ellen Terry, and yet, as an illustration of his matchless genius for depicting uncanny scenes, I am tempted to recall one picture from “Tam o' Shanter," the most perfect of hobgoblin epics
“ Coffins stood round like open presses,
That show'd the dead in their last dresses;
(Applause.) To attempt to paraphrase these words would only be to Jilute the intensity of their force. Our minds are distracted by the thought that what is described was seen on the Holy Communion Table of an old witch-haunted church, and in this distraction we are met by the closing lines, surely unique in literature, conjuring up as they do a ghastly vista to the awe-stricken imagination of the reader. It would be difficult fairly to compare this pourtrayal with any other passage in English or Scots authors, but in horror-producing force there is nothing to beat it-not Clarence's dream in Shakespeare, not the “Vision of Sin” in Tennyson, not the “ Curse of Kehama” in Southey, not the description of the Furies in Dante, not the Prayer to the Nether Gods in the Medea of Euripides. It outstrips all other efforts; much of its very greatness it derives from its simplicity, and we contemplate with unstinted admiration, not unmingled with awe, the genius which could conceive such a vision. (Applause.) What, then, is Burns's place in the literature, not merely of Scotland, but of the whole English-speaking world? The literary unity of the Anglo-Saxon race is beyond question. Shakespeare and Milton belong as much to the United States of America or the Commonwealth of Australia as to this country. The literary heritage of which they form part is a common possession of those who speak our language under whatever sky they live. The literature of the Elizabethan era was the outcome of a period of national expansion. The songs and poems of Burns mark a period of two-fold character. They formed the first awakening of the spirit of true poetry after a protracted slumber; and they composed the requiem of Lowland Scotland as a distinct nationality. That nationality began with Wallace and Bruce, and ended with Burns and Scott. The two first made the history, and the two last told the story and sang the song. But the cardinal difference between Scott and Burns was this, that Knighthood was the theme of Scott, Manhood the theme of Burns. (Loud applause.) In one line he sums up the highest and most universal form of all democracy,
“A man's a man for a' that." (Applause.) In a single verse he predicts the reign of merit and the advent of human brotherhood
“ Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
Shall brithers be for a' that!” (Applause.) Burns and Scott, Byron and Shelley, Chatterton and Keats, form a poetic constellation, from whose radiance we derive intense light. All except Scott died young. What they would have been or done had the earth held them longer, we need not speculate, for, as Carlyle says, would-have-beens are mostly a vanity.” But the dramatic and literary glory of the Elizabethan era, the polished elegance, the refined taste, and the delicate subtlety in the poetic efforts of the Victorian age, do not possess the immortal vitality of the poems and songs of Burns. And why? Because they do not nearly in the same degree appeal to the universal heart of humanity. His intellect has the flash of electric light. His feelings he distils off in a language so perfect, so compact, and so inimitable that it penetrates to the innermost existence of all who come under its power; and who does not? What level, then, does Burns occupy among poets, not only over the length and breadth of that mighty Empire swayed
by the sceptre of our Queen, but also in the far prairie lands, pathless wilds, and mighty cities which own allegiance to the stars and stripes? What position does he hold at the lowly hearths of the poor, in the halls of the rich, midst the trenches of the battlefield, and with the mariner who risks his life on the waves of the restless deep? He stands supreme. (Applause.) Colonel Rouget de Lille deserved the fame he attained for composing the “Marseillaise,” and many thousands of the chivalry of France have dashed forward to victory or to death under its rousing strains. But how many tens of thousands have sung, and will sing, and shall we not also sing tonight, “Auld Lang Syne !” And why should we, and all who speak our language, sing that, rather than any other song, and dwell upon its words, and appreciate its wealth of meaning ? Simply because in every line of every verse is contained that touch of nature which makes the whole world kin. It summons up our early past. It recalls the happy hours and simple pleasures, and beloved companionships of our opening years, followed as these too often are, by long periods of separation across the gulfs of time; and it knits again together these friendships, and renews, on the pledge of
“A cup o' kindness yet,” some of the earliest, sweetest, and most cherished feelings of the human breast. (Loud applause.) The quick spirit could guage and measure the situations of human life in a moment, and set them forth in undying song. Such a poet Scotland had never seen before and may never see again. Mighty changes have passed over the world since 1796, and what may transpire in the century to come we need not now stay to conjecture; but ’mid all the mutations and developments of our era it is the glory of the spirit of Burns—and perchance that spirit is present with us here and now-to have seen the fruit of his poetic genius harvested by the rolling of the spheres, and we do the greatest honour to ourselves by honouring his memory
I propose the memory of Burns. (Loud and prolonged applause.) Sir John Muir, Bart., proposed “ The Honorary President
, -Sir Claud Alexander, Bart,” amid loud applause.
Lady ALEXANDER, who, on rising to reply, received quite an ovation, said
I know that when you asked me to return thanks for the toast you have just drunk it was with the desire to enhance, if possible, the cordiality with which you received it, and the kindness with which it was proposed by Sir John Muir. I confess that, when I first read your letter, sir, I thought you had been partaking of that, to me, mysterious thing—a willywaught—(laughter)—and that that had something to do with it, but I have now come to the conclusion that it is a new reading of the Poet's prayer
“O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us. (Laughter.) At the same time, perhaps you thought that, having lived for many years near one whose powerful voice and glowing words you will remember, I had caught some of his power. I know that to him it is a solace, in the great deprivation his health entails upon him, in not being
able to come among you, to find that he is still remembered. In his name, and in my own, I thank you heartily for the very kind manner in which you have received this toast. (Applause.)
Mr. J. B. THORNEYCROFT, in an eloquent speech, proposed “The Houses of Parliament.”
Sir WM. ARROL suitably replied.
The CHAIRMAN here read a telegram from the Demonstration Committee of Dumfries. It ran as follows:
“ Burns and charity, a noble conjunction. Dumfries wish and hope that your undertaking may flourish and prosper for ever.”
Mr. H. ALEXANDER, in the absence of Mr. William Wallace, Glasgow (editor of the current edition of Chambers's “Life and Works of the Poet”), proposed "The Descendants of Burns."
Miss Burns and Miss Hutchinson, who were heartily applauded, gracefully bowed their acknowledgments.
Mr. W. H. DUNLOP, of Doonside, proposed “The Provincial Grand Master and His Craft,” to which Mr. Wallace responded.
Mr. A. J. KIRKPATRICK, president of the Glasgow, Burns Exhibition, proposed “The Glasgow Mauchlinc Society.”
Mr. W. S. M'MILLAN, in reply, said,
The chairman has already given you a sketch or the work of the Society, and the documents which have to-day been deposited in the tower