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Not now with tearful eyes and downcast looks
For who would mourn for an immortal's fate?
Stamps joy on every countenance elate.
Britain's fair daughter of the southern sphere,
New Zealand, with responsive, grateful thought,
A simple wreath of native flowers inwrought.
Around thy tomb we swell the loud acclaim,
Though desert waste of waters us divide ;
In sympathetic bonds brought side by side.
If blessed shades, from empyrean height,
Still view the doings of this mortal scene,
As thus men meet to keep thy memory green.
No bitter words to fall upon thine ear ;
Hath placed the garland of her son most dear.
Yet, as each hundredth year this day returns,
The genius, worth, and manhood of her BURNS. The Hon. T. FERGUS, being called upon, said, I feel honoured and proud of having been asked to give you the toast of the evening—“The Immortal Memory of Robert Burns.” My gratification is chastened, however, by the knowledge of my inability to do adequate justice to my theme. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh,” says the old Book, but my lips give but faint expression to my feelings to-night. It is just 100 years to-day since the fiery, passion-swayed soul of the Poet found rest, and shortly before his end he told his Jean that he would be better known and appreciated a hundred years after. (Applause.) He knew well that that great rectifier Time would deal justly with him, and it has. Outside his own country, at the time of his death, he was little known, and, even in his own land, not understood. Burns, too unfortunate in his earlier biographers—(hear, hear)—the first of whom, Robert Heron, was grossly inaccurate, and Dr. Currie also was far from reliable. But that, too, has been changed, and later writers have done him ample justice. Carlyle led the van in a magnificent article in the
Edinburgh Review in 1828, and a galaxy of talent followed in the good work. William Wallace says, “That upon the merits of no man have the poets been more heartily united than on Burns,” and it is true. His tuneful brethren have all loved him, and loved him well. After his decease, it became the custom of his countrymen to meet and celebrate the anniversary of his birth, but the first mighty demonstration of national affection was on the 6th August, 1844, at the “Burns Festival,” when a huge multitude—some 80,000 people-assembled on the banks of the Doon to do honour to the memory of our National Poet. (Applause.) The sons of Burns and his youngest sister were present, and Lord Eglinton, an Ayrshire man, at that time Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, presided, and was supported by illustrious men of every grade. No gathering of a like kind had ever before been witnessed in Britain, nor such an ovation paid to any other author. Fifteen years later-on 25th January, 1859—came the centenary of the birth of the Bard, and it was a day of great rejoicing wherever our language was spoken. Thousands of meetings were held, and attended by hundreds of thousands of proud and happy people, filled with one desire—to honour the Poet. You are here to-night to celebrate his memory on the centenary of the Poet's death, and not thąt only: you are doing more—you are (as the chairman has said) living witnesses to the fulfilment of the Poet's prophecy, that he would be “better known and appreciated a hundred years hence.” (Applause.) His fame, which after his death spread rapidly east, west, north, and south, until it touched each centre of civilisation, has now so mightily grown that it covers all the continents, and laps the shores of the furthest islands of the seas, and in lands, then practically unknown and unpeopled, multitudes acknowledge his genius. It is no time for sorrow, even though we do commemorate his death : it is a time for rejoicing, for Burns is a living power with us, and speaks as eloquently now as he did of yore. In every quarter of the globe-Europe, Asia, Africa, and America—wherever Scotchmen have penetrated, or civilisation obtains, men and women are joining you, and with uplifted voices proclaiming that the Poet's memory is hallowed in their hearts for
I do not intend to weary you by any review of the life and works of Burns, neither your time nor my inclination would warrant that, but we might just ask for a moment how it is that Burns has so completely commanded our affection ? “ With what drugs, what charms, what conjurations, and what mighty magic” has he won our hearts away? I answer-He was natural. He loved his country, its freedom, its humble homes, and its homely joys. In the words of Professor Wilson, “ Burns was, by far, the greatest poet that ever sprung from the bosom of the people.” The West of Scotland has ever been the land of the free, and the patriots' and the martyrs' graves were all around; and legends of the prowess of the one and the sufferings of the other are the folk-lore of the people. It is little wonder, then, that, nurtured among such scenes and traditions, his devotion to freedom was so great. He strikes for it, personal, religious, and national. I am proud and happy to see such a grand assemblage to-night to honour the name of the Poet, and I was pleased to see, in this morning's Times, a very good leader on the merits of Burns, but it contains one sentence about which I would like to enlighten the
writer. He says—“Certain mischievous Southrons have a trick of girding at Scotsmen for giving the first place in their hearts to Burns, and only second to Sir Walter Scott.” Every Scotsman, I believe, admires Scott, and is proud of him and his works, and they are also proud of Burns and his works, but they love Burns with a love that will never grow cold. His songs greet their earliest days, and charm them when they get on in years, and, crooned by the old people whose life is nearly ended, they solace them in their toil. This is a worthy gathering to the Poet's honour, and one which, I trust, will long remain in your memories. I can only now give you the toast, but do not pledge me in silence—“ The Immortal Memory of Robert Burns.”—(Applause.)
At the invitation of Mr. Fergus, the entire audience then rose and joined the choir in singing “Scots Wha Hae.”
The concert programme, which contained the names of only a few soloists, was received with acceptation. The majority of the songs were written by the Poet, whose centenary was being celebrated, and it would perhaps have been more fitting if the selections had been taken exclusively from the works of Burns. The vocalists were Mrs. Stevenson, Miss Cooper, and Miss Verona Campbell, Messrs. J. Jago and W. F. Young. Miss Bell's recitation-Burns's “Address to a Mouse”—was very humorous, and evoked loud applause. The Engineers' Band orchestra (under Mr. R. Jackson) played two overtures, consisting of Scottish selections, in a creditable manner, and the choir (conducted by Mr. R. Francis) sang a couple of part songs exceedingly well. Mr. Gray (the club's piper) played the bagpipe selections with which the concert was opened, performing “The Land o’the Leal” and “The Flowers of the Forest,” and Miss Wright acted as accompanist throughout the evening.
THE BURNS EXHIBITION.
HE Burns Exhibition, held in the galleries of the Royal
Glasgow Institute during the summer of 1896, was,
without doubt, the most signal proof of the nation's desire to commemorate, in a fitting, manner, the centenary of the death of the National Poet. Demonstrations and processions in honour of Burns served their own purpose, as evidences of the hold the Poet has upon the affections of the people, and as outlets for the evanescent enthusiasm of a day.
In the Burns Exhibition, on the other hand, there were permanent lessons for all who had eyes to see and minds to understand. It was one of the greatest tributes ever paid to the memory of a poet; only the name of Robert Burns made such an Exhibition possible. And having been done once, it has been done once for all —at least so far as the next hundred years are concerned. To the experts who have made a special study of Burns and his works, the Exhibition made a strong appeal from the variety of illustrative material it contained. I think, for the non-experts, in whose ranks I am content to be enrolled, it had even a greater charm. It is not the scientist and philosopher, intent on the minute details of plants and strata, who appreciates the fulness of beauty in a landscape; in concentrated attention to individual items he misses the effect of the whole. Experts are always anxious to prove or disprove. Non-experts, troubling themselves little with crucial questions, accept with thankfulness the goods the gods provide, in a faith that is not always unconsciously blind. The lessons taught by the Burns Exhibition are most obvious. Never has a poet grappled to himself the heart of a whole nation as Burns has done. Human nature is the same the world over, and Burns's great success is founded on his appeal to the principles that rule the conduct of mankind from China to Peru. His humanity, his charity, and sympathy with all sorts and conditions of men and women shine forth in everything he said and did, and hence the secret of his power. He dared, too, to be himself; uncompromising honesty was the outstanding feature of his character. We must have no more apologies for Burns, no more whining regrets anent his lapses and his shortcomings. He himself has said everything there is to say. If men had wings they would fly, but then they would not be men. If Burns had been different from what he was he would not have been Burns. We can always find ready to our hand presidents of young men's Christian associations, but a Burns is a rare creation.
As the catalogue said, the Exhibition included “portraits of Robert Burns and of his friends and associates ; pictures of the scenes among which he lived, and about which he wrote ; personal relics; the various editions of his works; and a collection of manuscripts, and of books, etc., treating of Burns and his times.” There were, in all, over 3000 numbered exhibits, including the valuable collection lent by Mr. A. C. Lamb, Dundee. What a marvellous evidence of the hold Burns has on the affections of the Scottish people! And yet he was only ten years before the world. He emerged from comparative obscurity in 1786; he died in 1796—an extraordinarily brief time in which to found a universal reputation ! And since his death the most enduring monument to his memory lies in the ever-repeated editions of his works that a neversatiated public unweariedly demands. These editions number considerably more than one thousand-published in Scotland, England, Ireland, the Colonies, the United States, and the Continent. Truly Burns, on his deathbed, saw with a prophetic eye the brightening glory that would encircle his name in all future ages ! The exhibits filled to overflowing the six rooms of the Institute. One or two readytongued but slow-witted babblers thought proper to say that there was more furniture shown than half-a-dozen of Burns's houses could ever have contained. In their haste to be witty, they overlooked the fact that many of the articles were there, not as possessions of the Poet, but as having belonged to his friends and associates, or from having been made from materials taken from places that his genius has sung into immortal fame. The arm-chair Her Majesty lent is an example; it was fashioned--and beautifully fashioned-from an oak beam taken from “ Alloway's Auld Haunted Kirk.” That there were in the Exhibition many small and seemingly trifling personal relics of the Poet should be matter of no wonderment. The moment he died his fame went abroad into all lands, and everything connected with him became at once, in the estimation of his relations and friends, an object of exceeding great value and importance. We see in this, again, the personal note that Burns struck. His countrymen not only held him great as a Poet, but dear as a man, and the smallest thing that interested him is now of consuming interest to them.
In the large room of the Institute there were portraits of the Poet, pictures of the scenes he sang and dwelt among, cases filled with personal relics and the multiform editions of his books. A small gallery was devoted to pictures, for sale, illustrative of his life and landscape surroundings. In the other rooms were all the principal engravings of Burns's own portraits, black and white illustrations of his works, and what seemed to me more important than anything else in the place, a splendid collection of manuscripts in his own handwriting. Some experts considered that this department might have been more comprehensive and representative. Well
, but when we consider the enormous trouble of getting them together, the wonder is how the Committee managed to make the brave show they did. Out of this great gathering of exhibits, it is difficult to single out special items for particular notice. Two of the three authenticated portraits of Burns, by Nasmyth, were on the walls of the principal gallery-No. 15, lent by the National Portrait Gallery of London, and No. 90, lent by the Misses Cathcart of Auchendrane. These, to the non-professional eye, are, in all respects, almost identical. The churlishness of the Edinburgh authorities, in refusing to lend the original portrait, painted from the life by Nasmyth—of which the two that were in Glasgow are replicas--prevented a most interesting comparison. It is from Nasmyth's portrait-either the original or the hundreds of