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And so the question arises naturally to-day, was Burns fortunate in his death—that death which we commemorate ? There can, I fancy, be only one answer ; it was well that he died when he did ; it might even have been better for himself had he died a little earlier. The terrible letters that he wrote two years before to Mrs. Riddell and Mr. Cunningham betoken a spirit mortally wounded. In those last two years the cloud settles, never to be listed. “My constitution and frame were ab origine blasted with a deep incurable taint of hypochondria which poisons my existence.” He found, perhaps, some pleasure in the composition of his songs, some occasional relief in the society of boon companions; but the world was fading before him. There is an awful expression in Scotland which one never hears without a pang—“So and so is done,” meaning that he is physically worn out.
“ done.” He was struggling on like a wounded deer to his death. He had often faced the end, and not unwillingly. “Can it be possible,” he once wrote to Mrs. Dunlop, “that when I resign this frail, feverish being I shall still find myself in conscious existence? When the last gasp of
has announced that I am no more to those who know me and the few who loved me; when the cold, unconscious corse is resigned to the earth to be the prey of reptiles, and become a trodden clod, shall I be yet warm in life, enjoying or enjoyed ?” Surely that reads as if he foresaw this day, and would fain be with us, as, indeed, he may be. Twelve years before he had faced death in a less morbid spirit
Why am I loth to leave this earthly scene?
Have I so found it full of pleasing charms ?
Some gleams of sunshine, mid renewing storms." Ile had perhaps never enjoyed life so much as is supposed, though he had turned to it a brave, cheerful, unflinching face, and the last years had been years of misery. “God have mercy on me,” he wrote years before the end, “a poor, damned, incautious, duped, unfortunate fool! The sport, the miserable victim of rebellious pride, hypochondriac imagination, agonising sensibility, and bedlam passions.” There was truth in this outburst. At anyrate his most devoted friends—and to be an admirer of Burns is to be his friend-may wish that he had not lived to write the letter to Mr. Clark, piteously pleading that a harmless toast may not be visited hardly upon him; or that to Mrs. Riddell, beginning—“I write you from the regions of hell and the horrors of the damned,” or to be harried by his official superiors as a political suspect, shunned by his fashionable friends for the same reason, wandering like a neglected ghost, in Dumfries, avoided and ignored. “That's all over now, my young friend,” he said, speaking of his reign in society, “and were’na my heart licht I wad dee." All this was in 1794. Had he died before then, it might have been happier for himself, and we should have lost some parts of his life which we would rather forget ; but posterity could not have spared him ; we could not have lost the exquisite songs which we owe to those years; but, above all, the supreme creed and comfort which he bequeathed to the world—
“ A man's a man for a' that,'
would have remained undelivered. (Loud cheers.) One may, perhaps, go further and say that poets—or those whom the gods love-should
This is a hard saying, but it will not greatly affect the bills of mortality. And it applies only to poets of the first rank, while even here it has its exceptions, and illustrious exceptions they are. But surely the best poetry is produced before middle age, before the morning and its illusions have faded before the heaviness of noon and the baleful chill of evening. Few men too, can bear the strain of a 'poet's temperament through many years. At anyrate, we may feel sure of this that Burns had produced his best, that he would never again have produced a “Tam o' Shanter," or a “Cottar's Saturday Night,” or a "Jolly Beggars ;” and that long before his death, though he could still write lines affluent with tenderness and grace, “the hand of pain and sorrow and care,” to use his own words, “had lain heavy upon” him. And this leads to another point. To-day is not merely the melancholy anniversary of death, but the rich and incomparable fulfilment of prophecy. For this is the moment to which Burns looked when he said to his wise—“Don't be afraid ; I'll be more respected a hundred years after I am dead than I am at present!” To-day the hundred years are completed, and we can judge the prediction. On that point we must be all unanimous. Burns had honour in his lifetime, but his fame has rolled like a snowball since his death, and it rolls on. There is, indeed, no parallel to it in the world; it sets the calculations of compound interest at defiance. He is not merely the watchword of a nation that carries and implants Burns worship all over the globe as birds carry seeds, but he has become the champion and patron saint of Democracy. He bears the banner of the essential equality of man. (Loud cheers.) His birthday is celebrated—137 years after its occurrence—more universally than that of any human being. He reigns over a greater dominion than any empire that the world has ever seen. Nor does the ardour of his devotees decrease. Ayr and Ellisland, Mauchline and Dumfries, are the shrines of countless pilgrims. Burns statues are a hardy annual. (Laughter and cheers.) The production of Burns manuscripts was a lucrative branch of industry, until it was checked by untimely intervention. (Renewed laughter and cheering.) The editions of Burns are as the sands of the sea. No canonised name in the calendar excites so blind and enthusiastic a worship. Whatever Burns may have contemplated in his prediction, whatever dream he may have fondled in the wildest moments of elation must have fallen utterly short of the reality. And it is all spontaneous. There is no puff, no advertisement, no manipulation, Intellectual cosmetics of that kind are frail and fugitive; they rarely survive their subject; they would not have availed here. Nor was there any glamour attached to the Poet; rather the reverse. He has stood by himself; he has grown by himself. It is himself, and no other, that we honour. But what had Burns in his mind when he made this prediction? It might be whimsically urged that he was conscious that the world had not yet seen his masterpiece, for the "Jolly Beggars” was not published till some time after his death. But that would not be sufficient, for he had probably forgotten its existence. Nor do I think he spoke at haphazard. What were, perhaps, present to his mind were the fickleness of his contemporaries towards him, his conviction of the essential splendour of his work, consciousness that the incidents of his later years had unjustly obscured him, and that his true figure would be perceived as these fell away into forgetfulness or were measured at their true value. If so, he was right in his judgment, for his true life began with his death: with the body passed all that was gross or impure—the clear spirit stood revealed, and soared at once to its accepted place among the fixed stars in the firmament of the rare immortals. (Loud and prolonged cheering.)
Rev. GEORGE C. LORIMER, minister at Tremont Temple, Boston, U.S.A., then addressed the assemblage on behalf of Scotsmen abroad.
On the motion of Sir JAMES CRICHTON BROWNE, votes of thanks to Lord Rosebery and others who took part in the proceedings were unanimously passed,
At the close of the meeting in the Drill Hall, Lord Rosebery proceeded to Glasgow by special train to attend the demonstration in St. Andrew's Hall. His Lordship was received by Sir James Bell, the Lord Provost, and Mr. A. J. Kirkpatrick, and drove with Mr. Kirkpatrick to his residence in Park Circus
MEETING IN ST. ANDREW'S HALL.—Lord Rosebery was the principal speaker at a great public demonstration which took place in the evening in celebration of the centenary in St. Andrew's Hall, Glasgow. The meeting was held under the auspices of the Glasgow Burns Exhibition Committee, and the hall, to which admission was by ticket, was well filled in all parts. The doors were opened at seven o'clock, and during the period of waiting Mr. Strachan played on the organ a number of popular musical selections. Lord Rosebery, who was received with loud and prolonged applause, took the chair. His Lordship was supported on the platform by Sir James Bell, Sir James Law, Sir John Stirling-Maxwell, M.P.; M. J. G. A. Baird, M.P.; Mr. A. J. Kirkpatrick, Sir Charles Tennant, Mr. W. Wallace, Professor Masson, Mr. Burns Begg, Rev. Dr. Donald Macleod, Dr. Walter C. Smith, Sir Thomas Glen-Coats, Wm. Laird, Provost Mackay, Mr. Patrick S. Dunn, John Smart, R.S.A.; Lady Bell, Mrs. Kirkpatrick, Miss Cochran-Patrick, Mrs. Burns Thomas, Mr. and Mrs. Sorley, Sir Francis Powell, A. C. Lamb, Andrew Gibson, Captain Sneddon, W. Young, R.S.W.; D. M'Naught, A. K. Brown, A.R.S.A.; R. Macaulay Stevenson and Mrs. Stevenson, Barrington Nash, W. Macmillan, Mr. and Mrs. R. Philips, Mr. Barrett, Mr. Robert Gourlay, Miss Annie Burns, Miss Hutchinson, Mr. and Mrs. Leiper Gemmill, General Walker, the Misses Kirkpatrick, Mr. R. Wylie, Dr. David Murray, Mr. D. Murray Lyon, Mr. Craibe Angus, Mr. Hew Morrison, Rev. Mr. Higgins and Mrs. Higgins, Colonel and Mrs. Browne, Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Fleming, Colonel and Mrs. Bennett, Eugene Wason, Dean of Guild M'Credy, Provost of Ayr, Mrs. and Miss Sneddon, Professor Ferguson, Mr. Colin Rae Brown, Mr. and Mrs. George Neilson, Mr. Thomas J. Wise, Bailie Primrose, Dr. Patterson, J. M‘Naught Campbell, Mr. and Miss Grimmond, Mr. W. A. Scott Mackirdy, Dr. J. O. Mitchell, Rev. Thomas Somerville, Mr. Daniel Anderson, Mr. George J. Munro, Rector Menzies, Mr. David Hennedy, Mr. John Wordie, Mr. Anthony Brogan, Mr. C. M. Hardie, Mr. James Dickie, Mr. J. N. Adam, Buffalo; Mr. R. M. Renwick, Dr. Hunter, Selkirk; Mr. William Macmath, Mr. John B. Fergusson, Mr. H. T. H. Pollock, and Messrs. W. Stewart and P. Galloway, Belfast, etc.
Letters of apology were announced from Mr. Andrew Carnegie, Right Hon. A. J. Balfour, the Earl of Eglinton, Professor Saintsbury, Professor Baldwin Brown, Dr. James A. Campbell, Mr. Charles Russell, editor of the Herald ; Mr. J. R. Findlay, Mr. Andrew Lang, Professor Bradley, Mr. CochranPartick, Sir John Lang, M.P., Sir George Reid, Mr. W. H. Lecky, M.P., Mr. W. E. Henley, President Hamilton, Belfast; Dr. Theodore Burns, Mr. J. Houldsworth, Mr. Charles Cooper, Hon. Thos. Cochrane, Munro-Ferguson, W. Cox, Provost Dickson, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir Wm. Houldsworth, J. M. Barrie, John Davidson, S. R. Crockett, Alex. Cross, M.P., Major Allan, Deacon-Convener M‘Lennan, Hew H. Dalrymple, D. Walker, Sir James Fergusson, Principal Douglas, Principal Sir W. Geddes, Charles Shaw, Wm. Black, Alex. Anderson, James E. Christie, Major-General Sir R. M. Smith, Wm. Jacks, W. Hozier, M.P., Rev. Dr. Storey, R. Ramsey, Sir J. D. Marwick, James Campbell of Tullichewan, A. D. Provand, M.P., James Arthur, Bailie Gray, R. Cutlar Ferguson, T. G. Arthur, Dr. Blackie, Faithfull Begg, M.P.; Mr. Thomas Guille, Guernsey, etc., etc.
The noble CHAIRMAN said
Ladies and Gentlemen,-It is a great pleasure to find myself in this hall on
a non-political occasion. We are here to-day to celebrate Burns. What the direct connection of Burns with Glasgow is I am not exactly sure ; but, at anyrate, I am confident of this, that in the great metropolis of the West there is a clear claim that we should celebrate the genius of Robert Burns. I have celebrated it already elsewhere. I cannot, perhaps, deny that the day has been a day of labour, but it has been a labour of love. It is, and it must be, a source of joy and pride to us to see our champion Scotsman receive the honour and admiration and affection of humanity; to see, as I have seen this morning, the long processions bringing homage and tribute to the conquering dead. But these have only been signs and symptoms of the world-wide passion of reverence and devotion. That generous and immortal soul pervades the universe to-day. In the humming city and in the crowd of man; in the backwood and in the swamp; where the sentinel paces the bleak frontier, and where the sailor smokes his evening pipe ; and, above all, where the farmer and his men pursue their summer toil, whether under the Stars and Stripes or under the Union Jack—the thought and sympathy of men are directed to Robert Burns. I have sometimes asked myself, if a roll-call of fame were read over at the beginning of every century, how many men of eminence would answer a second time to their
But of our Poet there is no doubt or question. The “adsum” of Burns rings out clear and unchallenged. There are few before him on the list, and we cannot now conceive a list without him. He towers high, and yet he lived in an age when the average was sublime. It sometimes seems to me as if the whole eighteenth century was a constant preparation for, a constant working up to, the great drama of the revolution which closed it. The scenery is all complete when the time arrives—the dark volcanic country; the hungry, desperate people; the firefly nobles ; the concentrated splendour of the Court; in the midst, in her place as heroine, the dazzling Queen. And during long previous years brooding nature has been producing not merely the immediate actors, but figures worthy of the scene. What a glittering procession it is! We can only mark some of the principal figures. Burke leads the way by seniority; then come Fox and Goethe, Nelson and Mozart, Schiller, Pitt, and Burns, Wellington and Napoleon. And among these Titans, Burns is a conspicuous figure; the figure which appeals most of all to the imagination and affection of mankind. Napoleon, perhaps, looms larger to the imagination, but on the affection he has no hold. It is in the combination of the two powers