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clear that, though exceptionally sober in his earlier years, he drank too much in later life. But this, it must be remembered, was but an occasional condescendence to the vice and habit of the age. The gentry who pressed him to their houses, and who were all convivial, have much to answer for. His admirers who thronged to see him, and who could only conveniently sit with him in a tavern, are also responsible for this habit, so perilously attractive to men of genius. From the decorous Addison, and the brilliant Bolingbroke onward, the eighteenth century records hard drinking as the common incident of intellectual eminence. To a man who had shone supreme in the most glowing society, and who was now an exciseman in a country town, with a home that cannot have been very exhilarating, and with a nervous system highly strung, the temptation of the warm tavern, and the admiring circle there, may well have been almost irresistible. Some attempt to say that his intemperance was exaggerated. I neither affirm nor deny. It was not as a sot he drank; that no one insinuated; if he succumbed it was to good fellowship. Remember, I do not seek to palliate or excuse, and, indeed, none will be turned to dissipation by Burns's example; he paid too dearly for it. But I will say this, that it all seems infinitely little, infinitely remote. Why do we strain, at this distance, to discern this dim spot on the Poet's mantle. Shakespeare and Ben Johnson took their cool tankard at the Mermaid; we cannot afford, in the strictest view of literary responsibility, to quarrel with them for that. When we consider Pitt and Goethe we do not concentrate our vision on Pitt's bottles of port or Goethe's bottles of Moselle. Then, why, we ask, is there such a chasm between the Mermaid and the Globe, and why are the vintages of Wimbledon and Weimar so much more innocent than the simple punch-bowl of Inveraray marble and its contents. I should like to go a step further, and affirm that we have something to be grateful for even in the weakness of men like Burns. Mankind is helped in its progress almost as much by the study of imperfections as by the contemplation of perfection. Had we nothing before us in our futile and halting lives but saints and the ideal, we might well fail altogether. We grope blindly along the catacombs of the world, we clinib the dark ladder of life, we feel our way to futurity, but we can scarcely
an inch around or before us. We stumble and falter and fall, our hands and knees are bruised sore, and we look up for light and guidance. Could we see nothing but distant unapproachable impeccability, we might well sink prostrate in the hoplessness of emulation and the weariness of despair. Is it not then, when all seems blank and lifeless, when strength and courage flag, and when perfection seems as remote as a star-is it not then that imperfection helps us? When we see that the greatest and choicest images of God have had their weaknesses like ours, their temptations, their hour of darkness, their bloody sweat, are we not encouraged by their lapses and catastrophes to find energy for one more effort, one more struggle? Where they failed we feel it a less dishonour to fail ; their errors and sorrows make, as it were, an easier ascent from finite imperfection to infinite perfection. Man after all is not ripened by virtue alone. Were it so this world were a paradise of angels. No! Like the
growth of the earth, he is the fruit of all the seasons; the accident of a thousand accidents, a living mystery, moving through the seen to the
He is sown in dishonour; he is matured under all the varieties of heat and cold ; in mist and wrath, in snow and vapours, in the melancholy of autumn, in the torpor of winter, as well as in the rapture and fragrance of summer, or the balmy effluence of the spring—its breath, its sunshine, its dew. And at the end he is reaped—the product, not of one climate, but of all ; not of good alone, but of evil; not of joy alone, but of sorrow-perhaps mellowed and ripened, perhaps stricken and withered
How, then, shall we judge anyone? How, at anyrate, shall we judge a giant-great in gifts and great in temptation; great in strength, and great in weakness ? Let us glory in his strength, and be comforted in his weakness. And, when we thank heaven for the inestimable gift of Burns, we do not need to remember wherein he was imperfect ; we cannot bring ourselves to regret that he was made of the same clay as ourselves. (Loud and prolonged applause.)
Professor MASSON said that he did not know that ever anywhere over the world there had been, or anywhere over the world there could be, a collective enthusiasm so prodigious as that which pervaded Scotland on that centenary of the death of Burns. It is a kind of marvel in itself. How had it happened that a man who died one hundred years ago, after a very short lise, a life of thirty-seven years in all, and whose bequest from that life to posterity consisted in about hardly three hundred songs, two hundred other pieces of verse, a few letters in prose, and the tradition of his own lise ; how could it have happened that this great unfortunate man, as he had been called, was rousing such an amount of interest and recollection as pervaded Scotland at this moment, and of which that meeting was the effervescence ? How had that happened? Their noble chairman had told them in two words how it happened—by the fact of inspiration, and by the fact of sympathy. They might express it in this way-Many who had left writings to posterity—songs, poems, prose, whatever it might chance to be—those authors, those poets, were admired always. They were admired more than men who figured contemporaneously as the chief of the nation. Perhaps the honest man who had written a piece of rhyme or verse was remembered in a way that the chief in the government of his country at the time was not remembered. But in Burns there was something more than that. There was not only the admiration which attached to poets and prose-writers, but there was a special love and special affection which was given to the very few. And to what kind of few ? To those writerspoets and whatever they were—who had addressed not the head, not the intellect, of a nation, not even the imagination, not even the men who had produced delightful dreams and far-away phantasies; these were not remembered and loved like the writers who had addressed the human heart. By that he meant those who had addressed the primal forces—the passions of human nature-love, hate, the family relations, and all those things which were not artificial, which did not belong to any one age or any one country, but which were universal and perennial. Those writers who had contrived somehow or other to grasp the human heart were those that were remembered with admiration and
with love. Now Burns did that. He knew this also about himself. In one of his poems he spoke of the time when he was beginning to think of himself as a poet. But first of all he would ask them not to forget what the chairman had brought before them in the past, that Burns, though he was a great poet, was a great poet in the first place because he was a great man-because this swarthy Scotsman had a brain co-equal with the best brains in his generation. It was the fortunate accident that this man with such powers took to poetry. But when he was beginning a life of poetry it occurred to him that he might be at a disadvantage, and this he expressed in the address to himself. In the words of that poem they had the key to that great portal, to that great door through which the whole of British literature of the eighteenth swung us into the nineteenth century. Burns preceded and heralded Wordsworth, who acknowledged his inspiration. He showed Wordsworth the way to that great reform of which so much had been the consequence. In these things there was what they call a “but” and a “ben.” Now this influence of Burns on the literature of Great Britain, this influence of Burns on European literature, was shown by the fact that Germans, men of all nations, admired Burns, and had sent on this day expressions of their admiration. Still foreigners, the English people even, only got to the “ben” of Burns. So when he said that Burns lasted, that he was remembered still, because he addressed not the head so much, or the imagination so much, as the human heart; he had to add this more specifically, that the heart he addressed was the Scottish heart. Now, the Scottish heart had its pecu.iarities, and some of these peculiarities were hereditary and came from far back. The oldest of the sentiments that composed the Scottish heart was 600 years old—that was the love of the little land of the mountain and the flood. That which was sometimes called narrowness was not narrowness, it was a thing that belonged to Scotsmen. It was 600 years old at all events this love of liberty and freedom; almost the oldest thing in Scottish literature was Barbour's poem on liberty. But the Scottish heart was a variable thing. It had taken a great deal of various history and experience to make the Scottish heart what it had come to be. The Scottish heart, it might be said, divided itself into two views, two opposite views, the Mary Stuart and the Covenanting and Presbyterian views. He said that that very diversity had made the Scottish heart stronger to-day than it was even in the days of Burns. Burns grasped aright the Scottish heart because he had it in himself. He enlarged the Scottish heart. From his own looking round on Scottish society and Scottish manners he infused into the Scottish heart an addition of tenderness, of humour, of outspokenness, and especially a feeling of individual manhood and independence. Wherever the Scottish heart functioned at the present moment the Scottish heart functioned as the heart of Robert Burns.
The LORD PROVOST said that Lord Rosebery required to leave for London, but before his Lordship left he would ask the Rev. Dr. Donald Macleod to propose a vote of thanks to him. Rev. Dr. DONALD MACLEOD said his task was
an easy one and yet a difficult one. It was to ask them to give a hearty vote of thanks to Lord Rosebery. That was the easy part of it. The
difficult part was for him adequately to express the impression they had received from the noble address which his Lordship had given them. For happy choice of phrase, for skill of expression, for the marvellous manner in which he had steered his way through the rocks scattered with the disjecta membra of ancient criticism, and for the manner in which he had listed them up to the very highest level of appreciation of Robert Burns, they owed him a debt of gratitude. When he came there he said to himself that they would have Lord Rosebery at his best, because he often felt that literature had a grudge to politics, so that Lord Rosebery had given himself to what he acknowledged as not the higher of the two. For literary skill and beauty, the address was one of the finest he had ever listened to. Nay, more, he believed that if Lord Rosebery would only try it, he could give them two or three firstrate Scottish songs. As Professor Masson had said, Burns had not spoken to them from the “but,” but from the “ben.” No man could understand Burns who was not a Scotsman. They could not get at the pith of the words, except they had been brought up to speak the Scottish tongue. No foreigner could do it. It might be a good work for the Burns Clubs to do something, in order to preserve what, he was afraid, was passing away, not from the peasantry, but from what were called the better classes—the knowledge of the Scottish language. When he read the subjects prescribed for the leaving certificate he often thought he would like to see some questions put down as to how far they understood Burns's Scots. The Scots was not a dialect; it was a language, and they could not allow that language to die. Dr. Macleod concluded by proposing a vote of thanks to Lord Rosebery, and expressed the hope that he might be won away from the poor paltry way of politics into those higher regions of literature, in which he had been born to shine.
The audience heartily responded to the call, rising to their feet and singing with great heartiness a verse of “ Auld Lang Syne.”
Lord ROSEBERY, in acknowledging the vote, said—You know very well that it requires no great temptation to me to come to Glasgow, and when I was handed over by the Dumfries people to the Glasgow people, I found my visit to Glasgow was of a more severe and exhausting nature than it usually is. Now, my friend, Dr. Macleod, has given me some sound advice. He has advised me to give up politics for literature. Now, I want to ask him if he gives me that advice in the character of a politician or in the character of an editor ? On that subject I shall refrain myself, yea, even from Good Words. But I think bis advice is sound. The only difficulty is how to follow it. I shall take it with me to London, and in the waking moments on arriving at various stations, I have no doubt it will oom before me with alarming frequency. If I take nothing else from Glasgow I will take the memory of a reception at least as hearty as that which you always, in your great goodness, vouchsafe to me, and an advice which, perhaps, is the soundest I have received.
Lord Rosebery then left the meeting amid loud cheers, and the Lord Provost took the chair.
Rev. Dr. WALTER C. SMITH said that it was poor work gleaning after such reapers as Lord Rosebery and Professor Masson. True it was that every genuine Scot was willing to linger any amount of time over the pathetic story of the Ayrshire Poet, but at that time of night he could not venture to linger. This Burns cult was not so very strange when they looked at it more narrowly. It was not merely as a writer of verses and songs that Burns appeared before them. It was the man himself that had entered into our life, and played a great part there. The Ayrshire farmer and poet was one of the main factors in our Scottish life and character, and in that respect he played a part which, he ventured to say, even Shakes. peare hardly played for the people of England. So far as individual influences went, the quality of a Scotsman, whatever were the worth of it-and it had done some good service to the world—was in a great measure owing to three men-John Knox, Robert Burns, and Walter Scott. They were all three out-and-out men with large human sympathies, clear human insight, and honest human purpose. Though not, indeed, without the errors and frailties that belong to human beings, they were at least men full of force and of sense and of integrity and of tenderness and humour. These men had gone far to make Scotsmen what they are. Knox stamped into the heart of his countrymen a deep reverence for the spiritual realities, and an intense scorn for all shows and shams and hypocrisies which clung to them still, and would, he hoped, cling to them so long as they existed. Burns, though he lived in an age which was not touched with that spirit of reverence, deepened the impression the reformer had made by asserting the rights of honest manhood, by laughing with gay humour at hollow and se pretences wherever he found them, and by clothing with tender grace and love the joys and sorrows of the poor. And Scott, by his never-failing and kindly humour, illustrated and enforced the best elements of our national character. Burns's best memorial was the Scottish people, in whose heart he was enshrined. True, his sun went down ere it had reached its full noontide, and went down in clouds and brooding shadows, amid loneliness and sorrowfulness. Great was the pathos and the shame of it. Yet high above all, he thought, should rise the great work he achieved in those few toilsome years of a troubled and stormful life.
Mr. William Melvin gave a selection of Scottish melodies on the violin, and Miss Maclachlan sang “Whistle and I'll Come Tae Ye, My Lad.”
At this juncture the audience raised shouts for a speech from Mr. William Watson, the poet, who was seen to be leaving the platform. Subsequently the Chairman announced that Mr. Watson would address the meeting, but it was found that he had left the hall to catch the train for London.
The Rev. Dr. DONALD MACLEOD then proposed a vote of thanks to Professor Masson, Dr. Walter C. Smith, and Lord Provost Bell. The proceedings closed at a quarter-past ten with the singing of “Auld Lang Syne.”