« PredošláPokračovať »
idea can emerge from the convolutions of a brain that is reeking with whisky? The writers of Ayr could drink, but they could also think ; so could most of the clergy of that age—(laughter)—and I am inclined to believe that their plentifully strong toddy was more dangerous than their stinted, watery theology—(laughter)--especially to a man like Burns, who did not require a teacher in any field of temptation such as the heretical field. But there were men who forced their company upon his good nature, who could only drink and flatter him when in his company, and slander him when done with it. I wish that, if it could have saved Burns's life a year or two, all these flattering, tippling parasites had been drowned in a vat of Ferintosh or of Kilbagie, or some blend of superlative whiskies, that they would have been content to die in while drinking. (Laughter.) The ruling politicians of Burns's time, especially Pitt, “the Premier youth," have been greatly blamed for their neglect of Burns. Pitt was a bit of a poet himself—at least, he had tried his hand at translating Homer, and succeeded better than most University young men. When appealed to on behalf of Burns, he said “literature will take care of itself.” I am not sure that any of his successors, unless, perhaps, Mr. Disraeli, would have done more for Burns. Political magnates appear to be afraid of poets, and still more of satirists. Dean Swift and Sydney Smith ought to have been Bishops for certain, if unrivalled intellect could be discovered and appreciated by Prime Ministers. But the high political mind seems to be incapable of putting faith in any mental powers beyond high-class, decorous, industrious commonplace, and to be bound by its limited practical nature to distrust genius as a force that is abnormal, beyond calculation and control, and therefore dangerous. I wish that Pitt could have found some more congenial and appropritae occupation for Burns than “ gauging auld wives' barrels," and in the meantime I believe that he would have done it if he could, for Pitt, like his father, was a noble, unselfish kind of man. But, of course, like all Prime Ministers, he was fettered by the traditions of the holders of his office, none of which are likely to take into account either the uses or the claims of genius. Pitt's latest, brightest, and liveliest biographer is to preside over a cognate monster meeting in Glasgow to-night-(applause)--and we will all feel inclined to believe all that he says in favour both of Burns and of Pitt, and anxious to learn what he, with his greater versatility and wider knowledge, would have done for Burns had he been in Pitt's place. (Applause.) How to utilise the gift of the highest genius must always be a difficult problem to the possessor of it, and not less to the people for whose guidance and advancement it has been given ; and woe be to the dunces and the infidels who scorn and despise it, whether they be in high places or in low; woe be to the kings of the earth and their advisers who help to send poets, before the full maturity of manhood, the dreary ways traversed by Chatterton and Burns; woe, more terrible still, to the country that breeds “mute inglorious Miltons" and Cromwells that cannot reach even through seas of blood the sceptre which they alone are fittest to wield. (Applause.) Notwithstanding of little help from high places, and of some obstruction from foolish men, as also, though not without a compensating inspiration, from unwise women, Burns has been one of the greatest benefactors of the human race, and more espceially of
the Scottish race; and we have reasons innumerable and inexpressible to be thankful to Providence that his message of freedom, of emancipation from the bonds of Royal and aristocratic tyranny, of Pharisaic pretence, and of priestly, though Presbyterian superstition, was thought out and delivered in our hilly, heathery, barren, toil-devoted country, which no mere superficial tickling can cause to laugh with harvests; and we have further reason to be proud that the Scottish race, probably alone of all the mixed races on the earth, or that have ever been on it, was fit to listen to his message, to understand it, and, in fair measure, to welcome and applaud its utterance; for, be assured, no orator can stand far above the level of his audience, no prophet be much in advance of his age, no poet can charm and inspire with his own heaven-born revelation of the beautiful and the true, any multitude or race that has not been prepared by its history, its experience, and its destiny, to understand and joyfully accept that heaven-born revelation. (Applause.) Egypt, Judea, Greece, Rome, Germany, England, have each contributed to the miraculous, or all but miraculous advances of civilisation. Scotland, too, though a small country, has not failed in her share of the predestined work of human progress, and honour and glory be to the names of John Knox and David Hume, for they both fought for truth and freedom, though with very dissimilar weapons. Like honour to the names of Robert Bruce and of Robert Burns, for the one dealt a mortal blow to foreign, and the other to domestic tyranny; also, honour and gratitude to their successors in the host of the true and the brave that have continued the fight, and have helped us forward towards that liberty of thought, and word, and deed, which is the long-delayed but inalienable birthright of the human race. (Applause.)
In the course of the evening an enjoyable entertainment was given by Madame Annie Grey in the shape of a descriptive and musical song-lecture recital, entitled “Robert Burns,” which had been specially prepared for the occasion.
On the motion of Mr. Alexander Macdonald, a hearty vote of thanks was passed to all who had assisted in the evening's proceedings, and the meeting terminated with the singing of “Auld Lang Syne."
DUNDEE BURNS SOCIETY.
'HE formation of a Burns Society in Dundee had been
in the early months of 1896, the centennial year of Burns's death. The idea took form ultimately at a public meeting held in Lamb's Temperance Hotel on 10th April, when the project was considered, and favourably received. visional committee was appointed, and it was arranged to call another meeting early in the following month. Accordingly a similar meeting was held in the same place on 8th May, when a draft constitution was read and adopted, and the following office-bearers were elected :-President, Mr. A. H. Miller ; vice-presidents, Mr. J. B. Macdonald and Mr. John Willocks ; secretary, Mr. Robert Fulton ; treasurer, Mr. A. C. Lamb; members of committee, Messrs. John Ramage, W. F. Black, George Scrymgeour, William Martin, John Smart, and George Sword. It was stated at this meeting that the United Literary and Recreative Society, Dundee, had decided to dissolve, and to hand over its assets to the new Dundee Burns Society. The committee in due course arranged that the inauguration of the Society should take place at a date near the 21st of July, the anniversary of the death of Robert Burns.
The Dundee Burns Society decided that no more fitting time could be selected for the holding of its inaugural gathering than the week in which all Scotsmen were celebrating the centenary of Burns's death. The meeting accordingly took place in the Victoria Art Galleries on Thursday, 23rd July, 1896, and was of the nature of a conversazione and concert, the proceedings having throughout a direct bearing upon the life and work of the National Poet. There was a large assemblage of ladies and gentlemen, among those present being : Mr. A. H. Millar, president of the Society, who occupied the chair; Sir John Leng, M.P.; Bailie Stevenson, Councillor Robertson, the Rev. Dr. K. C. Anderson, the Rev. Dr. R. A. Watson, Messrs. John Willocks, W. B. Irvine, Andrew Stewart, editor of the People's Friend; A. C. Lamb, John Maclauchlan, W. C. Honeyman, J. B. Macdonald, D. P. Scott, James Mann, president of the Trades Council ; William Martin, George Petrie, J. S. Smith, J. P. Bruce, A. P. Stevenson, George Scrymgeour, etc. The Chairman intimated letters of apology for absence from the Earl of Southesk, K.T.; Sir Reginald Ogilvy, Bart.; Sir James Bell, Lord Provost of Glasgow; Provost Vallentine, Brechin; Provost David Mackay, Kilmarnock; Mr. George Armitstead ; Colonel Erskine, of Linlathen; the Hon. C. M. Ramsay, Provost Orchar, Councillor Urquhart, Rev. Dr. Colin Campbell, Rev. Dr. A. B. Connel, Mr. H. B. Fergusson, Mr. A. J. Buist, Mr. W. L. Boase, Mr. J. More Smieton, Professor Masson, Mr. A. J. Kirkpatrick, chairman of Glasgow Burns Exhibition ; Mr. Philip Sully, secretary of Dumfries Burns Celebration Committee; Mr. D. M‘Naught, Kilmaurs, editor of the Burns Chronicle; Mr. Alexander Anderson ("Surfaceman"), Mr. William Wallace, Glasgow Herald, editor of Chambers's “Life and Works of Robert Burns"; Mr. Robert Ford, Glasgow; and Mr. David Storrar Meldrum, Edinburgh. Photographs were exhibited of memorial wreaths which had been sent to Dumfries and to Kilmarnock on the anniversary of Burns's death.
The CHAIRMAN spoke at length on “The Aims of the Society," and read the following letter from Mr. William Allan, M.P. :
"Sunderland, July 4th, 1896.
“My Dear Sir,—I have received your favour intimating that' my ain auld toon 'has formed a Burns Society, to be conducted on purely nonalcholic lines. I can believe that this is as Burns himself would have wished; for, although he was no teetotaler, he regretted oft and much his too intense worship of Bacchus. We cannot judge him in this respect by any modern standard. It would be doing him scant justice. His times were not our times. In his day the general tone of society was measured by the number of empty bottles on or beneath the dining-room table. This measure of ‘guid fellowship’ permeated all ranks. Personally, I never look on Burns from that aspect at all. I have nothing whatever to do with his human weaknesses. He was not a saint. Who is ? 'Let him that is without sin,' etc., etc. --so I have no kindly feeling towards those ghouls who would dig up the bones of dead genius to see if there was a black spot on them. Weigh his soul and weigh his sin, and see which turns the scale. It is not 'how did he live?' but what has he left us ?' By this standard there is only one reply-Song. I go further. I have always looked on Burns as a divinely called Recorder. All history shows that the great God of this universe has at times called forth men to be Recorders. What would we know of the heroic days of Greece were it not for Homer! What would we know of the life of ancient England were it not for Chaucer? What would we know of the mediæval days of England were it not for Shakespeare? And what would we have known of old Scottish customs and society were it not for Burns? In the dawn of the steam era he came or was called forth to paint old Scotland ere she was changed from the old to the new, ere the sickle was obliterated by the reaping machine, ere the harness-pulled plough was superceded by the steam-driven plough, ere the wild whistle of the locomotive proclaimed the annihilation of distance and 'the passing away of all old home-loving, ere the “Cottar's Saturday Nights' were to be things of the past and the cottar sound his Saturday nights readily spent in the town; ere the boozin' beggars, holy fairs, cuttystools, and hell-pictured preachings were to be for ever swept away. Now, what would we know to-day of Scotland's life and character of last 'century were they not preserved in the imperishable pictures Barns has left behind ? Prose never becomes the property of the people like poetry; and I believe, had Burns painted his pictures in prose-inimitable as they would no doubt have been—they would have been sorgotten ere now. Therefore Burns appears to me as the Scottish Recording Angel. Being human he lived human, taking to the full his share of loves and other distillations, and sorrowing and suffering beyond all words from his lack of helm. Judge him not harshly! Judge him not by a standard of to-day! Let no one say 'he should have been ;' rather let it be said of him “The Almighty called him into being-endowed him with gifts divine-he was His handiwork; therefore let us be proud and thankful that his gifts were left to Auld Scotland.' I wish the Dundee Burns Society every success, an' mony a guid hairst in the fields sawn by Burns.-Yours, etc.,
The CHAIRMAN thereafter read the following poem, by Mr. Alexander Anderson (“Surfaceman”), written specially for the inauguration of the Society:
A hundred years have fled, and now
The harvest of the Poet's fame
Bright with a loving world's acclaim.
These years have sunk; the clouds that rose
Have also sunk; he rises through
In the wide space of windless blue.
He came all swarthy, keen and strong;
Yet in his heart such tender call,
Sprang up, and gave a voice to all.