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Beauty, the very dream of literature.
Shakespeare gave a splendid field-glass to see the life of mankind, high and low; and Milton made organ music out of medieval theology. 'Crabbe one read for his English realism, and Longfellow had the sweet sentiment of daily fear and hope. Tennyson's "Two Voices" were the soul's thought made melodiously antiphonal; and later on the Brownings came with pure passion, keen intellect, full of the modern spirit. But, looking back, I see a low bookcase in a Yorkshire parsonage, and a blue volume full of Scottish vernacular, in which one found something which none of the other poets possessed in just the same form or flavour. It was the utterance of a peasant who was also in a certain broad sense a man of the world; the utterance of a passionate, ill-governed nature, but one that never, in all its rude waywardness, its libertinism, forgot that God reigns. The writing of Burns had man-force. The irony was masterly, the pathos unstudied, the flavour, generally, was the strongest in our literature next to Bunyan-one might say, next to the Bible. It was simple, direct, pungent, and the prime thing in it-the element by which Burns lives even where Scott seems to be king is this: he is your personal friend. To the young man struggling with life, conscious that it ought to be a victory, but may be a disaster, poor Burns is no example-no saintbut he is a brother. He comes as a friend, an intimate, one who knows, feels, desires the best, and judges himself when he does the worst. Among all the poets he is the most real, the most frank, the most free. He is the type of Scotland alike in its good and its ill, and has given his people a treasure of apt quotation suited to their character, expressing the national temper, the beauty of the land, the keen energy of the life that is lived here. Only the Scots folk could have had Burns; only Burns, the critical, homely, tender and scornful, serious and wayward Burns, could be the voice of the country. Scott is too great as an artist, too dignified and reserved as a writer, too orderly and aristocratic. He is the best man, the greatest man, but he is not "a brither man, for a' that." I shall not venture to recite any passages from our Poet; that would only be to show that I have not the Scots tongue. Besides, you know the Epistles, you know the address to the Unco Guid, the lines to Cardoness, the New-Year's Day piece to Mrs. Dunlop, and all the others, in
which irony and tenderness combine to produce the freshest and most pungent criticism of life-that is, in a word, the strongest literature. He is thorough, this Burns; he turns on make-believe, he turns on himself and his sins, he points the finger of terrible scorn at all things and folk that are "sleekit." The lines to Cardoness are condensed essence of irony; in. those to the Unco Guid, satire and humane feeling and moral judgment blend in bold, simple, unconscious, plain-speaking, and rise to that humane thrill which is the great note of literature. Burns rarely touches the awesomeness of the old: Ballade; he has nothing like
"Oh, Keith of Ravelston, the sorrows of thy line!"
He has none of Shelley's glorious disembodied imagination; does not bewitch you, like Keats, nor give you the peculiar shock of Byron. Again, the pure spiritual authority of a Wordsworth is impossible to Burns, the libertine, and one would not claim for him the greatest intellect. But he broke out in a fresh place with a fresh soul, with hatred of shams and love of man, and awe of God. There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding. Burns understood. God gave him a clear dark eye, strong to. see and to feel. God gave him a passionate courage, a scorn, for untruth, a belief in the human destiny, the gift to speak what his people felt—a race at once the boldest and the most religious. As a living, struggling man upon God's earth, under the wind-swept sky of Scotland, Burns stands up, like Job under the sky of Arabia, and says in naked strength, "When I call He will answer me: He will have regard to the work of His hands!" Wisdom's root is clear to him though he behaves foolishly, even vilely. The thrill in his own soul becomes that humane thrill which makes literature and commands the world.
"The voice of Nature loudly cries,
Hang matters of eternal weight."
As a free-thinker, as the lucid, unbound, pungent, pathetic singer of common human life, struggling heavenward over its low fields-this Robert Burns is a great poet-one of the greatest that ever drew breath.
Sir JOHN LENG, in proposing a vote of thanks to the speakers, said that since he entered the room-he did not know what occurred before-he thought all would admit that they had had a delightful intellectual symposium. He first of all heard read the vigorous and forceful appreciation of Burns by their townsman, who was known in another place as King Vulcan, his honourable friend, Willie Allan. Then they had those beautiful verses from a brother poet ("Surfaceman"), for bringing whom before the public they were indebted to Mr. Stewart, and who possessed that inherent delicacy of poetic imagination which must have endeared him to all acquainted with him. Further, he was very glad that, although they had a great preacher on the platform, he did not preach to them that evening. His sermons were always listened to, and, he could testify, read with interest even at a considerable distance. Dr. Anderson did not follow the too common example of making a text of Robert Burns to decry his unfortunate errors, but he rather dwelt on those qualities of the great Poet which would survive what was perishable and mortal in his career. They had had a charming innovation in the address from Mrs. Watson. He had long thought that there was much natural eloquence, a power of discriminating literary criticism amongst the ladies, which they had kept too much to themselves. They knew how it broke out in other directions, especially in the way of curtain lectures. But they ought to utilise, not only in church, but in public life, those gifts with which the ladies were endowed by nature, and which the present false social system had hitherto too much suppressed. Concluding, he expressed the gratification it afforded him to come from a very prosaic place to this feast he would not say of oratory-but of poetry, and certainly of good feeling, and his thanks for having been afforded an opportunity of participating in it.
A short interval then took place, during which the company were served with tea, supplied by the Messrs. Lamb at buffet tables. Thereafter the second part of the programme, which consisted of Burns's songs, rendered with fine expression, taste, and feeling by a choir under the leadership of Mr. J. B. Macdonald, was gone through. The soloists were Miss Clark
and Messrs. Nicoll and L. K. Stevenson, and Miss Stewart played the piano accompaniments with acceptance. It should be mentioned that in the course of the evening the following telegram was received from Provost Mackay, Kilmarnock, and read amid applause :-"The "Sons of Auld Killie' wish all success to your Society and its first demonstration.—MACKAY, Provost." A reply was wired as follows:-"Thanks for good wishes. Your greeting received by meeting with enthusiasm." On the motion of the chairman, a vote of thanks was accorded to the choir and its leader, and a similar compliment having been paid to the chairman, the proceedings terminated.
DEMONSTRATION IN AYR.-In celebration of the centenary of the death of the Poet, a grand demonstration, under the auspices of the Ayr Burns Club, was held on Monday afternoon, 20th July. When first mooted, the matter was heartily taken up by the Provost, Magistrates, and Town Council, and also by the various Trade Societies. It was agreed by the executive of the Burns Club that the demonstration should take the form of a procession of public bodies, and to conclude with a concert-lecture in the Town Hall. Long before the hour for leaving the Low Green the scene at the Green and in the approaches to it was of the most animated description. In addition to the thousands of townspeople, who had a halfholiday, there were also thousands of Glasgow visitors, and, at times, locomotion in the vicinity of Wellington Square was almost impossible. The procession, which left the Low Green shortly after six o'clock, proceeded along Sandgate Street, Main Street, George Street, High Street, and Alloway Street to the Burns Statue. Arrived there, Bailie Templeton, in the absence of Provost Willock, thanked the citizens for the manner in which they had turned out. A large number of beautiful wreaths were then placed on the pedestal of the statue, from the various Trade Societies and Burns Clubs, and from a number of private individuals. After the wreaths had been deposited, the procession was reformed and proceeded to
the Town Hall. At the concert-lecture Mr. Walter Neilson, president of the Burns Club, presided. The hall was filled in every corner, the gallery being reserved for ladies, while the processionists occupied the area. Addresses were delivered by Rev. J. C. Higgins, Tarbolton; Mr. R. Niven, Airlie; and Mr. Eugene Wason, of Blair; while a number of favourite Burns songs were rendered by Miss M. W. Fyffe, Glasgow, and Mr. A. Thomson, Ayr; and Mr. T. Harrower, Glasgow, gave a couple of readings.
PITLOCHRY.—The Burns Club celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the Poet's death on the 21st. Dr. R. W. Irvine presided, and delivered an appropriate address on the triumph of the Poet's genius and the world-wide recognition of its power.
FALKIRK.-A meeting in commemoration of the centenary of the death of Robert Burns was held in the Town Hall, Falkirk, on the evening of the 21st. Provost Weir presided over a large gathering. In the course of the evening Mr. M'Killop, M.P., delivered an address on the life and works of Burns. Several other gentlemen took part in the meeting. A number of Burns songs were thereafter rendered.
PERTH. On account of the weather the concert, which had been arranged to be given on the North Inch on the evening of the 21st by a choir of 800 voices, was postponed. A public concert and entertainment was given on the 22nd.
KIRKCALDY. An open-air demonstration took place in Beveridge Public Park, Kirkcaldy, in connection with the centenary of Burns's death. The Rev. A. E. Parry presided, and there was an attendance of fully four thousand. The Chairman intimated letters of apology from the Earl of Roslyn, Mr. Asquith, M.P.; Mr. Dalziel, M.P.; Mr. Munro-Ferguson, M.P.; Mr. Birrell, M.P.; Dr. Stalker, Glasgow; Rev. D. Macrae, Dundee, and others. The principal speaker was Rev. Mr. Webster, Aberdeen, author of "Burns and the Kirk." The Kirkcaldy Trades Band was also present, and played a choice selection of Burns songs, while a vocal choir also sang several pieces.