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TO THE RIGHT HON. C. J. FOX.
How wisdom and folly meet, mix, and unite;
But now for a patron, whose name and whose glory At once may illustrate and honour my story.
Thou first of our orators, first of our wits;
Yet whose parts and acquirements seem mere lucky hits;
With knowledge so vast, and with judgment so strong,
Good L-d, what is man? for as simple he looks, Dɔ but try to develope his hooks and his crooks; With his depths and his shallows, his good and his evil, All in all he's a problem must puzzle the devil.
On his one ruling passion sir Pope hugely labours, That, like th' old Hebrew walking-switch, eats up its neighhours;
Mankind are his show-box-a friend, would you know him?
Pull the string, ruling passion the picture will shew him.
What pity, in rearing so beauteous a system,
Some sort all our qualities each to its tribe,
As by one drunken fellow his comrades you'll find.
What the great statesman thought of the lines in which the plebeian bard delineated his character, no one has said. This fragment is one of those many beginnings which Burns made in compliance with the opinions of critics and scholars, that he ought to write a long regular poem."I have a poetic whim in my head," he observes to Mrs. Dunlop, "which I at present dedicate or rather inscribe to the Right Hon. Charles James Fox ; but how long that fancy may hold, I cannot say. A few of the first lines I have just rough sketched."
The jacobitical inclinations of the Poet's earlier days were now vanishing amid the rumours of wars abroad and party-disputes at home. For some time he appears to have wavered between the factions of Pitt and Fox. In his verses on the American war he seems to admire Pitt; and in his "Dream" he speaks of Fox as a rattler of dice rather than a statesman. As the French Revolution proceeded, these opinions changed: the Tories treated the Poet coldly; the Whigs promised much, when they got into power, and, as hope had been his chief solace in youth, he continued to hope on.
A WOUNDED HARE
LIMP BY ME,
WHICH A FELLOW HAD JUST SHOT.
INHUMAN man! curse on thy barb'rous art,
Go live, poor wanderer of the wood and field!
No more the thickening brakes and verdant plains To thee shall home, or food, or pastime yield.
Seek, mangled wretch, some place of wonted rest,
Oft as by winding Nith, I, musing, wait
The sober eve, or hail the cheerful dawn; I'll miss thee sporting o'er the dewy lawn, And curse the ruffian's aim, and mourn thy hapless fate.
Like most of the productions of Burns, this poem is founded on fact. James Thomson, whose father occupied a farm adjoining to that of Ellisland, told me that once in the gloaming he shot at and hurt a hare, which, like that of Gay, had come forth
"To taste the dew-besprinkled lawn."
Burns was walking on Nithside, the hare ran bleeding by him; upon which," said Thomson, "he cursed me, and said he would not mind to throw me into the water; and I'll warrant he could hae don't, though I was both young and strong." In his first rough-draught the following fine verse stands between the third and fourth
"Perhaps a mother's anguish adds its woe;
The playful pair crowd fondly by thy side;
It appears that Burns copied out these verses, and laid them before the critical eye of Dr. Gregory. The boor of Nithside hardly used the hare worse than the critic of Edinburgh used the poem :- "The wounded hare is a pretty good subject; but the measure you have chosen for it is not a good one-it does not flow well, and the rhyme of the fourth line is almost lost by its distance from the first. Murder-aiming is a bad compound of shot, and not very intelligible; bloodstained has the same fault: bleeding bosom is infinitely better. You have accustomed yourself to such epithets, and have no notion how stiff and quaint they appear to others, and how incongruous with poetic fancy and tender sentiments."—" Dr. Gregory," said Burns," is a good man, but he crucifies me: I believe in his iron justice; but, like the devils, I believe and tremble."