Obrázky na stránke

Harmonious concert rung in every part,

While simple melody pour'd moving on the heart.

The Genius of the stream in front appears,
A venerable Chief advanc'd in years;
His hoary head with water-lilies crown'd,
His manly leg with garter tangle bound.
Next came the loveliest pair in all the ring,
Sweet Female Beauty hand in hand with Spring;
Then, crown'd with flow'ry hay, came Rural Joy,
And Summer, with his fervid-beaming eye:
All-cheering Plenty, with her flowing horn,
Led yellow Autumn, wreath'd with nodding corn;
Then Winter's time-bleach'd locks did hoary show,
By Hospitality with cloudless brow.

Next follow'd Courage, with his martial stride,
From where the Feal wild woody coverts hide ;
Benevolence, with mild, benignant air,

A female form, came from the tow'rs of Stair:
Learning and Worth in equal measures trode
From simple Catrine, their long-lov'd abode:
Last, white-rob'd Peace, crown'd with a hazel wreath,
To rustic Agriculture did bequeath

The broken iron instruments of death;

At sight of whom our Sprites forgat their kindling wrath.

Burns wrote this poem in Edinburgh for the second edition of his works, and it is likely he desired to compliment his Ayrshire friends under pretence of drawing a picture of times ancient and modern. That he has done both is quite clear. The courage of the Montgomerys is recorded in a couplet and learning and worth in equal measures move in Catrine, the residence of Dugald Stewart; nor is Mrs. Stewart of Stair, afterwards of Afton, forgotten :

"Benevolence, with mild, benignant air,

A female form, came from the towers of Stair."

In after-days the beautiful solitude of Catrine was invaded by a cotton-mill, and the Professor carried away his household gods; the lady of Stair also moved: she built a mansion on the banks of Afton-water, and there at present two of her daughters reside. Feal is a small stream in the vicinity of Coilsfield, in those days the seat of Colonel Montgomery, afterwards Earl of Eglinton.

The idea of the poem was taken from Fergusson's "Plane Stanes and Causeway." The Edinburgh bard makes a "cadie" or public messenger overhear the conversation and report it: no attempt is made to personify the speakers." In the dialogue between the Brigs of Ayr," says Currie, "Burns himself is the auditor; the Poet, pressed by care or inspired by whim, wandered out in the darkness of a winter night to the mouth of the Ayr, where the stillness was interrupted only by the rushing sound of the influx of the tide. The dungeon clock had struck two; the sound had been repeated by Wallacetower; the moon shone bright, and the infant ice was forming on the stream. The bard heard the 'clanging

sugh' of wings, and speedily perceived

The sprites that owre the Brigs of Ayr preside.'

These genii enter into a conversation, and compare an

cient times with the present. They differ, as may be expected, and taunt and scold each other in broad Scotch. This conversation, which is certainly humorous, may be considered as the proper business of the poem."

Ayr was one of the military stations of Edward I., and the place where the hero Wallace first displayed his courage and strength. It became a royal burgh as early as 1202, and the "Auld Brig" might well have the "very wrinkles gothic in its face," for it was erected in the reign of Alexander III. The "New Brig" stands a hundred yards or so below the old one, and was chiefly raised by the patriotic exertions of that Ballantyne to whom the poem is inscribed. Ayr gave birth to the accomplished Count Hamilton, author of the "Memoirs of Grammont." It was the residence too, of the heroic Wallaces of Craigie, and, moreover, Cromwell saw it with the eye of Edward I., for he constructed a fort between the town and the sea to keep the West in awe.

Soon after the appearance of "The Brigs of Ayr,” other brigs in the north began to speak. A Nithsdale rhymer wrote a volume of verses, and one of the pieces was entitled "A Conversation between the Auld Brig and New Brig of Dumfries." He observed them to be big with coming words, and being a person of patience, as well as discernment, lingered within ear-shot to hear what passed. The brigs were in no hurry to begin, if I may trust the only lines which remain on my memory:

"Ance upon a day

Dumfries' twa brigs stood still and nought did say."


On the Blank Leaf of a Copy of the Poems, presented to an Old Sweetheart, then married.

ONCE fondly lov'd, and still remember'd dear; Sweet early object of my youthful vows! Accept this mark of friendship, warm, sincere,— Friendship! 'tis all cold duty now allows.

And when you read the simple artless rhymes, One friendly sigh for him—he asks no more,Who distant burns in flaming torrid climes,

Or haply lies beneath th' Atlantic roar.

The name of the lady to whom this double present of praise and poetry was given has not been mentioned. Burns, it is evident, had at that time no better prospect before him than emigration to the West Indies: his prose and verse of the year 1786 are filled with allusions to that reluctant step: he seems to have looked for nothing better than to die soon amid torrid climes, if he escaped drowning in the passage. He, perhaps, did not dread the voyage so much as he felt hurt and humbled to be obliged to go abroad from want of encouragemen: at home.





LONE on the bleaky hills the straying flocks
Shun the fierce storms among the sheltering rocks;
Down from the rivulets, red with dashing rains,
The gathering floods burst o'er the distant plains;
Beneath the blasts the leafless forests groan;
The hollow caves return a sullen moan.

Ye hills, ye plains, ye forests, and ye caves,
Ye howling winds, and wintry swelling waves !
Unheard, unseen, by human ear or eye,

Sad to your sympathetic scenes I fly;

Where to the whistling blast and waters' roar
Pale Scotia's recent wound I may deplore.

O heavy loss, thy country ill could bear!
A loss these evil days can ne'er repair!
Justice, the high vicegerent of her God,
Her doubtful balance ey'd, and sway'd her rod;
Hearing the tidings of the fatal blow

She sunk, abandon'd to the wildest woe.

« PredošláPokračovať »