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So, their worships of the Faculty,
Quite sick of merit's rudeness,
Chose one who should owe it all, d'ye see,
As once on Pisgah purg'd was the sight
Of a son of Circumcision,
So may be, on this Pisgah height,
And swear he has the Angel met
That met the Ass of Balaam.
No one has equalled Lockhart's account of Burns among the stately literati and lawyers of Edinburgh :"It needs no effort of imagination to conceive what the sensations of an isolated set of scholars must have been in the presence of this big-boned, black-browed, brawny stranger, with his great flashing eyes, who, having forced his way among them from the plough-tail at a single stride, manifested in the whole train of his hearing and conversation a most thorough conviction that, in the society of the most eminent men of his nation, he was exactly where he was entitled to be, hardly deigned to flatter them by exhibiting even an occasional symptom of being flattered by their notice, by turns calmly measured himself against the most cultivated understandings of his time in discussion-overpowered the bon-mots of the most celebrated convivialists by broad floods of merriment, impregnated with all the burning life of genius
astounded bosoms habitually enveloped in the thricepiled folds of social reserve by compelling them to tremble beneath the fearless touch of natural pathos-and all this without the smallest willingness to be ranked among those professional ministers of excitement, who are content to be paid in money and smiles for doing what the spectators and auditors would be ashamed of doing in their own persons, even if they had the power of doing it.
"The lawyers of Edinburgh, among whom Burns figured at his outset with at least as much success as among the professional literati, were a very different race of men from these; they would neither, I take it, have pardoned rudeness nor been alarmed by wit. But, being in those days, with scarcely an exception, members of the landed aristocracy of the country, and forming by far the most influential body in the society of Scotland, they were, perhaps, as proud a set of men as ever enjoyed the tranquil pleasures of unquestioned superiority. What their haughtiness as a body was, may be guessed when we know that inferior birth was reckoned a fair and legitimate ground for excluding any man from the bar. To this body belonged nineteen out of twenty of those 'Patricians,' whose stateliness Burns so long remembered, and so bitterly resented. It might, perhaps, have been well for him had stateliness been the worst fault of their manners."
The poem was first published in the Reliques of Burns. It explains itself. I have heard that it was any thing but graciously received by the two competitors, Hal and Bob.
TO A LADY,
With a Present of a Pair of Drinking- Glasses.
FAIR Empress of the Poet's soul,
And Queen of Poetesses;
Clarinda, take this little boon,
And fill them high with generous juice,
And pledge me in the generous toast-
"To those who love us!"-second fill
To the beautiful Clarinda-the Mrs. Mac. whom he loved to toast in company-Burns addressed a number of letters; some are written with tenderness and feeling, others are bold and vehement; and they all shew the ardour of an impassioned heart, and sometimes the quickness of a clear understanding. That the lady regarded the whole as a sort of sentimental flirtation on paper, there can be no doubt.-" I can say with truth, madam," he thus opens the correspondence, "that I
never met with a person in my life whom I more anxiously wished to meet again than yourself. You are a stranger to me; but I am an odd being; some yet unnamed feelings, things, not principles, but better than whims, carry me further than boasted reason ever did a philosopher. Our worthy common friend, in her usual pleasant way, rallied me a good deal on my new acquaintance. She tells me you are not only a critic, but a poetess."
Of the powers of Clarinda in rhyme, I shall give a specimen, such as will induce the reader to desire more." Your last verses," says Burns, "have so delighted me, that I have got an excellent old Scots air that suits the measure, and you shall see them in print. I want four stanzas-you gave me but three, and one of them alluded to an expression in my former letter; so I have taken your two first verses, with a slight alteration in the second, and have added a third, but you must help me to a fourth. Here they are; the latter half of the first stanza is worthy of Sappho; I am inraptures with it :"
"Talk not of love, it gives me pain,
For love has been my foe;
He bound me with an iron chain,
And plung'd me deep in woe.
Then welcome win and wear the prize,
But never talk of love.
Your friendship much can make me blest,
Oh! why that bliss destroy?
Why urge the only one request
You know I will deny?
Your thought, if love must harbour there,
Nor cause me from that bosom tear
The very friend I sought."
CLARINDA, mistress of my soul,
To what dark cave of frozen night
We part-but, by these precious drops
No other light shall guide my steps
She, the fair sun of all her sex,
My worship to its ray?
The Bard had recovered from his fall, and was contemplating his departure from Edinburgh, when he wrote these verses to "Clarinda." He sent her, it appears, a copy of the account which he gave of himself to Dr. Moore, and added, "I do not know if you have a just idea of my character; but I wish you to see me, as I am,