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as most people of my trade are, a strange will-o'-wisp being the victim, too frequently, of much imprudence and many follies. My two great constituent elements are pride and passion: the first I have endeavoured to harmonize into integrity and honour; the last makes me a devotee to the warmest degree of enthusiasm in love, religion, or friendship—either of them, or altogether, as I happen to be inspired."
Having explained or apologized respecting his feelings and his prejudices, the Poet proceeds :-"What a strange mysterious faculty is that thing called imagination! I have often amused myself with visionary schemes of what happiness in another world might be enjoyed by small alterations-alterations that we can fully enter into in this present state of existence. For instance, suppose you and I, just as we are at present-the same reasoning powers, sentiments, and even desires; the same fond curiosity for knowledge and remarking observation in our minds; and imagine our bodies free from pain, and the necessary supplies for the wants of nature, at all times and easily within our reach: imagine, farther, that we were set free from the laws of gravitation which bind us to this globe, and could at pleasure fly without inconvenience through all the yet unconjectured bounds of creation-what a life of bliss would we lead in our mutual pursuit of virtue and knowledge, and our mutual enjoyment of friendship and love! I see you laughing at my fairy fancies, but I am certain I would be a happy creature beyond any thing we call bliss here below; nay, it would be a paradise congenial to you, too. Don't you see us hand in hand, making our remarks on Sirius, the nearest of the fixed stars; or surveying a comet flaming innoxious by us, as we just now would mark the passing pomp of a travelling monarch.”
Written under the Portrait of Fergusson, the Poet, in a copy of that Author's works presented to a young Lady in Edinburgh, March 19th, 1787.
CURSE on ungrateful man, that can be pleas'd,
This apostrophe to Fergusson, bears a striking affinity to one in the " Epistle to William Simpson :"
"O Fergusson! thy glorious parts
My curse upon your whunstane hearts,
Ye E'nbrugh gentry!
The tythe o' what ye waste at cartes,
Wad stow'd his pantry!"
This was written before Burns visited the Scottish capital. Even without a poet's susceptibility, we may feel how this prophetic parallel of Fergusson's case with his own must have pressed on the memory of our bard, when he paid this second tribute of affection to his "elder brother" in misfortune.
A LITTLE, upright, pert, tart, tripping wight,
Still making work his selfish craft must mend.
The "Sketch" was a portion of a long poem which Burns contemplated, called "The Poet's Progress." He, however, completed no more than the little contained in this page; perhaps the response of Dugald Stewart, to whom he communicated the sketch, damped his ardour. -"The fragment," says Burns, "beginning A little, upright, pert, tart,' &c., I have not shewn to any man living till I now shew it to you. It forms the postulata, the axioms, the definition of a character, which, if it appear at all, shall be placed in a variety of lights. This particular part I send you merely as a sample of my hand at portrait sketching."
I MIND it weel in early date,
An' wi' the lave ilk merry morn
Wearing the day awa.
E'en then, a wish, I mind its pow'r,
Shall strongly heave my breast, That I for poor auld Scotland's sake Some usefu' plan or beuk could make, Or sing a sang at least.
The rough burr-thistle, spreading wide
I turn'd the weeder-clips aside,
My envy e'er could raise,
I knew nae higher praise.
But still the elements o' sang
'Till on that har'st I said before,
I fired, inspired,
At every kindling keek,
I feared aye to speak.