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The smile or frown of awful Heav'n,
Say, to be just, and kind, and wise,
Thus resign'd and quiet, creep
Sleep, whence thou shalt ne'er awake,
Stranger, go! Heav'n be thy guide!
The hermitage in which these elegant lines were written was the property of Captain Riddel, a distinguished antiquarian, who lived at Friars-Carse some mile or so above Ellisland. A small door admitted the Poet at his own pleasure into the wood where the Hermitage was built; there he found such seclusion as he loved; flowers and shrubs were thickly planted round the place, and in the interior were chairs and a table for the accommodation of visiters. The first dozen lines of the poem, or perhaps more, were inscribed with a diamond,
which Burns ever carried about with him, on a pane of glass in the window. While Riddel lived, and even during the life of Burns, the verses were respected; the proprietor, however, at length removed them and had them secured in a frame.
Friars-Carse is altogether one of the loveliest spots in the Nith the natural beauty of the place was much improved by the taste of the antiquarian. He formed picturesque lines of road; planted elegant shrubberies; raised a rude Druidic temple on the summit of a rough precipitous hill, which over-towers the Nith, and in all the chief walks of his grounds he placed many rare and valuable reliques of Scotland's elder day: such as sculptured troughs, ornamented crosses, and inscribed altars which he had collected at much outlay from all parts of Scotland.—“ I shall transcribe for you,” says Burns to Mrs. Dunlop, "a few lines I wrote in a hermitage, belonging to a gentleman in my Nithsdale neighbourhood. They are almost the only favours the muses have conferred on me in this country."
TO CAPTAIN RIDDEL,
EXTEMPORE LINES ON RETURNING A NEWSPAPER.
Ellisland, Monday Evening.
YOUR news and review, Sir, I've read through and
With little admiring or blaming ;
The papers are barren of home-news or foreign,
No murders or rapes worth the naming.
Our friends, the reviewers, those chippers and hewers,
Are judges of mortar and stone, Sir;
My goose-quill too rude is to tell all your goodness Bestow'd on your servant, the Poet;
Would to God I had one like a beam of the sun,
And then all the world, Sir, should know it!
The review which Captain Riddel sent to the Bard contained some sharp strictures on his poetry. Burns estimated at once the right value of all such criticisms: he felt that true genius had nothing to dread, and that dulness and stupidity would sink, from their own weight, without the aid of satire. In another place, when speaking of the "chippers and hewers," he questions their jurisdiction, and claims to be tried by his peers. His peers could not easily be found, so the Poet was safe. He seemed to imagine that critics should first shew their feeling in original composition, before they commenced judges by trade, and was half inclined to complain, with Pope, that
Not one sprig of laurel graced those ribalds,
Burns was a frequent guest at the board of Glenriddel, and, as he returned to Ellisland, loved to linger on Nithside,
"Delighted with the dashing roar,"
when the river, swollen, perhaps, with rains on the mountains, was rough and raging, and
"Chafed against the scaurs red side,"
on the summit of which he had built his abode.
A MOTHER'S LAMENT
THE DEATH OF HER SON.
FATE gave the word, the arrow sped,
By cruel hands the sapling drops,
The mother-linnet in the brake
Death, oft I've fear'd thy fatal blow,
"The Mother's Lament," says the Poet, in a copy of the poem now before me, "was composed partly with a view to Mrs. Fergusson of Craigdarroch, and partly to the worthy patroness of my early unknown muse, Mrs. Stewart of Afton."