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TO R. GRAHAM, Esq.
WHEN Nature her great master-piece designed, And fram'd her last, best work, the human mind, Her eye intent on all the mazy plan,
She form'd of various parts the various man.
Then first she calls the useful many forth;
Some other rarer sorts are wanted yet,
The caput mortuum of gross desires
Makes a material for mere knights and squires;
The martial phosphorus is taught to flow,
She kneads the lumpish philosophic dough,
Then marks th' unyielding mass with grave designs,
Law, physic, politics, and deep divines:
Last, she sublimes th' Aurora of the poles,
The order'd system fair before her stood,
But honest Nature is not quite a Turk,
She laugh'd at first, then felt for her poor work. Pitying the propless climber of mankind,
She cast about a standard tree to find;
And, to support his helpless woodbine state,
A title, and the only one I claim,
To lay strong hold for help on bounteous Graham.
Pity the tuneful muses' hapless train,
Weak, timid landsmen on life's stormy main !
Who make poor will do wait upon I should
We own they're prudent, but who feels they're
Ye wise ones, hence! ye hurt the social eye!
But come ye who the godlike pleasure know,
I know my need, I know thy giving hand,
I trust, meantime, my boon is in thy gift:
That, plac'd by thee upon the wish'd-for height,
My muse may imp her wing for some sublimer flight.
Burns enters this poem in his manuscripts as panying a request." What that request was, the letter
which enclosed it sufficiently shows:-"You know, I dare say," he observes, of an application I lately made to your Board to be admitted an officer of Excise. I have, according to form, been examined by a supervisor, and to-day I gave in his certificate, with a request for an order for instructions. I had intended to have closed my late appearance on the stage of life in the character of a country farmer; but, after discharging some filial and fraternal claims, I find I could only fight for existence in that miserable manner, which I lived to see throw a venerable parent into the jaws of a jail; whence death, the poor man's last, and often best, friend, rescued him. I know, Sir, that to need your goodness is to have a claim on it: may I, therefore, beg your patronage to forward me in this affair, till I be appointed to a division, where, by the help of rigid economy, I will try to support that independence so dear to my soul, but which has been too often distant from my situation."
The division to which the Poet was appointed included ten country parishes, and took up much of the attention which Ellisland required. The manuscript of the poem now before me is united with the "Lines on the Hermitage," and endorsed thus:-" The three foregoing poems are the favour of the Nithsdale muses."