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be stormed, or remain forever shut against him! His means are the commonest and rudest; the mere work done is no measure of his strength. A dwarf behind his steam-engine may remove mountains; but no dwarf will hew them down with the pickaxe: and he must be a Titan that hurls them abroad with his arms.
"It is in this last shape that Burns presents himself. Born in an age the most prosaic Britain had yet seen, and in a condition the most disadvantageous, where his mind, if it accomplished aught, must accomplish it under the pressure of continual bodily toil, nay of penury, and desponding apprehension of the worst evils, and with no furtherance but such knowledge as dwells in a poor man's hut, and the rhymes of a Ferguson or Ramsay for his standard of beauty, he sinks not under all these impediments. Through the fogs and darkness of that obscure region, his eagle eye discerns the true relations of the world and human life; he grows into intellectual strength, and trains himself into intellectual expertness. Impelled by the irrepressible movement of his inward spirit, he struggles forward into the general view, and with haughty modesty lays down before us, as the fruit of his labors, a gift which time has pronounced imperishable. Add to all this, that his darksome, drudging childhood and youth was by far the kindliest of his whole life; and that he died in his thirty-seventh year; and then ask if it be strange that his poems are imperfect, and of small extent, or that his genius attained no mastery of his art? Alas! his sun shone as through a tropical tornado; and the pale shadows of death eclipsed it at noon! Shrowded in such baleful vapors, the genius of Burns was never seen in clear azured splendor enlightening the world. But some beams from it did, by fits, pierce through; and it tinted those clouds with rainbow and orient colors, into a glory and stern grandeur, which men silently gazed on with wonder and tears!"
It is very true that many of the commentaries of the publishers, biographers, and reviewers of Burns, bear the marks of unequivocal eulogy; and that the verdicts of his analytical judges and critics do not uniformly agree. But whoever looks at the text of other poets of nature, and then at the annotations which smother it, will not marvel at such discrepancies; and as to the laudatory inclinings, if it be considered that the public voice of Scotland had unanimously been raised on behalf of the poet, even in deafening roar, in meetings select, literary, legislative, deliberative, and popular, this echo from those interested in the sale of the works of Burns falls rather short of what might have been expected. One of the most important criticisms (important because it was early, and indubitably impartial) pronounced upon the poetry of the Caledonian bard, was given by the celebrated premier, William Pitt.
At the late Lord Liverpool's table, soon after Burns' death, Mr. Pitt said, "I can think of no verse since Shakspeare's, that has so much the appearance of coming sweetly from nature." (Page 237.) One of the most eloquent English statesmen ever heard in debate, here runs the parallel between Burns and the great Bard of Avon. The next favorable eminent English authority is that of Lord Byron, expressed with brevity and decision. (Page 314.) These are followed by the concurrent decisions of Campbell and Sir Walter Scott (315 to 318.) That the latter, as authorities, are of less weight, on national grounds solely, must be obvious to every reader. At the same time, intrinsically, they are as unobjectionable every way as if they were English, French, or American.
In answering the question, what is claimed for Burns? it is obvious that justice demands, that in estimating the productions of genius, the abstract idea of quantity should be utterly dismissed.
Who would disparage Shakspeare for his lioness-like barrenness? Or who would place Lopez de Vega above him for
his rabbit fecundity? How many ship loads of "poetical trifles," "poetical effusions,” metrical essays, and collections of poems, dedicated and undedicated, critically noticed and unnoticed, would be equitably required to poise that single production of a giant pen, Gray's Elegy? or our bard's "Scots wha hac," &c. What architect would divert the admiration of the spectator from the Temples of Jupiter and Minerva, and claim it for the Pyramids? Or what critical eye would, while inspiring delight from the proportions of the Venus de Medicis, or the Apollo Belvidere, wander to the colossal but comparatively inelegant figure of the Elephant?
In divinity, the folios of Gill enjoy as profound a tranquillity as their author does, many years since entombed:while the Meditations of Hervey, and the Night Thoughts of Young, in duodecimo, are found in every polite orthodox library. It would be proper without doubt to estimate fairly the regrets which have been poured forth so copiously, and, as every one believes, sincerely, over the early decease of Burns, and the consequent loss of his continuous literary labors. But who can truly desire that the poet of nature should have continued to write until he had no readers for his last production? Who can answer, that he would have gone on to rise in interest? Might he not have gone on towards the climax attained by Martinus Scriblerus? Would it have been desirable to have found him throwing crude, diluted water-gruel stuff of poetry, generated by the lees of Port, Burgundy, Champagne, late hours, and the carbon of sca coal, by the side of that balsamic nectar-like menstruum, which the green fields, the genial warmth of the blessed sun, and the pure air, teeming from the fresh earth, concocted in a génial brain, in the kail-yard, or behind the plough at Mossgiel? Was it indeed desirable that Burns should, because he had acquired "fair fame," have gone on to have beaten his inch of precious metal into the length and breadth necessary for covering an acre of ground? The
poets of olden times wrote "because they were moved," and dictated from the overflowings of nature; but do not the moderns throw out bars of bullion to their first customers, and do not later comers receive only paper!
It has been justly remarked, that the earliest productions of many eminent writers have been the most successful. Fielding's Tom Jones, and his Amelia have been respectively compared to the rising and the setting sun. Whatever Cervantes wrote besides Don Quixote, has in the wide world's estimate never compared with it. Le Sage did not add materially to the fame of the writer of Gil Blas, in placing by its side Le Diable Boiteaux. Miss Burney's Evelina evinces more vigor than any subsequent production from her pen. Paradise Lost was a more successful poem than Paradise Regained. Campbell has put forth nothing latterly which even approaches the combined refinement, vigor, and pathos, of his "Pleasures of Hope," "Wounded Hussar," and "Exile of Erin." Many persons maintain there is more sweetness and power in the Childe Harold of Lord Byron, than in any of his other works. Opinions are advanced in favor of the Spy, as the most vigorous of Cooper's novels And there is little doubt that the earlier writings of Washington Irving have decidedly the most racy points about them. There appears to be a limited period in the life of man for the production of chef d'œuvres and master pieces. After this period has passed, the trumpet may be sounded, and the word of command may be given, but the troops will not rush to the charge: they halt, take breath, and do their business leisurely and mechanically.
It is asserted that "the countrymen of Burns have been too partial."
It appears as natural that the first honors of a poet should spring from his country, as it does that light should enter at the window and not at the door.
A false conclusion is evidently attempted to be drawn from the admitted fact of Scottish nationality: but how in reality
do the particulars of Burns' case stand? First the poet himself doubted and distrusted his own powers from the beginning: he blushes at the sight of his verses in a magazine. He retreats behind, and proposes to himself, as beacons of excellence, such writers as Ferguson, Allan Ramsay, and others scarcely known abroad, except from the pages of Burns' biographers; and, observes the poet of Scotland, with profound modesty, "Doctor Blacklock belonged to a set of critics for whose applause I had not dared to hope."
And when a change in his literary prospects justified his appearance in Edinburgh; and when he was bidden to the banquets of the wise, the learned, and the great, he was in reality undergoing his fearful probation; for, during the enjoyment of these honors, he was "conned" and "noted:" there were conditions annexed to this beneficial contract; and Burns on his part delivered himself, to be sifted, catechised, and weighed by golden scales, on which were marked grains as well as pennyweights. The Scotch characteristic prudence did not forsake the Blairs, the Walkers, the Ramsays, and the Blacklocks, his examiners: but he came from this ordeal like gold from the hands of the assayer. As proof indubitable, the second edition of Burns' Poems came out during this visit to the Scottish Athens-came out triumphantly, under the very eye of the Gamaliels of that day. Besides, the cry opened by the pack of malcontents respecting the manners and morals of Burns proves that there were enough ready then as there is always to be found in every country and in every age, to repress rising talent, and to sink extraordinary pretensions to the common level; not by the fair, straight-forward and manly course of showing professional inability, but by the thousand times repeated destestable trick, of stabbing the poet through the man. How many victims may be numbered of this Anthropophagi, this Polyphemus-like policy? Pope was ridiculed for personal deformity, and dubbed A PE, by Dennis, who was a barnacle only stuck to