Obrázky na stránke

In the end of June Jenny Geddes was again taken from the stable to carry her master for a few days through the wilds of Argyllshire and Dumbartonshire. Of this tour little is known, and its object is a mystery. He did not get on very well in Argyllshire. He penned a biting epigram at Inveraray, and, writ ir.g from Arrochar to his friend Ainslie, he described the country as one "where savage streams tumble over savage mountains, thinly overspread with savage flocks, which sparingly support as savage inhabitants."



The next journey on which the Poet set out is commonly known as the Highland tour, though only a small portion of it was spent in the Highlands proper. It occupied 22 days-from 25th August till 16th September-and the distance traversed was fully 600 miles. It embraced some of Scotland's more picturesque scenery--the ranges of Perthshire and Inverness; several of her stateliest rivers the Tay, the Findhorn, and the Spey; and her two most celebrated battlefields-Bannockburn and Culloden. Burns's fellow-traveller was William Nicoll, assistant master in Edinburgh High School. In character and disposition he greatly resembled the Poet, who promised himself much entertainment from his friend's originality of humour. Nicoll thought that a

post-chaise was more comfortable than horse-back, and so, says Burns, writing from Edinburgh, "Jenny Geddes goes back to Ayrshire, to use a phrase of my mother's, 'wi' her finger in her mouth.' The two travellers started from Edinburgh, and drove via Linlithgow and Bannockburn to Stirling; then went up Strathallan into Strathearn, and thence through Glenalmond to Dunkeld, and so on by Killiecrankie and Tummell to Blair Athol. Next they climbed the Grampians, crossed the Spey and Findhorn, and penetrated as far as Fort George, visiting Cawdor Castle in passing. Returning, they paused on Culloden Moor, then entered Inverness, and went up Loch Ness as far as the Falls of Foyers. The route then lay due east, through Nairn, Forres, Elgin (Burns thought that the venerable ruins of the Cathedral had a grander effect at first glance than Melrose, but not so beautiful), by Fochabers and Cullen to Aberdeen; then down the east coast to Edinburgh. As in the Border tour, he was the honoured guest of many distinguished people, being entertained by the Dukes of Athol and Gordon, and everywhere he had fitting respect paid to him as the Poet of his country.

This tour was much more prolific than the Border one. He kept a diary, wrote a number of letters, and produced about a dozen poems and songs, several of them showing how much he was impressed by the scenery through which he had passed. But no place seems to have had such an effect on him as Bannockburn, where he "said a fervent prayer for old Caledonia over the hole in a blue whinstone where Robert de Bruce fixed his royal standard." This is an extract from his diary :-"I fancy to myself that I see my gallant, heroic countrymen coming o'er the hill and down upon the plunderers of their country, the murderers of their fathers, noble revenge and just hate glowing in every vein, striding more and more eagerly as they approach the oppressive, insulting, and blood-thirsty foe. I see them meet in gloriouslytriumphant congratulation on the victorious field, exulting in their heroic royal leader, and rescued liberty and independence." The part of the tour which had the least interest for him was the east coast; he describes this part of his journey as not

[ocr errors]

worth rehearsing.

"Warm as I was from Ossian's country where I had seen his very grave, what cared I for fishing towr.s or fertile carses ?"


The third tour of Burns this year was a short one, though it extended for about a fortnight. Starting from Edinburgh, which was still his residence, in company with his young friend Adair, Burns went to Stirling and thence up the banks of the Devon, where the two travellers stayed for ten days at Harviestoun with Mrs Hamilton, step-mother of Burns's Mauchline friend; then

[graphic][merged small]

they proceeded to Kinross and Dunfermline, and so back to Edinburgh. It was on this tour, at Clackmannan, that the Poet and his friend were knighted by Mrs Bruce, who claimed to be a descendant of Scotland's deliverer. The honour was conferred, so it is said, with the two-handed sword of the hero. She was a Jacobite and declared that she had a better right to do it than some people. How odd "Sir Robert Burns" reads! Knowing his devotion to the cause of Scottish freedom, is it to be wondered at that the Poet knelt upon the grave of Robert the Bruce in Dunfermline Abbey, and "kissed the stone with sacred fervour ?" This tour was also poetically productive. At Harviestoun Burns was impressed with the charms of Charlotte

Hamilton aud Peggy Chalmers, and the result was
Devon," "Peggy's Charms," and "My Peggy's Face."

"Banks of

For the next six years Burns found no opportunity for touring-there was too much work to do-though as an exciseman he became familiar with a large tract of country, his duties entailing about 200 miles riding each week. His last tour was made from Dumfries with his friend Syme. It was only of a few days' duration, and embraced a portion of Galloway-the picturesque Glenkens, Kenmure Castle (where the travellers were entertained by Mr Gordon (afterwards Viscount Kenmure), Gatehouse, Kirkcudbright, and St. Mary's Isle, the seat of Earl Selkirk, who also hospitably entertained the Poet and his friend. This tour was notable as giving birth to that battle song of all time "Scots wha hae."

These, then, were the tours of Robert Burns, and they make it clear that it is no exaggeration to describe him as a tourist. He was unquestionably one of the best travelled men of his day. There are thousands of people at the present day who, with ever so many more opportunities, are very much less acquainted with the scenery of their country. Speaking generally, Burns explored Scotland from end to end, and he saw the best scenery that his country had to show. His tours had an influence on him, and how great that influence was has been roughly indicated. It did not, of course, affect his position as Poet of Scotland. He would have risen to that great height though he had never travelled beyond the bounds of his native county. But it is pleasant to think that he who knew so well the hearts of the people of Scotland also knew its rivers, its mountains, its glens, and the places chiefly renowned in the national history.




HE JAMES BURNES whose life it is here proposed briefly to sketch, was the uncle of the

poet Burns, and elder

brother of William Burnes, the Poet's father. Very little has been told of James, and that little is for the most part incorrect. He led an uneventful life of obscure respectability, of which the only account now possible must be pieced together from hitherto unexplored local records; and its chief interest for us lies in its marking a turning-point in the fortunes of the Burneses. The relative view of it, in fact, is the most suggestive and by far the most engrossing.

James is, in the first place, one of the central figures in a somewhat tangled chapter of the Poet's history-that which treats of the causes of the decaying fortunes of Robert Burnes, of Clochnahill, the grandfather of Robert Burns, and of the ultimate dispersal of his family. The confusion referred to is wholly of artificial production. Burns himself was strangely misled into assuming that the cause of his forefather's ruin was loyalty to the Stuarts, which, he says, threw his father on the world at large. For this belief there is no foundation in the form of trustworthy testimony. His grandfather certainly suffered through the Jacobite rising of '45, but in a manner far from the Poet's romance of loyalty. This will be shewn hereafter. As for the speculations of Dr Rogers and others, be they ever so confidently phrased, they are not worth controverting. Rogers contradicts. himself. He first ruined Robert of Clochnahill by an exceptionally hard winter, and afterwards by putative Jacobitism. Rogers, in short, is utterly destitute of the historic sense, and in this matter seems to have discovered a new form of amusement in theory building.

It is not known that any of the Burneses of the two generations preceding the Poet took up arms for the Stuarts. The causes of family decadence lie elsewhere, and lead to reflections of a

« PredošláPokračovať »