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been fondly named, in many of his other pieces; nay, we incline to believe that this latter might have been written, all but quite as well, by a man who, in place of genius, had only possessed talent.
5 Perhaps we may venture to say, that the most strictly poetical of all his 'poems' is one which does not appear in Currie's Edition; but has been often printed before and since, under the humble title of The Jolly Beggars. The subject truly is among the Io lowest in Nature; but it only the more shows our Poet's gift in raising it into the domain of Art. To our minds, this piece seems thoroughly compacted; melted together, refined; and poured forth in one flood of true liquid harmony. It is light, airy, soft of 15 movement; yet sharp and precise in its details; every face is a portrait: that raucle carlin, that wee Apollo,° that Son of Mars, are Scottish, yet ideal; the scene. is at once a dream, and the very Ragcastle of 'PoosieNansie.' Farther, it seems in a considerable degree 20 complete, a real self-supporting Whole, which is the highest merit in a poem. The blanket of the Night is drawn asunder for a moment; in full, ruddy, flaming light, these rough tatterdemalions are seen in their boisterous revel; for the strong pulse of Life 25 vindicates its right to gladness even here; and when
the curtain closes, we prolong the action, without
End I 66
But by far the most finished, complete, and truly inspired pieces of Burns are, without dispute, to be found among his Songs. It is here that, although
through a small aperture, his light shines with least obstruction; in its highest beauty and pure sunny clearness. The reason may be, that Song is a brief simple species of composition; and requires nothing so much for its perfection as genuine poetic feeling, genuine music of heart. Yet the Song has its rules equally with the Tragedy; rules which in most cases are poorly fulfilled, in many cases are not so much as felt. We might write a long essay on the Songs of to Burns; which we reckon by far the best that Britain has yet produced: for indeed, since the era of Queen Elizabeth, we know not that, by any other hand, aught truly worth attention has been accomplished in this department. True, we have songs enough 'by per15 sons of quality'; we have tawdry, hollow, wine-bred madrigals; many a rhymed speech 'in the flowing and watery vein of Ossorius the Portugal Bishop,' rich in sonorous words, and, for moral, dashed perhaps with some tint of a sentimental sensuality; all which many 20 persons cease not from endeavoring to sing; though for most part, we fear, the music is but from the throat outwards, or at best from some region far enough short of the Soul; not in which, but in a certain inane Limbo of the Fancy, or even in some 25 vaporous debatable-land on the outskirts of the Ner
vous System, most of such madrigals and rhymed speeches seem to have originated.
With the Songs of Burns we must not name these things. Independently of the clear, manly, heartfelt sentiment that ever pervades his poetry, his Songs are 5 honest in another point of view: in form, as well as in spirit. They do not affect to be set to music, but they actually and in themselves are music; they have received their life, and fashioned themselves together, in the medium of Harmony, as Venus rose from the ic bosom of the sea. The story, the feeling, is not detailed, but suggested; not said, or spouted, in rhetorical completeness and coherence; but sung, in fitful gushes, in glowing hints, in fantastic breaks, in warblings not of the voice only, but of the whole mind. 15 We consider this to be the essence of a song; and that no songs since the little careless catches, and as it were drops of song, which Shakespeare has here and there sprinkled over his Plays, fulfil this condition in nearly the same degree as most of Burns's do. 20 Such grace and truth of external movement, too, presupposes in general a corresponding force and truth of sentiment and inward meaning. The Songs of Burns are not more perfect in the former quality than in the latter. With what tenderness he sings, 25
yet with what vehemence and entireness! There is a piercing wail in his sorrow, the purest rapture in his joy; he burns with the sternest ire, or laughs with the loudest or sliest mirth; and yet he is sweet 5 and soft, sweet as the smile when fond lovers meet, and soft as their parting tear.' If we farther take into account the immense variety of his subjects; how, from the loud flowing revel in Willie brew'd a Peck o' Maut, to the still, rapt enthusiasm of sadness 10 for Mary in Heaven; from the glad kind greeting of Auld Langsyne, or the comic archness of Duncan Gray, to the fire-eyed fury of Scots wha hae wi Wallace bled, he has found a tone and words for every mood of man's heart, it will seem a small praise if we rank him as the first of all our Song-writers; for we know not where to find one worthy of being second to him.
It is on his Songs, as we believe, that Burns's chief influence as an author will ultimately be found to depend: nor, if our Fletcher's° aphorism is true, shall 20 we account this a small influence. 'Let me make the songs of a people,' said he, and you shall make its laws.', Surely, if ever any Poet might have equalled himself with Legislators on this ground, it was Burns. His Songs are already part of the mother-tongue, not 25 of Scotland only but of Britain, and of the millions