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Be it known unto you, That whereas, in the course of our care and watchings over the Order and Police of all and sundry the MANUFACTURERS, RETAINERS, and VENDERS of POESY; Bards, Poets, Poetasters, Rhymers, Jinglers, Songsters, Ballad-singers, &c. &c. &c. &c. &c. male and female-We have discovered a certain * *, nefarious, abominable, and wicked SONG or BALLAD, a copy whereof We have here inclosed; Our WILL THEREFORE IS, that Ye pitch upon and appoint the most exe crable Individual of that most execrable Species, known by the appellation, phrase, and nickname of THE DEIL'S YELL NOWTE:* and, after having caused him to kindle a fire at the CROSS of AYR, ye shall, at noontide of the day, put into the said wretch's merciless hands the said copy of the said nefarious and wicked Song to be consumed by fire in the presence of áll Beholders, in abhorrence of, and terrorem to, all such COMPOSITIONS and COMPOSERS. And this in no wise leave ye undone, but have it executed in every point as this OUR MANDATE bears, before the twenty-fourth current, when IN PERSON We hope to applaud your faithfulness and zeal.
* Old Bachelors.
GIVEN at MAUCHLINE, this twentieth day of November, Anno Domini one thousand seven hundred and eighty-six.*
GOD SAVE THE BARD!
* Inclosed was the ballad, probably Holy Willie's Prayer.
The Reverend MR. G. LOWRIE.
REVEREND AND DEAR SIR,
I OUGHT to have acknowledged your favour long ago, not only as a testimony of your kind remembrance, but as it gave me an opportunity of sharing one of the finest, and, perhaps, one of the most genuine entertainments, of which the human mind is susceptible. A number of avocations retarded my progress in reading the poems; at last, however, I have finished that pleasing perusal. Many instances have I seen of Nature's force and beneficence exerted under numerous and formidable disadvantages; but none equal to that with which you have been kind enough to
present me. There is a pathos and delicacy in his serious poems, a vein of wit and humour in those of a more festive turn, which cannot be too much admired, nor too warmly approved; and I think I shall never open the book without feeling my astonishment renewed and increased. It was my wish to have expressed my approbation in verse; but whether from declining life, or a temporary depression of spirits, it is at present out of my power to accomplish that agreeable intention.
Mr. Stewart, Professor of Morals in this University, had formerly read me three of the poems, and I had desired him to get my name inserted among the subscribers: but whether this was done, or not, I never could learn. I have little intercourse with Dr. Blair, but will take care to have the poems communicated to him by the intervention of some mutual friend. It has been told me by a gentleman, to whom I shewed the performances, and who sought a copy with diligence and ardour, that the whole impression is already exhausted. It were, therefore, much to be wished, for the sake of the young man, that a second edition, more numerous than the former, could immediately be printed; as it appears certain that its intrinsic merit, and the exertion of the author's friends,
might give it a more universal circulation than any thing of the kind which has been published within my memory."
* The reader will perceive that this is the letter which produced the determination of our Bard to give up his scheme of going to the West Indies, and to try the fate of a new edition of his Poems in Edinburgh. A copy of this letter was sent by Mr. Lowrie to Mr. G. Hamilton, and by him communicated to Burns, among whose papers it was found.
For an account of Mr. Lowrie and his family see the letter of Gilbert Burns to the Editor, in the Appendix to Vol. III.