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more sweetly than by noticing my attempts to celebrate our illustrious ancestor, the Saviour of his Country.
"Great patriot hero! ill-requited chief!"
The first book I met with in my early years, which I perused with pleasure, was, The Life of Hannibal the next was, The History of Sir William Wallace: for several of my earlier years I had few other authors; and many a solitary hour have I stole out, after the laborious vocations of the day, to shed a tear over their glorious but unfortunate stories. In those boyish days I remember in particular being struck with that part of Wallace's story where these lines
"Syne to the Leglen wood, when it was late,
I chose a fine summer Sunday, the only day my line of life allowed, and walked half a dozen of miles to pay my respects to the Leglen wood, with as much devout enthusiasm as ever pilgrim did to Loretto: and, as I explored every den and dell where I could suppose my heroic countryman to have lodged, I recollect (for even then I was a rhymer) that my heart glowed with a wish to be able to make a song on him in some measure equal to his merits.
To MRS. STEWART of STAIR.
THE hurry of my preparations for going abroad has hindered me from performing my I have here promise so soon as I intended. sent you a parcel of songs, &c. which never made their appearance, except to a friend or two at most. Perhaps some of them may be no great entertainment to you; but of that I am far from being an adequate judge. The song to the tune of Etrick Banks, you will easily see the impropriety of exposing much, even in manuscript. I think, myself, it has some merit, both as a tolerable description of one of Nature's sweetest scenes, a July evening; and one of the finest pieces of Nature's work
manship, the finest, indeed, we know any thing of, an amiable, beautiful young woman;* but I have no common friend to procure me that permission, without which I would not dare to spread the copy.
I am quite aware, Madam, what task the world would assign me in this letter. The obscure bard, when any of the great condescend to take notice of him, should heap the altar with the incense of flattery. Their high ancestry, their own great and godlike qualities and actions, should be recounted with the most exaggerated description. This, Madam, is a task for which I am altogether unfit. Besides a certain disqualifying pride of heart, I know nothing of your connections in life, and have no access to where your real character is to be found the company of your compeers and more, I am afraid that even the most refined adulation is by no means the road to your good opinion.
One feature of your character I shall ever with grateful pleasure remember-the reception I got when I had the honour of waiting on you at Stair. I am little acquainted with politeness;
* Miss A******** ̧
but I know a good deal of benevolence of temper and goodness of heart. Surely, did those in exalted stations know how happy they could make some classes of their inferiors by condescension and affability, they would never stand so high, measuring out with every look the height of their elevation, but condescend as sweetly as did Mrs. Stewart of Stair.*
*The song inclosed is that given in the Life of our Poet; beginning,
'Twas e'en-the dewy fields were green, &c.
The lass o' Ballochmyle.
See the Index to Vol. I.
In the Name of the NINE. Amen.
WE, ROBERT BURNS, by virtue of a Warrant from NATURE, bearing date the Twenty-fifth day of January, Anno Domini one thousand seven hundred and fifty nine,* POET-LAUREAT and BARD IN CHIEF in and over the Districts and Countries of KYLE, CUNNINGHAM, and CARRICK, of old extent, To our trusty and well-beloved WILLIAM CHALMERS and JOHN M'ADAM, Students and Practitioners in the ancient and mysterious Science of CONFOUNDING RIGHT and WRONG.