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"In each bird's careless song
Glad did I share ; While yon wild-flowers among, Chance led me there : Sweet to the opening day, Rosebuds bent the dewy spray; Such thy bloom! did I say, Phillis the fair.
"Down in a shady walk,
of any mighty magic in these lines. We have read them several times, and still feel much “in our ordinary," as the phraseis. They appear to us to be poorly imagined, and extremely ill written. What is meant by "as the lambs before me?" Is it in the same sense as "my father the deacon afore me?" the lambs that preceded me? or the lambs in my presence? What, again, is the meaning of the fourth line-" as the breeze flew o'er me?" Is it a comparison or a circumstance? Does it mean "while the breeze flew o'er me?" or, 66 as the breeze that flew o'er me?" In the one way it is idle; in the other ungrammatical. "Sport and play," prefixed to "mirth or sang," are weak and mean. "Care and anguish seize me," is veritable Vauxhall. The se
cond stanza is to us still less enchanting than the first. "Trembling, I dow nocht but glowr, sighing, dumb, despairing," is melancholy, but certainly not gentlemanlike! It strongly represents the stupor of a village imbecile." If she winna ease the thraws in my bosom swelling," is so poorly and almost ludicrously expressed, that it reconciles us to consigning the supposed lover to his long home in the next couplet without a single pang. Let any man attempt to sing this song in a mixed company, to its tune of the Quaker's wife, in the most pathetic possible style, and we venture to predict that, from the word "glowr," to the conclusion, the whole table, and more particularly the young ladies, who have by far the surest sense of the beautiful or ridiculous, will be convulsed with laughter, beginning with a titter or grin and increasing gradually to a guffaw.
We are not sure whether the next sample is inserted in Mr Thomson's Collection, though it is to be found in the Correspondence. We are sure it should not have appeared in either. It is needless to point out the faults and feeblenesses, which almost overlay the germs of fancy and feeling which it contains.
Doves cooing were; I mark'd the cruel hawk Caught in a snare : So kind may Fortune be, Such make his destiny, He who would injure thee, Phillis the fair."
To the song next in our list, our objections are of a different, and, some of our readers may think, of a more doubtful nature.
"Now rosy May comes in wi' flowers, To deck her gay, green-spreading bowers; And now comes in my happy hours
To wander wi' my Davie.
"Meet me on the warlock knowe,
Dainty Davie, dainty Davie, There I'll spend the day wi' you,
My ain dear dainty Davie.
"The crystal waters round us fa', The merry birds are lovers a', The scented breezes round us blaw,
A-wandering wi' my Davie.
"When purple morning starts the hare,
"When day, expiring in the west,* The curtain draws o' Nature's rest, I flee to his arms I lo'e best,
And that's my ain dear Davie.
"Meet me on the warlock knowe,
Bonny Davie, dainty Davie, There I'll spend the day wi' you, My ain dear dainty Davie."
There is here a great deal of sweetness, cheerfulness, and beauty; but their effect is not, to our taste, what it ought to have been. The opening of the song reminds us, though by a feeble reflection, of other delightful lines, the offspring of a greater than Burns, and with the whole of which the slenderest excuse will justify us in adorning our pages.
"Now the bright morning star, day's harbinger,
In their own sphere, the verses with which Burns begins the song under consideration, seem to promise a not unworthy echo of the May-day melody which the high-priest of the Muses had already sounded. But, alas! the delusion is soon dissipated. When we find that the great theme of gladness and source of inspiration, in the poem, is to be the prospect of wandering “wi' Davie,” we feel half ashamed of our rising enthusiasm; and when it further appears that the individual in question rejoices in the epithet of "Dainty". -"Dainty Davie"-the affair is involved in still greater embarrassment. We are of a totally different opinion from Juliet in the matter of names; and are indeed on that subject of nearly the same mind with Mr Shandy. It may be of very little moment to a young lady in love, whether her hero is a Montague or a Capulet; but if the alternative lay between one of those patronymics and that of Tomkins, or Tims, we are inclined to think that even Juliet would have been staggered. The farce of Mr H., though deservedly damned as a whole, was at least successful as a demonstration of the doctrine for
which we are now contending. Christian names are certainly not less important than surnames, and in songs are rather more so, as we do not think it is usual to give the surname in a lyric. To David generally, even to Sir David, we have a strong objection except in his proper place, and would almost here have preferred Solomon or Samuel." Davie," the diminutive, does not much mend the matter; and, on the whole, we think that the gentleman whose image is so intimately blended with the flowers of May, would, by some other name, have smelt more odoriferously, and would probably have been most effective in an anonymous form. The functions attributed to the reverend hero of the original ditty, were congenial with the name of Dainty Davie, under
which he was designated. But the lady who, in Burns's song, exhibits so just an appreciation of vernal scenery, should have been matched with a lover bearing a less vulgar appellation, or should have kept the vulgarity as much as possible in the background.
Laying out of view the unfortunate burden with which we consider it to be weighed down, the imagery in the song, generally, is pastoral and pleasing. These lines,
"The crystal waters round us fa',
The merry birds are lovers a', The scented breezes round us blaw," are redolent of youth and joy, and are almost every thing that they should be. The epithet of "crystal" to falling waters, however, is of doubtful propriety, as crystal falling in any shape is rather a nervous idea. We feel a stronger, and we think a more substantial objection, to the picture in the last verse, of day" expiring, and drawing the curtain of Nature's rest." We are not so fastidious as to repudiate all similitudes that may be borrowed from artificial or mechanical objects. can, without aversion, think of the moon as the "refulgent lamp of night;" and would even occasionally, as here. allow the upholsterer to bear his part, To despise the "curtain-drawing" of Burns, in a simple song, would be unjust in any who are willing to admire in a sacred hymn a metaphor of Milton, which gives us still more of the details and drapery of the bed-chamber
"So when the Sun in bed,
Curtain'd with cloudy red,
What we object to in the stanza now before us, is not that the curtain should be drawn, but that this should be done by " Day" when represented as "expiring; an expression which, in an imaginative passage of this kind, must be taken in a literal, and not in a reflected sense. Drawing the curtain
would be appropriate enough in a person going to sleep; but, in one "expiring," it is never needed, and not often attempted. The figure of Death thus presented to us, in a scene of peace and joy, is incongruous and painful.
We would further observe, with reference to this song, that Mr Thomson's usual censorial powers seem to have been lulled into a slumber when he allowed it to pass without question. Mr Thomson is as vigilant as a kirksession to discover any impropriety of conduct, or even to entertain a fama in the case of the heroes and heroines of the older songs; and it is surprising that he should not have perceived the suspicious position of "Dainty Davie" and his female admirer. They certainly do not appear to be residing together as married persons, otherwise there would be no occasion for their
frequent assignations on the "warlock knowe;" and, therefore, the lady's flying to her Davie's arms, when "Day draws the curtain of Nature's rest," is a feature in the case that " rigour," or "advice with scrupulous heed," would have pronounced to be at least as dangerous as most things of the kind in the old school.
These are not scruples that would occur to ourselves, who are always disposed to put the best construction on the behaviour of young people; but they are unanswerable objections, as against Mr Thomson, who carried his views so far as to pronounce the delightful old song of "Saw ye my father" to be both indelicate and silly. Burns was of a different opinion there on both points, and so are we. The strain we now refer to is old, indeed, and in one sense simple; but we see not the silliness. What is there silly in the "lassie's" bargain with the bird that was her only time-teller, that, if he was faithful to his office,
"His breast it shall be of the bonny beaten gowd,
And his wings of the silver grey?"
Is the catastrophe silly, or is it sweetly poetical?
"The cock proved fause, and untrue he
For he crew an hour o'er soon: The lassie thought it day when she sent her love away,
And it was but a glimpse of the moon."
cious hour of sweet and secret love, seems to us to indicate both " sense and sensibility," and the premature anticipation of dawn, from a fitful effulgence of the wading moon, is both graphically and poetically pleasing. Have we not, in the highest poetry, the same subject handled in a somewhat similar, though it may be in a superior style, as superior as the genius of Shakspeare over that of all other men? And shall we not admire the reflection, in our own homely and nameless minstrel, of the same burning spirit that gave birth to the doubts and delusions of Juliet and her lover, when fearfully watching the approach of dawn, and avaricious of every moment that the night would grant them? The mistake in the one case is in the cock, in giving warning 'too soon; in the other, it is in the fond lover refusing to believe a warning that was almost too late. But a parallel between the situations is, to our minds, easily drawn ; and in each of the representations, after its own kind and measure, we can admire the feeling of tenderness and beauty which prompted the poetry.
"Jul. Wilt thou be gone? it is not yet near day :
It was the nightingale, and not the lark That pierced the fearful hollow of thine
No nightingale; look, love, what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east:
Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund Day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops:
I must begone and live; or stay and die. Jul. Yon light is not daylight, I know it, I:
It is some meteor that the sun exhales, To be to thee this night a torch-bearer, And light thee on thy way to Mantua: Therefore, stay yet, thou need'st not to be gone.
Rom. Let me be ta'en, let me be put
I am content so thou wilt have it so:
The vaulty heaven so high above our heads;
I have more care to stay, than will to go; Come, death, and welcome! Juliet wills it so."
With regard to the question of indelicacy, the old song of "Saw ye my father," appears to us to have at least as little of that blemish as the modern one of "Dainty Davie," which we have above considered. But why should we suspect indelicacy where it is not necessarily to be inferred? Manners are one thing and morals another: nor are all things alike blamable in different circumstances. What might be very hazardous and very horrible in Mr Thomson or Miss Tomkins, may, in the case of Johnnie and Jeannie, be safe and innocent. In the humble ranks of life, through all parts of the world, interviews between lovers, strong in love and in honesty, have taken place at midnight as blamelessly as at noon. But, besides, if we are driven to it, why not suppose a private marriage, as in the case of Romeo and Juliet? Marriages are easily contracted in Scotland; and the admirable judgment and speech of Sir William Scott in the Dalrymple case has put such proceedings on a footing perfectly secure and satisfactory, at least for all the purposes of poetry, if not of practice. Evil to him who evil thinks. For our part, we are willing to go to the stake in defence of our firm belief, that the conduct of Johnny and his mistress in the old song, how ever it is to be explained, would be found perfectly unexceptionable if we knew the whole particulars.
"Saw ye my father," however, was not admissible into the Thomson collection; and therefore, contrary to Burns's own conscience and conviction, the task was imposed on him of supplying its place by one more pure or more prudish. Let us now see how that task was fulfilled :
"Where are the joys I have met in the morning,
That danced to the lark's early song?
No more I trace the light footsteps of pleasure,
But sorrow and sad-sighing care.
"Is it that summer's forsaken our valleys,
Proclaim it the pride of the year.
"Fain would I hide what I fear to discover,
Yet long; long too well have I known, All that has caused this wreck in my bosom,
Is Jenny, fair Jenny, alone.
"Time cannot aid me, my griefs are immortal,
Nor hope dare a comfort bestow; Come, then, enamour'd, and fond of my anguish,
Enjoyment I'll seek in my woe."
In its kind, the opening of this song is good. We are not, however, pleased with the strained fancy of joys" dancing" in the morning to the lark's song. The lines
"Where is the peace that awaited my wand'ring,
At evening the wild woods among,"
are natural and touching. The second and third verses are fair, though with here and there a clumsy expression.
The two last verses, we take leave to say, are about as bad as ever were written. When personally introduced to the heroine of this sentimental strain, we involuntarily, and with more justice, exclaim with Mrs Quickly, "Vengeance of Jenny's case! fie on her, never name her!" "My griefs are immortal,"—“ Enamoured, and fond of my anguish," "Enjoyment I'll seek in my woe," are frigid exaggerations, or absolute fustian.
We might dwell, alas! much longer on this part of our task; but we have greater pleasure in proceeding to notice the best among those songs of Burns, which we consider to be worthy of his high genius, and of the
Where is the peace that awaited my lyrical reputation which they have
At evening the wild woods among?
"No more a-winding the course of yon river,
And marking sweet flow'rets so fair:
obtained for him. We shall point out in these the beauties which appear to us to be most solid and conspicuous; but shall not spare to animadvert also on the blemishes or inequalities by which their value is alloyed.
shall divide the subjects of our consideration into three classes, though each sometimes merges into the other Songs of Spirit, Songs of Tenderness, and Songs of Merriment.
No song, perhaps, has been oftener sung or quoted, or is more completely identified with Burns's name, than the "Address of Bruce to his Army at Bannockburn." Though it probably dwells in the memories of all, let us lay it before our readers, and offer a few observations upon its merits.
"Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Or to victory!
"Now's the day and now's the hour;
"Wha will be a traitor knave? Wha can fill a coward's grave ? Wha sae base as be a slave ?
Let him turn and flee!
"Wha for Scotland's king and law Freedom's sword will strongly draw? Freeman stand, or freeman fa'?—
Let him on wi' me!
"By oppression's woes and pains, By your sons in servile chains, We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!
"Lay the proud usurper low! Tyrants fall in every foe; Liberty's in every blow!
Let us do or die!"
We have so often sung or murmured to ourselves this impressive song-we have so often heard it said and sung by others-it has so long been established in our imaginations as the actual address which preceded and helped to gain the battle that secured our country's independence, that it is with difficulty we can escape from the engrained prepossessions thus produced, and place ourselves in the free and indifferent position of liberal critics. We shall try, however, to do so; and shall task ourselves to determine what is the precise degree and amount of praise to which this poem is intrinsically entitled. When we hear it commended as splendid or sublime, and enquire in what particulars it exhibits those qua
lities, we are unable to find a satisfactory answer. We discover no profound reflections-no soaring imaginations; we meet with nothing that is not a common topic in such a situation-nothing that is unexpectedly striking, or touching, or terrible, in the images presented to us. far as the thoughts are concerned, we question if there is any thing which a schoolboy might not have introduced into a theme on such a subject; and probably, if he had read Galgacus's speech in the life of Agricola, a clever schoolboy might have introduced sentiments which were more pointed, if not more pithy. But, on the other hand, when we look at it, not as a composition of lofty genius or of creative poetry, but as a plain and powerful exhortation to a patriotic struggle, and introduced as a popular versification of ideas suitable to so great an occasion, and yet level to the capacities and sympathies of all men ; when we observe the vigorous, manly, and resolute tone in which those ideas are expressed, and the absence of any thing feeble or foreign to the matter at issue, we willingly pronounce it to be an admirable example of the martial lyric, and a successful achievement of a difficult and honourable task. If the imaginative reader finds nothing in it which surpasses the common notions of all mankind on so exciting a subject, the universal applause with which ordinary minds have received it, is at least a proof that it does not in any thing fall short of that standard. If the same ideas have often been thought, the result of the experiment proves that they have never, or not often, been so well expressed.
We like as well, if not better, what Mr Thomson pleasantly calls a vivela-bagatelle song, but which, to us, appears a rather more serious affair. "Is there for honest poverty
That hangs his head, and a' that?
The coward slave we pass him by,
Our toils obscure, and a' that;
The man's the gowd for a' that. "What though on hamely fare we dine, Wear hodden grey, and a' that? Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
A man's a man for a'that.