MEMORIALS OF A TOUR IN SCOTLAND
SUGGESTED THE DAY FOLLOWING, ON THE BANKS OF NITH, NEAR THE POET'S
TOO frail to keep the lofty vow
That must have followed when his brow
Was wreathed--"The Vision" tells us how--
With holly spray,
He faltered, drifted to and fro,
And passed away.
Well might such thoughts, dear Sister, throng
Our minds when, lingering all too long,
Over the grave of Burns we hung
In social grief--
Indulged as if it were a wrong
To seek relief.
But, leaving each unquiet theme
Where gentlest judgments may misdeem,
And prompt to welcome every gleam
Of good and fair,
Let us beside this limpid Stream
Breathe hopeful air.
Enough of sorrow, wreck, and blight;
Think rather of those moments bright
When to the consciousness of right
His course was true,
When Wisdom prospered in his sight
And virtue grew.
Yes, freely let our hearts expand,
Freely as in youth's season bland,
When side by side, his Book in hand,
We wont to stray,
Our pleasure varying at command
Of each sweet Lay.
How oft inspired must he have trod
These pathways, yon far-stretching road!
There lurks his home; in that Abode,
With mirth elate,
Or in his nobly-pensive mood,
The Rustic sate.
Proud thoughts that Image overawes,
Before it humbly let us pause,
And ask of Nature, from what cause
And by what rules
She trained her Burns to win applause
That shames the Schools.
Through busiest street and loneliest glen
Are felt the flashes of his pen;
He rules 'mid winter snows, and when
Bees fill their hives;
Deep in the general heart of men
His power survives.
What need of fields in some far clime
Where Heroes, Sages, Bards sublime,
And all that fetched the flowing rhyme
From genuine springs,
Shall dwell together till old Time
Folds up his wings?
Sweet Mercy! to the gates of Heaven
This Minstrel lead, his sins forgiven;
The rueful conflict, the heart riven
With vain endeavour,
And memory of Earth's bitter leaven,
Effaced for ever.
But why to Him confine the prayer,
When kindred thoughts and yearnings bear
On the frail heart the purest share
With all that live?--
The best of what we do and are,
Just God, forgive!
66 The following is extracted from the journal of my fellow-
traveller, to which, as persons acquainted with my poems will
know, I have been obliged on other occasions:--
"Dumfries, August 1803.
"On our way to the churchyard where Burns is buried, we were
accompanied by a bookseller, who showed us the outside of Burns's
house, where he had lived the last three years of his life, and
where he died. It has a mean appearance, and is in a bye
situation; the front whitewashed; dirty about the doors, as most
Scotch houses are; flowering plants in the window. Went to visit
his grave; he lies in a corner of the churchyard, and his second
son, Francis Wallace, beside him. There is no stone to mark the
spot; but a hundred guineas have been collected to be expended
upon some sort of monument. 'There,' said the bookseller, pointing
to a pompous monument, 'lies Mr.'--(I have forgotten the name)--'a
remarkably clever man; he was an attorney, and scarcely ever lost
a cause he undertook. Burns made many a lampoon upon him, and
there they rest as you see.' We looked at Burns's grave with
melancholy and painful reflections, repeating to each other his
own poet's epitaph:--
'Is there a man,' etc.
"The churchyard is full of grave-stones and expensive monuments,
in all sorts of fantastic shapes, obelisk-wise, pillar-wise, etc.
When our guide had left us we turned again to Burns's grave, and
afterwards went to his house, wishing to inquire after Mrs. Burns,
who was gone to spend some time by the seashore with her children.
We spoke to the maid-servant at the door, who invited us forward,
and we sate down in the parlour. The walls were coloured with a
blue wash; on one side of the fire was a mahogany desk; opposite
the window a clock, which Burns mentions, in one of his letters,
having received as a present. The house was cleanly and neat in
the inside, the stairs of stone scoured white, the kitchen on the
right side of the passage, the parlour on the left. In the room
above the parlour the poet died, and his son, very lately, in the
same room. The servant told us she had lived four years with Mrs.
Burns, who was now in great sorrow for the death of Wallace. She
said that Mrs. B.'s youngest son was now at Christ's Hospital. We
were glad to leave Dumfries, where we could think of little but
poor Burns, and his moving about on that unpoetic ground. In our
road to Brownhill, the next stage, we passed Ellisland, at a
little distance on our right--his farm-house. Our pleasure in
looking round would have been still greater, if the road had led
us nearer the spot.
* * * * *
"I cannot take leave of this country which we passed through to-
day, without mentioning that we saw the Cumberland mountains
within half-a-mile of Ellisland, Burns's house, the last view we
had of them. Drayton has prettily described the connection which
this neighbourhood has with ours, when he makes Skiddaw say,--
'Scruffel, from the sky
That Annandale doth crown, with a most amorous eye
Salutes me every day, or at my pride looks grim,
Oft threatening me with clouds, as I oft threaten him.'
"These lines came to my brother's memory, as well as the
'If Skiddaw hath a cap
Scruffel wots well of that.'
"We talked of Burns, and of the prospect he must have had,
perhaps from his own door, of Skiddaw and his companions;
indulging ourselves in the fancy that we might have been
personally known to each other, and he have looked upon those
objects with more pleasure for our sakes."