THE WINNING ENTRY:
THE SIX BEST RUNNERS-UP:
also some unplaced entries, including those submitted by the Scottish artisan poet
the pre-Raphaelite artist
JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS,
and the poet
GEORGE JOHN CAYLEY.
By Miss Isa Craig......
"To these interesting notices may here be fitly appended, what, apart from intrinsic merit, may be considered the most remarkable production ever penned regarding Burns.
It was at the centenary of his birth, January 25, 1859, that a great festival was held at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, in honour of the memory of the Scottish national poet.
Many personal relics of the illustrious dead were shewn; there was a concert of his best songs.
Then it was announced to the vast and highly-strung auditory, that the offered prize of fifty guineas had brought together 621 poems by different authors, in honour of Burns's
memory; out of which the three gentlemen judges had selected one as the
best; and this was forthwith read by Mr. Phelps, the eminent tragedian, with thrilling effect.
It proved to be the composition of a young countrywoman of Burns, up to that time scarcely known, but who was in some respects not less wonderful, as an example of genius springing up in the lowly paths of life—her name,
There was an enthusiastic call for the youthful prize-holder, and had she been present, she would have received honours exceeding in fervour those at the laureation of
Petrarch; but Miss Craig was then pursuing her modest duties in a distant part of London, unthinking of the proceedings at Sydenham.
The poem was as
ON THE CENTENARY OF BURNS.
Duchess Agnes, Etc. 1864.]
hail this morn,
A century's noblest birth;
A Poet peasant-born,
Who more of Fame's immortal dower
Unto his country brings,
Than all her Kings!
As lamps high set
Upon some earthly eminence,—
And to the gazer brighter thence
Than the sphere-lights they flout,—
Dwindle in distance and die out,
While no star waneth yet;
So through the past's far-reaching night
Only the star-souls keep their light.
A gentle boy,—
With moods of sadness and of mirth,
Quick tears and sudden joy,—
Grew up beside the peasant's hearth.
His father's toil he shares;
But half his mother's cares
From his dark searching eyes,
Too swift to sympathise,
Hid in her heart she bears.
At early morn,
His father calls him to the field;
Through the stiff soil that clogs his feet,
Chill rain and harvest heat,
He plods all day; returns at eve outworn,
To the rude fare a peasant's lot doth yield;—
To what else was he born?
The God-made King
Of every living thing
(For his great heart in love could hold them all);
The dumb eyes meeting his by hearth and stall,—
Gifted to understand!—
Knew it and sought his hand;
And the most timorous creature had not fled,
Could she his heart have read,
Which fain all feeble things had blessed and shelterèd.
To Nature's feast,—
Who knew her noblest guest
And entertained him best—
Kingly he came. Her chambers of the east
She draped with crimson and with gold,
And poured her pure joy-wines
For him the poet-souled.
For him her anthem rolled
From the storm-wind among the winter pines,
Down to the slenderest note
Of a love-warble, from the linnet's throat.
But when begins
The array for battle, and the trumpet blows,
A King must leave the feast, and lead the fight.
And with its mortal foes—
Grim gathering hosts of sorrows and of sins,—
Each human soul must close.
And Fame her trumpet blew
Before him; wrapped him in her purple state;
And made him mark for all the shafts of fate,
That henceforth round him flew.
Though he may yield
Hard-pressed, and wounded fall
Forsaken on the field;
His regal vestments soiled
His crown of half its jewels spoiled;
He is a king for all.
Had he but stood aloof!
Had he arrayed himself in armour-proof
Against temptation's darts!
So yearn the good;—so those the world calls wise,
With vain presumptuous hearts,
A sacred shadow on his memory rests;
Tears have not ceased to flow;
Indignant grief yet stirs impetuous breasts,
To think—above that noble soul brought low,
That wise and soaring spirit, fooled, enslaved,—
Thus, thus he had been saved!
It might not be!
That heart of harmony
Had been too rudely rent;
Its silver chords, which any hand could wound,
By no hand could be tuned,
Save by the Maker of the instrument,
Its every string who knew,
And from profaning touch his heavenly gift withdrew.
His country fain would grove,
By grateful honours lavished on his grave;
Would fain redeem her blame
That he so little at her hands can claim,
Who unrewarded gave
To her his life-bought gift of song and fame.
The land he trod
Hath now become a place of pilgrimage;
Where dearer are the daisies of the sod
That could his song engage.
The hoary hawthorn, wreathed
Above the bank on which his limbs he flung
While some sweet plaint he breathed;
The streams he wandered near;
The maidens whom he loved; the songs he sung;—
All, all are dear!
The arch blue eyes—
Arch but for love's disguise,—
Of Scotland's daughters, soften at his strain;
Her hardy sons, sent forth across the main
To drive the ploughshare through earth's virgin soils,
Lighten with it their toils;
And sister-lands have learned to love the tongue
In which such songs are sung.
For doth not Song
To the whole world belong?
Is it not given wherever tears can fall,
Wherever hearts can melt, or blushes glow,
Or mirth and sadness mingle as they flow,
A heritage to all?
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By Frederic W. H. Myers. . . . .
HE passed, our wonder, our regret;
Two generations since have yielded breath,
But bright remembrance glows among us yet,
And glory broadens from the plunge of death.
So sure a fame the sacred poet waits,
That though unreverenced he cross the gates
Which bar the realms of action and of doom;
He murmurs not, content to see
His praise beyond obscurity,
His glory out of gloom;
Nor fitly charges equal fate, but knows
That through conjectured ages far to be,
Meet honour fails not from his tomb, but grows
To plenitude with just posterity.
So is it with that memory we set
More fair than any fame to Scotsmen yet;
For neither passed he in mid storm of praise,
As Romulus in thunder, from the throng,
Nor led in honoured ease melodious days,
And from his fulness shook the land with song:
But through stern toil of unrejoicing youth
He reared a spirit open-eyed to truth,
Nor baser ever through calamity,
But keen from deepening care to see
The broad world glad in good, and misery
Prelude and germ of fair eternity.
No station his of wealth or honoured birth,
No fame ancestral whence to stir the earth,
Nought save his manhood and high worth;
So truth arose in peasant mind
Wherewith all freedom rings,
Of force to scatter to the wind
False pride, which station
"Man's exaltation is not that he rules,
Nor can accrue just honour unto fools;
The good is noblest of his kind,
The poet more than kings."
Therefore his people glories in his birth,
And under many a morn his name is great,
And we from many a realm of earth
His honour celebrate
Who forced not song for petty praise,
Nor in feigned passion raved for sympathy,
But lightened into earnest lays,
In truth and rare simplicity;
And knowing man to man is kin,
Sang loud to brothers far and near,
And stood in strength that rose within
Unwarped by praise, unchecked by fear.
O silent shapes athwart the darkening sky?
Magnificence of many-folded hills,
Where the dead mist hangs and the lone hawks cry,
Seamed with the white fall of a thousand rills;
O lucid lakes! serene from shore to shore,
With promontories set of solemn pines,
Broad mirrors which the pale stars tremble o'er,
Deep-drawn among the misty mountain lines;
O holy hearths, intemerate of crime!
O tale of martyrs by the flickering sod!
O righteous race, in stedfast toil sublime!
O noblest poem, "Let us worship God!"
taught him, shaping truthful days;
Of you he told to men, for he
From wayside reeds sweet tone could raise
More dear than full accord of symphony,
Knowing that whatsoe'er the poet sings,
Of prototyped in nature or in man,
Moves deeply, though it touch not wrath of king:
Or frantic battle-van.
But most intent the people hears,
Tranced to silence, thrilled to tears,
When the joys of love and fears
Fall in music on their ears;
Stirring noble sympathies,
Waking hope and high desire,
And, to introspective eyes,
Granting glimpse of Heaven's fire.
Nor scorns he such delight, whose heart and eye
Are tempered to the truth of poesy,
Nor following baser natures, would degrade
Aught from that honour which the Eternal made;
Nor ranks this frame the
Nor lovely form the slave of sense;
But knowing good is beauty, hath believed
Beauty is also good, nor oft deceived;
Yea, such a surge of life his pulses fills,
And so abounding passion through him thrills,
That with fierce cries for sympathy,
With longing and with agony,
The glory of his thought goes forth to greet
All fair, though unregarding, he shall meet,
And oft with price the mean endues,
The ignoble holds for rare;
And wooing bright imagined hues
A phantom loveliness pursues,
But knows too late an equal otherwhere.
So in deep ambrosial night
Falls a star from heaven's height;
Mad for earth, a sliding spark
Down the deadness of the dark,
Falleth, findeth his desire,
Loseth his celestial fire,
Quenched to iron, like his love,
For her face is fair above;
But within her heart is stone,
Adamant and chalcedon.
But he for whom three peoples mourn,
On many a breeze of madness borne,
At many a fancied loss forlorn,
Yet soon as stedfast will began,
And life through firmer manhood ran,
To one prime passion nobly true,
In bliss, but most in sorrow, knew
A woman's perfect love, best boon to man.
So lived he, fearing God; his ways
Were dim with penury, uncheered of praise;
Yet not without a noble work begun—
One cry for truth against the might of wrong;
One bolt from thunder-volleys hurled,
On that grim prince who rules the world.
The bright defiance of a lightning song;
O not without a noble work begun,
Failed he in sorrow from the sun,
Fared he to tell the deeds that he had done,
Leaving his people, to the latest days,
A heritage of unforgotten lays.
But nearer aye the hounds of Ruin bayed,
And Error was upon him, that he strayed,
And close at heart remorseful Phrensy preyed,
And pitiless Disaster ran him
Till mute Death took him, weary, undismayed,
And calm in hallowed earth his bones were laid;
His the toil, be his the
O great heart by low passions swayed!
O high soul by base cares assayed!
O silence, silence, never to be broken,
Till some dread word from the white throne be spoken!
Ah! yet we trust he findeth end to ill,
Nor in deep peace remembereth misery,
Who in the heart of his loved land is still,
Between the mountains and the clamorous sea.
There all night the deeps are loud,
Billow far to billow roaring,
But he, sleeping in his shroud,
Heareth not the waters pouring
Yea, though the sun shall wheel a splendrous form
Unseen, above the dim cloud-cataract,
Though lightnings glimmer to the rainy tract,
And all the land be wan with storm,
He knows not, wont of old to see,
In high thought severed from his kind,
Beyond the wrack Divinity,
Jehovah on the wind.
O story sadder than dethroned kings—
A poet lost to earth!
Yea, though his land in plenty sings,
Forgetful of her dearth,
And though his people in just laws is great,
And willing fealty to an equal state,
And though her commerce on all ocean thrives,
And every province swarms with happy lives,
Yet weep the great heart hidden in the sod;
All else to man through faithful toil arrives—
The poet straight from God.
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The Birth-Day of Burns.
"Gaudente terrâ vomere laureato, et triumphal!
BIRTH-DAYS, my brothers!—do not our affections
Mark them with cross or star
Of prophecies, still more than recollections,
In home's sweet calendar?
Then why keep birth-days of the great men sleeping
Under the church-yard grass?—
No prophecies of gladness or of weeping
Across the hush'd ones pass.
Below, there may be shadows raining over,
And sunlights chasing fleet,
And seasonable change of bud and clover
At the cold head and feet.
They are withdrawn from all the stir and clanging
To life divinely still:
Rapturous, yet changeless, like a torrent hanging,
White, from some purple hill.
Earth plays the stepdame to her poets ever,
—Then grieves and gives them fame;
As if they cared to hear by God's great river
The echoes of their name!
Her martyrologies high Genius fashions
With many a line of red;
Each birth-day in them hath its acts and passions:
O wronged and gifted dead!
Therefore, to-day, 'neath many a festive portal
Repentant memory turns
Upon this anniversary immortal
To Scotland's poet, Burns.
Him, on whom Heav'n bestow'd the heart's fine flashes,
The lyrist's delicate art;
While man wrought out for symbol o'er his ashes
A broken lyre and heart.
Come with me, O my brothers!—I would bring ye
Backward a hundred years,
And of the marvellous infant's birth-day sing ye
Something With smiles and tears.
Smiles for the song that hath such rare beguilement,
Laughter and love to win;
Tears for the dust and ashes of defilement,
Tears for the shame and sin.
Hark! as you cottage clock through night's long watches
Knelleth the minutes by,
One standing on the floor expectant catches
A little stranger's cry.
The first faint swinging of the bells of wonder
Hung in life's belfry brave!
Birth-bubbles of the stream whose broadening thunder
Rolls to its bar—the grave.
There is weird music out on river-surges,
A voice on fell and ford;
And where, like cherubim through long dark gorges,
The moonlight flames her sword
Of silver on the waters, stands a spirit,
Holding a golden lyre—
She from whom Scotia's ballad-bards inherit
Their pathos and their fire.
"Of old," she saith, "this land of mine was noted
For singers many a one;
O'er her wild tales their rainbow-lays they floated,
Born of her storm and sun.
"I only touch'd them with my inspiration,
Put harps into their hand—
There was enough of love and indignation,
And legend in the land!
"To them the 'gurly ocean' brought a wailing
Of girls in 'kames o' goud'—
'Sir Patrick and our true loves are not sailing
Home—for the sea's their shroud!'*
"The summer twilight show'd them Elfland's lady
Riding by Eildon-tree—
Sweet chimed her horse's bells through forest shady
Like the far silver sea.
"O the moss-trooper's catch of merry slaughter,
Red on the diamond-dew,
Of jingling spurs by banks of Eden water,
Green gleuves and feathers blue!
"O the sweet wish that softly dieth—dieth,
Griefless at last to be
Turf-happ'd and sound asleep, as she that lieth
On fair Kirkconnell-lee.
"Far from fight, frolic, wine, desire, or sorrow,
Round wild hearts, green grass' twine,
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow
In quietness divine!
"At close of every woe or jubilation.
O passionate spirit! trace
The beauty of that peaceful habitation,
And quiet resting-place.**
"Why are no new songs chanted, O my singers?
Sweet Poesy liveth yet
Along the grey cliffs glide its sunny fingers;
The autumnal violet
"Of sunset wraps it in the gentle weather;
With spring's wild-rose it stirs;
It lieth purple-rich along the heather,
And golden on the furze.
"The only ornaments it needs are lying,
Around ye and above,
In stars, and hills, in human hopes undying,
In human grief, and love.
"Dear to my soul, O baby poet, rest thee,
Hush thee, my darling! hush.
With the sweet lintwhite's nature I invest thee,
With music like the thrush.
"All Scottish legends shall thy fancy fashion,
All airs that richly flow,
Laughing with frolic, tremulous with passion,
Broken with lovelorn woe.
"Ballads, whose beauty years have long been stealing,
And left few links of gold,
Shall to thy quaint and subtle touch of healing
Seem fairer—nut less old.
"Grey Cluden and the vestal's choral cadence
Thy might shall wake therewith;
Till boatmen hang their oars, to hear the maidens
Upon the moonlit Nith.
"Thine, too, the strains of battle nobly coming,
From Bruce, or Wallace wight,
Such as the Highlander shall oft be humming
Before some famous fight.
"Nor only these—for thee the hawthorn hoary
Shall in new wreaths be wrought—
The 'crimson-tippèd' daisy wear fresh glory,
Born of poetic thought.
"From the 'wee cow'ring beastie' shalt thou borrow
A wondrous wealth of rhyme,
A noble tenderness of human sorrow,
Thou moralist sublime!
"O but the mountain breezes shall be pleasant
Upon the sun-burnt brow
Of that poetic and triumphant peasant,
Driving his laurell'd plough!"
'Tis done. But hear ye not a voice all broken
With woe, on Nith and Ayr,
Burden'd with sadness that can scarce be spoken,
Dying into a prayer?
"O the wild wit that mars the holy hymning,
The stains upon the stole,
The spray-drops from the sea of passion dimming
The windows of the soul.
"Would I might take the peasant's lyre of wonder,
My hand across it lay,
And snap the strings, the golden strings, in sunder,
And fling it far away!
"This fatal gift of Genius to the peasant
Spare—let him work his work—
So shall his rest at sunset be more pleasant
Under the grave-yard birk!"
Once more comes answer, O my brothers!—"Yonder,
Safe from the reach of sin,
Where wayward Genius never more may wander,
The kings of earth come in.
"Not only monarchs—God-encrown'd creators,
The deep of heart and strong;
The poets, and the thinkers, royal natures,
The kings of thought, and song.
"They who write lines where-through gleam Heaven and duty,
As through a forest tree
Is interwoven here and there the beauty
Of a blue summer-sea.
"Ofttimes when earth last saw them, they were bleeding,
Thorn-crown'd, and sore perplex'd;
They shall be changed, and beautiful exceeding
When she shall see them next.
"Changed—for ere death some miracle of healing
Touch'd the heart's wither'd leaf;
And beautiful—with that divine annealing
Which purifies through grief.
"A grief which brings them to some great affliction
Laid on God's altar-shrine;
Some drops of blood that fall in benediction,
Some touch of tears divine.
"There where the loftiest songs are the most vestal,
Where truest, is most fair,
Where Poesy upon the sea of crystal
Yearneth, but grieveth ne'er.
"The poet finds the best of his creations
Well known, and gone before,
Familiar to the emancipated nations
Upon the golden floor."
Hark! round the clay-built cot and cradle lowly
By banks of bonnie Doon,
A voice of diverse songs—some wild, some holy—
A many-mingling tune.
But all at last with solemn sweet surprises
Like anthems die away—
And o'er the glee of "Tam o' Shanter" rises,
The "Cotter's Saturday."
And from a multitude beside the river,
And on the mountain sod,
Swells, and rings up, and up, as if for ever,
"Come, let us worship God!"
* Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens.
** I have not thought it necessary to specify all the well-known Scottish Ballads to which I
allude; but I would draw attention to that strange hopeless view of
life—that yearning after death—that peculiar endearing wealth of
expressions about the grave, like a sleepy child's fondling words for its
bed—which characterises so many of them.
*** The lines in the "Cotter's
Saturday" will not be forgotten, nor Robert Burns' conversation with his
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A Centenary Song.
A VAGRANT Wild
Flow'r, sown of God, out in the waste was
It sprang up as a Corn-flow'r in the golden fields of Corn:
The Corn all strong and stately in its bearded bravery grew,—
Gathered the gold for harvest-time—grew ripe in sun and dew;
And when it bowed the head—as Wind and Shadow ran their
Like influences from Heaven come to Earth for playing place—
It scem'd to look down on the Flower as in a smiling scorn,
Poor thing, you grow no food, no grain for garner! said the Corn.
The lonely Flow'r still bloomed its best, contented with its place,
God's blessing fell upon it as it lookt up in his face!
And there they grew together till the white-winged Reapers
The Sickles shining in their hands, their faces were aflame!
The Corn they reapt for earthly use, but an Angel fell in love
With that wild Flow'r, and wore it at the Harvest-home above.
A hundred years ago this morn he came our human way,
And we would change the crown of thorn for healing leaves
Alas! that we can only wreathe the cold white Marble's brow;
Though loud we speak or low we breathe, we cannot reach him
He loved us all! lie loved so much! his love the world could hold,
And now the whole wide world with such a love would round
'Tis long and late before it wakes so, yet a true world still,
It hath a heart so large, it takes a century to fill!
Ay, tell the wondrous tale, while songs are sung and warm
Tell how he wore the hodden grey, and won sweat-sweetened
A wintry welcome at the door did greet him to his lot,
Our royal Minstrel of the Poor hid in an old Clay Cot.
And rough, and wild, and wintry was the welcome that he got.
There, in the bonny Bairn-time, knelt he at his Mother's knee,
With such a face as might have drawn down saintly souls to see
The rosy Innocent at prayer, just ready to the hand
Of Slumber's guardian Angel for the blessed Silent land!
There young Love came and brought rare balms that will
bewitch the blood,
And make it dance, while spirits sing, with life in hey-day flood!
And there she found her favourite Child, the Muse of sun-
Who nurst him up into the wild young Heir of all her wealth;
Ay, there she rockt his infant thought with visions glorious,
That hallow now the Poor Alan's Cot for evermore to us.
Angelic playmates in disguise were those still dreams of youth
That drew it to great things, and there we find they live in truth.
Burns knew the sorrows of poor folks, he felt their patient pain,
And from his clouded soul he shook a music soft as rain;
At the presence of Oppression in his face the white fire seethed,
But at the gentlest touch the lion lineaments were sheathed.
His eyes, dilated large with heart, and flashing as the levin,
Grew sweet and clear, and calm and grand, as are the eyes of
On hands and knees, in Life's low ways, the Poor must often creep
Where Manhood may not walk full height; and this made
Heaven-mirroring deep tenderness that big brave being fills,
Beautiful as the meek blue lake among the rugged hills;
And quick as Mother;s milk at thrill of her Babe's touch, and
It floods his heart, and fills his eyes, and overflows his song.
But none dare sneer that sees the tear in Burns's honest eye,
It tells you clearly that it comes from where the thunders lie!
Such passionate ardours quiver in the precious pearl of pain,
As lurks the spirit of lightning in the drop of tempest rain.
Of all the Birds the Robin is the darling of the poor,
His nest is sacred, he goes free by window or by door;
His lot is very lowly, and his coat is homely brown,
But in the rainy day he sings when gayer friends have flown;
And hoarded up for us he brings, in his breast of bonny red,
A gathered glory of the Springs and Summers long, long fled!
And so of all the Birds of Song to which the poor man turns,
The darling of his listening love is gentle Robin Burns.
His summer soul our winter warms, makes glory in our gloom,
His nest is safe for ever in the poor man's home.
Yes, there was such a glow of life and love in Robin's breast,
Its warmth can melt the winter snow in Poverty's cold nest.
Auld Scotland's Music long had wailed, and wailed about the land,
So yearning in her sweetness and so sorrowfully grand;
And many grieved to tears, yet could not tell what she would
But Robin wed her with his words, and they were one for aye.
Ah, how some old sweet cradle-song the wandering heart still
Home, Home again, so strongly drawn in Love's own leading
His Ministrants of Music run where night is all so mirk,
You scarce can see the Devil in the Darkness at his work,
Or tell the face of friend from foe, but these Song-Spirits come
And bring some little light of heaven into the meanest home:—
Weave flowers of radiant relief in life's grey common woof,
And make the vine of Patience twine about the barest roof.
They set them singing at their work, or where no voice is found,
Out smiles the soft mind-music that is all too fine for sound.
The inner glow enriches life with tints of pictured bloom,
Like firelight warm upon the walls against the outer gloom.
On either side the hearth they glide into the seat of Care,
Immortal Presences that bide in blessed beauty there.
More welcome than cool sods of earth, cut ere the Sun be risen,
To the caged Lark, are Robin's songs in smoky City prison!
The Sailor warms his heart with them out on the wintry sea;
The Serf stands up ennobled in the knighthood of the Free!
The Soldier sad on Midnight watch, or weary march by day,
Grows cheery at their tidings from the old land far away!
We hug the Homestead closer and the fresh love-tendrils twine,
To make our clasp more fond for fear our dear ones we may tine.
When Hesper with his sparkling eye sees lovers face to face,
Where droopt lids shade a burning beauty with their shyer grace,
And holy is the hour and all so silent comes the night,
Lest even the breath of faëry stir that poise so feather-light
In which two hearts are weighed for life, and like a humming hive,
The inner world of happiness with music grows alive,
There as Life aches so heart in heart, and hand in hand so
Love shakes his wings, and soars and sings some song of Robin
Think how that poor worn Lucknow band listened across the strife,
And held the breath which seem'd their last they had to
To hear the music asking in the battle pauses brief,
As Havelock and his mighty men swept in to their relief,
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot? through flaming hell we
To keep the pledge so often given around the hearth at home!
We'll take a cup of kindness yet for Auld Lang Syne,
Ay, tho' that cup be filled with dear heart's blood instead of
And here's a hand, my trusty friend:" and lo! the dear old
From out that smoke of carnage reacht and claspt them with
How dearly Robin lo'ed the land that gave such heroes birth,
Its wee blue bit of Heaven, and its dear green nook of Earth;
And sweeter is the honey breath of heather on the wold,
And dearer is the bonny broom with its bloom of beamless gold;
The Daisy opes its eye, and quick from Nature's heart so true,
The tear of Burns peeps sparkling! an immortal drop of dew!
Down by the singing burn we greet his voice of liberty,
High on the mountain side we meet his spirit blythe and free!
With eyes a thought more tender, do we look on all dumb things;
In his large love they stand, as he had sheltered them with wings!
Clear as this Magic Crystal in its shining Mirror shows
The dappling shadows of the clouds and Dawnlight's ruddy rose,
The smiling sapphire of the noon, the sundown's golden close,
And Midnight's burning bush of beauty, where God's glory glows—
Did Burns reflect the changeful looks that pass o'er Nature's face.
The grandeur and the homeliness, her glory and her grace:
Unto his sun-like gaze along our wayside wanderings;
Shy Beauty lifts her veil of haze, and smiles in common things.
And Robin did not bend in soul, till blind, in search of pelf—
He did not walk worm-eaten with eternal thoughts of self;
In natural kingliness he stood before the lords of earth,
And set the majesty of Man above the badge of Birth.
A hundred years ago to-day the glorious stranger came,
And men lookt up in wonder at the wild and wandering flame.
The fiercer fire of life confined, with higher heave it breaks,
And higher will the mountain mind up-thrust its star-ward peaks;
Then often is the kindling clay with its red lightnings riven,
And Earth holds up a radiant wreck to pray for healing Heaven.
Around his soul more sternly warred the powers of Wrong and
And thunder-scathed and battle-scarred Death bore him from
But now we know that he was one of high and shining race,
All gone the mortal mists that dimmed the fair immortal face;
The splendour of a thousand suns breaks out; the tearful rain
No more with passionate pathos runs, and there is no more
All gone the sorrow and sadness! soil and stain away have passed,
High in the heaven of fame he sits quietly crowned at last!
The prowling Ghoul hath left his grave, and praying Pharisee;
His frailties fade, his virtues live, and work immortally.
Weep tears of exultation that the Peasant's princely son,
Born in an old Clay-Biggin', such a peerless throne hath won,
And such a crown, so fair, so brave, thy Child hath wrought
Thou grey old nurse of Heroes! thou proud Mother Poverty!
Look up! and let the solemn tears be toucht with sparks of pride!
Look up! in his great glory we are also glorified!
Or weep the tears of sorrow that his brightness e'er should
Then 'tis the tear of sorrow brings us nearer unto him:
'Tis here we touch his garment hem, 'tis here the lowliest earns
The right to call him Brother, one of us, our Robin Burns.
In suffering's fire we always forge our dearest bond of love.
Ah, Robin! if God hear our prayer, 'tis all made well above!
And you, who comforted His poor in this world, have your home
With those He comforteth, His Poor, in all the world to come.
Dear Robin! could you come again, how changed it all would be;
The heart of this wide world doth yearn to take you welcomingly!
Warm eyes would shine at windows, hands would greet you at
Where oft they let you pass heart-sick, so heedlessly of yore!
And they would have you wear the Crown who bade you bear
They knew not of their glorious gain without the bitter loss!
The Cup you carried was so filled, the crowd so pressed
Dragged down your lifted arm, and spilled such dear drops on
How we would comfort your distress, and wipe your tears
By silent pressure of a hand, tell all the heart could say,
But strive to speak the words that make the measure of great
In tears that suck the sting of soul—run over with relief:
Your poor heart heaving like a sea that moaneth evermore,
And tries to creep into the eaves of Rest, but finds no shore—
Poor heart! come rest thee, would we plead, come rest thee in
And we would bathe its weary life with Love's immortal balm:
The tremulous sweetness round your mouth should smile as once
You great strong man, with woman soul, and heart of a little
We cannot see your face, Robin! nor your free, fearless brow!
We cannot hear your voice, Robin! but you are with us now!
Altho' your mortal face is veiled behind the spirit-wings:
You draw us up as Heaven the Lark when its music in him
You till our souls with tender awe, you make our faces shine,
You brim our cup with kindness here for sake of Auld Lang
We are all one at heart To-day because you join our hands,
While one electric feeling runs thro' all the English lands.
But near or far where Britons are the leal and true heart turns
More fond to the dear Fatherland for love of Robin Burns.
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By Mrs HENRY W. PHILLIPS
. . . .
TO-DAY—a hundred years
When the hills lay deep in snow,
When the north wind, sharp and keen,
Pierced the jagged fir-wood screen,
Shook the mountain's feathery crown,
Hurled the shepherd's shieling down,
Swept across the uplands bare,
Down the "bonnie banks of Ayr"—
In the dreary winter morn,
Then—a peasant's child was born.
And his mother lay and smiled,
Nestled by her first-born child,
Whispering tearful joy and praise,
In that old familiar phrase,
Many a mother's heart has thrilled,
Many a mother's eye has filled
With each simple, solemn word,—
"A man was given her from the Lord;"
While the little infant lay
Heedless of the wintry day,
With unconscious, wistful eyes
Seeking for their parent skies.
Born the common life to lead,
Ridge to plough and sheep to feed?
Labour as the day begun,
Labour—to the set of sun?
Born for long, unceasing toil,
Fated servant of the soil?
To live, a patient, quiet slave,
To die and fill a nameless grave?
Did no spirit from the glen
Rise to give denial then?
Did no Dryad from the wood,
Did no Kelpie from the flood,
Did no Fay of rock or flower
Hail her monarch's natal hour?
Did old Scotia's Genius keep
Aye her calm majestic sleep,
Hailing by no mystic sign
The minstrel of her royal line?
The bard whose untaught Muse would wake
Beauty from the lonely brake.
Grandeur from the barren hill,
Music from the sparkling rill,
Legend from the ruined hold,
Battle-cry from valley old;
Fling round Scotland's ancient story
A new halo of its glory;
Ring his careless music forth
From his cottage in the North,
Echoing every household tone,
Making lowly griefs his own,
Waking joyous voice of mirth,
Singing songs of home and hearth,
Singing God's great gifts of truth,
Reverend age and noble youth,
Till the deep heart of the land
Started to his loving hand,—
Till far and wide, from sea to sea,
Mankind would own his minstrelsy,
And babes unborn, with eager tongue,
Tell how the "Ayrshire Ploughman" sung?
For the infant grew a man,
And the battle-day began.
Needs not now to tell the tale,
Needs no requiem's useless wail;
Idle tears and late remorse:
Let them spend their bootless force
By the corpse or o'er the grave—
All too late to soothe or save.
Weak and slight the young renown—
Thorns were in the laurel crown,
Canker in the myrtle flower,
Evil in the revel hour;
Checked and thwarted in its spring
Rose the eaglet's daring wing;
Vague and errant was the flight,
Swift and sudden fell the night;
Few the reverent tears that rose
O'er the young life's mournful close,
And scarce the loud world's wrestling throng
Missed the woodlark's silenced song.
And to-day! Oh, wayward Fame,
Through all ages still the same!
Oh, solemn satire said of old!
Oh, bitter truth in proverb told!—
To-day, the Prophet claims his own;
To-day, the King assumes his throne.
To-day, we give him honours due,
To-day, we own his title true,
To-day, we give, what, given in time,
Might well have changed the funeral chime
That makes sad echo to his name,
To a proud nation's joint acclaim.
But ah, too late such fancies now!
Give the meed the Fates allow.
Let Scottish lips his praises sing.
Let Scottish hearts their tribute bring
And Scottish hands awake the chords
That quicken to his ringing words;
And while the joyous measures rise
High echoing to these mimic skies,—
While to the name and fame of Burns
The tide of proud remembrance turns,—
While Scotland's loving loyalty
No blot upon his shield will see,
But gives her Bard her fondest praise,
And weaves her Bard her greenest bays,
And, blushing, for the blindness past,
Gives him his own proud rank at last,—
Let our great age make grave resolve
That no more hundred years revolve
To find, when their long course is run,
One mighty mission left undone.
Let no great genius sink and die
For lack of love or charity;
No Chatterton or Burns arise
To mock the times we deem so wise;
Give aid to each young heart's desire,
Nor chill nor check the generous fire;
Let Truth have space to claim her own,
And lead each Poet to his throne.
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ONCE in a hundred years, when the ebb of creation has fallen
Quite from our arid sands into its ocean afar,
When every loathsome thing, long hid by the merciful waters,
Warm in the stagnant pools, flounders and wallows at
Sudden the tide sets in, and the irresistible billows
Roll at a single bound up to the headlands again.
Once in a hundred years, when the seed of the bigot and worldling
Crawl o'er our fragrant earth, taking its beauties in vain,
Seeing the worst is come, the God and Father of all men
Out of his heaven of love—lest we forget him and
Sends us a soul of his own, whom all men claim for a brother,
Saying, "This is a Man, this is a Poet indeed!"
So, on a day like this, when the roar of our century slumber'd
Still in its vaulted abyss, mute as the dulness above,
When on their baseless thrones, forgetting the Lord who had made
Kings of the earth sat as gods, binding the people at will,
He whom we love was born—was born to the life of a poor man,
Cursed with the anguish of song, blest with its beauty alone.
Not in some grand old gorge in the heart of the musical Highlands,
Fill'd with the torrent's spray, wild with the wailing of
Not by the western isles, where the galloping surge of the ocean,
Rich with a thousand wrecks, lashes the land of the
But on the banks of Doon, where the voiceless waters of Ayrshire
Moved through a silent vale, trod by no singers of
There was he born: and he came like a knight to the bride of his
Blessing with exquisite words her who had tarried for him.
Oh for a heart of fire, for a voice of the marvellous Hebrews,
Moulding their ancient tongue into the grace of a
Singing of Abraham old and Sarah the mother of nations
Dwelling in tented peace, walking with God in the
So would we sing of that home in the pastoral valleys of Scotland,
Where from a cradle of reeds he, the immortal, arose;
So would we sing too of him, the earnest labouring father,
Who by the Bridge of Doon built him a cottage of
Priest in his house and king, who pray'd to the God of his fathers,
Breathing instinctive love e'en through a puritan
Who in the barren fields, with Poverty stalking behind him,
Turn'd on the foe like a man, wrestled and suffer'd and
Yet by his ingle at night, with his wife and children about him,
Order'd his household well, teaching them lessons of
Teaching them lessons of joy, for his soul was steadfast within him,
Strong in its antique faith, calm with impregnable peace.
Such was the home of Burns; so simple and tenderly serious
Came the sweet Spirit of Song over the life of her child:
Silently came she at first, with the breath of her healthiest breezes
Bracing his boyish limbs, making him apt to enjoy;
Then would she lead him forth, and over the hills, as he wander'd,
Show'd him her glorious noons, show'd him her treasures of eve,
Show'd him at length her haunts, the woods of her pleasant
Woods by the waterside, shadow'd and stilly and cool:
There, among innocent birds, and creatures that sport in the green
Taught him the wonder of life, taught him to pity and
Taught him to cling to and love with a boundless passionate ardour
All that is lovely on earth—Freedom, and Nature, and Man.
Think of him thus for awhile, as he follow'd his plough on the
Driving the furrow aside only to shelter a worm;
Think of him striding abroad, with his hand in the bag of the sower,
Lavishly shedding the grain over the breast of the glebe,
But with his heart elsewhere—careering aloft with the skylark,
Or with the startled hare hurrying into the fern:
Think of him too that day in the harvest-field with the reapers,
Binding the corn as it fell under the sweep of the
Not by himself he wrought, for a blooming barefooted maiden
Bent at his side, and still mingled her shadow with
So at the last he woke, with the thrilling touch of a woman,
And from her artless eyes caught the clear lightning of song.
Many a time thenceforth did he learn from the liberal Muses
Rhythmical thoughts most sweet, which in their rustic array
Blush'd with a brighter grace, as the frosted gold of the wine-cup
Heightens the polish within, deepens the glow of the
Many a lay did he glean from his hours of want and oppression—
Lays that were stolen and sung oft by the fire at eve,
Lays that he frugally hid, or scatter'd in childish abundance,
Ignorant still of his wealth, careless of honour and greed.
But when the days were come, the time of his fated appearing,
When to the world he gave all that a poet can bring—
Days of immortal woe! Ah why should we set them to music,
Since they are writ in our hearts, since we can never
Can we forget how he flash'd like a sunbeam into the city,
Dazing its quiet hordes, startling its elegant few?
How through the gamut of Life he swept with the ease of a singer,
Ringing each note to the full, clear as a bugle in
How, when the crowd rush'd in, and the gay and the wealthy adored
He in the midst sat firm, lost not an inch of
Rising at length unharm'd, like Excalibur out of the waters,
Which on its shining blade left but a glitter of dew:
How, when he ask'd but to live, and to live for the glory of Scotland,
She to his delicate soul gave but the work of a
Lashing her Ariel down, till instead of the elves of the moonlight,
Fiends of the moonless dark rose to his presence at
How, when the man who had pass'd unscathed through the fury of
Wrestling with passion and self, slipt in his blindness awhile,
They who had trampled his pearls swift turn'd on the giver to rend
Till, being weary of life, weak with a noble decay,
He at the foot of his fame, of the "upright pillar" of Honour,
Wrapt in his mantle of pride, fell, like a hero,
Oh, it is written at large in the book of a nation's repentance—
All that she gain'd from him, all that he suffer'd
And, in the gloom of her grief, the errors and sins of her darling
Seem but as motes in the sun, mists on the ocean of love.
Tell me, then, why do we weep for Burns, the beloved of nations?
Why through a hundred years still do we love him so
Why are we gather'd to-day in the aisles of this mighty cathedral,
Not for its floral shrines, not for its wonders of art,
Not for its saints and kings, nor the magic of beauty around us;
But to delight in him, telling his praises aloud?—
Hush! 'tis a mystic hour, for the soul of the mighty departed
Fills the unconscious air, broods with its blessing
Well may we ask of our hearts, and well may they fervently answer,
Now in this moment of awe, why they have held him so
Is it because he was great of a large majestical presence,
Keen with observant eyes, bright with a wavering
Is it because he was poor, the son of illiterate peasants,
And from the clods of clay sprang to his fame at a
Others have done so as well—have swung through the arc of
And at the height of its curve leapt into glory at
Is it because he was wrong'd—was shunn'd by the men who had
Taunted with guilt not his own, left, when he
totter'd, to fall?
Others have been so as well—yea, have writhed when some
Over their fair white robes spirted its venom and
Is it because he was blest with the heart and the tongue of a freeman,
Daring to feel, and more, daring to utter and do?
Others have been so as well—full many a treasured apostle
Lies in our sacred soil, speaks to us still from the
Is it because he was cursed with the ban of a traitorous priesthood,
Who on the throne of God rear'd the Colossus of hell?
Others have been so alas!—from the inaccessible Shakespeare
Down to the bards who sing under his shadow to us:
Or is it this, that he came like a crown'd unfetter'd Prometheus,
Kindling all thoughts of his time into the fire of
Truly he did it; but yet, through the length and the breadth of our
Others have done it as well—others are doing it now.
No—there is something more than the mournful romance of his
More than his patriot's heart, more than his music of
Deeper than all, there lies one sweet irrepressible instinct
Which through a hundred years makes that we cling to him
'Tis, that he just was A MAN—a man in the midst of his brethren,
Human in all his ways—human, and yet how divine!
He was a man like us—a saint by turns and a sinner,
Striving with horrors within, yearning for light from
Yea, and the Light has come, and the faults are forgiven for ever,
Lost in the blaze of Love, drown'd in the welcome of
Therefore, because his heart lies open and quivering, before us,
Shaken with pangs of grief, vivid with thrills of delight,
Therefore, we love Mill so well,—for his weakness as well as his
Not that he struggled alone, but that he struggled and
So that, as brothers and friends, we can bask in the sun of his genius,
Prizing its rosy warmth more than its splendour of noon:—
Therefore, though evil and few were the days of the years of his
Though not his true brave soul, neither his noble desires,
Neither his poignant wit, and his wondrous Aurora of fancies,
Neither his genial heart, mellow and ripe to the
Though none of these could avail to lengthen the path of his
He is immortal still, safe in his Eden afar:
Safe in the breasts of his kind, for where freemen are gather'd
There shall his name be known, there shall his spirit
Moving in eloquent flame from the depths of Canadian forests
Down to the tropic floods, over the isles of the sea.
Over the southern main to the grand Australian empire,
Thence by those scented shores round into freedom
But, in his own dear land, never flickering once for an instant—
Still on a stalwart race steadily shining and fair;
Shining on heather and hill, from the snow-cover'd shores of the
Down over baffled Tweed into the Marches of old—
Down by the fatted farms and the populous cities of England,
Down where the western cliffs throb to the shock of the wave.
So shall the peasant-bard, the first-born son of the people,
Come to his own once more, sing to his fellows again:
Till from the young men's lips and the tuneable throats of the
Ever the soul of Burns passes in music away.
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By J. STANYAN BIGG. . . .
HUNDRED times, with clangorous shout and din,
Have tower and steeple hail'd the New Year in;
A myriad brazen throats, a hundred times,
Have widely chanted forth their Christmas chimes;
A hundred times the ancient world hath rolled
Out of the lap of summer, warm with gold,
Into the bleaching wind and drenching rain;
Since first the wondrous peasant felt the air,
Since first above his head a mother's prayer
Went fluttering up to God, amid the angelic train.
No royal palace was prepared for him;
No silken courtiers slid from room to room,
Gathering together in the gorgeous gloom
Of purple hangings, drooping rich and dim;
For him no silver cressets shed their light,
No eager joy-bells sounded through the night
From city minster, or from village tower;
No loud "hurrahs," sent from deep-chested men,
Lifted the midnight mist from off the glen
In celebration of his natal hour;
No hush of deep expectance filled the earth;
No cry rose rich with gladness at his birth.
The noble revelled at his sumptuous hall;
The beauty bloomed and languished at the ball;
The drowsy miller scolded at the mill;
The peasant slept beneath the misty hill;
The heavens were still; no shaggy lightnings came
To burn the midnight in their eager ire;
No mighty portent with a pen of fire
Scribbled upon the dark the poet's name:
He came, and no man knew it; no man knew
The wondrous boon to Scotland given;
That there—beneath that grim and wintry blue—
A glorious Poet, strong and true,
Had newly dropp'd from heaven!
Nature herself lay still, and dumb, and cold;
Gone were her summer garments fringed with gold,
Her gorgeous sunsets streak'd with crimson bars—
Darkling in violet depths, shot through with light,
Deepening in splendour as the enchantress, Night,
Gathered and cream'd the dim light into stars.
Gone were her balms and blooms; her hum of bees;
Her sweet-mouth'd zephyrs toying with the trees;
Her honied murmurings under hedge-rows dim,
Where happy lovers spent their evening hours;
Her festival array of cups and flowers,
Full of rich nectar to the fiery brim;
Gone were the banquet and the golden sheen,
The lights were out, the revelry was o'er:
Rapture, and mirth, and music were no more;
And she, who erst-while was a crownèd Queen,
Shiver'd a beggar at her palace door.
Giving scant welcome to the new-born child,
She seized him in her stiff arms, lank and cold,
And held him out upon the wintry wold,
To look upon the desolation, strange and wild,
Which weirdly shudder'd down, on farm and fold,
In rain and sleet, and silent-falling snow—
Wrapping the heavens in a pall above,
And the dead earth in a white shroud below.
A wintry path, a future thick with gloom
Solid as adamant, before him lay,
Through which the Poet cleft his lonely way,
'Mid menace and reproach and muttering doom,
Into the dawning of that brighter day
Which now has settled down upon his tomb.
For Nature hath a Spartan mother's heart,
And to prepare her noblest for their part
In the stern strife and struggle, she ordains
Rude tasks, hard fare, and bitter rounds of pains—
Knowing the heroic stature is built higher
By toil and suffering, and the hero shows
Grandest and kingliest when his forehead glows
Beneath that burning zone, the martyr's crown of fire.
And so he grew and wrestled for the right;
True Man! true Bard! who battled with the strong;
And having crown'd his poverty with song,
He brought it boldly forth into the light,
Heedless of jibe or jeer; and all men sought
To see the wonder which the Bard had wrought;
Great, as though under some enchanter's rod,
A shapeless block of stone had shimmer'd out a god!
He took his country to his inmost soul;
And sang her joys and sorrows as his own;
And in his verse we hear her wild winds moan,
The rapid rustle of her brooks, and roll
Of her rude rivers, as they dash and foam
In tawny fury round the shepherd's home.
Her Doric speech, her heart of simple truth,
Her piety and strength, her tales of ruth,
Her fireside legends, and her wild romance,
Glitter and gather in a rustic dance,
Laughing in garlands of perpetual youth,
Within the magic circle of his rhymes;
And Scottish fairies ring their silver chimes,
Goblin and ghost, warlock and witch uncouth,
And all the marvels of the olden times
Troop forth at his behest;
And every terror of his native land
Shakes out its elf locks, bares its bony hand,
And every sportive whim, at his command,
Sits down the Poet's guest.
Laughter and tears were at his nod,
Humour and wit ran sparkling rich as wine;
And at the rare carousal, half divine,
He sat amidst his subjects, like a god,
Waited upon by satyrs.
Like a bee,
He sipp'd sweet honey from the bitterest flower;
And, at his touch, the starkest wintry tree
Rain'd down its apples in a golden shower.
Young men and maidens, whisp'ring, still rehearse
Their joys and sorrows in his manly verse;
His witching words still well o'er budding lips,
Mantling soft cheeks in luscious dimpledips
And innocent laughters of the ancient prime;
And still at hearthstone and at rural fair
Old men and matrons, heeding not that Time
Hath furrow'd cheek and brow, and blanch'd the glossy hair,
Chuckle and murmur o'er the magic rhyme,
Brimful of life and light, and all youth's dainty fare,
Nature, full-lipp'd, was ringing in his heart,
And though the wounded Poet felt the smart
Of poverty, yet, like a bird in spring,
Soul full of music, he did nought but sing,
And in the choral whole, he grandly filled his part.
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. . . .
IN lonely hut and lordly hall a mighty voice is heard,
And 'neath its wild bewitching spell, the bravest brows are bared.
From Scotland's hills and twilight glens, to far Columbian floods,
It stirs the city's streets of toil, and wakes the solitudes;
It speaks no triumph reaped with swords, it brings no conq'ring
Of buried horrors, battle-crown'd and veiled with victory;
But hearts leap loving to its note, and kindling bosoms glow,
To hail the Poet born to fame, a hundred years ago.
O, like a glorious bird of God he leapt up from the earth,
A lark in song's exalted heaven, a robin by the hearth;
O, like a peerless flower he sprang from Nature's meanest sod,
Yet shedding joy o'er every path by human footstep trod.
How shall we tell his wond'rous power, how shall we say or sing
What magic to a million hearts his deathless strains can bring ?
How men on murkest battle-fields have felt the potent charm,
Till sinking valour leapt to life and strung the nerveless arm!
How hearts in drearest loneliness have toiled through barren
The only glimpse of sunshine there, his pictures "o' langsyne."
How far amid the western wilds, by one enchanting tune,
The wide Missouri fades away in dreams of "bonny Doon;"
Where hearts and hands renew the pledge—sweet pledge of other
That sacred "auld acquaintance" vow, the light of parting tears.
O! blessed be the brawny arm that tore presumption down,
That snatched the robe from worthless pride, and gave to toil a
That smote the rock of poverty with song's enchanting rod,
Till joy into a million hearts in streams of beauty flow'd;
And while that arm could stretch to heaven and wield the
It brought the glorious sunshine too, to cheer the humblest heart:
For free as Spring, his gladsome muse danced o'er the daisied
Or rang in organ-gusts of praise through grandeur's mightiest
Then blest for ever be the soul that linked us man to man,
A brotherhood of beating hearts—God's own immortal plan:
While Labour, smiting at his forge, or stalking at his plough,
Looks up with prouder soul to find God's finger on his brow—
Feels man is man, though russet-robed and smacking of the
And all are brothers, whether born to titles or to toil.
Then pledge his mem'ry far and near, although the hand be dust
That oft has swept the golden lyre, that ages cannot rust.
No sun of time e'er sets upon the empire of his fame,
And still unwearied is the wing that bears abroad his name.
There may be grander bards than he, there may be loftier songs,
But none have touched with nobler nerve the poor man's fights
Then, while unto the hazy past the eye of fancy turns,
Raise high the fame and bless the name of glorious Robert Burns.