« AnteriorContinuar »
The plough rests on a rugged piece of marble laid on a polished basement, in the centre of which is inscribed in large letters,
BURNS. I had to regret missing at Dumfries the three sons of Burns, and the staunch friend of the family, and of the genius of the poet, Mr. M’Diarmid. Mr. Robert Burns, the poet's eldest son, resides at Dumfries, but was then absent at Belfast, in Ireland, where I afterwards saw him, and was much struck with his intelligence and great information. Colonel and Major Burns had just visited Dumfries, but were gone into the Highlands, with their friend Mr. M 'Diarmid. The feelings with which I quitted Dumfries were those which so often weigh upon you in contemplating the closing scenes of poets' lives. “The life of the poet at Dumfries," says Robert Chambers, “ was an unhappy one ; his situation was degrading, and his income narrow." Reflecting on this as I proceeded by the mail towards Moffat, the melancholy lines of Wordsworth recurred to me with peculiar effect :
The likeness of the poet is by no means conformable to the best portraits of him; and Nature, as if resenting the wretched caricature of her favourite son, has already began to deface and corrode it. The left hand on the plough is much decayed, and the right hand holding the bonnet 'is somewhat so too. At his feet lies what I suppose was the slab of his former tomb, with this inscription : "In memory of Robert Burns, who died the 21st of July, 1796, in the 37th year of his age. And Maxwell Burns, who died the 25th of April, 1799, aged 2 years and 9 months. Francis Wallace Burns, who died the 9th of June, 1808, aged 14 years. His sons. The remains of Burns received into the vault below 19th of September, 1815. And his two sons. Also, the remains of Jean Armour, relict of the Poet, born Feb. 1765, died 26th of March, 1831,"
The long Latin inscription mentioned by his biographers, a manifest absurdity on the tomb of a man like Burns, and whose Epitaph ought to be intelligible to all his countrymen, is, I suppose, removed, for I did not observe it; and the above English inscription, of the elegance of which, however, nothing can be said, substituted.
The gates of the mausoleum itself are kept locked, and the monument again enclosed within a plain railing.
Some countrymen were just standing at the gate with their plaids on their shoulders making their observations as I arrived at it. I stood and listened to them.
1st Jan.—“Ay, there stands Robin, still holding the plough, but the worst of it is, he has got no horses to it.”
21 Van.-“Ay, that is childish. It is just like a boy on a Sunday who sets himself to the plough, and fancies he is a ploughing when it nerer moves. It would have been a deal better if you could but have seen even the horses' tails."
31 Jan.-" Ay, or if he had been sitting on his plough, as I have been him sometimes in a picture.”
1st Man.“ But Coila is well drawn, is not she? That arm which she holds up the mantle with, is very well executed.”
2Van.--" It's a pity though that the sculptor did not look at his own coat before he put the only button on that is to be seen."
34 Man." Why, where is the button ?” 21 Man."Just under the bonnet; and it's on the wrong side."
let Mon, “Oh! it does not signify if it be a double-breasted coat, or pertaps Robin buttoned his coat different to other folks, for he 23 an unco chiel." 21 Man.--"But it's only single-breasted, and it is quite wrong."
The men unbuttoned and then buttoned their coats up again to satisly thomselves; and they decided that it was a great blunder.
I thought there was much sound sense in their criticism. The allegorical figure of the muse seems too much, and the absence of the borses too little. Burns would have looked quite as well standing at the plough, and looking up inspired by the muse without her being visible.
like, are, I imagine, nowhere else to be seen. There are vintners who have tombs and obelisks fit for genuine Egyptian Pharaohs ; and slaters and carpenters, who were accustomed to climb high when alive, have left monuments significant of their soaring character. These far outvie and overlook those of generals, writers to the signet, esquires, and bailiffs of the city.
Your first view of this churchyard strikes you by the strange aspect of these ponderous monuments. A row of very ancient ones, in fact, stands on the wall next to the street. Two of them, most dilapidated, and of deep red stone, have a very singular look. They have Latin inscriptions, which are equally dilapidated. One to Francis Irving fairly exhausts the Latin tongue with his host of virtues, and then takes to English, thus :
« King James the First me Balive named ;
Dumfries oft since me Provost claimed ;
For king and country have I served." Burns's mausoleum occupies, as nearly as possible, the centre of the farther end of the churchyard opposite to the entrance, and a broad walk leads up to it. It stands, as it should do, overlooking the pleasant fields in the outskirts of the town, and seems, like the poet himself, to belong half to man and half to nature. It is a sort of little temple, which at a distance catches the eye as you approach that side of the town, and reminds you of that of Garrick at Hampton. It is open on three sides, except for iron gates, the upper border of which consists of alternating Scottish thistles and spear-heads. A couple of Ionic pillars at each corner support a projecting cornice, and above this rises an octagon superstructure with arches, across the bottom of which again run thistle-heads, one over each gateway, and is surmounted by a dome. The basement of the mausoleum is of granite. The building is enclosed by an iron railing, and the little gate in front of the area is left unlocked, so that you may approach and view the monument through the iron gates. The area is planted appropriately with various kinds of evergreens, and on each side of the gate stands conspicuously the Scottish thistle.
In the centre of the mausoleum floor, & large flag with four iron rings in it, marks the entrance to the vault below. At the back stands Turnarelli's monument of the poet. It consists of a figure of Burns, of the size of life, in white marble, at the plough, and Coila, his muse, appearing to him. This is a female figure in alto-relievo on the wall, somewhat above and in front of him. She is in the act of throwing her mantle, embroidered with Scotch thistles, over him, according to his own words—“The poetic genius of my country found me, as the prophetic bard Elijah did Elisha, at the plough, and threw her inspiring mantle over me.” Burns stands with his left hand on one of the plough stilts, and with the other holds his bonnet to his breast, while, with an air of surprise and devotion, he gazes on the muse or genius of his poetry. He appears in a short coat, knee breeches, and short gaiters. The execution is so-so.
Such was the lofty and all-embracing spirit of that man whom hard dogmatists could yet terrify and chill into utterest woe. Shrinking from the world, he yet dared to lash this world from which he shrunk, with the force of a giant, and the justice of more than an Aristides. Of the church, he get satirized severely its errors, and the follies of its ministers; in political opinion he was free and indignant against oppression. The negro warmed his blood into a sympathy that produced the most effective strains on his · behalf-the worm beneath his feet shared in his tenderness. Thus he walked through life, shunning its tumults and its highways, one of its mightiest labourers. In his poetry there was found no fear, no complaining; often thoroughly insane, nothing can surpass the sound mind of his compositions ; haunted by delusions even to the attempt at suicide, there is no delusion in his page. All there is bright, clear, and consistent. Like his Divine Master, he may truly be said to have been bruised for our sakes. As a man, nervous terrors could vanquish him, and unfit him for active life; but as a poet he rose above all nerves, all terrors, into the noblest heroism, and fitted and will continue to fit others for life, so long as just and vigorous thought, the most beautiful piety, and the truest human sympathies command the homage of mankind. There is no writer who surpasses Cowper as a moral and religious poet. Full of power and feeling, he often equals in solemn dignity Milton himself. He is as impressive as Young without his epigrammatic smartness; he is as fervently Christian as Montgomery, and in intense love of nature there is not one of our august band of illustrious writers who surpasses him. He shows the secret of his deep and untiring attachment to nature, in the love of Him who made it.
" He is the Freeman, whom the truth makes free,
And all are slaves beside. There's not a chain
“ Tell me, ye shining host,
The Task, book v.
Such is the buoyant and cordial tone of Cowper's poetry; how unlike that iron deadness that dared not and could not soften into prayer, which so often and so long oppressed him. Nay, it is not for himself that he rejoices only, but he feels in his glowing heart the gladness and the coming glory of the whole universe.
“ All creatures worship man, and all mankind
One Lord, one Father. Erior has no place ;
Thus heavenward all things tend. For all were once