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delineated: and after their frugal supper, the representation of these humble cottagers forming a wider circle round their hearth, and uniting in the worship of God, is a picture the most deeply affecting of any which the rural muse has ever presented to the view. Burns was admirably adapted to this delineation. Like all men of genius he was of the temperament of devotion, and the powers of memory co-operated in this instance with the sensibility of his heart, and the fervour of his imagination." The Cotter s Saturday Night is tender and moral, it is solemn and devotional, and rises at length into a strain of grandeur and sublimety, which modern poetry has not surpassed. The noble sentiments of patriotism with which it concludes, correspond with the rest of the poem. In no age or country have the pastoral muses breathed such elevated accents, if the Messiah of Pope be excepted, which is indeed a pastoral in form only. It is to be regretted that Burns did not employ his genius on other subjects of the same nature, which the manners and customs of the Scottish peasantry would have amply supplied. Such poetry is not to be estimated by the degree of pleasure which it bestows; it sinks deeply into the heart,
* The reader will recollect that the Cotter was Burns's father. See p. 85.
and is calculated, far beyond any other human means, for giving permanence to the scenes. and the characters it so exquisitely describes."
Before we conclude, it will be proper to offer a few observations on the lyric productions of Burns. His compositions of this kind are chiefly songs, generally in the Scottish dialect, and always after the model, of the Scottish songs, on the general character and moral influence of which, some observations have already been offered.-) We may hazard a few more particular remarks.
Of the historic or heroic ballads of Scotland, it is unnecessary to speak. Burns has no where imitated them, a circumstance to be regretted, since in this species of composition, from its admitting the more terrible as well as the softer graces of poetry, he was eminently qualified to have excelled. The Scottish songs which served as a model to Burns, are almost without exception pastoral, or rather rural. Such of them as are comic, frequently treat of a rustic courtship, or a country wedding; or they describe the differences
* See Appendix, No. II. Note D.
of opinion which arise in married life. Burns has imitated this species, and surpassed his models. The song beginning "husband, husband, cease your strife"* may be cited in support of this observation His other comic songs are of equal merit. In the rural songs of Scotland, whether humorous or tender, the sentiments are given to particular characters, and very generally, the incidents are referred to particular scenery. This last circumstance may be considered as the distinguishing feature of the Scottish songs, and on it a considerable part of their attraction depends. On all occasions the sentiments, of whatever nature, are delivered in the character of the person principally interested. If love be described, it is not as it is observed, but as it is felt; and the passion is delineated under a particular aspect. Neither is it
P See vol. iv. p. 144.
t The dialogues between husbands and their wives, which form the subjects of the Scottish songs, are almost all ludicrous and satirical, and in these contests the lady is generally victorious. From the collections of Mr. Pinkerton we find that the comic muse of Scotland delighted in such representations from very early times, in her rude dramatic efforts, as well as in her rustic songs.
the fiercer impulses of desire that are expressed, as in the celebrated ode of Sappho, the model of so many modern songs; but those gentler emotions of tenderness and affection, which do not entirely absorb the lover; but permit him to associate his emotions with the charms of external nature, and breathe the accents of purity and innocence, as well as of love. In these respects the love-songs of Scotland are honourably distinguished from the most admired classical compositions of the same kind; and by such associations a variety, as well as liveliness, is given to the representation of this passion, which are not to be found in the poetry of Greece or Rome, or perhaps of any other nation. Many of the lovesongs of Scotland describe scenes of rural courtship; many may be considered as invocations from lovers to their mistresses. On such occasions a degree of interest and reality is given to the sentiments, by the spot destined to these happy interviews being particularized. The lovers perhaps meet at the Bush aboon Traquair, or on the Banks of Etrick; the nymphs are invoked to wander among the wilds of Roslin, or the woods of Invermay. Nor is the spot merely pointed out; the scenery is often described as well as the characters, so as to present a compleat
picture picture to the fancy* Thus the maxim of Horace, ut pictura poesis, is faithfully observed by these rustic bards, who are guided by the same impulse of nature and sensibility which influenced the father
* One or two examples may illustrate this observation. A Scottish song, written about a hundred years ago, begins thus.
"On Etrick banks, on a summer's night,
"I met my lassie, braw and tight,
"My heart grew light, I ran, I flang
"My arms about her lily neck,
"My words they were na mony, feck.f
The lover, who is a Highlander, goes on to relate the language he employed with this Lowland maid to win her heart, and to persuade her to fly with him to the Highland hills, there to share his fortune. The sentiments are in themselves beautiful. But we feel them with double force, while we conceive that they were addressed by a lover to his mistress, whom he met all alone, on a summer's evening, by the banks of a beautiful stream, which some of us have actually
t Pack<— in faith! a rustic oath.