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ART. 1.-NOTES OF A PILGRIMAGE TO THE
Some time ago we published in this Periodical, some remarks on the necessity of a Minister's allowing himself occasional periods, not only of relaxation from study, but of communion with Nature, in her green and deep seclusions. was read with an interest, which, though perhaps principally referable to the subject, was yet such as to lead us to imagine, that some further communications of what we have ourselves experienced in and from such intervals of recreation, may freshen the impression of the preceding remarks, and excite a wider sympathy both with the evil and
the cure. We too have again been truants and pilgrims. Not to Petrarch's Vallombrosa-not to the Capreæ of Tiberius—not to the Paraclete of Eloisa—nor to the mountain-chapel of Tellnor to where the tortoise crawls by the barrow of the Nereidborn-nor to Virgil's tomb—nor to Tasso's cell-nor to Ariosto's inkstand-nor to the whispers of Thermopylæ--nor to the blue glories of Salamis, nor to the mulberry-tree of Shakspere-nor to the Runnymede of Norman John-nor to the Athelney of Saxon Alfred-nor to Moore's Avoca-nor to Wordsworth's Windermere—nor to the Waterloo of one great by commission--nor to the St. Helena of one great by determination,—to none of these have we yet been pilgrims, though there are some of them that we would not willingly forego the hope of visiting, with reverent foot, and not, we fain would hope, with uninstructed hearts. Our pilgrimage has been to the song-land of one of our first and most original poets—a Noble of Nature's own creation-one who caught his inspira
Vol. IV. No. 16.–New Series.
tion at the plough, and wept immortal tears over the fall of a daisy-after this, need we say, of ROBERT BURNS ?
But before we say any thing of the poet's own country-side, we may be forgiven for noticing the scenery through which we passed to it. Our benison on James Watt! But for him, we had never been borne on the waters of the Clyde, as aforetime on those of the Forth. What country but Scotland can boast of two such estuaries as their magnificent Friths? In early life we saw the latter, as in the nominal meridian of life we have now seen the former. Glorious and beautiful are they both, in memory as in reality. But we have at present no other business with the Forth, than to give it the tribute of a passing sigh. We are now on the Frith of Clyde. Coming or deck in the foggy and drizzling morning, we saw the coast of Scotland stretching dun and misty on the right; and with what feelings did we hear that one part of it was Ayrshire—the land of the Impassioned Peasant, whose poetry had made such an impression on
our youth, and whom our matured admiration has placed in the very first line of the glorious army of the martyrs of song! We tried, and tried, but still in vain, to make out any locality. But lo, yon Titan Rock, that heaves its misty sides precipitously from the waters! It is Ailsa Crag. Our hearts throbbed at the name. It brought back the memory of him of Bannockburn, who remembered this very Crag on that immortal Field. And Time has altered it can have altered it —but little. There are the cliffs, and the sea-birds, and the waves—the very same as Robert Bruce beheld them. But was that a gun that startled the echoes and the solans? It was and Robert Bruce never heard a fowling-piece. Are we not now on board one of the Liverpool and Glasgow Company's prime steamers? Doubtless-and Robert Bruce knew nothing of the Geni of the tea-kettle, much more potent than he, the slave of the talismanic Lamp. But Ailsa is behind us—and lo, on our left, the mountain-isle of Arran. Oh, for an eagle's wings (what could put it into Wordsworth's head to wish for a Hippogriff's ?) to pierce the fogs on those peaks ! Now and then, we snatch glimpses of the majestic Forms around which they hover. And on those waters the Bruce's navy of barks has floated! But no more of that-we are lieges of the Guelphs, not of the Plantagenets. Pass we on. Bute, wooded Bute, darkles greenly on the left. All is misty, but all is lovely. We should enjoy a day of rambling among those firwoods. But Steam is like Destiny, and bears us resistlessly away. Isles of Cumray, sister-born of these waters, we bid you a passing hail. It soon becomes a farewell. We had a volume of Wordsworth in our pocket; and from time to time we read one of his " Memorials." But shall we confess or conceal ? It still appears to us, that his views of things are so abstract and abstruse, that his “ harp of solemn sound”—while we feelingly acknowledge its solemnity-does not always awaken the sweetest human echoes of the heart. His poetry is like Turner's painting—or at least much of the one is so far like much of the other-it is the poetry of medium. He gives you, not the thing, but the atmosphere through which he views it. It is as we have just seen Arran and Ailsa—a mountain-mass of real and enduring poetry, enveloped in a dimming mist of subtle metaphysical thought. Many of his Poems will be, to the places which produced them, but as the vapours which hang about the Mountain, but do not belong to it or mingle with it. They will not be, like the Local Poetry of Burns, a floating and a haunting Spirit, about every step that he trod. One might be on the Clyde, and think nothing of Wordsworth ;-and, sooth and strange to say, we do not think that, so far as we are individually concerned, matters would be much mended by an excursion to the Duddon itself;—but who could look on “Irwine, Lugar, Ayr, or Doon," without associating indissolubly with those beautiful streams the memory and the poetry of Him of the harp and plough?
And now for the Clyde itself—the splendid, the picturesque, and the lovely! What must it be under circumstances more favourable! Dumbarton Crag and Castle are just now on our left. Yellowed, and embrowned, and greened by time--the cenotaph of the glories of a thousand years. Well may it look proud. Few histories can tell such a tale. Few earthly rocks are haunted by such remembrances. Clyde and Dumbarton, ye are worthy of each other-and WALLACE of you both!
A few hours passed ;-and, thanks again to magical steampotent alike by land or by water—we found ourselves in “auld Ayr.” We visited the Twa Brigs, and enjoyed, as we never could have enjoyed but on the spot, the colloquy of the ghaists, as taken in short-hand by the poet. What a living picture of the Two Bridges, and of the whole scene ! And then the introduction and the close! Think of that one line, in which he describes “ the mellow thrush,” as
Hailing the setting sun, sweet in the green thorn-bush !"
We have not many Alexandrines so laden with music and beauty. Then the picture of the Spirit-Choir at the end, (of whom it is said, that “ the infant ice scarce bent beneath their feet,") and amidst whom we discover
'Sweet Female Beauty, hand in hand with Spring." What a partnership! And struck off with such congenial sweetness and freshness !
Inquiring (at Ayr) our way to the Monument-for we declined, though it rained, the officious and loquacious Omnibus -of a man we met in the street, hale and ruddy, though fargone in years, he answered us in a manner that encouraged further inquiries. We asked if he knew any one in the place who remembered Burns ? “ Remember Burns ?” he replied, “ why I remember him very well.”
well.” He had known him, it seems, familiarly, that is, as a lad knows a man. We asked if he remembered any of his conversation. “He could not say he did.” What sort of a man was he? « Oh, he was a very quiet-like sort of man, just like any farm-servant.” We were glad to have met with an individual who had seen him, though the knowledge did not add much to our own. We wonder how an Ionian Peasant would have described Homer. Possibly as a blind pauper, who sung a good battle-song, and to whom he himself had once been tempted to give a crust, a cup, or a coin ! We came to the Cottage in which Burns was born.
An impertinent board stares the fact into us. We would rather have inquired it out for ourselves. But there it is—and we enter the neat, over-neat, abode. It is the show-place, and not the farm. Nothing is there, that ever belonged to the family, except a portrait of the Poet, as hard as if it had been meant for a sign-board. We did not ask who perpetrated it—but they told us—and we (as in duty bound, being artist-born) dismissed it at once into oblivion propense. it pass away. We will strive to get at something that has more of Burns. Even his birth-place is not quite the thing. We nothing doubt that he was a fine man-child—but we have nothing to do with his cradle. We have children of our own ;but there is no Robert Burns, we take it for granted, among them. God forbid there should be! We hope often to nurse the lark for the sky; but, never—oh never !—the eagle for the thunder.
At the stile, leading into Alloway kirk-yard—Tarn o’Shanter’s Alloway-we found a man sitting, who, though a beggar now, had also known the poet after his own fashion. He had once walked six miles with him, during which Burns neither spoke to him, nor he to Burns! Being on the road to Ayr one day, some one told him that the poet was before him. He walked on, overtook, and joined him—the result being as just stated. We asked him what kind of a person Burns was.
Oh, he was a dull-like kind of a man, walking along with his stick under his arm in this way" (suiting the action to the word, as well as his infirmities allowed him). We said we supposed the poet was engaged in some thoughts of his own-to which he solemnly assented. There was quite sufficient appearance of wounded vanity in the man's manner, to convince us that the thing had really happened. To us, too, it appears characteristic—especially in connection with the date assigned it by the old man—about a year, namely, before the poet's death. Alloway Kirk is smaller—and perhaps less imposing than we had imagined it. There seemed scarcely room for Satan and his Court. But it is the veritable thing, with William Burns's grave in front of it, near a fine thorn, as old as the poet's cradle. The original grave-stone (with Burns's epitaph upon it) has been carried away, bit by bit, by those dilapidating lapidaries, the pilgrims; but the same epitaph has been re-cut upon another stone—and that seems to stand a greater chance of perpetuity.
And are we now upon the Auld Brig o’ Doon? And is this « bonnie Doon” itself that flows beneath us? It is—that is, if it can be. We are not dreaming. We hear, we see, we feel, that it is the beautiful River. Look on its plentiful waters, winding down from the woody dell above to the lofty old bridge on which you stand, and thence on again to the New Brig below, allowing such a beautiful vista of it to be seen further on through its ample and stately arch. Look at those noble trees, the tops of which are on a level with you as you stand on the old key-stone, (that key-stone—the world has none so famous !) gazing thus solemnly down upon their own fine fragmentary shadows. Have they no consciousness, those glorious trees? They look like the very Poets of the Wood-tuning their mystic thoughts to the harpings of the River. Away-away! - we will intrude upon their lofty musings no longer. Beautiful Visionaries, fare ye well !—When you publish, we subscribeall we have, for one copy.
We have not noticed the Monument. Fervently did we wish it away. We thought it quite a disfigurement of the scene. A Grecian sepulchral temple bas, in our view of things, no keeping (as a painter would say) with the Scottish Cottage and the ruined Kirk, and the venerable old Bridge. Just as little has the coquettish Fountain, which caught our eye afterwards, splashing up with intrusive levity, in the gardens under the New Bridge,