The Curtis Courier. (Curtis, Okla.), Vol. 6, No. 20, Ed. 1 Thursday, May 3, 1906 Page: 2 of 10
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IMUT BURNS-.MAN AND BRET.
By John Maagh*.
Thsrs are poets whose work* w* n»n
discuss without dlsruaslrig tho po.ta
thrmaalvaa thakrp[air« ], nit of the***
Thera la an entire ahs-nr* of **lf-sllualon|
In hla plays and poems lla heM the mlr-
tor up to natura. hut avoid-,1 .tending In
front of It hlma*|f. go Impersonal «re th<*
unrivaled |>rndurt|ona of hla genius. that
an attempt liaa l>een made recently to
rlalnri their authnrahlp for another, but In
aplte of ht* seal. Industry and vivid Im-
agination the man who atood forth a* the
literary champion of this claim was not
-to use an expreaalon of the day-able
to aata hla llacon.
In discussing the plays and poems of
Shakespeare we ran—because of thl* lack
°f ••If allusion leave Ihe man Shakes-
peare out of the reckoning without doing
Injustice either to them or to him When,
however, we come to deal with Ihe poem*
of Robert Hums, we are compelled to
pursue i different court#, betiiuee we
havo to deal with a different order of
genlua, and with an altogether different
Robert Rurna put an much of himself
Into his poems that—were there no other
material accessible a very fair and reas-
onably accurate life of him could be
written from them alone. Thla being true.
It la Impossible, for even Ihe most dis-
criminating crlllc, to separate him fron.
them or them from him, and do Justice man passions, which should have been
lo either. As well separate the warp| to him a well-spring of lasting Joy and
happiness, became, because of a will too
weak to hold It In healthful control, a
mjuwtly and y*t poetically.
In many of them It la the poet himself
oho is i*-.illy sp- ihlng. giving emphatic I
* i| reol ,n to !>Ja Ideas, opinions, con-
v let lows and even hla prejudices In newr-j
ly alt of th< m th*r« Is more or less self- '
allusion Th* |» *i and the man are both'
present In them, endowing them with1
Mfa and n*. ** m< nt and crowning them-
*tth thoughts mors or leas philosophic,1
II being Bums' idea that all porta are In'
a certain d<grea philosophers
Hums om.J hla first poetic Inspiration
lo the an it uin* within hla heart of that
pi«sion which ever afterward ruled hla
The custom of hla country as ha tells
us In a personal sketch, prepared by him-
self. "of coupling a m.ip and a woman to-
gether In t In- labors of the harvest." gava
him ns a dally companion, when he wag
about tlfteen years old, a young girl, who,
"among her other love-Inspiring qualities,
sang sweetly, and It was lo her favorite
re-1 that he attempted giving an embod-
ied vehicle " "She sang a song, ho says,
"which waa said to be composed by a
county laird a eon, on one of hla father's
maids, with whom he was In lova, and 1
saw no reason why I might not rhyma
aa well aa he, for excepting that ha eould
shear aheep and cut peata—hla father1
living In the moorlands—ho had aa asora [
scholarship than myaelf. Thus with am!
began love and poetry."
Love, the tender passion, aa we term It, I
aver afterward ruled hla life II Is to be I
regretted that this, the noblest of hu-1
from the woof and expect a perfect pro-
duct of Ihe loom. Hla poems mirror Ihs
man aa well as the poet, and we shall al-
ways he able to find the man without tha
aid of a cryptogram.
source of sorrow and remorse, strongly1
accentuating Ihe mental depression and'
despondency to which he waa so frequent- (
Shakespeare laid the ancient and mod- ly subject. Wayward and uncontrolled, aa
ant world under tribute to hla genlua , It was, however. It Inspired hla bast I
tie drew his Inspiration from daaalc
Oreecc and Rome, from ancient Rrltaln
and ancient Denmark; from Italy, FYanoe
and Austria; from Scotland ami Wales,
and from hla own native England. His
characters are of nearly every known na-
tionality under Ihe sun, and lie makes
us acquainted with the manners nnd cus-
toms of many lands. Hut he wns e play-
wright, ae well ne poet; a theater mana-
ger as well as n playwright, unit It Is
tha writer's opinion—If he may be pardon-
ed for Intruding It here that he was loo
greatly concerned as lo the success of
hla plays, to devote time or thought to
Ihe absurd Idiosyncrasy of secreting In
their text a mysterious cypher, to he dis-
covered by a literary Columbus of a later
While the muse of Shakespeare wan-
dered over the wide, wide world, and
wova Into a chaplet for hla brow the
laurels of many lands, the muse of Robert
Burns rnrely wandered away from tha
banka nfdhe Ayr. the Ponn or the Nlth.
U nab la to Work.
poems and his sweetest songs
those inspired In his moments of sorrow
nnd nv-nt >1 depression are so true, tender ®u”Of*d Severely
niul touching that they arouse our com-'
passion for the despondent bard. j
"To Mary In Heaven," the noblest of;
the poem*, Inspired during his sadder;
hours, is well worthy of Immortality.
This poem we are told “was composed
by Burns, In September. IMS, on the an- |
nlveraary of the day on which he heard avenue, Brooklyn, N.
of the death of his early lo\’e, Mary .
Papmbell, tha object says William Moth-j POr m*n* montltg I Suffered SS-
erwell, "of the purest, lnviiest nnd moat. vsrtly from headaches and pains in
ardent affection that ever glowed within glde gnd back, sometimes being
Mias Lucy V. McGIvney, 451 Srd
the breast of the poet."
"Highland Mary" Is another poem In-
spired by the memory of the asms aarly
love. Its tender and pathetic line* la-
ment her early death nnd set forth her na. end am as active aa ever and have
lovers' lingering sorrow.
unable to attend to my daily work.
"I dm better, now, thanke to Rem-
and never ventured beyond the confine* of ........ ..........
Scot land, the land In which he waa born, dottlstful If the marriage would ever
Burns cherished Ihe memory of Mary
Cnmpbell throughout hla life. His letters
nud poems bear evidence that hla sor-
row for her untimely death wns alncere-
•ind enduring. They were engaged, but It
the land In which he died, nnd the Innd
that claimed hlg love and his loyally
from the cradle to the grave.
Two reasons can be assigned for the
self-allusion In Hums' poems: hla mental
maka-up and his environment.
That peculiar endowment which wo call
genius Is often bestowed upon Its posses-
sor at the expense of other attributes,
necessary to mental balance nnd equi-
poise. Rurna was no exception to thla
rule. If rule It may bo called. He had
poetlo genius of a high order, but he also
had controlling mental attributes that
here Ill-suited to an environment of toll
•nd poverty. As ha himself tells us, hla
great constituent elements were "pride
and passion." Ills will was strong snough
to maintain h(s pride but not strong
enough to curb or hold In check hla pas-
sions Ills pride mnde him sensitive nnd
he never could reconcile himself to his
"low birth and Iron fortune," nor regard,
with other than Impatience, If not con-
tempt, those who had no better claim to
the recognition of their fellowmen than
rank and riches. To him, always niul
everywhere, "the rank was but the guin-
ea’s stamp; Ihe man's the gowd for n'
Burn*' sympathies were wide In their
range nnd easily awakened. Ills sense
of right and wrong was keen, nnd his
conscience so persistent In calling him to
account that II may said that If he
•Inneil he also suffer*
He was born poor. lived poor and
he died poor. Yet It a doubtfid If ever
any other man so longed for riches. The
two constant yearnings of hls heart and
mind were to be rich and be distinguish-
ed. Still, It Is a question If riches would
have brought him happiness. He had in
him a mixture of mirth nnd melancholy,
pride ami panslon, nnd n leaning toward
good fellowship, sociability and conviv-
iality. that make itches dangnnua to
their possessor, nnd there Is reason to
think that they had been born with a sil-
ver spoon In his mouth nnd a coat of
arms for hls Inheritance Scotland nnd
the world would ha\e lost a deservedly
The "divinity that shapes our ends,
rough hew them how we will," seems
to have decreed that Scotland nnd the
world needed Ihe poetic genius of Burns
more than he needed rank and riches,
nnd Fame, as a recompense lor all that he
suffered, because of hls poverty wrote hls
name In luminous letters upon her Im-
Another reason for th* aelf-nlluiloti
that pervades Robert Burns' poems. Is to
be found In hls own language. He wrote
them, he tolls us, "to transcribe the var
tous feelings the loves, the griefs, the
hopes, the fears In hls own broaat. lo find
come kind Of oounterjHil.se to the strug-
gles of a world, always an alien scene,
s task uncouth to the poetic mind."
In nnothcr place he saya: "The poetic
genius of my country found me ns the
prophetic Elijah did Elisha—at the plough
—and threw her Inspiring mantle over
me. She hade me sing the loves, the
Joys, the rural scenes and rural pleasures
of my native soil. In my nutlve tongue."
Since these were the sources of hls po-
etlo Inspiration, It ought not to be difficult
to discover why hls poem* abound with
that self allusion which we fall to find In
A further reason may be found In the
fact that Burns waa a poet of Ideas rath-
er than Ideals ITnllke Milton. Dante and
others, who lost themselves In the Il-
limitable icalms of the Imagination, he
remained on earth and drew hls Inspira-
tion from hi* own feelings and from the
scenes and the life about him.
Although not strictly dramatic In char-
acter—In the sense o' being suited for
stage presentation—U* <’ poems abound
In action. There Is wry little still life
li them. They present Ideas vividly.
have taken place, had she lived. Hef 1
death, however, left him disconsolate 1
and to hls enduring sorrow for her we*
owe a number of hls noblest and most
beautiful poems In writing them he not j
only Immortalized the love of hls youth1
but made hls own fame as a poet secure. |
Jean Armour, who afterwards became the
no more headaches.
“The way Peruna forked In my
case waa simply marvelous."
We have In our flies many grateful
leters from women who have Buffer-
ed with the Byniptoms named above.
Lack of space| prcvVnts our giving
more than one teatlnunlal here.
It is Inifloddble to even approxl-
great amount of Buffering
Ills wife, wns hla sweetheart before he
met Mnry Campbell. The opposition of
her parents to tlielr marriage, for reas-
ons which It Is not necessary to discuss
here, separated, and, for a time, estrang-
ed them. Enter on, after Mary Camp-
bel's death, the old love was revived In
their hearts and they were married.
That Burns loved hls wife none can
doubt. This love, both before and after
their marriage, found frequent expres-
sion In hls poems. She made him a good
wife nnd gave him it full measure of love
and sympathy. She lind a tuneful voice,
and It waa she who first sang hls songs
for him and enabled him to Judge of the
melody of rythm and words. It was for
her sake, and for the sake of their child-
ren that he made a sufficient surrender
of Ills self-asortlve pride nnd Indejiend-
er.ee to cause him to accept the office
of exciseman, and to faithfully and pa-
tiently discharged Its distasteful duties,
tlently discharge its distasteful duties.
The literary ease and the competency to
maintain It. for which he longed, wns
always coupled with n desire to Increase
their happiness nr>d comfort.
Tline says: "It 1s hard to be born In
Scotland," To him the land appeared
bleak nnd cold nnd cheerless. Bums
never found It so. however. Warm bloon
ran tn hls veins nnd a warm heart beat
In hls breast. Scotland was hls native
land and the Scotch people, equally warm-
blooded and warm-hearted, were hla peo-
plo. He loved the land and he loved the
people—especially th*' common people—
from whom he sprung, nnd when he dis-
covered that he was gifted with poetic
genius, he dedicated It to a recital of their
loves, their Joys, their ryral employments
and their rural jdeasures.
He gloried In the achievements of those
Immortal Is-roes Wallace and Bruce, and
one of the unfulfilled purposes of hls
llfc-whlch he would have made a labor
of love wns to write a series of dramat-
ic poems In which Scottish history should
bo perjwtuated In much the same manner
;i* English history la perpetuated In the’
plays of Shnkespeare. Hls unbounded ad-
miration for Wallace Inspired "Soots wha
line with Wallace Bled" which Carlyle
pronounced one of the most stirring war
songs ever written.
In one ot hls letters he says. "The story
of Wallace poured a Scotch prejudice Into
my veins which will boll till th* flood
gates of life shut In eternal rest." it Is
not difficult for a man who feels thus
intensely to express himself with the
warmth and fervor which we find In so
many of the j'oems, In which the bard
deals with matters affecting the welfare
c*f Scotland and hls people.
Burns loved the jieople of Scotland,
particularly those known as the common
people, and we constantly encounter In
hla interns that Idea which the patriots
of the American Revolution had already
crystnllsed Into our Immortal declaration
of Independence. Hla contention that "a
man's a man for a’ tha*.," Is but a terse
way of saying all men are born fiee and
equal, and that neither rank nor richer
Increase or decrease, by so much as a
hair's breadth, the true stature of Indi-
Bums' heart beat In constant sympa-
thy with the tollworn poor, whose Ilfs
was one long struggle with want and
poverty. He knew, from the bitter exper-
ience of hls own parents, that even the
most perslatent industry, joined to the
most rigid economy, were too often Insuf-
ficient to provide the scant necessities of
life and meet the demand* Of an exacting
which Peruna ban relieved, or thd
number of women who have been re-
st ored to health and Btrength by Its
For yenrs hla own father, an upright,
frugal and Industrious man, struggled un-
avallingly to maintain lilmflMf and hls
family by cultivating a leasehold of seven
acres of poor and hungry soil. Burns saw
hls father's health give way beneath bur-
dens that were beyond hls strength, and
hls spirit rebelled against a condition due
solely to the accident of birth, which en-
tailed so much suffering upon those he
From the moment Burns realized that
he was poor, and that hi* pov-erty Inter-
posed a barrier between himself and the
rich and titled, hls pride began to as-
sert Itself. That he thought himself as
good ns the son of any duke or earl or
lord In the land, Is evidenced by the
spirit he manifested when he wrote hls
Hist poem. He wns vain neither of hls
f ice nor hls form, put he always thought
well of hls Intellectual attainments. He
waa a good English and French scholar,
nnd he knew after the publication of th*
first edition of hls poems, that he had a
right to regard himself ns a bard worthy
of a permanent place In Scottish litera-
ture. This self-love, or egotism or what*
ever you may see fit to term It, made
him self-assertive, and caused him to
write himself Into hla own poems In the
manner heretofore described.
Burns lived and sympathised with the
weak and helpless and pnln and misery
nnd suffering always touched hls heart.
Such poems as the "Des'h and Dying
Words of Poor Mallle;" "Poor Mallle's
t-.lcgy;” "To Mouse," etc., could only em-
ulate from a man whose heart was ten-
der and easily touched.
Burns loved nature; not th« nature that
*pread out before him as an ever-chang-
ing jianorama, during hla long Journey
over Scotland, after hls visit to Edin-
burgh, but tho nature with which he was
intimate by reason of long years of asso-
ciation. It lay along the banks of the
Ayr, the Doon, the Nlth and other
streams with which he was familiar. It
was while wandering along these that the
muse sought and Inspired him. In hls
moments of sadness and depression he
went to nature for sympathy. As he
gazed up Into the heavens and fixed hls
eye on the "lingering star with lessening
rays," that recalled to him hla dead love,
the muse soothed and calmed him and
ah-n hls wife came, near the hour of
dawn, and gently led him back Into the
house from which he had wandered
forth, she little dreamed that, as the re-
sirtt of hls lonely vigils the literature of
the world waa enriched by one of th*
sweetest and purest poems In any lan-
But Robert Bums spirit waa not al-
ways gloomy, nor was he always depress-
ed and despondent. There were times
when hls spirit waa mirthful and Joyous,
and he was much sought after, by those
loving good fellowship, because he waa
able to enliven the evening hour, with
scintillating wit and humor. Indeed, the
natural bent of hls mind was lively and
mirthful. It la the wit In hls poems, as
much aa the pathos that we admire.
Burns' early teachers tall us that he
had no ear for music, and that apparent-
ly h* waa unible to distlngufkn one nos*
from another. He h*M forth no promise
*j# btitig a poet, much leas of being the
one poet In all Scotland to perpetuate
and render Immortal the tuneful melodies
Of hu native land
But winn the poetic genius of hi*
country anitght him out, rlk awoke In
him a line for the sitniu# folk songs of
hi* native land, that became with him
i.lmost an Infatuation. He welcomed th«
I nutation to contribute to Thomson* out-
I"' Hon* of Pcoltish songs, almost aM a
< lodar nd, and devoted himself with en-
thusiasm to the work, for which b*
neither asked nor received compensation.
The gr*at majority of Burns poem*
■ re written In Ills nstlY-e 8eo(cn tongue,
the language which he really loved. It is
true. that, because of his pride in hi*
learning and because he desired to appear
as cultured as the sons of the gentry he
generally uaed English In conversation,
especially w4lh those less educated than
himself; but when hi* muss Inspired him
th* sentences flowed from hls pen In good
broad Scotch. These who are better
capaMe of judging than th* writer any
that In the une of hla native tongue ha
was an absolute master. Hls familiarity
with Its strange and seldom used words
was so astonishing that even Scotch-
men of learning and scholarship accused
him of coining many of th* words he
uaed. Thla charge has, however, long
Some time after Burns first edition of
hl* poems appeared some of hla literary
friends, among them Dr. Morris, advised
him to deal sparingly with th* provincial
dialect. Dr. Morris urged him to adopt
a classic style and to aim at pure English
composition. Burns, however, was wiser
than hla critics and adhered to hls na-
White many of hls English poems are
worthy of h|s fame. It la to those in the
Bcotrh dialect that ws go far those
quotations that may be said to have pa su-
ed Into proverbs. Flexible an our English
language Is, Bums dialect poems would
lose much that we value In them if they
w-ere remodeled to conform to a scholarly
usage of It
Robert Burns died at the age of thirty-
seven years. Principal Bhalrp says that
"in all hut hla poetry hla was a defeated
life." Thl* la very doubtful.
By nature and temperament he waa
subject to the same varying moods that
would doubtless hsve controlled him had
hls desire for riches been gratified. The
case he thought he needed to lead an
Ideal literary life, would have probably
been used otherwise. We know that hla
sojourn In Edinburgh and hls trip
through Scotland bore little fruit such aa
might have been looked for from a poet
In search of Inspiration. Hls muse founn
him at the plough, and It Is to hls rural
life that we gnust look for the beet pro-
ductions of hls genius.
The life, though It be one of poverty,
privation nnd even disappointment, that
can so enrich the literature of the world
cannot be pronounced a defeated life.
If wo are to Judge men by the monu-
ments for good they leave behind, Robert
Hums left this world with a large entry
to Ills credit on the right side of the re-
cording angel's register. For one hun-
dred or more years the world has been
better for hls having lived In It. Through
hls Immortal poema-he found Ms way In-
to not only the minds but the hearts of
men, and his poems will be read-and hls
memory cherished so long as human
feelings, human sympathies and human
hearts respond to the "one touch of na-
ture that makes the whole world kin."
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The Curtis Courier. (Curtis, Okla.), Vol. 6, No. 20, Ed. 1 Thursday, May 3, 1906, newspaper, May 3, 1906; Curtis, Oklahoma. (gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc405273/m1/2/: accessed November 13, 2018), The Gateway to Oklahoma History, gateway.okhistory.org; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society.