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MEMORIALS OF A TOUR IN SCOTLAND, 1803

II. AT THE GRAVE OF BURNS, 1803

SEVEN YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH
          I SHIVER, Spirit fierce and bold,
          At thought of what I now behold:
          As vapours breathed from dungeons cold,
                Strike pleasure dead,
          So sadness comes from out the mould
                Where Burns is laid.

          And have I then thy bones so near,
          And thou forbidden to appear?
          As if it were thyself that's here
                I shrink with pain;                                   10
          And both my wishes and my fear
                Alike are vain.

          Off weight--nor press on weight!--away
          Dark thoughts!--they came, but not to stay;
          With chastened feelings would I pay
                The tribute due
          To him, and aught that hides his clay
                From mortal view.

          Fresh as the flower, whose modest worth
          He sang, his genius "glinted" forth,                        20
          Rose like a star that touching earth,
                For so it seems,
          Doth glorify its humble birth
                With matchless beams.

          The piercing eye, the thoughtful brow,
          The struggling heart, where be they now?--
          Full soon the Aspirant of the plough,
                The prompt, the brave,
          Slept, with the obscurest, in the low
                And silent grave.                                     30

          I mourned with thousands, but as one
          More deeply grieved, for He was gone
          Whose light I hailed when first it shone,
                And showed my youth
          How Verse may build a princely throne
                On humble truth.

          Alas! where'er the current tends,
          Regret pursues and with it blends,--
          Huge Criffel's hoary top ascends
                By Skiddaw seen,--                                    40
          Neighbours we were, and loving friends
                We might have been;

          True friends though diversely inclined;
          But heart with heart and mind with mind,
          Where the main fibres are entwined,
                Through Nature's skill,
          May even by contraries be joined
                More closely still.

          The tear will start, and let it flow;
          Thou "poor Inhabitant below,"                               50
          At this dread moment--even so--
                Might we together
          Have sate and talked where gowans blow,
                Or on wild heather.

          What treasures would have then been placed
          Within my reach; of knowledge graced
          By fancy what a rich repast!
                But why go on?--
          Oh! spare to sweep, thou mournful blast,
                His grave grass-grown.                                60

          There, too, a Son, his joy and pride,
          (Not three weeks past the Stripling died,)
          Lies gathered to his Father's side,
                Soul-moving sight!
          Yet one to which is not denied
                Some sad delight:

          For 'he' is safe, a quiet bed
          Hath early found among the dead,
          Harboured where none can be misled,
                Wronged, or distrest;                                 70
          And surely here it may be said
                That such are blest.

          And oh for Thee, by pitying grace
          Checked oft-times in a devious race,
          May He who halloweth the place
                Where Man is laid
          Receive thy Spirit in the embrace
                For which it prayed!

          Sighing I turned away; but ere
          Night fell I heard, or seemed to hear,                      80
          Music that sorrow comes not near,
                A ritual hymn,
          Chaunted in love that casts out fear
                By Seraphim.


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