Home  »  library  »  poem  »  Robert Burns

C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Robert Burns

By Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790–1867)

THERE have been loftier themes than his,

And longer scrolls, and louder lyres,

And lays lit up with Poesy’s

Purer and holier fires.

Yet read the names that know not death:

Few nobler ones than Burns are there;

And few have won a greener wreath

Than that which binds his hair.

His is that language of the heart

In which the answering heart would speak;

Thought, word, that bids the warm tear start,

Or the smile light the cheek.

And his that music to whose tone

The common pulse of man keeps time,

In cot or castle’s mirth or moan,

In cold or sunny clime.

And who hath heard his song, nor knelt

Before its spell with willing knee,

And listened, and believed, and felt

The Poet’s mastery?

O’er the mind’s sea, in calm and storm,

O’er the heart’s sunshine and its showers,

O’er Passion’s moments, bright and warm,

O’er Reason’s dark, cold hours;

On fields where brave men “die or do,”

In halls where rings the banquet’s mirth,

Where mourners weep, where lovers woo,

From throne to cottage hearth:

What sweet tears dim the eyes unshed,

What wild vows falter on the tongue,

When ‘Scots wha hae wi’ Wallace bled,’

Or ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ is sung!

Pure hopes, that lift the soul above,

Come with the Cotter’s hymn of praise;

And dreams of youth, and truth, and love,

With Logan’s banks and braes.

And when he breathes his master-lay

Of Alloway’s witch-haunted wall,

All passions in our frames of clay

Come thronging at his call.

Imagination’s world of air,

And our own world, its gloom and glee,—

Wit, pathos, poetry, are there,

And death’s sublimity.

And Burns, though brief the race he ran,

Though rough and dark the path he trod,

Lived, died, in form and soul a Man,

The image of his God.

Through care, and pain, and want, and woe,

With wounds that only death could heal,—

Tortures the poor alone can know,

The proud alone can feel,—

He kept his honesty and truth,

His independent tongue and pen,

And moved, in manhood as in youth,

Pride of his fellow-men.

Strong sense, deep feeling, passions strong,

A hate of tyrant and of knave,

A love of right, a scorn of wrong,

Of coward and of slave;

A kind, true heart, a spirit high,

That could not fear and would not bow,

Were written in his manly eye

And on his manly brow.

Praise to the bard! His words are driven,

Like flower seeds by the far winds sown,

Where’er, beneath the sky of heaven,

The birds of fame have flown.

Praise to the man! A nation stood

Beside his coffin with wet eyes,—

Her brave, her beautiful, her good,—

As when a loved one dies.

And still, as on his funeral day,

Men stand his cold earth-couch around,

With the mute homage that we pay

To consecrated ground.

And consecrated ground it is,—

The last, the hallowed home of one

Who lives upon all memories,

Though with the buried gone.

Such graves as his are pilgrim shrines,

Shrines to no code or creed confined;

The Delphian vales, the Palestines,

The Meccas of the mind.

Sages, with Wisdom’s garland wreathed,

Crowned kings, and mitred priests of power,

And warriors with their bright swords sheathed,

The mightiest of the hour;

And lowlier names, whose humble home

Is lit by Fortune’s dimmer star,

Are there; o’er wave and mountain come,

From countries near and far,

Pilgrims whose wandering feet have pressed

The Switzer’s snow, the Arab’s sand,

Or trod the piled leaves of the West—

My own green forest-land:

All ask the cottage of his birth,

Gaze on the scenes he loved and sung,

And gather feelings not of earth

His fields and streams among.

They linger by the Doon’s low trees,

And pastoral Nith, and wooded Ayr,

And round thy sepulchres, Dumfries!

The Poet’s tomb is there.

But what to them the sculptor’s art,

His funeral columns, wreaths, and urns?

Wear they not graven on the heart

The name of Robert Burns?