The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

X. Burns

§ 12. Halloween

But, Halloween is the finer poem of the two—mainly, because mere satire is absent and mirthful humour prevails. It conjures up a quite different rustic scene, one where ecclesiasticism, either to good or bad purpose, does not intrude; and all is pure fun and merriment. He had a suggestion for the poem in Mayne’s Halloween, and faint reflections of it, as well as of lines in Montgomerie, Ramsay, Fergusson, Thomson and Pope, are discernible in some of the stanzas, just as similar faint reminiscences of their predecessors or contemporaries are discernible in the work of most poets of eminence; but they do not affect in the slightest the main texture of the poem, which, throughout, is, characteristically, his own. In the fine opening stanza, he adds to the descriptive effect by introducing internal rimes:

  • Upon that night when fairies light,
  • and he has also partial recourse to this device in some other stanzas. Near the close of the poem, he suspends, for a moment, his mirthful narrative of the Halloween adventures and misadventures to surprise and enchant us by his consummate picture of the meanderings of a woodland stream:
  • Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays.
  • But this is a mere casual interlude. It is with the exploits and ludicrous mishaps of the “merry, friendly country folks” that the poem is chiefly concerned.