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SHEPHERD. Drivel. Dungeons o' learning there are-leevin' dungeons o' dead learning-in wham the operation o' the social principle is weak indeed-less than the life that's in a mussel. The servant lass has to gang in upon him in his study, and rug him aff his chair by the cuff o' the neck, when the kail's on the table, and the family hae gien the first preliminary flourish o' the horn-spoons.
Picture drawn from the life.
SHEPHERD. Aiblins. But “men o' the higher order o' genius,” sir, I manteen, are in general in patient o' solitude, though dearly do they love it; and sae far frae their mental stores being abundant and self-sufficing, why, the mair abundant they are, the less are they self-sufficing; for the owners,“ rich in such materials for thinking within themsells,” would think and feel that they were in a worse condition than that o' the maist abjeck poverty and powperism, gin they werna driven by a sense and an instinck, fierce and furious aften as a fivver, to pour their pearls, and their jewels, and their diamonds, and their gold and silver, oot in great glitterin' heaps afore the astonished, startled, and dazed een o' their fellow-creatures less prodigally endowed by nature, and then wi' a strange mixture o' pride and humbleness, to mark the sudden effeck on the gazers,—inwardly exclaiming, “I did it!” Did what?
SHEPHERD. Why, by inspiring them with a sense of beauty, elevated their haill moral and intellectual being, and enabled their fellow-creatures to see farther into their ain hearts, and into the heart o' the haill creation !
NORTH. Good, James, good. But to pitch our conversation on a lower key, allow me to say, that “thinking within themselves,” when too long pursued, is of all employments the most wearisome and barren to which men can have recourse--and that “men of the higher order of genius,” knowing that well, so far from feeling that they “ are independent of the external world,” draw thence their daily bread, and their daily water, without which their souls would speedily perish of inanition.
Ca' ye that pitchin' your tawk on a laigh key? It's at the tap o' the gawmut.
The materials for thinking within ourselves are gathered from without; in the gathering, we have enjoyed all varieties of delight; and is it to be thought that the gardens where these flowers grew, and still are growing, are to be forsaken by us, after we bave, during
a certain number of seasons, culled garlands wherewith to adorn our foreheads, or plucked fruit wherewith to sustain and refresh our souls ?
SHEPHERD. Ca' ye that pitchin' your tawk on a laigh key, sir ? It's at the tap o' the gawmut.
No, James-Men of the higher order of genius never long forsake the Life-Region, and is not its great Central Shrine, James, the Hearth? The soul that worships not there, my dear Shepherd-and true worship cannot be unfrequent, but is perennial, because from a source that the dews of heaven will not let run dry-will falter, fail, and faint in the midst of its song, and will know, ere that truth invades, one after another, its many chambers, that the wing that soareth highest in the sun must have slowly waxed in the shade
Ca' ye that pitchin' your tawk on a laigh key? It's at the tap o' the gawmut. That the Bird of Jove, sun-starer and cloud-cleaver though he be
Glorying in the storm, and enamoured of the tempest
Yet is happy to sink down frae heaven, and fauld up his magnificent wings at the edge o' his eyry, fond o' the twa unfledged cannibals sleepin' wi' fu' stammachs there, cozy in the middle o' a mighty nest, twenty feet in circumference, and covering the haill platform o' the tap o' the cliff, aye, as fond, sir, though I alloo a hantle fiercer, as ony cushy-doo on her slight and slender “procreant cradle,"-you can see through't, ye ken, sir, frae below, and discern whether she has eggs or young anes,-in the green gloom o’some auld pine central in the forest.
Yes, James, all great poets are great talkers
Tiresome aften to a degree-though sometimes, I grant to Mr Muir, that they are a sulky set, and as grufily and grimly silent as if they had the toothache, or something the matter wi' their inside. Far be it frae me to deny, that" men o'the higher order o'genius” are aften disagreeable deevils. They maun aften be a sair fash to their wives and their weans-and calm as the poet's cottage looks, upon the hill or in the dell, mony a rippet is there, sir, beyond the power o' the imagination o ony mere proser to conceive. Oh, aye, sir! mony a fearfu' rippet, in which, whether appellant or respondent, defender or pursuer, the man o' the higher order o' genius” wishes, wi' tears in the red een ohim, no that his wife and weans were a' dead and buried - for nae provocation in their power can drive the distrackit fallow to that—but that he himsell had never been kittled, or, if kittled, instead o' hae'n been laid in the cradle by Apollo, and tended on by the Musesnine nurses, and nae less—which o’ them wat and which o' them dry it's no easy for me at this distance o'time to remember-he had been soockled like ither honest men's bairns, at the breast o' his nain mither, had shewn nae precocious genius in his leading strings--but, blessed lot! had died booby o' the lowest form, and been buried amang the sabs o' a' that ever saw him, a wee senseless sumph, as stupid as a piggie, yet as happy as a lamb!
Aye, clear your throttle. You've gotten a vile crinklin' cough, sir,-a short, kirk-yard cough, sir-a wheezy host, sir-an asthmatic
Poo! It has teased me a little for these last fifty years
What? Hae ye carried a spale-box o' lozenges since the aughty ? Recover your wund, sir-while I chant a stave.
O, Willie was a wanton wag,
The blithest lad that e'er I saw;
An' carried aye the gree awa'.
An' was nae Willie weel worth goud ?
When seas did rowe an’ winds did blaw,
He fought the foremost o' them a'.
Wha has nae heard o' Willie's fame,
The rose o' Britain's topmast bough,
Nor turn'd his back on friend or foe?
An' he could chant a cheery strain,
An aye be welcome back again.
For whilk he never cared a flee-
The same kind-hearted chield is he.
An' fill it reaming to the brim,
To Adie Laidlaw an' to him.
I've ae advice to gie my King,
An' that I'll gie wi' right gude-will,
Wha bore it up through good and ill :
They suit nae honest hearts ava;
As lang as I hae breath to draw.
Spirited. Who is Adie Laidlaw ?
NORTH. I am delighted to hear that Mr Blackwood is about to publish a volume of your inimitable Songs. 'Twill be universally popular, my dear James-and must be followed up by a second in spring. The wing of your lyrical muse never flags, whether she skim the gowans or brush the clouds. The shade of Burns himself might say to the Shepherd, “Then gie's your haund, my trusty feer,” for, of all the song writers of Scotland, you two are the best-though Allan Cunninghame treads close upon your heels--and often is privileged to form a trio-such a trio of peasant bards as may challenge the whole world.
Your haun, sir. I cou'd amaist greet.
But it is the “ cultivation and exercise of the imaginative faculty," quoth Mr Moore," that, more than any thing else, tends to wean the man of genius from actual life, and by substituting the sensibilities of the imagination for those of the heart, to render, at last, the medium through which he feels, no less unreal than that through which he thinks. Those images of ideal good and beauty that surround him in his musings, soon accustom him to consider all that is beneath this high standard unworthy of his care ; till, at
length, the heart becoming chilled, in proportion as he has refined and elevated his theory of all the social affections, he has unfitted himself for the practice of them.” Such are the ipsissima verba of Mr Moore, James.
I'm nae great reader o' byeucks, sir, as you weel ken, and, I believe, dinna disapprove, yet mony's the time and aft that I've lauched to peruse that apothegm.
If not a “wi saw," perhaps 'tis a "modern instance."
Mr North, if Mr Muir was sittin' on that empty chair there, wi' the laddie kissin' the lassie embroidered on the inside o' the back o't-Patie and Roger, I jaloose-I would just say till him, wi' a pleesant vice, and kind een, and a lauch about my mouth, Mister Muir, you're under a great mistak. Nae man o' a high order o’mind, either thinks or feels through "an unreal medium.” But I'll tell you, sir, what he does—he thinks and feels through a fine medium. He breathes the pure air o'the mountain-tap--and he sees through the clear air a' the dwallins o' man--and richt through their roofs intil their hearths and their hearts. Did Burns feel and think through an unreal medium, Mister Muir, when,
“ In glory and in joy, Following his plough upon the mountain-side,” his soul saw the Cottar's Saturday Night, and in words gave the vision im. perishable life?
“ You are attired With sudden brightness, like a man inspired.” Na, na—'tis but the glow o' the fire on ma face. Yet ma heart's a' on a low-for as sure as God is in heaven, and that he has gi'en us his word on earth, that Picture is a Picture of the Truth, and Burns, in drawing it, saw, felt, and thocht through that real medium, in which alone all that is fairest, loveliest, brichtest, best in creation, is made apparent to the eyes o'genius, or permanent in its immortal works.
Ca' ye that pitchin' your talk on a laigh key? 'Tis at the tap o' the gawmut.
SAEPHERD. Hoo can you, Mister Muir, sit there and tell me that men o' a high order o' mind sune get sae enamoured o' the eemages o' ideal good and beauty, that they consider all that is beneath that standard unworthy o' their care ? Let me come owre and sit beside you for a few minutes. There, dinna be feared--I'm no a grain angry-and I'm sittin', you see, my dear sir, wi' my airm owre the back o' your chair. Don't press so close upon Mr Moore, James
SHEPHERD. Mister Muir's makin' nae complents, sir.— It is “ men o' a laigh order o' genius,” ma freen, that is subject to sic degeneracy and adulteration. A puny, sickly sensibility there is, which is averse frae all the realities of life; and Byron or somebody else spoke well when he said that Sterne preferred whining owre a dead ass to relieving a living mother! But wha was Sterne ? As shallow a sentimentalist as ever grat-or rather tried to greet. O, sir ! but it's a degrawdinsicht to humanity, yon-to see the shufflin' sinner tryin' to bring the tears intill his een, by rubbin' the lids wi' the pint o' his pen, or wi' the feathers on the shank, and when it a' winna do, takin' refuge in a blank, sae -, or hidin' his head amang a set o’asterisks, sae ****; or boltin'aff the printed page a'thegither, and disappearin' in ae black blotch!
SHEPHERD. Weel, weel-be it sae-a' that I mean to aver, is, that had he been “ o' the first order o' minds,” he would not hae preferred whining owre a dead ass to relieving a living mother; but if news had been suddenly brocht to him that his mother was ill, he wad hae hired a livin' horse, and aff to her house like a flash o’ lichtning, flingin' himsell oot o' the saiddle to the danger o' his neck, up stairs to her bedside, and doon upon his knees, beseeching God for her recovery, and willing to die for her sake, so that she who gave him birth micht yet live, nor be taken from the licht of day and buried amang the tombs! Don't press, my dear James, so heavily on Mr Moore's shoulder.
SHEPHERD. Mister Muir’s makin' nae complents. There's ma sell, sirs-I sha'na pretend to say whether I'm a man o' the higher order o' genius or no; but
Yes, James, you are; for you wrote Kilmeny.
SHEPHERD. But if I haena ten thousand times the quantity o’genius that ever Sterne had, may this be the last jug, sirs, that ever we three drink thegither Shades of my Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim!
SHEPHERD. Fantastic phantoms !
Why, James, your voice trembles with emotion. You are not the man, my boy, to whine over a dead ass; but you are the man, my boy, to be pensive over the very fear, however unfounded, of an empty jug-so I may replenish ?
SHEPHERD. Do sae.--I am surrounded in my musings—to use your ain words, Mister Muir-wi' eemages o' ideal good and beauty; and, at times, when lyin' on the greensward in the heart o' the Forest, a sweet strange perplexity has it been to the Shepherd, sirs, to determine within the consciousness o' his ain sowle, whether the bonny cretures that seemed to come to him in solitude, were cretures o' this earth or no-and if o’ this earth, then whether they were all but Fancy's phantoms, or beings that had their abiding-place in heaven, and cam o' their ain accord; or were sent to wave peace into my wearied spirit frae the white motions o' their arms celestial in their whiteness as the blue lights of love and pity, that bathed in ineffable beautifulness the steadfast expression of their angelic eyes !
NORTH. My dear James ! But did these visitations accustom me, sir,- I'm speakin' to you, Mister Muir,—to consider a' else unworthy o' ma care ? Na, na, na. I appeal to you, Mr North, for you hae seen me and the auld man thegither there, gin I didna return back to my ain hut, anxious as ever aboot my father, wha used then to sit warmin' himsell at the bit ingle, stricken in years, though far frae frail yet, and aften glowerin' at me wi' that gash kind o' face that somehoo or ither in verra auld folk carries ane's thochts at ance to their coffin and their grave-as anxious about him as if the breathins o’genie had never visited the Shepherd on the hill, and I had been only a mere common ordinar prose-hash o' a chiel, whase heichest explite in leeteratur had been