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Robert Burns_ How To Know Him

Robert Burns_ How To Know Him
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Title: Robert Burns_ How To Know Him
Release Date: 2006-05-14
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 25 March 2019
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ROBERT BURNS
HOW TO KNOW HIM

By
WILLIAM ALLAN NEILSON
Professor of English, Harvard University

Author of
Essentials of Poetry, etc.

WITH PORTRAIT

INDIANAPOLIS
THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY
PUBLISHERS

Copyright 1917
The Bobbs-Merrill Company

PRESS OF
BRAUNWORTH & CO.
BOOK MANUFACTURERS
BROOKLYN, N.Y.

TO
MY BROTHER

The Nasmyth Portrait of Robert Burns.

The Nasmyth Portrait of Robert Burns.


LIST OF POEMS


CONTENTS

  • chapter  page
  1. Biography 1
    1. Alloway, Mount Oliphant, and Lochlea 3
    2. Mossgiel 31
    3. Edinburgh 44
    4. Ellisland 58
    5. Dumfries 62
  2. Inheritance: Language and Literature 69
  3. Burns and Scottish Song 90
  4. Satires and Epistles 171
  5. Descriptive and Narrative Poetry 206
  6. Conclusion 310
  7. Index 325

ROBERT BURNS


CHAPTER I
BIOGRAPHY

“I have not the most distant pretence to what the pye-coatedguardians of Escutcheons call a Gentleman. When at Edinburgh lastwinter, I got acquainted at the Herald's office; and looking thro'the granary of honors, I there found almost every name in thekingdom; but for me,

My ancient but ignoble blood
Has crept thro' scoundrels since the flood.

Gules, purpure, argent, etc., quite disowned me. My forefathersrented land of the famous, noble Keiths of Marshal, and had thehonor to share their fate. I do not use the word ‘honor’ with anyreference to political principles: loyal and disloyal I taketo be merely relative terms in that ancient and formidable courtknown in this country by the name of ‘club-law.’ Those who darewelcome Ruin and shake hands with Infamy, for what they believesincerely to be the cause of their God or their King, are—as MarkAntony in Shakspear says of Brutus and Cassius—‘honorable men.’I mention this circumstance because it threw my Father on theworld at large; where, after many years' wanderings andsojournings, he picked up a pretty large quantity of observationand experience, to which I am indebted for most of my pretensionsto Wisdom. I have met with few who understood Men, their mannersand their ways, equal to him; but stubborn, ungainly Integrity,and headlong, ungovernable Irascibility, are disqualifyingcircumstances; consequently, I was born, a very poor man's son.”

“You can now, Sir, form a pretty near guess of what sort of Wighthe is, whom for some time you have honored with yourcorrespondence. That Whim and Fancy, keen sensibility and riotouspassions, may still make him zig-zag in his future path of life isvery probable; but, come what will, I shall answer for him—themost determinate integrity and honor [shall ever characterisehim]; and though his evil star should again blaze in his meridianwith tenfold more direful influence, he may reluctantly taxfriendship with pity, but no more.”

These two paragraphs form respectively the beginning and the end of along autobiographical letter written by Robert Burns to Doctor JohnMoore, physician and novelist. At the time they were composed, thepoet had just returned to his native county after the triumphantseason in Edinburgh that formed the climax of his career. But nodetailed knowledge of circumstances is necessary to rouse interest ina man who wrote like that. You may be offended by theself-consciousness and the swagger, or you may be charmed by thefrankness and dash, but you can not remain indifferent. Burns had manymoods besides those reflected in these sentences,

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