Selections from Five English Poets eBook

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[12.] Passing, surpassingly.

[13.] Unpracticed he, etc.  Clergymen have in some instances changed their creeds to gain favor with those in authority.

[14.] His pity gave, etc., i.e. he gave from warm human sympathy rather than from a religious, and perhaps a colder, sentiment.

[15.] Fled the struggling soul. Fled is sometimes used transitively by older writers.

[16.] Awful form.  Notice how effective awful is when properly used.

[17.] Cypher, do sums in arithmetic; not often used now.

[18.] Terms and tides presage, i.e. the schoolmaster could tell when courts were to be held and when certain tides (times), such as Whitsuntide or Easter, would come.

[19.] Gauge, measure.  The word is applied especially to determining the capacity of casks and other vessels containing alcoholic liquors.  These had to be carefully measured, so that the government should receive the specified tax.

[20.] The twelve good rules.  Among these are:  “Reveal no secrets,” “Keep no bad company.”  They can be found in Hales’ Longer English Poems, p. 353.

[24.] Participate, share.

[25.] Altama, the Altamaha, a river in Georgia.

[26.] Crouching tigers.  It is evident that the poet is indulging his imagination.  The people of Georgia doubtless find this description of their country amusing if not accurate.

[27.] Torno’s cliffs.  Perhaps the poet refers to some region near the river Torneo, or Tornea, which flows into the Gulf of Bothnia.

[28.] Pambamarca’s side.  Pambamarca is a mountain in Ecuador.

[29.] Labored mole, carefully constructed breakwater.



Probably the poetry of “Robbie Burns, the Ayrshire Ploughman,” is known to more English-speaking people than that of any other writer—­not excepting even Shakespeare, for many a person who never reads a book is familiar with John Anderson, My Jo, Auld Lang Syne, and Bonie Doon, though he may not know or care who wrote these famous songs.

The Scotch poet was born at Alloway in Ayrshire, where his father cultivated a small farm.  He was the eldest of seven children.  Before he was eight years old the family removed to Mt.  Oliphant, and later to Lochlea.  Here, in 1784, the father died, worn out with incessant toil, which ended only in disappointment.  The family were so poor that Robert was obliged to work hard even when very young, and at fifteen he was his father’s chief helper.  In later years he described his life at Mt.  Oliphant as combining “the cheerless gloom of a hermit with the unceasing moil of a galley slave.”  But poets are given to exaggeration, and doubtless the attractive picture of home life which he afterwards painted in the Cotter’s Saturday Night is true in the main of the life in his father’s cottage.

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Selections from Five English Poets from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.