As a man, Burns was far from perfect. His passions were strong and he never learned to control them, and in consequence he had reason to repent bitterly many a rash act. Yet he was brave and honest; he had a righteous hatred of hypocrisy; as the champion of the humble, he claimed for the poorest the full privileges of sturdy manhood; he cared heartily for his fellowmen and had a place in his affections even for the field-mouse and the daisy. Because his verse beats with the passions of his fiery and sympathetic nature, the world loves him as it loves few other poets. Among the best known of his productions are The Cotter’s Saturday Night, Tam o’ Shanter, Address to the Unco Guid, To a Mouse, and To a Mountain Daisy. In speaking of his songs, one might mention first, Scots Wha Hae,—composed in the midst of tempests, while the poet was riding over a wild Galloway moor,—and next, Highland Mary and A Man’s a Man for a’ That; but there is no need of enumerating the songs of Burns. As Emerson has said, “The wind whispers them, the birds whistle them, the corn, barley, and bulrushes hoarsely rustle them. . . . They are the property and the solace of mankind.”
THE COTTER’S SATURDAY NIGHT[*]
My loved, my honored, much respected friend!
No mercenary bard his homage pays;
With honest pride I scorn each selfish end,
My dearest meed, a friend’s esteem and praise:
To you I sing, in simple Scottish lays, 5
The lowly train in life’s sequestered scene;
The native feelings strong, the guileless ways;
What Aikin in a cottage would have been;
Ah! tho’ his worth unknown, far happier there, I ween!
November chill blaws loud wi’ angry
The short’ning winter-day is near a close;
The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh;
The black’ning trains o’ craws to their repose: