Adventures in Criticism eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 306 pages of information about Adventures in Criticism.

You see, I have concluded rightly; but on wrong evidence.  Let us see, then, what evidence a Scotsman will call to prove that Burns is a writer of deep feeling.  “A Scotsman,” says “J.B.” “would at once appeal to “Scots wha hae,” “Auld Lang Syne,” and “A man’s a man for a’ that.” ...  Think of the soul-inspiring, ‘fire-eyed fury’ of ’Scots wha hae’; the glad, kind, ever fresh greeting of ‘Auld Lang Syne’; the manly, sturdy independence of ‘A man’s a man for a’ that,’ and who can wonder at the ever-increasing enthusiasm for Burns’ name?...  I would rather,” says “J.B.,” “be the author of the above three lyrics than I would be the author of all Scott’s novels.”

Here, then, is the point at which I give up my attempts, and admit my stupidity to be incurable.  I grant “J.B.” his “Auld Lang Syne.”  I grant the poignancy of—­

    “We twa hae paidl’t i’ the burn,
       Frae morning sun till dine: 
     But seas between us braid hae roar’d
       Sin auld lang syne.”

I see poetry and deep feeling in this.  I can see exquisite poetry and deep feeling in “Mary Morison”—­

    “Yestreen when to the trembling string,
       The dance ga’ed thro’ the lighted ha’,
     To thee my fancy took its wing,
       I sat, but neither heard nor saw: 
     Tho’ this was fair, and that was braw,
       And yor the toast a’ the town,
     I sigh’d and said amang them a’
      ‘Ye are na Mary Morison.’”

I see exquisite poetry and deep feeling in the Lament for the Earl of

    “The bridegroom may forget the bride
       Was made his wedded wife yestreen;
     The monarch may forget the crown
       That on his head an hour has been;
     The mother may forget the child
       That smiles sae sweetly on her knee;
     But I’ll remember thee, Glencairn,
       And a’ that thou hast done for me!”

But—­it is only honest to speak one’s opinion and to hope, if it be wrong, for a better mind—­I do not find poetry of any high order either in “Scots wha hae” or “A man’s a man for a’ that.”  The former seems to me to be very fine rant—­inspired rant, if you will—­hovering on the borders of poetry.  The latter, to be frank, strikes me as rather poor rant, neither inspired nor even quite genuine, and in no proper sense poetry at all.  And “J.B.” simply bewilders my Southron intelligence when he quotes it as an instance of deeply emotional song.

    “Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
       Wha struts, and stares, and a’ that;
     Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
       He’s but a coof for a’ that: 
     For a’ that, and a’ that,
       His riband, star and a’ that. 
     The man of independent mind,
       He looks and laughs at a’ that.”

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Adventures in Criticism from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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