Roamin in the Gloamin

Robert Burns

Robert Burns,
page 11 of 17

contentedly retired from the scene; returned to Mossgiel with his modest wealth and married Jean Armour, the current of his life might have flowed more smoothly, and his genius, matured and invigorated by widened experience, might have enriched the world with poetry of a higher order than he had yet produced. But, after his first visit to Edinburgh, his mind knew peace no more. From this time his poems are mostly occasional fragments--bright impromptus, which, wherever he went, he scattered around his path like star-showers.

He made excursions from Edinburgh into various parts of Scotland. In subsequent years he made long journeys, always on horseback, into other parts. From first to last he saw a large portion of his native land. What he accomplished in this way surprises us, even in these days of steam. He first visited the East of Scotland, the Tweed, and the Borders, extending his journey to Newcastle. He now returned to Mossgiel, where his brother still struggled bravely with adverse circumstances. The greeting of the widowed mother was, “Oh, Robert!” How much of meaning there was in that mother’s exclamation, after all that she had thought and heard of the swarthy son that now entered the dwelling! A great change had passed over the poet since he set out on his journey to the metropolis. Leaving his home with his future doubtful and his fame a dream half realized, he returned comparatively rich and “trailing clouds of glory.” In the man himself a change more important had begun to work. In gay assemblies and midnight routs he had caught the fever of the world, which, in spite of nobler aspirations, burned hereafter in his breast like a consuming fire. Rest he could not. Starting front Mauchline, he made a wild excursion into the West Highlands, travelling as far as Inveraray. The picture of Burns on these journeys, enlivening the road by rollicking adventure, and wasting his strength by coarse and fruitless excitement, awakens a mingled feeling of surprise and pain. It is difficult to recognise the bard whom Coila crowned with the holly wreath in Robert Burns riding mad races with Highland drovers and setting the table in a roar in smoky inns. Detained for some time on the way by an accident — the result of a reckless escapade — he arrived at length in Edinburgh on his second visit in August, 1787. The curiosity which he had excited in the capital had now considerably abated, dispelled in a great degree by the disenchanting touch of familiarity. He little understood the art of wrapping his peronality in that mystery which stimulates the imagination of the world. The perfect candour and openness of his nature, admirable and lovable qualities in themselves, were calculated to dissipate the romantic halo which gathers round a poet’s head.

Within a few weeks, he started on his great north Highland tour; being accompanied on this occasion by his friend William Simpson — the “Winsome Willie” to whom he has addressed one of the finest of his poetical epistles. Notwithstanding the historic ground over which he trod — Bannockburn, Killiecrankie, Culloden — we search his poetry in vain to measure the emotion which these memorable scenes evoked. It is mainly by his letters that we can trace the footsteps of the most patriotic of poets. From these we learn the names of many kind hosts, who have no other claim to remembrance, except that they appear for a moment in the luminous orbit of Robert Burns. From this category we should perhaps except the Duke of Athole and the good Duke of Gordon, who successively entertained the poet at their princely abodes. To the former he


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