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Page 133


How little we can see the end from the beginning!
Burns was born in a mud cabin on the banks of the
Doon, a hundred years ago, — a humble enough beginning,
from which no higher future could be presumed
through any entailed right,— and to-day the world unites
in honoring the one who was then “the babe beneath
the shieling,” but whose song has since done so noble a
work in humanizing man. On the centennial anniversary
of the birthday of Robert Burns, wherever the
English language is spoken, — and that embraces a very
wide range, — men, imbued with a love of the manhood
that inspired him, met to do honor to his memory. The
high and the low, the learned and the unlearned, save
in lessons of heart, combined in ovation to their favorite
— their favorite so far as the feelings hold sway over
the mere machinery of the brain, for Burns' cultivation
was limited, and his song flowed, like “bonny Doon,”
undirected, save by the great voice of Nature that spoke
to him from field and wayside, and brook and flower,
and gave freshness and beauty to everything it approached.

It was necessary that he should be born poor.
Like the mavis, he sprang from the dead flat of life,
and rose to sing among the stars. His spirit was ever
reaching far out into the spirit of the universe, and
drinking in through its thousand fibres the life that
filled it — that burned in his denunciation of wrong,
scatched like the lightning in his satire, melted in his
lays that had the human heart and the ingleside for their
themes, or laughed in the songs that gushed under the
inspiration of John Barleycorn. He was not divine;


Page 134
that is cherished as a glorious thought — for he is made
our brother through his imperfection, and men love him
for his humanity. There is no writer since Shakespeare
that has lived so much in the sympathies of the people
as Burns, and herein is the secret of his fame; he was
the poet of the common heart, which received him and
prized him. He was a prophet, and, with thoughts a
hundred years in advance of his time, he denounced
wrong then in the ascendant, and the stigma attached
to him that ever attends upon such; but the years are
doing him justice. The cloud becomes light in the
admitted right of his prescience, and his frailties, “where
nature stepped aside,” are forgotten in the simple grandeur
of the truths he sung.

The following was written for the Burns centenary
celebration, at the Parker House, Boston, Jan. 25th,
1859, and sung by a member of the Burns Club:


What 's a' the steer makin'? what 's a' the steer?
The Peasant Bard first saw the light this day a hunder year;
An' a' our hearts expand blithely — a' our hearts expand
Wi' honor o' his name that 's known in every land;
For 't was a blessed thing, surely, 't was a blessed thing,
Sin' a' the world was better for 't when Burns began to sing;
Sae we 'll raise our voices high, in tones of grandest cheer,
That Rob the Rhymer saw the light this day a hunder year!
His fame 's brawly won, nei'bor, his fame 's brawly won,
An' a' the lan's unite to crown auld Scotia's gifted son;
They plait a laurel-wreath for him, — his weel achievit bays, —
And bring rich offerings o' mind as tributes to his praise:
For tho' o' humble birth, nei'bor, tho' o' humble birth,
His genius gied him station wi' gentles o' the earth;
Sae we 're a' unco happy, and we 'll mak' a joyfu' steer,
Sin' Rob the Poet saw the light this day a hunder year!


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The humble and the high, nei'bor, the humble and the high,
Combine to glorify the bard whose sang will never die;
In every clime 't is heard wi' joy — in every gentle hame —
An' sparkling een glow doubly bright at mention o' his name.
O, he 's the puir man 's friend, nei'bor! he 's the puir man 's friend,
An' hoddin gray tak's honored rank, where worth its grace doth lend.
There 's a blessin' on the hour that hauds us captive here,
For Rob the Puir Man's Bard saw light this day a hunder year!
Wide is his clan spreadin' — wide is his clan:
They 're counted wheresoever men most nobly act the man;
Not where the tartans gleam, nei'bor, nor yet the bonnets blue,
But where the heart is tender, and men are leal and true.
'T is nae tie o' bluid, nei'bor, nae tie o' bluid,—
His sangs unite the nations a' in ae braid britherhood;
Sae honor crown the time, and pang it fu' o' cheer,
Sin' Burns the Ploughman Bard was born this day a hunder year!