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On the death of Sir James Hunter Blair


[I found these lines written with a pencil in one of Burns's
memorandum-books: he said he had just composed them, and pencilled
them down lest they should escape from his memory. They differed in
nothing from the printed copy of the first Liverpool edition. That
they are by Burns there cannot be a doubt, though they were, I know
not for what reason, excluded from several editions of the Posthumous
Works of the poet.]


The lamp of day, with ill-presaging glare,
Dim, cloudy, sunk beneath the western wave;
Th' inconstant blast howl'd thro' the darkening air,
And hollow whistled in the rocky cave.

Lone as I wander'd by each cliff and dell,
Once the lov'd haunts of Scotia's royal train;[72]
Or mus'd where limpid streams once hallow'd well,[73]
Or mould'ring ruins mark the sacred fane.[74]

Th' increasing blast roared round the beetling rocks,
The clouds, swift-wing'd, flew o'er the starry sky,
The groaning trees untimely shed their locks,
And shooting meteors caught the startled eye.

The paly moon rose in the livid east,
And 'mong the cliffs disclos'd a stately form,
In weeds of woe that frantic beat her breast,
And mix'd her wailings with the raving storm.

Wild to my heart the filial pulses glow,
'Twas Caledonia's trophied shield I view'd:
Her form majestic droop'd in pensive woe,
The lightning of her eye in tears imbued.

Revers'd that spear, redoubtable in war,
Reclined that banner, erst in fields unfurl'd,
That like a deathful meteor gleam'd afar,
And brav'd the mighty monarchs of the world.--

"My patriot son fills an untimely grave!"
With accents wild and lifted arms--she cried;
"Low lies the hand that oft was stretch'd to save,
Low lies the heart that swell'd with honest pride.

"A weeping country joins a widow's tear,
The helpless poor mix with the orphan's cry;
The drooping arts surround their patron's bier,
And grateful science heaves the heart-felt sigh!

"I saw my sons resume their ancient fire;
I saw fair freedom's blossoms richly blow:
But ah! how hope is born but to expire!
Relentless fate has laid their guardian low.

"My patriot falls, but shall he lie unsung,
While empty greatness saves a worthless name!
No; every muse shall join her tuneful tongue,
And future ages hear his growing fame.

"And I will join a mother's tender cares,
Thro' future times to make his virtues last;
That distant years may boast of other Blairs!"--
She said, and vanish'd with the sweeping blast.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 72: The King's Park, at Holyrood-house.]

[Footnote 73: St. Anthony's Well.]

[Footnote 74: St. Anthony's Chapel.]

Robert Burns


Poetry