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Captain Matthew Henderson


A GENTLEMAN WHO HELD THE PATENT FOR HIS HONOURS

IMMEDIATELY FROM ALMIGHTY GOD.

"Should the poor be flattered?"

SHAKSPEARE.

But now his radiant course is run,
For Matthew's course was bright;
His soul was like the glorious sun,
A matchless heav'nly light!

[Captain Matthew Henderson, a gentleman of very agreeable manners and
great propriety of character, usually lived in Edinburgh, dined
constantly at Fortune's Tavern, and was a member of the Capillaire
Club, which was composed of all who desired to be thought witty or
joyous: he died in 1789: Burns, in a note to the Poem, says, "I loved
the man much, and have not flattered his memory." Henderson seems
indeed to have been universally liked. "In our travelling party," says
Sir James Campbell, of Ardkinglass, "was Matthew Henderson, then
(1759) and afterwards well known and much esteemed in the town of
Edinburgh; at that time an officer in the twenty-fifth regiment of
foot, and like myself on his way to join the army; and I may say with
truth, that in the course of a long life I have never known a more
estimable character, than Matthew Henderson." _Memoirs of Campbell, of
Ardkinglass_, p. 17.]


O death! thou tyrant fell and bloody!
The meikle devil wi' a woodie
Haurl thee hame to his black smiddie,
O'er hurcheon hides,
And like stock-fish come o'er his studdie
Wi' thy auld sides!

He's gane! he's gane! he's frae us torn,
The ae best fellow e'er was born!
Thee, Matthew, Nature's sel' shall mourn
By wood and wild,
Where, haply, pity strays forlorn,
Frae man exil'd!

Ye hills! near neebors o' the starns,
That proudly cock your cresting cairns!
Ye cliffs, the haunts of sailing yearns,
Where echo slumbers!
Come join, ye Nature's sturdiest bairns,
My wailing numbers!

Mourn, ilka grove the cushat kens!
Ye haz'lly shaws and briery dens!
Ye burnies, wimplin' down your glens,
Wi' toddlin' din,
Or foaming strang, wi' hasty stens,
Frae lin to lin!

Mourn, little harebells o'er the lea;
Ye stately foxgloves fair to see;
Ye woodbines, hanging bonnilie,
In scented bow'rs;
Ye roses on your thorny tree,
The first o' flow'rs.

At dawn, when ev'ry grassy blade
Droops with a diamond at its head,
At ev'n, when beans their fragrance shed
I' th' rustling gale,
Ye maukins whiddin thro' the glade,
Come join my wail.

Mourn, ye wee songsters o' the wood;
Ye grouse that crap the heather bud;
Ye curlews calling thro' a clud;
Ye whistling plover;
An' mourn, ye whirring paitrick brood!--
He's gane for ever!

Mourn, sooty coots, and speckled teals;
Ye fisher herons, watching eels:
Ye duck and drake, wi' airy wheels
Circling the lake;
Ye bitterns, till the quagmire reels,
Rair for his sake.

Mourn, clam'ring craiks, at close o' day,
'Mang fields o' flowering clover gay;
And when ye wing your annual way
Frae our cauld shore,
Tell thae far warlds, wha lies in clay,
Wham we deplore.

Ye houlets, frae your ivy bow'r,
In some auld tree, or eldritch tow'r,
What time the moon, wi' silent glow'r,
Sets up her horn,
Wail thro' the dreary midnight hour
'Till waukrife morn!

O rivers, forests, hills, and plains!
Oft have ye heard my canty strains:
But now, what else for me remains
But tales of woe?
And frae my een the drapping rains
Maun ever flow.

Mourn, spring, thou darling of the year!
Ilk cowslip cup shall kep a tear:
Thou, simmer, while each corny spear
Shoots up its head,
The gay, green, flow'ry tresses shear
For him that's dead!

Thou, autumn, wi' thy yellow hair,
In grief thy sallow mantle tear:
Thou, winter, hurling thro' the air
The roaring blast,
Wide, o'er the naked world declare
The worth we've lost!

Mourn him, thou sun, great source of light!
Mourn, empress of the silent night!
And you, ye twinkling starnies bright,
My Matthew mourn!
For through your orbs he's ta'en his flight,
Ne'er to return.

O, Henderson! the man--the brother!
And art thou gone, and gone for ever?
And hast thou crost that unknown river
Life's dreary bound?
Like thee, where shall I find another,
The world around?

Go to your sculptur'd tombs, ye great,
In a' the tinsel trash o' state!
But by thy honest turf I'll wait,
Thou man of worth!
And weep the ae best fellow's fate
E'er lay in earth.

THE EPITAPH.

Stop, passenger!--my story's brief,
And truth I shall relate, man;
I tell nae common tale o' grief--
For Matthew was a great man.

If thou uncommon merit hast,
Yet spurn'd at fortune's door, man,
A look of pity hither cast--
For Matthew was a poor man.

If thou a noble sodger art,
That passest by this grave, man,
There moulders here a gallant heart--
For Matthew was a brave man.

If thou on men, their works and ways,
Canst throw uncommon light, man,
Here lies wha weel had won thy praise--
For Matthew was a bright man.

If thou at friendship's sacred ca'
Wad life itself resign, man,
Thy sympathetic tear maun fa'--
For Matthew was a kind man!

If thou art staunch without a stain,
Like the unchanging blue, man,
This was a kinsman o' thy ain--
For Matthew was a true man.

If thou hast wit, and fun, and fire,
And ne'er guid wine did fear, man,
This was thy billie, dam and sire--
For Matthew was a queer man.

If ony whiggish whingin sot,
To blame poor Matthew dare, man,
May dool and sorrow be his lot!
For Matthew was a rare man.

Robert Burns


Poetry