[This Vision of Liberty descended on Burns among the magnificent ruins
of the College of Lincluden, which stand on the junction of the Cluden
and the Nith, a short mile above Dumfries. He gave us the Vision;
perhaps, he dared not in those yeasty times venture on the song, which
his secret visitant poured from her lips. The scene is chiefly copied
from nature: the swellings of the Nith, the howling of the fox on the
hill, and the cry of the owl, unite at times with the natural beauty
of the spot, and give it life and voice. These ruins were a favourite
haunt of the poet.]
As I stood by yon roofless tower,
Where the wa'-flower scents the dewy air,
Where th' howlet mourns in her ivy bower
And tells the midnight moon her care;
The winds were laid, the air was still,
The Stars they shot along the sky;
The fox was howling on the hill,
And the distant echoing glens reply.
The stream, adown its hazelly path,
Was rushing by the ruin'd wa's,
Hasting to join the sweeping Nith,[109A]
Whose distant roaring swells and fa's.
The cauld blue north was streaming forth
Her lights, wi' hissing eerie din;
Athort the lift they start and shift,
Like fortune's favours, tint as win.
By heedless chance I turn'd mine eyes,
And, by the moon-beam, shook to see
A stern and stalwart ghaist arise,
Attir'd as minstrels wont to be.[109B]
Had I a statue been o' stane,
His darin' look had daunted me;
And on his bonnet grav'd was plain,
The sacred posy--'Libertie!'
And frae his harp sic strains did flow,
Might rous'd the slumb'ring dead to hear;
But, oh! it was a tale of woe,
As ever met a Briton's ear.
He sang wi' joy the former day,
He weeping wail'd his latter times;
But what he said it was nae play,--
I winna ventur't in my rhymes.
[Footnote 109A: VARIATIONS.
To join yon river on the Strath.]
[Footnote 109B: VARIATIONS.
Now looking over firth and fauld,
Her horn the pale-fac'd Cynthia rear'd;
When, lo, in form of minstrel auld,
A storm and stalwart ghaist appear'd.]