« PreviousContinue »
SPECIMEN OF BURNS'S VERSE.
TO A MOUNTAIN DAISY.
Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flower,
Thy slender stem:
Thou bonnie gem.
Wi' spreckled breast,
The purpling east ! Cauld blew the bitter-biting north Upon thy early, humble birth; Yet cheerfully thou glinted forth
Amid the storm,
Thy tender form.
O'clod or stane
In humble guise;
And low thou lies! Such is the fate of artless maid, Sweet flow'ret of the rural shade! By love's simplicity betrayed,
And guileless trust,
Low i' the dust.
Of prudent lore,
And whelm him o'er,
SPECIMEN OF BURNS'S VERSE.
Such fate to suffering worth is given,
To misery's brink,
He, ruined, sink!
Full on thy bloom,
Shall be thy doom!
EDMUND BURKE, first of our political writers and among the greatest of our orators, was born in 1730, in a house on Arran Quay, Dublin. His father was an attorney, who enjoyed a large and thriving practice. Many of Edmund's early days were spent in the county of Cork, not far from the ruined walls of Kilcolman, where his namesake Spenser had lived and written, and whence the poet had fled a broken-hearted man.
In his twelfth year young Burke was sent to school at Ballitore in Kildare ; and there, under a skilful master, Abraham Shackelton the Quaker, he studied for about two years.
Trinity College, Dublin, where his picture holds an honourable place on the wall of the Examination Hall, received him as a student in 1743. To shine at the English bar was his young ambition; and so he was entered at the Middle Temple in 1747. But he never became a lawyer; his great genius soon found its fitting sphere in a statesman's life. In the meantime, however, he began to write his way to fame. An imitation of Lord Bolingbroke's style, The Vindication of Natural Society, was followed by his well-known Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful. Having married Miss Nugent of Bath, on the strength of an allowance of £200 a year from his father and what his pen could make, he formed additional literary engagements with the bookseller Dodsley. For a sketch of American History in two volumes he received fifty guineas; and was paid at the rate of £100 a volume for the Annual
Register, which first appeared in 1759. So, writing for daily bread, and struggling manfully with many difficulties, cheered by the love of his wife and his little son, Burke toiled onward and upward, never letting go the hope of fame.
His entrance on political life may be dated from his appointment in 1761 as private secretary to “Single Speech” Hamilton, who then became Chief Secretary for Ireland. The atmosphere of Dublin Castle did not long agree with the clever young Whig, who threw up a lately conferred pension of £300 a year, broke with Hamilton, and returned to London, where a brilliant career awaited him.
Having been appointed private secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham, who became Prime Minister in 1765, Burke in the
following year entered Parliament as member for Wend1766 over in Buckinghamshire. At the age of thirty-six he
stood for the first time on the floor of St. Stephen's
Chapel, whose walls were to ring so often during the next eight-and-twenty years with the rolling periods of his grand eloquence, and the peals of acclamation bursting alike from friend and foe. Among the great men who then sat upon the benches of the ancient hall, Burke at once took a foremost place. The triumphs of his eloquent tongue we cannot follow here, for it is ours to mark only the achievements of his brilliant pen. In the stirring years of the American War he poured out the opulence of a richly-stored mind in many noble orations; but the crown of his glory as an orator was won in the great Hall of Westminster, where, in the presence of the noblest and the fairest, the wisest and most gifted of the land, he uttered the thunders of his eloquence
in the impeachment of Warren Hastings, Governor-Gene1788 ral of India. Opening the case in February 1788 in a
speech of four days, he continued his statement during
certain days of April, and wound up his charges with an address, which began on the 28th of May and lasted for the nine succeeding days. As he spoke, the scenery of the East-rice-field and jungle, gilded temple and broad-bosomed river, with a sky of leated copper glowing over all-unfolded itself in a brilliant
picture before the kindled fancy of his audience; and when the sufferings of the tortured Hindoos and the desolation of their wasted fields were painted, as only Burke could paint in words, the effect of the sudden contrast upon those who heard him was like the shock of a Leyden jar. Ladies sobbed and screamed, handkerchiefs and smelling-bottles were in constant use, and "some were even carried out in fits.”
Another great subject filled his thoughts during his last years. He foresaw the hurricane that was blackening over France, and, when it broke in fury, he wrote his greatest work, 1790 entitled Reflections on the Revolution in France; in which he lifts a powerful voice to warn England against cherishing at home the fatal seeds that were bearing so terrible a harvest across the waves of the Channel.
From the ceaseless toil of a statesman's life Burke sometimes stole away to his gardens at Gregories, near Beaconsfield, where, so far back as 1768, he had purchased an estate for £20,000. A heavy blow at last fell on his grey head, and bowed it with sorrow to the grave. His dear son Richard, who had been for thirty-six years the light of his eyes, sank under a rapid consumption. With some of Milton's glorious words upon his lips, this gifted man died in the arms of his great father. The world was then all darkness to Edmund Burke. But a little ago it was June, and he had sat for the last time in the Commons, glory- 1794 ing in the thought that he had a gallant son to fill the place he was leaving empty. It was now an August day -a marble mask of that son lay before him in an unclosed coffin, but the spirit had left the clay.
In his retreat at Beaconsfield he still continued to write, producing during his last two years some of his best works. A pension having been conferred on the veteran statesman, two of the Peers thought fit to find fault with the richly-deserved honour. It would have been wise for the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Lauderdale to let the old lion die in peace. They thought that he was toothless, until he rose with gnashing fangs and tore the wretches limb from limb. The Letter to a Noble Lord, called forth