The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53
The Dumfries Demonstration
The Dumfries Demonstration.
R. W. McDowall, secretary of the Dumfries Burns Statue Committee, and Editor of the Dumfries Standard, and also author of an excellent history of Dumfriesshire, has devoted twenty-one columns of his newspaper to an exhaustive report of the grand demonstration of the 6th of April. His ten years of labour in the matter of the memorial statue are now crowned with success. The idea, however, was not practically taken up until 1877. Mr McDowall rightly claims credit both for himself and the Standard for having been identified with the Burns Statue movement as its originator, and as its devoted and solitary advocate in the Press. The Standard is a liberal organ of opinion, and has been instrumental in breaking down the vast feudal powers of the Lord Duke of Drumlanrig and Buccleuch. The Editor's contention has all along been that the peasant poet "deserved a statue at the hands of the Dumfriessians, even from a money point of view. The attractive charm cast over the burgh and its vicinity by his presence and his poetry was worthy of being taken into account." This is peculiarly a Scottish argument. The photographic artist who subscribed to the fund was a perfect type of modern utilitarianism. "Here are my five guineas for Burns Statue. Burns draws hundreds of strangers to Dumfries every season who are my best customers, and it well becomes me to give my mite in aid of your movement."
This is the argumentum ad ventrem with a real vengence. Why, the day of inauguration repaid Dumfries all its money: for we read that "during the day 4000 excursionists entered the town by the Glasgow and South Western Railway, and 1200 by the Caledonian. These numbers, of course, convey no idea of the immense multitudes which thronged our streets, most of whom page 32 had come from the town itself and the surrounding country." Dumfries has a population of 21,000 souls. Altogether the Queen of the South must have had, on the 6th of April, an enormous assemblage of about 50,000 souls within her picturesque hills and gates in the lovely vale of Kith. But the worldly-minded editor takes up a higher argument than ultilitarianism. He contends more nobly that "the halo of genius cannot be valued in money, neither can it be purchased by the wealth of Crœsus, yet it was poured over Dumfries by the poet during his sojourn, and its lustre remains to it for an abiding heritage, which, could it possibly be taken away, would leave the town poor indeed. We pity the individual who is so utterly sordid, prosaic, or obtuse as not to be able to see that even the common things of the locality, when written about by Burns, became thenceforth objects of special interest, and that those which history had made famous, or nature adorned, acquired a fresh spell of interest or beauty by becoming embalmed in his immortal verse. As regards powers of personal impressment, Burns in his lifetime had few equals; in the way of giving a moral or sentimental value to the subjects of his muse, or the resting-places of bis pilgrimage, he is without a rival. Dumfries has been enriched beyond calculation, and above every other town, by Burns becoming one of its adopted sous, by its being the birth-place of many of his best effusions, by having been sometimes his inspirer as well as theme, and in virtue of possessing the shrine which contains his sleeping dust."
The worldly argument, we suspect, had far the greater influence in rearing "the fine marble effigy of Burns" in the picturesque town of Dumfries. Henceforth, however, it will "speak its own eloquent language to the hosts of strangers who will come every year to that favoured spot of the land of Burns." On the 6th of April, in presence of 50,000 souls, "the covering fell from the Statue, amid the loud cheers of the spectators. A party of young ladies strewed the pedestal with flowers." Burns died eighty-six years ago. A few days before his death he made this prediction—"I will be more thought of a hundred years hence than I am to-day." His prophecy has been sooner realised than he anticipated. Why, sixty-seven years ago "the nation at large erected a monument to Burns—the proud mausoleum which canopies his remains." And now a new generation of men rise up and call him blessed, and by way of their appreciation of his matchless genius they erect statues to his memory in Dumfries, Kilmarnock, Dundee, New York, and monuments at Ayr, by the Doon, and in Edinburgh. Dunedin also will have a statue erected in his honour. Montrose, we are informed, is going to erect a statue to Burns. When Dunedin shall have unveiled her statue, then, as I predicted years ago when I page 33 broached the idea of a statue here, Melbourne and Sydney will follow suit, and each of those cities shall erect a statue to Burns. The vulgar and the purse-proud will say that this is idolatry. Well, be it so; the idolatry of genius is, at least, more ennobling than that of mere wealth and a spurious social position. We are not surprised to read that the Dumfries movement towards a statue for Burns "did not receive so much support as we looked for from the working classes, though Burns was one of their best friends, and sang the dignity of labour and of man as man, irrespective of earthly rank, as no one did before or has done since." The man who leans upon the working classes leans upon a very brittle reed indeed. With few honourable exceptions, "the nobility and gentry gave the scheme little encouragement. Upon the middle classes of the town it has had mainly to rely; and had they not supported it sturdily, though somewhat slowly and tardily, its course would have been unceasingly difficult." Dumfries is said to be the most picturesque town in Scotland. It is surrounded with hills, and situated in the midst of gardens and orchards. The Nith flows through it, and it is the seat of the tweed and hosiery factories, and of great cattle markets. The railway station is embedded in flower gardens. The good old town was, on the 6th of April, richly decorated and splendidly illuminated. The procession—composed of different trades and organised bodies —numbered fourteen hundred persons. Some plied their different callings in their vehicles as they marched along. The printers "threw off along the route numerous copies of a broadsheet, on which was printed a poem on the unveiling of the statue." Flags, devices, mottoes, and all sorts of artistic emblasonries adorned the various and varied orders of craftsmen. When the statue was unveiled, Lord Roseberry shouted out—"There is the image of the man who once stood shunned in your streets, to stand there for ever as the glory of your burgh. The respectables who shunned him have disappeared; his troubles, his sorrows, his faults, his failings have vanished. The troubles of his life are no more; the clouds that surrounded his death-bed have disappeared. But his memory, his triumph, and his tomb abide with you for ever." Where are the great men of the eighteenth century now? The Ayrshire peasant is remembered affectionately and honoured greatly, while "the most brilliant society that Edinburgh ever produced" are forgotton. Burns—the ploughman and exciseman—is idolised all the world over, while the Prime Minister of his day, Pitt, is almost forgotten. "The little Pitt and the little Burns set out into the world at the same time. The one was destined to be Prime Minister of Great Britain, the other was destined to be a peasant all his life. One lived on the solitary summit of power, the other on the lonely page 34 eminence of genius. Both died harassed with debt; both died with the reputation of lives shortened by excess; both died of a broken heart. The one led a gigantic life, warred and struggled with giants, was a name of terror throughout the world; the other was hardly known outside his little country. But posterity has redressed the balance. The Pitt clubs are dissolved, the Pitt banquets are over, the Pitt anniversaries are no more observed. But there is no quarter of the globe, and not a year that passes, in which the memory of the Ayrshire peasant is not honoured." So spake Lord Roseberry as he was going "to unveil to the free air of heaven the effigy" of Robert Burns. His Lordship justly told his audience there was "no need of any memorial of Burns. The years he spent here, his bones which repose here, are sufficient memorials of that immortal man. While your town exists it is his shrine, and his reputation is part of the very air you breathe. Burns was emphatically a man. He had as his mainspring of action, a love and a sympathy with suffering mankind—it is for this that his memory is to us as the memory of a dead brother, and it is because of this tumult and simplicity and passion of life, as flung into immortal verse, that we love his poetry as much as we admire him. Loving much, he is loved, and it is love which inspires his verse. From his simple poem to Nelly Kirkpatrick, who worked with him in the fields, which he composed in an enthusiasm of passion, down to the last touching words that he expressed on his death-bed, "O, wert thou in the cauld blast?" every word that he wrote was inspired by love of his kind. Nor was his love limited only to humanity. He sings of his horse, he sings of his dog, he sings of the poor mouse that his plough turns up in the field. Nothing in the world is alien to him except pomp, or fraud, or oppression. He cherishes all the simple inhabitants of a world too hard for them, as it was for him. It is for this that his poetry is so universally believed; it is for this that his sympathies reach beyond the grave; and because of this every toiler in the world may claim a share in the poems of Burns." In short, my lord, you mean to say, in one word, that Burns was a man of the people. Professor Wilson said "that Burns was the greatest poet that ever sprung from the bosom of the people." This was evidenced by the demonstration of the 6th of April. Mr James McKie, Kilmarnock, the well-known publisher of Burns' works, characterised the procession as great, gorgeous, glorious, unequalled by anything of the kind. The Kilmarnock procession was no doubt a larger or longer array, but yesterday's far surpassed it in grandeur. Oh, what an array of magnificent horses, and so splendidly caparisoned !" We read that "two cakes of shortbread, baked by the two nieces of the poet, the Misses Begg, of Ayr," were presented to the Earl of Roseberry. page 35 The poet's fondness for the lasses was proverbial. Characteristically enough, Mrs Hill's conception of him has been embodied by the sculptor's handicraft. "Miss Jeannie Armour Brown, great-grand-daughter, through his eldest son, of the poet, presented the sculptor, Mrs D. O. Hill, with an exquisite bouquet of flowers, placed in an elegant silver bouquet-holder. The likeness between Miss Brown and the best portraits of the poet is almost marvellous, and it is one of the best testimonies that could be borne to the success of Mrs Hill's work, that between this young lady's face and the face of the statue the same striking resemblance is seen."
The chairman of the Statue Committee is reputed to have spoken equally euologistic of the artist's excellence as exhibited in the chiselled memorial of Burns. "It is the life-like image of the Peasant King of Song, whose matchless genius has given a tongue of fire to all the manlier sentiments in every quarter of the globe. It is a life-like portraiture in marble of the greatest of the citizens of Dumfries. It is the face and the figure of Robert Burns, who, in the springtime of his fame, was enrolled among the burgesses of Dumfries; who, in the after gloom of neglect and the early autumn of his days, solitarily and sorrowfully paced the shadowy side of our street, where he will now stand for ever on the crown and centre of the causeway. In the auld kirkyard in the southern end of our town, in the vault of a Grecian temple, which is one of the world's shrines, the mortal remains of the poet are mixed with kindred dust. Here, in the clear open space of the northern end of the High street, not in the centre of the dead, but in the thoroughfare of the living, we symbolise his immortal self in imperishable marble. It is a work of genius to commemorate genius. It is the work of a woman to commemorate him who sang more sweetly than any other the praise of woman. It is 'man of woman born.' It is a splendid triumph of art." You may call this worship of Burns by the name of idolatry, if you will, but it is a great fact that his fame is actually spreading abroad over the face of the world. Mr. Thomas McKie justly said that "the crowds who throng our streets to-day, to show their affection for the poet, prove the truth of this criticism. But the numbers here present are as nothing compared with the thousands of unseen, silent spectators in every part of the globe, whose bosoms will thrill with emotion when they read the account of this day's proceedings, and that another laurel crown has been bound around the brow of Burns. Seven Grecian cities strive for the honour of having given birth to Homer. In Burns' case there is happily no such dubiety. Ayrshire is entitled to the honour of his birth, but Dumfriesshire was the land of his adoption, and in this town his sacred ashes repose.page 36
The Thames flows proudly to the sea,
Where royal cities stately stand;
But sweeter flows the Nith to me,
Where Comyn's once had high command.
Here the poet lived and moved, and went about his daily duties. He walked our streets, he mused on and drew inspiration from our own beautiful river; and in the short space of thirty-seven years he did more for 'puir auld Scotland's sake' than any man had done since the days of Bruce. As the Italians love and honour their Dante, the Germans their Goethe, the French their Voltaire, the English their Shakespeare, so we Scotchmen love and have the right to love and honour Burns. For we feel that it was mainly owing to him that Scotland is entitled to rank in intellectual pre-eminence with the greatest nations of the earth. The debt we owe him is immense, and nothing but endless gratitude can wipe it out. When Garibaldi made a present of a kingdom to the King of Italy, everyone felt that he had done a noble act, and made humanity his debtor. But I doubt if that action, great and unselfish though it was, will, in its beneficial effects, bear comparison with that more precious and generous gift which Burns gave to the Scottish nation and the world in his imperishable songs. These are the true music of humanity, which has cheered and delighted the hearts of thousands in the past, and will continue to cheer and delight the hearts of thousands in the times to come. In his glorious song of 'A man's a man for a' that,' Burns anticipated his age by a hundred years, and laid the foundation for a higher morality and code of international law than exists at present, when men shall beat their spears into pruning-books and learn the art of war no more. This song, and a hundred others of equal value, the poet wrote here, and left them as a legacy to the world; and this he did all for love, and nothing for reward."
Lord Young, the chairman at the banquet, might well have asked, as he did, "whether the statue of any dead man, be he warrior, statesman, or poet—whether the unveiling of the statue of any man who has been dead these eighty-six years—would have elsewhere in the world attracted such a crowd, excited such an enthusiastic demonstration as that which we witnessed to-day?" Carlyle tells us that Burns "was the largest soul of all the British lands—the most gifted British soul we had in all that century of his." What! Burns a greater man than Pope, Swift, Johnson, Adam Smith, Hume, Robertson, and Gibbon! Greater than Nelson, Wellington, Fox, Burke, and Chatham! "The withered, unbelieving, second-hand eighteenth century" produced these men; and, as Lord Young said, "unless we are to draw the line very tight, and exclude those who were chiefly developed page 37 after it closed, and its successor opened, it produced Scott, Byron, Campbell, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Carlyle," &c. Yes, we quite assent to the assertion, "that Burns was the greatest British soul that the century produced."
One of the speakers at the banquet made a characteristic remark—"Wherever Scotchmen went abroad, first and foremost they would have the Presbyterian Church, and thou they would have the Burns Club." Another wag dissented from that statement, and "ventured to say, from his own experience of his countrymen abroad, that the first thing they did was to establish a Burns Club." The fact was, from Burns' description of what it ought to be, it did not take a large community to make a Burns Club. In one of his verses he puts this distinctly before them, that two men of kindred minds can form a Club anywhere—
Here's a han', my trusty frien',
An' gie's a han' o' thine;
An' we'll tak' a riclt gude willie-waught
For auld lang syne.
Two men, with that verse as their motto, could form a Burns Club; but it was another matter to establish a kirk abroad. It was not so easy in these days of confessions of faith, Scotch sermons, shorter catechisms, and many other things to attend to; the Burns Club had no other belief but a thorough belief in Robert Burns. One of the conditions was that he should have a copy of Burns in his pocket, and, to supplement the bargain, a little of the light wine of the country. Burns' fame was increasing as we increased in years. The latest movement was by the Glasgow Club to have a memorial of Burns placed in Westminster Abbey. Well, the statue of Lord Byron was not allowed to be placed in Westminster Abbey; but Darwin—who did a great deal to degrade human nature—was interred therein. Surely, then, no objection can be raised against the admission of a memorial of Burns into Westminster Abbey. Lord Young—as chairman of the banquet—in proposing the memory of Burns, said:—"As children they became acquainted with the works of Burns, with the advancing years they grew in knowledge of them, and in age they still love and admire them. At the present time it is scarcely possible to think of any human being in these realms who has not heard of them. The poetry of Burns is suited to every varying mood of the human mind; but while it is by turns cheerful and sad, it expresses the hate of the poet for everything mean and contemptible and hypocritical. While it solaces that feeling of melancholy which will sometimes possess a man, it teaches high lessons for everyday life." Councillor Thomson said that "it had been well expressed that Burns was a man who hated hypocrisy; but he did more, he exposed it with burning scorn, and it would be well if page 38 they strove, as he had done, to crush a vice which was rife in their midst. They should dare to be honest; and although the present might slip away without any recognition of it, although
they might be misunderstood or misinterpreted, the time would come when the people would say, 'He was an honest man.' Looking back over the vista of years, from the applauding multitude of to-day to the figure of the poet, slowly with mind in rebellious and remorseful mood, moving along under the shadows of the houses here, avoided by rich and poor alike, we could realise how far the people of Dumfries of that day failed to discover or understand the greatness and daring honesty of his mind. However, he had given us this solace under opprobrium or neglect, 'The man's the man for a' that.' They had witnessed that day the spectacle of a posterity striving to retrieve the errors of the past; and they read in every eager face the truth he prophesied, that, although Burns was dead, yet his works lived, and would live in the hearts of the people; for, while in one mind he lived in the 'Cottar's Saturday Night,' in another there lingered the refrain 'Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn,' and 'Why has man the will and power to make his fellow mourn?'" In the great procession "The dairymen and dairymaids occupied the first place among unofficial bodies. They formed quite a gay cavalcade. Two large waggonettes had been engaged for the conveyance of the dairymaids, of whom there were six-and-thirty, all pink as daisies, in neat print dresses, and upholding the reputation of our dale; for
Fairer than our Nithsdale fair,
Or handsomer, there's nane elsewhere.
The male members of the detachment, numbering exactly two dozen, each bestrode his own steed, all of which were suitably decked. A handsome flag, specially painted for the occasion, was borne by the party. It represented a scene of rural courtship—a stalwart swain, in whom a resemblance to Burns could be traced, enfolding a fair one in his arms, the river flowing beside them, cows crossing at a ford near by, and the farm house being observed in the distance. The language of the poet was called in further to illustrate the sentiment of the poet, by the quotation of the lines—
For tae woo a bonnie lassie
When the kye comes hame.
Wilt thou be my dearie?
According to Mr. M'Kie, "three great demonstrations or pro-cessions have taken place in regard to Burns. The first took place about eighty-six years ago; and I have been told by one page 39 who was an eye-witness of that procession that it left the Town Hall on a beautiful summer afternoon, passed down High street and along to the old churchyard slowly and solemnly, followed by the great and the honoured of the land, and by the municipality of this burgh, who laid Robert Burns in his grave. That is the first procession. One noted person attended that funeral—Allan Cunningham. He was then a boy of fourteen years of age, a stonemason to trade, and he has related what he saw in the most life-like manner. Another person was present at that procession, Mr. Carlyle, from Ecclefechan, the father of Thomas Carlyle. He told his young friend what he had seen, and this is now distinctly set forth in the memoirs of Carlyle, which show that his thirst for literary ambition was fired and stimulated when he saw the great honour paid by the intellectual world to the genius of Robert Burns. Years rolled by. The sons of the poet went abroad and entered the army, and after an honourable career they came home bronzed with the sun of India. At that time it occurred to a well-known literary man in this country—Professor Wilson—that a great honour should be paid to these sons on the banks of Doon. Lord Eglinton presided there at the procession, and Professor Wilson delivered one of his glowing panegyrics on the poet. That demonstration was a great honour to the family of Burns. Another procession has taken place to-day; and if we may judge from what we have seen in the immense gathering on the streets, I would say it was the greatest of all demonstrations that have yet been shown for the love and affection of Burns." It was a gratifying feature of the banquet to notice the hearty meed of praise given to Mr. M'Dowall, who, "with his pen and otherwise, had amply done his part in regard to the movement."
Reference was made by one of the speakers to Mr M'Dowall's "History of Dumfriesshire," and his descriptive account "of the last days of Burns in Dumfries." All seemed to be full of admiration of "the gifted lady whose genius and skill have realised for us our dream in the splendid statue so successfully unveiled."
Mr. M'Dowall in proposing the health of the fair artist, said—"There are two classes of poets—one who brood fondly and long over a theme, and after much skilful handling send it forth to the world; the other so creative, impulsive, and impassioned that they cannot, dare not, keep silence, but must give utterance to the burning thoughts with which their hearts are filled. Of this latter class was Robert Burns. There are also two classes of artists—one plodding and painstaking, who after long study work out an idea with less or more success; the other, who use the peucil or the chisel in order to realise some great page 40 conception that has entered their minds, they cannot tell how, and which, when completed, bears the stamp of inspiration. I rather think the gifted artist of the Dumfries statue to Burns, Mrs Hill, belongs to the inspired class of artists. The model from which the figure was cut was a work which she felt herself, as it were, compelled to undertake. It was not manipulated according to order, but was the full, free, fresh, spontaneous emanation of her own creative fancy; hence in a great degree the completeness of the success. Just as Burns himself in his early years indulged in the fine aspiration quoted by our chairman, so Mrs. Hill felt in her girlhood an irresistible desire to do something in the domain of art that would body forth her own ardent love for the memory of Burns, and might be accepted by the Scottish nation as no unworthy tribute to the bard. We know the result; and do we not owe a debt of gratitude to Mrs. Hill for realising successfully her own high and happy conception of her theme by the production of a figure that satisfies the claims of art, and at the same time secures for itself the acclamations of the populace. When about a month ago the statue was placed upon its pedestal, the veil required to be temporarily removed, and the figure stood revealed for a while to an interested crowd of onlookers, a sensation was experienced by them of mingled pleasure and awe, as if the very poet, who had a hundred years ago and less trod the acres of Ellisland and the streets of Dumfries, had taken up his permanent abode in our midst. The effect was electrical; and a similar sensation must have been felt by thousands of people to-day when the drapery was cast aside, and the figure was seen in all its truthfulness and beauty. How beautifully Longfellow sings of Burns—
For now he haunts his native land
As an immortal youth; his hand
Guides every plough;
He sits beside each ingle nook,
His voice is in each rustling brook,
Each rustling bough.
But the mass of beholders to-day felt as if not only was this the case, but that the dear guest of whom the poet speaks had come to us in living bodily form. Burns himself, attired as a farmer, seems to stand before them surrounded by accessories that gave additional actuality to the scene; the pipe, emblematic of Scottish song; the wee timorous beasties of which he wrote so tenderly; the collie Luath seemingly quite ready to leap from its position should any Newfoundland dog show face, and enter with it into a long digression about the "lads o' the creation;" the left-hand of the poet holding a cluster of" the wee crimson tippet-flowers," on which he seems to muse. To Burns' love of nature the page 41 surroundings of the statue give ample justice, Mrs. Hill remembering that—
The opening gowan wat wi' dew,
He turned wi' the beauteous thought and theme;
The humblest bud the green earth gave
His song has made supreme.
Ayr, Irvine, Logan, Doon, and Nith,
Through hazels, birks, or broom, or ferns,
Gleam in a hallowed glory with
The deathless songs of Burns.
Sheriff Nicolson's remarks on the poet are specially deserving of commendation and publication—"No poet ever lived who has been the subject of so many speeches as Robert Burns, and to say anything new about him is impossible. But what of that? If men were bound to be original on the topics most interesting to mankind, we should have no sermons or love-songs The old, old story is the most interesting still; and after all that has been said about Robert Burns, the subject will never grow old, any more than the freshness of dawn, or the bright looks of Apollo ever young. Eighty-six years ago, in this street, he walked a king of men, loved and honoured by many, feared and shunned by some, who, perhaps, felt that they were being seen through by those great piercing eyes of his. There are, perhaps, such people still even in Dumfries. If so, I am really sorry for them. I am wae to think upon them; but if such there be, Scotland is Scotland yet, and, as a Highland bard said about Prince Charlie, they might be hanged and quartered, but Charlie could not be torn out of their hearts! So Scotland may say of Robert Burns. His memory, wherever kindly Scots are met, is as dear and warm as was his own large heart, as fresh as the face of nature, for ever being renewed. Yes, while the Nith flows to the sea, and Criffel towers above it, while daisies spring from the green earth, while larks rise to Heaven's gate and sing, while human hearts throb with pleasure or pain, while human eyes glisten with smiles or tears, so long will perennial greenness flourish round the pure fountain of Burns' song. Why is it that no other poet, ancient or modern, was ever so much loved as Robert Burns? Just because he loved so much, and so tenderly, men and women and children, the beasts of the earth, the fowls of the air, the flowers of the field, and every living creature. 'If I could,' he said, 'and I believe I do it as far as I can, I would wipe away all tears from all' eyes.' The lesson was taught to him by the vision and the faculty divine to despise no creature that God had made; to respect humanity above all, to sympathise with and see its merits under rags, to see through its poverty and meanness under stately robes and crowns, and every guise of respectability. Theology may page 42 frown, hypocrisy may shudder, but true it is that this all-embracing love is heavenly; the most human is the most divine. It was the highest glory of the gospel that it was proclaimed to the poor; and Robert Burns is, of all poets ever born, the one whom the poor may with joy and pride claim as their brother. Hear on that point the words of another Scottish poet, who, next to Thomas Carlyle, did more than any other to vindicate the fame of Scotland's beloved poet, I mean Professor Wilson: 'The poor man, as he speaks of Robert Burns, holds up his head and regards you with an elated look. . . . Who were they who in his own country continued most steadfastly to honour his genius and himself all through what have been called, truly in some respects, falsely in others, his dark days in Dumfries, and on his death-bed? Not lords and earls, not lawyers and wits, not philosophers and doctors, though among the nobility and gentry, among the classes of leisure and learning, he had friends who wished him well. . . . . But the men of his own order, with their wives and daughters, shepherds, herdsmen, ploughmen, delvers, ditchers, hewers of wood and drawers of water, soldiers and sailors, whether regulars, militia, fencibles, volunteers, on board kings' or merchants' ships, or dirt gabbart—the working people,—whatever the instruments of their toil, they patronised Burns then, they patronise him now; they would not have hurt a hair of his head; they will not hear of any dishonour to his dust. They know well what it is to endure, to yield, to enjoy, and to suffer, and the memory of their own bard will be hallowed for ever among the brotherhood like a religion. The homage which we pay on such an occasion as this to the memory of Robert Burns is no mere idolatry of genius, as some foolishly think. It is the just tribute to the living embodiment, in their most attractive form, of the feelings and virtues that have made our nation what it is; not less because of the knowledge that he sinned and suffered like a true son of Adam, a partaker of our common clay. We love him none the less because he was not perfect, because our admiration is so dashed with sorrow, our pride and joy mingled with tears. Blessings on them who have added to our physical well-being, who have diminished our pains, who have enlarged our knowledge, who have fought for our freedom. Blessings not less be on them who have cheered so many drooping spirits with the divine ministry of song—songs that often gushed from hearts breathing with anguish.
Blessings be with them and eternal praise,
Who gave us nobler lives and nobler cares;
The poets who on earth have made us heirs
Of truth, and pure delights, by heavenly lays.
Of that glorious fellowship of shining ones, none of any age or page 43 nation left so rich a legacy of songs to his country as Robert Burns. Not less truly may it be said of him than Milton did of Shakespeare—
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What needst thou such weak witness of thy name.
Even more emphatically we may say of Robert Burns that he needs no monument of brass or marble. His real monument is moreen during, acre perenmius. He is enshrined in a place safe against the tooth of time—in the heart of Scotland and of mankind. But though he needs no monument, least of all in this place where his dust was laid after life's fitful fever, amid Scotland's tears yet we may congratulate this town on the beautiful tribute to his memory, which will now take its place among her chief ornaments. It is an additional cause of pleasure to me, in looking at that statue, and I think it gives special interest to the work, and would have made it valued more by the poet himself if he could have known of it, that it is from the hand of a woman. That lady is one of a family to which genius has been largely imparted, and widow of a poetic painter whose name is associated indelibly with the land of Burns—D. O. Hill. True artists, like poets, have poetic pains, but they have also their compensation. The works of their own hands are their monuments, and if like this, worthy of the subject, they have the unspeakable pleasure of knowing that they will be, to unborn generations, a joy for ever. Like the perfect woman described by King Lemuel, their own works praise them in the gates. A man of great taste and judgment, whom some of us have known and esteemed equally as a lawyer and a poet, the late Sheriff Glassford Bell, said that Mrs Hill's representation of Burns was the truest he had seen. In that opinion I humbly concur. There are four places now in Scotland specially sacred by reason of the tombs they contain—Iona, Dunfermline, Dryburgh, and Dumfries. I will not compare them, for they are all dear and holy ground. I will only say that there is no bit of Scottish ground more sacred to a Scottish heart, more full of solemn and tender teaching, than that lair up in St. Michael's church-yard, where lies the honoured dust of Robert Burns."
So much for the Dumfries demonstration held to the honour and glory and everlasting remembrance of Robert Burns.