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The Poetical Works of Thomas Aird
By The Rev Jardine Wallace


Thomas Aird, author of the following Poems, was the son of James Aird and his wife, Isabella Paisley, and was the second of nine children. He was born on the 28th of August 1802, in the parish of Bowden, Roxburghshire, under the shadow of the Eildon Hills, in the enchanted Border-land, close to the abbeys of Dryburgh and Melrose, which the genius of Scott has made for ever memorable. The Tweed, which he dearly loved, flows through the classic vale, and from the rising ground you see upon the horizon the low blue line of the Cheviot Hills and Flodden Field. The family of Aird belonged for generations to that substantial and independent class named Portioners, who cultivated their own land, held in feu of a neighbouring nobleman, and who frequently combined with this some other industrial employment. His parents, who professed the religious principles of the a Antiburghers, were persons of admirable character and intelligence. They brought up their children anxiously in the fear of God, and enforced a careful, though somewhat strict observance of Sunday—

“Such as grave livers do in Scotland use.”

Woe to the offender who betook himself to whistling on that day, or to vain whittling with his knife. Theirs was an orderly, yet happy home ; and on weekdays, when lessons were over, the father would sing to the little circle some rare old Scotch song, while the kind, thrifty mother plied the spinning-wheel. It is said that a library containing some romances, which Thomas started in Bowden when a lad, was at first regarded with considerable suspicion by Mrs Aird. She was afraid of the seductive literature, and thought, besides, that it was apt to interfere unduly with the knitting and sewing of her daughters. But the good lady, stumbling by accident one day among the books upon ‘ Thaddeus of Warsaw/ was so delighted with the tale, that not much more after that was said about the sin of novel-reading. The venerable pair died each at the age of 86, having spent sixty years together in married life; and their gifted son never ceased to revere the memory of those whose holy affection had guarded his youth from evil, and kept it pure. The following domestic scene, in the pages of the ‘ Old Bachelor,’ is evidently drawn from his father’s home : “To see the old men, on a bright evening of the still Sabbath, in their light-blue coats and broad-striped waistcoats, sitting in their southern gardens on the low beds of camomile, with the Bible in their hands, their old eyes filled with mild seriousness, blent with the sunlight of the sweet summer-tide, is one of the most pleasing pictures of human life. And many a time with profound awe have I seen the peace of their cottages within, and the solemn reverence of young and old, when some greyhaired patriarch has gathered himself up in his bed, and, ere he died, blessed his children.” One feels disposed to regret that the good old race of Portioners, with their primitive customs and picturesque surroundings, are fast vanishing away, and that the little properties on which they lived in modest independence are now swallowed up and lost in the large ambitious estates and farms around :—

“In fares the land, to hast’ning ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay.”

Thomas received his first lessons at his father’s knee, and, like so many eminent men, was educated afterwards at those parish schools which have been for generations the just pride of Scotland. Pie showed his love of letters at an early age, by running off one day to the teacher at Bowden, with his book concealed about his person ; and he was so bent upon instruction, that his parents, in order to gratify him, took his elder brother from school, to fill the place of usefulness at home which he had vacated. After this he attended for a time the parish school of Melrose. A letter in rhyme, which was kept till worn to shreds by his surviving brother, James, was his first known attempt at verse-making. Thomas was no book-worm, however. He excelled in all outdoor sports, especially in leaping; and he used to attribute the varicose veins and rheumatic pains from which he suffered much in manhood, to the violent athletic exercises of his youth. Indeed, the tattered clothes which his mother was obliged to repair every night, was the only cause of complaint which she could find in the generous boy, overflowing with health and spirit. As he grew older, shooting rabbits among the whins, and fishing in the Tweed, occasionally in the company of John Younger, the St Boswell’s poet and essayist, were his favourite pastimes; and he delighted in wandering through the Eildon woods to watch the habits of birds and insects. His excursions sometimes extended to Williamslee, the sweet pastoral farm of his uncle, Mr Andrew Paisley, near Innerleithen, and to the St Ronan’s games, held annually in that vicinity, where Professor Wilson and James Hogg, in the presence of the Earl of Traquair and a gallant company from the Forest, performed feats of strength and agility which far outstripped the Flying Tailor of Ettrick. These were happy days, spent amid lovely scenes, and he often refers to them in his writings :—

“Oh to be a boy once more,
Curly-headed, sitting singing
’Midst a thousand flowerets springing,
In the sunny days of yore,
In the sunny world remote,
With feelings opening in their dew,
And fairy wonders ever new,
And all the budding quicks of thought!
Oh to be a boy, yet be
From all my early follies free!
But were I skilled in prudent lore,
The boy were then a boy no more.”

“Ah, yes!” he says in his old age; “the seeking of saugh wands and the weaving of creels; the expeditions for hips and haws and sloes; the first games of boglie about the stacks, and the first coming of the fox-hounds to Eildon Hills, made my boyish Octobers peculiarly cheery.”* Brothers and sisters were his companions on these joyous occasions—

“Spilling rich laughter from their thriftless eyes,”

to use his own delightful words. He was always a great favourite with them, and sore were the hearts of the happy family when the day of parting came.

In 1816 Aird went to reside in Edinburgh, which for nearly twenty years became his second home. There he attended the University, and made the acquaintance of Thomas Carlyle, his lifelong friend and correspondent. He was a member of the Dialectic Society, and exchanged to the last literary communings and kindly regards with Lord Deas and others, his old combatants in debate. In the middle of his studies he resided for several months, as tutor, in the family of Mr Anderson, farmer of Crosscleugh, in Selkirkshire, close to the famous hostelry of Tibbie Shiel, the paradise of anglers and tourists. Here he frequently met with the Ettrick Shepherd, and grew as much attached as Wordsworth to the green braes of Yarrow and St Mary’s Loch, the peaceful beauty of which lingered fondly in his memory till his dying hour. Aird was designed by his relatives for the ministry of the Church of Scotland, for which he always entertained a profound and patriotic attachment. Before quite completing his academic course, however, he changed his purpose, owing to a feeling of personal diffidence, and embraced the freedom of a literary life. The loss of Aird to the noble service of the Church may be to many a subject of regret, but those who knew the sensitive nature of the man can understand how he shrank from a position involving so much prominence and responsibility. The quiet walks of authorship were more suited to his disposition, and there was a favourable opening at this time. The fame of Edinburgh as a seat of learning was altogether unprecedented. The press was pouring forth year by year the unrivalled works of the author of ‘Waverley;’ the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ supported by Jeffrey, Brougham, Horner, Sydney Smith, and Cockburn, was carrying all before-it; and ‘ Blackwood’s Magazine ’ was about to start on its brilliant career, under Wilson, Lockhart, Hogg, De Quincey, and a host of celebrated names. In the literary circles of Edinburgh appeared also, from time to time, the greatest churchman since the days of Knox, the illustrious Chalmers. The metropolis was in a state of intellectual ferment, and the whole atmosphere was charged with electricity.

It was natural that a youth of capacity and ambition like Aird should wish to enter the listed field, and enrol his name among the immortals. His first venture, published in 1826, was entitled £ Murtzoufle; A Tragedy in Three Acts: with other Poems.’ Though little regarded at the time, the volume displays unmistakable genius, and is remarkable for the maturity of mind exhibited by one who had only reached his twenty-fourth year. The single piece, “ My Mother’s Grave,” has never been surpassed in elegiac verse, and deserves a place beside Cowper’s imperishable lines. This exquisite poem breathes a spirit of yearning tenderness and intense yet restrained pathos, to be found nowhere else in the author’s works, and might have been written in tears of blood, so touching is the cry of filial agony over a parent’s memory :—

“Oh rise, and sit in soft attire!
Wait but to know my soul’s desire!
I’d call thee back to earthly days,
To cheer thee in a thousand ways!
Ask but this heart for monument,
And mine shall be a large content!

Because that I of thee was part,
Made of the blood-drops of thy heart;
My birth I from thy body drew,
And I upon thy bosom grew;
Thy life was set my life upon;
And I was thine, and not my own.

My punishment, that I was far
When God unloosed thy weary star!
My name was in thy faintest breath,
And I was in thy dream of death ;
And well I know what raised thy head,
When came the mourner’s muffled tread! ”

In 1827 Aird published his ‘Religious Characteristics,’ a prose composition of quaint imaginative power and exalted Christian tone. The work is divided into two parts. The first part contains six chapters, entitled Worldly-Mindedness; Indecision ; Pride of Intellect; Antipathy; Christian Principles; The Attainment of Christian Principles. Part second contains eight chapters, the subjects being: Charity of Education Enforced; Need of Earliest Christian Education; Man’s Intellectual Character; Habits of Intellectual and Moral Power; Application of Knowledge and General Instruction; First Points of Christian Discipline; Christian Discipline Continued; General Christian Education — Millennial Hopes. The style is somewhat marred by obscurities and involutions characteristic of the author, who was too anxious to condense his meaning within the narrowest space, forgetful of the Horatian warning—

“Brevis esse laboro,
Obscurus fio.”

But there are many passages of great splendour and opulence, in which he rises far above the clouds to the loftiest heights of sacred eloquence :—

“And of all habits this (Worldly-mindedness) is the meanest and most unworthy of man’s immortal lights. How undignified the old age of such a man ! The old hills are renewed with verdure. Even the lava-courses are hid in time beneath vineyards. The dismantled tower of ages gains in veneration what it loses by literal decay. The pious old man bears on the venerable tablet of his forehead shadowed glimpses of the coming heaven. The old worldling—alas ! ’tis he; of him is the contrast. There is no redeeming symbol or circumstance in his old age: the eye of cunning, still at its post, almost outliving decay; the old hand, almost conquering by its unabated eagerness, the palsy of years—trembling in both ; still closing over gain ; mocking, in the stiffness of its muscles, the being’s protracted delight to count over so much money his own, or sorrow to give so much away. . . .

“Ye British mothers! with a praise above your beauty, virtuous wives, honourable women! to you is the high distinction of being intrusted not only with the character of a mighty people on earth, but with the first elements of the kingdom of heaven. Remember the praise of the mother of the Gracchi and hers who gave her child to God,— the Hebrew mother who led his boyhood up to the Sanctuary. That little face that sleepeth his untroubled sleep! What find you in those untrodden lines only stirred by the faint manifestations of breathing life, for that tear which gathers slowly from a concentrated heart? Because that little map of peace may be disfigured by guilt;—because those lines may be heavily trampled, Sorrow in the hollow cheek, and Shame on the lean eyebrow. Nay, because he may rise in honour with God and man—mine own son— and blessed is the mother that bore him. O woman ! as thou wouldst the latter and not the former; as thou wouldst lean on the shoulder of his noble manhood in presence of the people, with the impressive weakness of delight; as thou wouldst have his young foot haste like a silver arrow to do good;—know thy duty of first and best instruction according to the High Oracles. . . .

“Thou Mysterious Inhabitant on our earth! Incalculable Spirit, imbowed and enshrined in the form of our mortality! Jesus of Nazareth! who shall declare the simple but sublime glory of Thy life? With the countenance of a little child, what was in Thy heart!

The poet with his vague praises may turn to the setting sun; but for whose sake is this beauteous world kept up, and the sun shining on the just and the unjust? For Thine, for Thine, Jesus of Nazareth! Every sweet tone in nature comes forth from Thy responsibility. Every little singing-bird has in Thee more than a double creator. Thou art Alpha and Omega in the strangely-wrought song of Time and its spheres. There is in this life no consistent alternative between a distinct denial of the divine and mediatorial attributes of this Being of Mercy, and the profoundest respect for His cause and commandments.”

Aird was now brought into public notice. His book received a glowing eulogy in ‘Blackwood’ from Professor Wilson, who, from this time, became the fast friend of the author, and consulted with him repeatedly afterwards, particularly while writing his own fine papers on Spenser and Burns. Aird, who had recently made the acquaintance of Mr Blackwood, the eminent publisher, reviewed Pollok’s ‘ Course of Time ’ in the same number of the Magazine,1 and supported himself by private teaching and contributions to the periodicals. Upon the death of Mr James Ballantyne in 1832, he edited for a year the ‘Edinburgh "Weekly Journal/ in the property of which Sir "Walter Scott once held an important share. On this occasion he received the following letter from Dr Moir, author of ‘ Mansie Wauch/ whose biography he was afterwards to write:—

“Musselburgh, 12th Feb. 1833.

“My dear Sir,—I take shame to myself for not having several days ago answered your kind note, informing me that you had accepted the editorship of the ‘ WAekly Journal.’ I rejoiced most heartily to hear it, which I did a day or two before from Professor Wilson, and in the sincerity of my heart wish you every comfort, success, and distinction in its management. I have no doubt that for some time you will find a thousand petty difficulties, but one by one these will disappear before the wand of experience, and week after week you will be enabled to step out more securely. Need I say, if there is any way in which I can at any time lend you a helping hand, that you have only to command my services. The hurry and bustle of a medical life, which makes no distinction between night and day, Sunday and Saturday, puts it out of my power to dedicate to literature much time; but I must be very hurried indeed if, at the request of a friend, a paragraph or two refused to be occasionally forthcoming.”

In the midst of his avocations, Aird found leisure to explore the romantic environs of the metropolis —to visit the scenes of the ‘ Gentle Shepherd ’ at Habbie’s Howe—and to attend, with the poet Motherwell, the great dinner at Peebles in honour of James Hogg, where Wilson presided. But his footsteps were directed more frequently to Roxburghshire when the summer came round. The glad welcome of his dear Border home was sweeter to him than all the laurels of Edinburgh, and eagerly did he accompany his brothers for a season to the “Old Scottish Village,” close by the murmuring Tweed. At a certain turn in the road, the merry-hearted youths tossed their caps with shouts into the air, when the triple peaks of the Eildons burst upon their view—those wonderful hills which the wizard cleft in three, as if he meant them to be the wardens of the Border, and the special guardians of Dryburgh, Melrose, and Abbotsford. In one of his recent poems, Aird thus describes their striking beauty :—

“Above the mist the sun has kissed
Our Eildons—one, yet three:
The triplet smiles, like glittering isles
Set in a silver sea.
Break, glades of morn; burst, hound and horn;
Oh then their woods for me!”

In 1835 Aird finally left Edinburgh for Dumfries, and, upon the recommendation of Professor Wilson, became editor of the ‘Dumfriesshire and Galloway Herald,’ a weekly journal professing Conservative principles. In the practical management of the paper, he was loyally assisted by the publisher, Mr Craw; and to the discussion of public questions he invariably imparted a high-bred honourable tone. Of his profession Aird entertained a lofty estimate. “The newspaper,” he said, “was the gospel of God’s daily providence working in man’s world;” and in accordance with this high ideal he set himself to his task. By conviction he was a stanch supporter of Conservatism in Church and State, and when occasion required he could wield his pen with startling vigour, dismissing his subject and opponents in a few pithy and trenchant sentences. To quote his own confession, he was “no cheek-surrendering Quaker;” and in the unhappy ecclesiastical disputes of 1843 even Hugh Miller felt the weight of his arm.

But controversy, after all, was too coarse an element for a nature so refined as his. The arena of party strife was not a congenial field for one whose heart was far away in the realms of poesy; and the ‘Herald’ became famous among journals for its literary reputation, rather than for its political authority. Its pages were enriched with some of his choicest verses and criticisms, and the generous editor was always glad to receive the contributions of the youthful talent which gathered around him. Many individuals who now occupy a conspicuous position in the Church, in medicine, and the law, were indebted to him for their first introduction to letters, and will remember with gratitude the training and encouragement which they got from their kind patron and friend. His correspondents hailed, as he used to say, “from the northern Tay to the classic Cam:” and amongst them may be mentioned the names of Dr Moir, the Delta of ‘ Blackwood’s Magazine; ’the Rev. George Gilfillan of Dundee; the Rev. Thomas Grierson of Kirkbean, author of ‘Autumnal Rambles among the Scottish Mountains;’ Mr Bell Macdonald of Ram-merscales, the accomplished linguist; the Rev. Dr Duncan, Dumfries; Dr Ramage, Wallace Hall; Mr Thomas M'Kie, Advocate; Professor Charteris, Dean of the Chapel Royal; Dr Clyde; Mr Stewart of Hillside; Rev. J. W. Ebsworth; Dr Mercer Adarn; the Rev. Dr Menzies of Hoddam, translator of Tholuck’s ‘Hours of Devotion,’ &c. Robert Burns, the eldest son of the bard, who bore a striking resemblance to his father, and inherited a share of his poetic talents, occasionally contributed verses to the paper. The following lines by the editor, among many more exquisite morsels, appeared in the columns of the ‘Herald’ without his name, and were never republished:—

May Morning.

“May morn, how fresh and fair,
With dews and honey smells,
And sunny crystal air!
The little birds are at their carollings;
The booming wild bee spins his airy rings:
Come forth and see.
High hanging woods, the gleams
Of opening valleys with their branching streams,
White cities shining on the bending shore,
Away far fused the ocean’s silver floor,
For thee shall glorify the hour,
Young Queen of Beauty, from thy virgin bower.”

Dumfries proved an attractive abode to one who was devoted to literature and to the contemplative life of the recluse. There are few fairer places in Scotland than the rare old town, called fondly by its citizens the Queen of the South. The ancient burgh, with a population of some 16,000 souls, sits on the left bank of the Nith, thirty-three miles to the north of Carlisle. The green hills of Galloway slope gently to the west, while from the rising ground you see the proud form of Skiddaw and the Cumberland range, and catch a whiff of the Solway tide as it sweeps past Criffel and the Kirkcudbright shore. The town itself, which wears a quaint Continental air, is rich in Border memories and old-world associations, recalling the days when the Maxwells fought with the John-stones, and the Stuarts with the House of Hanover. Prince Charlie’s room in the Commercial Inn is still to be seen; Comyn’s Court, off Friars’ Vennel, where Bruce stabbed the traitor; the time-stricken Bridge, erected by the pious Lady Devorgilla; and College Street in the adjoining burgh of Maxwelltown, so honeycombed with subterranean passages, that Townshend, the clever detective officer, declared it to be as safe a hiding-place for a thief as the Seven Dials in London. Then, too, in the immediate vicinity, we have the noble castle of Caerlaverock, and the beautiful abbeys of Lincluden and Sweetheart. But the name of Burns is the glory of the district. Here he lived for upwards of five years, and here he died in 1796, and was buried in old St Michael’s churchyard.

Aird took kindly to his adopted home, and soon learned to love its sweet river-walks, its glimpses of the sea, and sylvan beauties. Shunning society and its temptations, he courted the Muses in the shade, and the result of his studious life appeared in 1845 'm ^ie publication of ‘ The Old Bachelor in the Old Scottish Village.’ This work brought Aird for the first time into general celebrity, and its charm consists in its admirable prose delineations of Scottish character, and its descriptive sketches of the various seasons. The tales of the author, like his dramatic pieces, are defective in plot and construction, and do not possess the same interest for the reader, though containing memorable passages. Take this vivid description of October, his pet month in all the year, with its rustling breezes and whirling leaves :—

“Having no dislike to the coming-on of winter, October is to me the most delightful month of the year. To say nothing of the beauty of the woods at that season, my favourite month is very often a dry one, sufficiently warm, and yet with a fine bracing air, that makes exercise delightful. And then what noble exercise for you in your sporting-jacket! To saunter through the rustling woodlands; to stalk across the stubble-field, yellow with the last glare of day; to skirt the loin of the hill, and, overleaping the dyke, tumble away among the ferns, and reach your door just as the great, red, round moon comes up in the east,—how invigorating! I say nothing of the clear fire within, and the new Magazine just laid on your table. Moreover, October is associated with the glad consummation of harvest-home, and all the fat blessings of the year—not forgetting the brewing of brown stout. Altogether, October is a manly, jolly fellow ; and that Spenser knew right well, as thus appears:—

‘Then came October, full of merry glee ;
For yet his noule was totty of the must,
Which he was treading in the wincfat’s sea;
And of the joyous oil whose gentle gust
Made him so frolic.’

What fine, quaint, picturesque old words these are!”

In the following passage the Old Bachelor describes the witchery of the summer gloaming, and the strange eerie feeling which creeps over him when he finds himself alone in the haunted Border-land, amid the mysterious silence and shadows of the night:—

“After our simple family devotions are over, I usually saunter forth to see the night. How still the stillness of the midsummer evening! The villagers are all abed. The last tremblings of the curlew’s wild bravura have just died away over the distant fells into the dim and silent night. Nothing is now heard but the momentary hum of the beetle wheeling past, and, softened in the distance, the craik of the rail from the thick dewy clover of the darkening valley. The bat is also abroad, and the heavy moths, and the owl musing over the corn-fields; but, instead of breaking, they only solemnise the stillness. The antique houses of the hamlet stand as in a dream, and the trees gathered round the embowered church as in a swooning trance. In such a night, and in such an hour, the church bell, untouched of mortal hands, has been heard to toll drowsily. I feel a softening and sinking of the spirit; and hear the beating of my heart as if I were afraid of something, I know not what, just about to come out of the yawning stillness. Hurriedly I glide into the house, and bolt the door. And, when I lie down and compose myself on my bed, the fears of death creep over me.”

The ‘Old Bachelor’ was followed in 1848 by a full edition of his poems, on which Aird’s fame as a man of genius principally rests. Of these the world has, with a sure instinct, singled out for its wonder and “Othuriel” and other poems were published in 1839.

Here the poet put forth all his strength, and appeared as a consummate artist;—

“For in him were passion and music and power,
And he spake like a king in his conquering hour.”

The “Devil’s Dream” is a poem of daring originality, and, in point of epic grandeur, has often been compared with the “Inferno” and “Paradise Lost.” Though only a fragment, it is a colossal one, and displays in its conception and terrific imagery the splendour of a bold imagination. There are single lines in it which seem to illuminate the page, as if written in characters of fire :—

“Above them lightnings to and fro ran crossing evermore,
Till, like a red bewildered map, the skies were scribbled o’er.”

The poem opens with much magnificence :—

“Beyond the north where Ural hills from polar tempests run,
A glow went forth at midnight hour as of unwonted sun;
Upon the north at midnight hour a mighty noise was heard,
As if with all his trampling waves the Ocean were unbarred;
And high a grizzly Terror hung, upstarting from below,
Like fiery arrow shot aloft from some unmeasured bow.

’Twas not the obedient Seraph’s form that burns before the Throne,
Whose feathers are the pointed flames that tremble to be gone:
With twists of faded glory mixed, grim shadows wove his wing;
An aspect like the hurrying storm proclaimed the Infernal King.
And up he went, from native might, or holy sufferance given,
As if to strike the starry boss of the high and vaulted heaven.”

The picture of the Arch Fiend, in his ruin and his pride, chafing in vain against the iron bars of the universe; defying the Almighty to His face, yet impotent to resist His serene, inexorable will, is a sublime creation, and almost unique in literature :—

“. . . O’er his head he saw the heavens upstayed bright and high;
The planets, undisturbed by him, were shining in the sky;
The silent magnanimity of Nature and her God
With anguish smote his haughty soul, and sent his Ilell abroad.

His pride would have the works of God to show the signs of fear,
And flying Angels to and fro to watch his dread career ;
But all was calm: He felt night’s dew upon his sultry wing,
And gnashed at the impartial laws of Nature’s mighty King;
Above control, or show of hate, they no exception made,
But gave him dew, like aged thorn, or little grassy blade.”

Passing by “My Mother’s Grave,” that marvellous product of Aird’s youthful genius already referred to, we come to two noble poems, the “Demoniac” and “Nebuchadnezzar,” and to his delightful “Summer Day” and “Winter Day,” “Frank Sylvan,” “The Swallow,” “The River,” and “The Holy Cottage.” He is always at home among the scenes of nature :—

“Yet oh, from age to age, that we
Might rise a day old earth to see!
Mountains, high with nodding firs,
O’er you the clouded crystal stirs,
Fresh as of old, how fresh and sweet!
And here the flowerets at my feet.

Daisy, daisy, wet with dew,
And all ye little bells of blue,
I know you all; thee, clover bloom,
Thee the fern, and thee the broom :
And still the leaves and breezes mingle
With twinklings in the forest dingle.
Oh through all wildering worlds I’d know
My own dear place of long ago.”

Sometimes, in the fewest strokes, he hits off a character or incident with inimitable point. The following picture of cottage life, entitled “Grandmother,” and given here in its original and better form, is quite perfect in its way, a simple and touching vignette:—

“Far through the snows of winter come
To share his widowed Grannie’s home,
The Orphan Boy lays down his head
Weary on his little bed.
Oft looking out, with modest fear,
He sees her anxious face severe,
I,ate at her work, as if ’twere due
To such a heavy burden new.
Her lamp put out, the clothes are prcst,
How kindly, round his back and breast ;
Her face to his, so loving meek,
He feels a tear drop on his cheek.
Sobbing, sobbing, all for joy,
.Sobbing lies the Orphan Boy :
No more sorrow, no more fear,
Such power is in that simple tear!
Rise, morrow, rise! Upspringing he
Down to the death her help shall be.”

It is to the honour of Thomas Aird that his poetry, as his life, was intensely religious and pure. To repeat the fmc remark applied to him by Wilson, he was “imbued with that deep devotion which was the power and the glory of so many of our divine men of old.” Ilis genius was consecrated to themes of supreme interest for man; and it is natural to cherish the hope that, amid the wreck of human trivialities, his noble poems may survive and perpetuate the name of their author in the coming time :—

“His ears he closed to listen to the strains
That Sion’s bards did consecrate of old,
And fixed his Pindus upon Lebanon.”

The present edition of the poems, which is the fifth, is now presented as corrected and arranged by the author’s hand, and contains several pieces which have not been previously published. Of these the chief are: “The Goldspink and Thistle;” “Our Young Painter;” “The Lyre;” “Monograph of a Friend;” and “The Shepherd’s Dog.”

In 1852 appeared Aird’s Life of Dr Moir, who expired while on a visit to his friend at Dumfries in the previous year. The work, which was undertaken on behalf of the family of the deceased, was a labour of love, admirably executed, and is interesting for its reminiscences of Galt, Warren, Macnish, Macginn, Michael Scott, Hamilton, and the later contributors to 'Blackwood’s Magazine.’ Dr Carruthers of Inverness, a valued and accomplished friend, communicates the following interesting letter on the subject:—

“Strathpeffer, by Dingwall, May 7, 1852.

“My dear Sir,—The quiet little village from which I write this, is a sort of Highland Moffat, frequented in summer by the people of the north, who think their rheumatisms and other ailments much benefited by a few weeks’ use of the spa water and inhalation of the fresh mountain air, free from active business, late hours, and dinner-parties. Among other idlers, my wife and I are here; and as fortunately rain falls fast this forenoon, freshening the parched braes and shrivelled trees, I was beginning to feel somewhat dull and drowsy at the prospect of a long day without a walk, when luckily in came the post with three new volumes—your memoir and works of Delta, and Peter Cunningham’s story of Nell Gwyn ! There could not be a greater contrast in the style and subject of books, but both were heartily welcome. Nell was the best and most Protestant of Charles’s vile seraglio; and Moir I had long loved and wished to hear something more of. His poetry I am not so much acquainted with as I should be, for I was in England during his best ‘Blackwood’ days; and not seeing the magazine then, I lost some of his verse, and have not since had the resolution to bring up the arrear. However, now I have him in extetiso, with the addition of your memoir, which, I need hardly say, 1 have just read at one sitting. What my impressions are after the perusal I shall tell you, without regard to method or sequency, as I will take up the book again more deliberately and carefully. I think you have done your part admirably, erring only on the side of too little, and not falling into the common sin of indiscriminate panegyric. Some of your brief illustrations and episodes have much felicity of expression. Your allusion to Jeremy Taylor, for example (xxiii and xxiv), is very fine, and also the cento on Sculpture farther on in the memoir. Your estimate of Moir, personally and poetically, is also marked by sound discrimination. What an excellent man he seems to have been ! so cheerful, active, and benevolent, and his well-balanced mind so alive to all the finer sensations and impulses of an imaginative nature, without neglecting one moral or social duty. I was not prepared to find such a solid substratum of homely common-sense. This is strikingly evinced in his remarks on Coleridge’s monologues and Emerson’s transcendentalisms. I suspect even Mr Carlyle would not have fared much better with him, though possessing more of the carlehemp of man. I may mention to you that I have heard three remarkable men speak of Coleridge’s oral philosophy in a very depreciatory style. These were Rogers, Campbell, and Allan Cunningham. Coleridge must, however, have been great at times, when he broke out from his metaphysical mist, and had a congenial auditor.

“Are you not wrong in your allusion to Swift at page lx? I have not access to books here, but I think the saying was applied to Sir John Denham, who was eulogised as coming out as a poet, like the Irish Rebellion, threescore thousand strong. Turn up Johnson and satisfy yourself. The exclamation about Hogg— ‘Ah, Hogg! ah, James! we miss you sadly’—rather jarred on my critical sense. Is it not too colloquial for the grave didactic page in which it appears? Look, also, at your concluding sentence. By putting Moir among such a crowd of names, so various in rank and general estimation, you give him no determinate place— in fact, bury him. You see I avail myself of our chartered liberty of the press—our editorial infallibility—with a vengeance.

“But I owe you many thanks, my dear sir, for your introduction to so lovable a man as Moir. I now seem to know him well, and I shall always think more highly both of him and his biographer. There is too often so much that is painful or disagreeable in the lives of authors—especially in the case of second-rate poets— that it is delightful to have so pure and unmixed a portraiture as that which you have presented the world with. It will give the deceased a fresh lease of popularity, and long operate as a bright and winning example. —Ever yours affectionately,

“Robt. Carruthers.”

Aird maintained to the last his early friendship with his distinguished countryman, Thomas Carlyle. They usually met every season in Dumfries, during the annual visits of the latter to his relatives in Scotland, and the two delighted to recall, in their pleasant interviews, the memories of bygone days. Mr Carlyle, whose courtesy I beg to acknowledge with profound gratitude and respect, has given me permission to publish the following correspondence with his friend :—

“5 Ciif.vne Row, Chelsea, London,

22d fan. 1837.

“My dear Sir,—. . . Thanks for the mute indications of remembrance we have often had from you. Go on and prosper ! that is always our wish (my wife’s and mine) for one whom we love well. The unspeakable Book2 is fairly at press, thank Heaven. In six weeks more my share of business with it will be over for ever and a day ! It will be worth little to most men, to all men : except to me the incalculable worth of troubling me no more. I saw Gordon since I saw you. My kind remembrances to him.”

“Templand. 6th Aug. 1839.

“My dear Sir,—You were expected hereon Friday last; by me rather more confidently than perhaps your last words warranted; by Mrs Welsh and others more confidently still than that report of mine,—with a confidence of certainty namely;—Hope telling us all his usual ‘flattering tale!’ Dr Russel was invited here to dine with you on Friday and had to dine without you; Dr Mundell of Wallace flail had an invitation left for you to dine on Saturday, &c. &c.; and it was all a mere misreport and misapprehension of reports of the oral utterance of man, a most imperfect organ for representing the Future with, for even explaining the present with! Your letter arrived on Saturday morning with the newspaper, for which and its predecessor many thanks. Dr Russel, we learn, is also apprised of your true movements now. I grieve to say that on Friday next 1 have but little chance to be here. I am to be in Annandale on Wednesday or Thursday ; so roll the bowls,—perversely for us. But my wife will be here, right glad to see you, and Mrs Welsh, and other friends. I hope to see you in passing through Dumfries some time after Friday; and that after Friday the future will not be poorer than the past has been, but richer, as it may well be.

“I am not so well in health as I expected; nor is my wife at all very well. We must, do the best we can. This piece of the Universe called Nithsdale, in this section of Eternity called August 1839, is very beautiful ; doubly beautiful to me whose head has long simmered half-mad with brick wildernesses, dust, smoke, and loud-roaring confusion that meant little. Good be with you, my good friend.—Yours always truly,

“T. Carlyle.”

“5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea, 20th Jan. 1840.

“Dear Mr Aird,—It is only half an hour since your kind present, dated Christmas, arrived here. I have not a single moment to myself at present. I know not how many people all talking round me, &c. &c., but it seems better to write you the message that your book has arrived, has been welcomed, and lies waiting judgment,—not waiting good and best thanks from both of us. On the whole, I am right glad to see you in independent print again; and though I like Prose better than Poetry (sinner that I am), and read very little of the latter, I must except anything in the one style or the other from friend Aird. Why should you not write to me now that it costs only a penny? With many compliments, wishes, and thanks.”

“5 Cheyne Row, Ciielsea, 1st May 1840.

“Dear Mr Aird,—Accept many thanks for your long kind letter; a welcome proof of your remembrance of us. When you read the inclosed Program,3 and think that my day of execution (‘ Do not hurry, good people ; there can lie no sport till I am there !’) is fixed for Tuesday first, you will see too well the impossibility of writing any due reply. Alas, I am whirling; the sport of viewless winds ! It is the humour I always get into, and cannot help it. Some way or other in four weeks more we shall be through the business ; and hope not to resume it in a hurry. For lecturing, as indeed for worldly felicity in general, I want two things, or perhaps one of them, either of them would bring the other with it and suffice : Health and impudence. We must do the best we can ; and ‘be thankful’ always, as an old military gentleman used to say, ‘that we are not in Purgatory.’ We noticed Gordon's4 promotion, with pleasure, in the ‘Herald.’ I have never heard a word from the man himself ; he will suit the business well, and the business him ;—a good honest soul as is in all Scotland or any other land. You are happy to be in green quiet places : for me, ah me ! I am here in the whirlwind of every kind of smoke, dust, din, and inanity; ‘I can’t get out !’ We shall meet if we can this summer ; but it is uncertain, like all things.—Yours always,

“T. Carlyle.

“P.S.—My wife is now pretty well; improving always with the progress of the sun. We had the coldest March and the hottest April I can remember. I say nothing of I thuriel + at present, tho’ so much were to be said ! You will write a right Prose Book one day! I always hope that Poetry is out;—is not the very Bible in prose?”

“Chelsea, 14/// Nov. 1845.

“Dear Aird,—I will attend well to what you say about Gilfillan ; and certainly if I can do him any good on such an occasion, it will be a duty as well as a pleasure to me. My personal connection with Reviews, &c., has altogether ceased, for a long while; nor indeed is there any very clear way of seeking to give furtherance to a man of real merit, amid the crowd of empty pretenders and of false judges that we have at present. But it is the more incumbent on one to do what is possible; and in that I will endeavour not to fail as occasion serves. . . .

Reviews, I believe, do little good nowadays, except by the extracts they give, which keep alive some memory of the Book till people judge of it for themselves. Our address for the next two or three weeks is—Hon. W. B. Baring, Bay House, Alverstoke, Hants (we are setting out thither for a little more of the country to-morrow). Or Chelsea, the old address, will always find us after a short delay. John* is still ‘gravitating’ towards you; will alight in Dumfries, I believe, by-and-by—when the fogs have become heavy enough. He is very busy with Dante, &c., at present, and seems lazy to move. This, in spite of its fogs, is the Paradise of ‘ men at large,’ this big Babylon of ours.

“We have in the evenings gone over the ‘Old Bachelor in his Scottish Village,’ and find him a capital fellow of his sort. The descriptions of weather and rural physiognomies of nature in earth and sky seem to me excellent. More of the like when you please !

“My wife sends many kind regards to you; take many good wishes from us both. — Yours always very sincerely, T. Carlyle.’

*Mr Carlyle's brother, Dr Carlyle.

“Chelsea, 15 Nov. 1848.

“My dear Aird,—I have received your volume of poems: many thanks to you for so kind and worthy a gift, and for the kind and excellent letterwhich came to me the day after. I have already made considerable inroads into the ‘Tragedy of Wold,’ and other pieces: I find everywhere a healthy breath as of mountain breezes ; a native manliness, veracity, and geniality which, though the poetic form, as you may know, is less acceptable to me in these sad times than the plain prose one, is for ever welcome in all ‘forms/ and is, withal, so rare just now as to be doubly and trebly precious.. But your delineations of reality and fact are so fresh, clear, and genuine when I have met you in that field, that I always grudge to see such a man employ himself in fiction and imagination,—when the ‘reality/ however real, has to suffer so many abatements before it can come to me. Reality, very ugly and ungainly often, is nevertheless, as I say always, God's unwritten poem, which it needs precisely that a human genius should write and make intelligible (for it would then be beautiful, divine, and have all high and highest qualities) to his less-gifted brothers! But what then? Gold is golden, howsoever you coin it; into what filigree soever you twist it. I know gold when I see it, one may hope. For the rest, ‘a wilful man must have his way.’ And, indeed, I know very well I am in a minority of one with this precious literary creed of mine, so cannot quarrel with your faith and practice in that respect. Long may you live to employ those fine gifts in the way your own conscience and best deliberated insight suggests!

“Your new lodging, commanding a view of Troqueer and the river, must be a welcome improvement on the former, which was of the street streetish : the very sound of the Cauld* is a grateful song to one’s heart; whispering of rusticities and actualities; singing a kind of lullaby to all follies and evil and fantastic thoughts in one! You speak of my getting back to Scotland: such an imagination dwells always in the bottom of my heart; but, alas! I begin often to surmise that it is but perhaps imaginary, after all ; that I am grown a pilgrim and sojourner, and must continue such till I end it ! That shall be as it pleases God.

“I get very ill on with all kinds and degrees of work in late days; in fact, the aspect of the world, from one end of it to the other, especially this last year, is hateful and dismal, not to say terrible and alarming, and the many miserable meanings of it strike me dumb. The ‘general Bankruptcy of Humbug ’I call it; Economics, Religions, alike declaring themselves to be Mem Mcne; all public arrangements among men falling as one huge confessed Imposture, into bottomless insolvency, Nature everywhere answering, ‘ No effects !’ This is not a pleasant consummation ; one knows not how to speak of this all at once, even if it had a clear meaning for one !—Good be with you, dear Aird. Tell my sister you have heard from me, and that she must write.—Yours ever truly, T. Carlyle.”

Professor Wilson, then in search of information for his essay on Burns, visited Dumfries in October 1840, and writes to Aird on his return to Edinburgh. The death of his wife had saddened his brilliant spirit by this time, and given a pensive colouring to that eloquence which Hallam compares to “the rush of mighty waters: ”—

*Weir across the Nilh.

“My dear Mr Aird,—We arrived all safe at Gloucester Place about 8 o’clock. From Thornhill to Edinburgh it rained incessantly, but not heavily, all the way. Goliah was sheltered by the luggage, but we were all sorely crushed by increasing population. For some days I suffered from sore throat and cold, but am myself again, though my former self nevermore. I find that, much to my annoyance, I have to deliver an address at the opening of the Philosophical Association on the 10th, I believe, of November, on what nobody can tell me, nor do I at present know. Would you turn the matter over in your mind, and in a few days tell me in the form of a letter or letters anything that may occur to you thereon. A few hints on any subject often suffice to set my thoughts allow. A pitcher or two of water may fang the well. What I want is some heads or rmroi on which to dissert a little. Try to give me your opinion, and I will try to construct a passable panegyric. I send you the report of a large assemblage last week. The directors besought me to give the memory of Pitt, and then, without meaning any disrespect to him or me, placed it 18th on the list; so that when it came to me, it was past 10 o’clock at night. I know too well what a hopeless task it would be for Mercury to start at that hour to an exhausted audience, so T flung twenty minutes of an intended speech overboard, and confined myself to what you will see. I believe my good sense was appreciated by all, though at the time some thought I might have spoken longer. As it was, it was better received than the able rhetoric of Macaulay. I was happy to see you, and to see you well and happy.—Yours affectionately, John Wilson.”

The Rev. George Croly, whom Aird calls “the brave old Irishman,” is well known as the author of ‘ Salathiel,’ and a contributor to ‘ Blackwood.’ He thus expresses to Aird his opinion of some modern poetry, in terms at once vigorous and refreshing :—

“London, 25th Feb. 1856.

“I have this morning received your very obliging note, and will have great pleasure in receiving your volume, which I presume is still on the way. I have seen hitherto only fragments of your works, the disjecta membra poctce, which gave me a high anticipation of the treat that is reserved for me in the perusal of the whole. Our very clever friend Gilfillan and I differ in some points with respect to poetry. He seems to be captivated by the mystical, oracular, half-cloudy and half-meteoric poetry of the ‘ Festus ’ school. He may be right, but I find it difficult to delight in what I cannot at all comprehend, where every sentence is an enigma, and every figure is so swathed in eccentricity of epithet, that I can discover neither visage nor limb. I am heretic enough to think that ‘ communi scnsu plane caret' is a formidable drawback, and that to be intelligible to common capacities is at least a matter that common capacities may be fairly entitled to require. It always seems to me that haziness of expression is connected with weakness of conception. The Gods even of Homer never wrap themselves in clouds, but when they can no longer stand and brave the open field.”

Professor Blackie also writes in a strain which would have cheered the heart of Croly and of the author of ‘ Firmilian: ’—

“Edinburgh, 43 Castle Street, 4th March.

“Mt dear Sir,—Accept my best thanks for your poems which I value highly. I am a true Greek with regard to the divine art, and consider that poetry is only another mode of wisdom and health, and whatever qualities it has, may not want that fine music and harmony which belongs to these. I am a decided enemy of the ‘spasmodic school,’ as my friend Aytoun calls it—of all poetry however sublime, and however intense, and however brilliant, that is not wise, healthy, and moderate. I need not say that I value yours very highly, for it is entirely free from that tone of exaggeration and morbid excitement which mars the enjoyment of so much of the versified thought and feeling of the present day.

“I am very much blocked up at present, and have no freedom to float at ease upon the sunny waves of your verse; but I mean to run wild among the Highland hills when the summer comes, and shall not forget to take your happy volume in my pocket.

“When you come to Edinburgh, be sure to knock me up,—And believe me ever yours sincerely,

“J. S. Blackie.”

“I have many pleasant recollections,” writes Mrs Smith, of Whitehaven, Air Aird’s attached niece, “of long country walks with my uncle, and how in the evenings he would saunter up and down in the old long room overlooking the Cauld, composing as he sauntered. By-and-by he would sit down and write out his thoughts; then say to me, ‘Listen now, darling.’ And he would read over what he had written, and ask if I noted the points he wished brought out, and to which he had called my attention when walking together. Next morning I would hear him pacing his bedroom an hour or two earlier than usual; and perhaps, after breakfast, I would be called upon to listen to the same thought expressed more fully and clearly. And so he went on, carefully pruning away every unnecessary word, until the point or thought was clear and distinct as a picture.”

Except the necessary paragraphs once a-week for his paper, Aird wrote little after fifty years of age, partly owing, perhaps, to his secluded habits, and partly to circumstances of health. In appearance he was a strong man, of a tall and handsome person, with a beautiful head and striking presence. Like his own “Frank Sylvan,” he lived much in the open air; and his notable figure, which attracted the attention of the stranger, proclaimed the athlete of younger days. But the active frame was united to a high-strung nervous temperament, which unfitted him for continuous labour, and made him painfully sensitive to varied forms of suffering. Sleeplessness, arising from several causes, particularly from cock-crowing, was for many years the bane of his life; and though he would smile good-humouredly when the enemy was gone, the consequences at the time were sufficiently serious. “I lie down,” he said to me, “in a state of expectancy, and, just when I am going to fall over into delicious slumber, some creature of the night (cock or cat) is sure to raise aloft its voice, and drive me to distraction.” At this time he was in a state of extreme depression,—“on the brink,” as he expressed it, “of madness and despair,”—owing to the want of sleep, which he had courted for several nights in vain at the houses of various friends; and it was not till he fled to a quiet suburb of the town that he obtained the wished-for repose. But the calm succeeds the storm ; and when his spirits had leisure to rise again, he would tell the story of his wrongs with inimitable effect, pouring maledictions on his tormentors, the ill-omened birds and chartered libertines of the night. He used to say that Mr Carlyle suffered from the same nocturnal grievances, and when living in Edinburgh, went to reside for the sake of peace in the outskirts of the city, whence, however, he was speedily routed by the cries of defiance which rang from farmyard to farmyard. Even in his poems he returns to the charge, and, half in jest, half in earnest, vows vengeance on the whole feathered tribe, with graphic and irresistible humour:—

“Lo! chanticleer, his yellow legs well spurred,
Leads forth his dames along the strawy ways,
He claps his wings; he strains his clarion throat,
His blood-red comb inflamed with fiercer life,
And crows triumphant: Soul-distressing sound,
When in the pent-up city, ill at ease,
Your keen and nervous spirit cannot sleep,
Hearing him nightly from some neighbouring court!

Oft have we wished the gallinaceous tribe
Had but one neck, and that were in our hands
To twist and draw: the morrow’s sun had risen
Upon a cockless and a henless world.
And yet the fellow there, so bold of blast
To sound the morn, to summon Labour up,
Is quite a social power : we’ll let him live.”

It is thus he writes to Mr Smith, of Whitehaven, on his return to Dumfries, after an unlucky visit to Cumberland:—

“23d 'June 1856.

“My dear William,—I travelled on defeated yet dogged, and went slaistering [bedaubed] down to Mountain Hall in the evening. However, I slept ten hours of blessed sleep, and thus stayed at once one of those fits which defy opiates now, and fill my soul with terror. It was a vast imprudence to venture from home so soon after my late harrowing up. And how I do smile (well pleased) at you healthy unconscious people who could not tell me, in answer to my preliminary inquiry, that the Philistines were to be upon me. I have received your note with Mr R.’s theory of supper. The only theory for me is darkness and quiet. With them I can sleep better than the most of people. Without them, all the cheese in Holland and all the porter in London would do little for me.”

The Rev. George Gilfillan of Dundee, a dear and intimate friend of the author, has most kindly favoured me with a perusal of Aird’s correspondence with him, extending over a period of thirty years.

The following extracts will serve to show, amongst other matters of interest, the soundness of his critical judgment upon literary questions, as well as the masculine vigour of his style :—

“Dumfries, %ih Feb. 1841.—Rev. and dear Friend,—

. . . As I merely glance at provincial journals, I did not observe the strictures on you in the . Such gross malignity can do you only good, and no harm. To the man who has written such a paper on Coleridge immediately after such a diatribe, I need not say—Courage ! Take no notice whatever of the vermin. Neither he nor all the world can touch a hair of your head, if you be true to yourself. ‘The great soul of the world is just.’ Thanks to dear Billy of Avon for that. My first impression was to add a Note of my own to your papers on Coleridge ; and unless he were made of cast-metal, I think I could make the creature blush. But now I see it is far better to let your papers soar away in their owrn silent magnanimity, and tell their own quiet story of joy, and abash the puny detractors. You are now quite safe from anything he can say against you. Moreover, as venom seems his spirit, he might rejoice to return to the subject in answrer to my Note. ... As I am no cheek-surrendering Quaker, however, I may think it my duty ... to call the fellow to account. It will help me all the better to do it well that you have before then got acquainted with Christopher North. . . . I fear human nature is no better anywhere else than at . Many a time have I thanked that terrible old fellow, Bentley, for saying in the rushing face of every ninth wave of his many calamities, ‘Well, I think I have got through worse than this yet.’ So, courage with old Bentley!”

“25th Feb. 1842.—Let me now first of all acknowledge ‘ Brougham and Vaux,’ who comes from your hand, I think, in ‘strength and state.’ You have missed none of the great lineaments, and you have ploughed them all out deep and strong. The finer peculiarities appear also under nice discrimination. Thus much in the meantime by way of praise. Now for fault-finding. I differ from you entirely as to that going down upon his knees in the House of Lords, which in my mind was a bit of the most wretched melodramatic ever enacted—only, not just so bad as Burke’s dagger. Ay, think of a man like Burke actually with malice prepense getting the dagger—probably buying it—for the purpose, stowing it away in his breast, and arranging all his speech to get the flinging down done at the proper time! Pitiful trash of a trick!’’

16th May 1842.—Dr Cook, our Moderate leader, has been in this quarter, and I have seen him once or twice. He is a kindly and dear old man—not at all what you would suppose him. Fonder of his grandchildren, I assure you (for his only daughter is married at Loch-maben), than of the battles of the Kirk. He is a most lovable old man, and what a gentleman withal!”

“22d April 1843.—I have been sauntering for some time reading Alfred Tennyson’s poems, and other light matters. Alfred's brother lent me his poems. Beautiful they are certainly, strong and manly often, but oftener capricious, silly, and affected. ‘Codiva’was a most difficult affair certainly, yet treated with what perfect grace and beauty ! Reserving June for my visit to Bowden and Dundee (probably), I give you all the rest of the summer to choose your time for visiting our valley.

My only condition is, that you are not to stay with me less than a month. So, make your arrangements as you please. Pray write me again, and don’t forget to tell me how poor Nicol is. Also let me know of Brown.”

“12th June 1843.—Your letter from Old Comrie was unexpected, and therefore the more pleasing. But in the name of kitty wren and hawthorn blossom, why can’t you enjoy the green society of nature, and the simple quiet of our ‘Old Scottish Village,’ without desiderating a set of sympathetic chaps about you, effervescing or intense? Would I had old Bowden for four or five months in the year, on the dullest terms you could name. It has not yet got beyond thinking all ‘these writing chaps’ little better than a crew of good-for-nothing ne’er-do-weels, and I hope never will.

I think you take a right view of the whole matter, in wishing to be very very reasonable about that affair of the sermon. And pray reinforce your manly intention with this consideration : Your Associate Body is shaken just now with speculative innovations of opinion ; therefore be not angry that it is more than usually jealous about all freedoms, even in the degree of your own. Bear with it accordingly. . . . There is much pedantry in the formulas of all Churches ; but it is not a safe thing to let them be transgressed. Your duty is clear, accordingly ; and pray don’t talk of ‘victimisation,’ ‘personal enemies,’ and so forth. There can be nothing of the kind ever towards you by any that know you. When I first saw your clear, open, candid face, ‘ There’s a heroic chap,’ said I to myself—‘there’s a magnanimous chap, who will communicate strength and sweetness to the life of all round about him.’ Such, I am certain, is the true function of your goodly nature. . . . Depend upon it, you have no personal enemies: no man would have one like you be a victim. I beg of you to let me know the end of the matter. I could quarrel with you also about the state of the country, but I have chid enough for one letter. The sun has not done a right day’s work for the last month, but the fellow has not lost his faculty, for here he is out to-day. Neither has Great Britain : the present clouds are nothing to what she has come through. She will yet ‘shine and save’—God bless her!—and make us all (her much-endowed, much-blessed sons) ever hopefully, fearlessly, determinedly thankful.”

“11 August 1844.—I would not care a fig for Jeffrey, not having seen your MSS. You have seen already, from the failure of - and to serve you, that booksellers will persist in taking their own way. Try a few of them fairly, and if you don’t succeed, keep your MSS. snug in your bureau till some future time. Meantime and always, our happiness must mainly depend on our own self-contained consciousness of doing the practical duty of our respective stations. Dr Carlyle is here just now. He has some thought of visiting Mr Erskine of Linlathen, and, if so, will see you. I go to Ayr on Monday, but care little about it. It is not in my way at all. If you have a vacant hour this autumn, pray give me a little ‘Twaddle on Tweedside.”’

“23d September 1846.—I have just read Landreths’ review of ‘Pollok’ in Hogg’s last number. He has done it well—very ; and is evidently a clever fellow. I shall be very happy to have your notice of him for our next paper. What profession is he of? I trust (according to Sir Walter’s distinction of terms) literature is his crutch, not his staff.

“I have got back from Moffat, and am jog-trotting in as usual, ruminating somewhat, but doing nothing. I have characters and incidents for a romantic drama; but the plan is too scattered somehow, and does not exactly please me. ... I missed Carlyle when I was away at Moffat. He could sleep none in Scotland, and fled back to London, where he has done nothing but sleep. How I sympathise with him ! ”

“12th August 1848.—What a glorious 12th of August ! Would I were with you among the heather—unclerical Mantons apart! It seems a passion with every Scotchman to dip his foot among the blooms. left Dumfries greatly pleased with his reception here. His poetry is very juvenile and thin ; but there is mettle in that face and head of his, and I think he will make a good preacher. But, oh, what Lenten ware it must be at best without the Incarnation of Deity! Since God put the faculties of Shakespeare and all his affections in a piece of clay, it is not wonderful to me that He has taken our nature upon Him, to hold kindly intercourse with the noble creatures whom fie has thus fashioned. It would be more wonderful to me otherwise. Oh the dry, mar-rowless bones of Socinianism ! Pray write me now and tell me how Mrs Gilfillan is, and how you are yourself, and what doing. You have heard, of course, of James’s intended marriage. The youngsters are leaving me stranded high and dry—

‘Here a sheer hulk lies poor Tom Bowling.’

“18th Nov. 1848.— I had also this week a right hearty letter from Carlyle. He had marched into the bowels of my volume, and is much pleased. This praise is acceptable to me. I will show you the encouraging letter some future day. .

“You don’t know Samuel Fergusson of Dublin? I sent him a copy of my book; but it had not reached him when he wrote me the other day. He has succeeded, as counsel, in getting Williams of the ‘Tribune’ off; and I trust it will be a shoeing-horn to draw on gowden shoes. He has got married, and must work hard at the law; but Themis has not won his heart yet. He is determined still to have a dash at poetry. He is a fellow of rare powers, and I expect great things from him. . . .

“If, in your meditations dealing with the hearts of matters, any theme of deep tragic interest strikes you, pray let me know of it. I fear I am not the [man] now to execute much; but I have notions yet of new walks in the drama on high mountain-tops. Life is too short for us, and it is sorely nibbled away by small cares; yet well for us, perhaps. Work away, and sing courageously as you work.”

“1st January 1849.—Cholera is almost off from us now; but we have already lost one in thirty of our population—a rate of mortality which would be equivalent to 10,000 in such a city as Glasgow; so you see how mild the visitation is there, compared with the stroke on our poor devoted town.”

“1st Feb. 1849.— I have just had an hour with Gordon, the inspector of schools. He tells me that ‘ The Caxtons’in ‘Blackwood’ is by Bulwer Lytton. Can it be possible? No piece of modern writing has charmed me more. Can Sir B. L. really do such things? W. E. Aytoun is to be married to Professor Wilson’s third and last daughter, Jane. All this is building him round with new life, and yet it is leaving him lonelier too. The death of a betrothed maiden is to me peculiarly affecting. With what profound and beautiful pathos do the old Greeks lament it in their inscriptions and other anthology. No wonder! How exquisitely applicable Virgil’s words in such a case—

‘Sed dura; rapit inclementia mortis’!

Oh the force of that sed! Poor Robert - will need all the consolation you can give him. Peace and good be with him and all of you.”

“7th July 1849.—Dear Friend,—I am grieved to hear of Mrs Gilfillan’s serious illness, and the severe accident which has befallen yourself. To both of you I send my earnest wishes for your speedy, complete restoration. Rest completely, if you possibly can, from all work for a month or so, and the bruise will have the less irritability to feed it, and will pass off all the sooner. Your mind, moreover, will be freshened by the pause. Keep in view that you have been working hard for a series of years : see that you don’t press the fine springs too much. . . I agree with you to a hair about the ‘Northern Days.’ The old fun will never more be forthcoming, but the series may be made to embody much high eloquence, taking in all the best part of the lectures. When this is done, he should stop for ever, and gather up and arrange (adding and eking) all the spolia opima of his genius which are lying scattered about. I reread lately his ‘Unimore.’ Do but read it again for yourself. What mines of matter in it ! I have just finished reading over once more the morsels of criticism ’in Campbell's specimens. There is a want of generosity about them ; but some of them are exquisite. To Collins, for instance, he ascribes a ‘rich economy of expression haloed with thought’—isn’t it fine? I have spent some pleasing hours this week with Dr John Carlyle. He is well, and full of pleasant talk. Thomas is expected in Scotland this autumn."

“25th July 1850. — Your letter is dew to my dull, dry time. Many thanks. On you I can always count.

. . . This gnarled, snarled Bulldog of the North,

who has had a deadly grip of my sinews for the last three months, is slackening his fangs in the sun, and I am now hirpling tolerably by our river-side ; but I have not heard the cuckoo this year. If my locomotives go on improving slowly, I still look forward to seeing you about the end of August, if not the middle.

“Tell Yendys, when next you write to him, the severe rheumatic obstruction which has kept me from acknowledging his last kind communication, and give him my best regards. He is a very fine fellow. I was puzzled about the authorship of that paper of his in the 'Palladium.’ I could think of nobody but Brown, and yet could not satisfy myself that Brown it was. I presume the paper on Carlyle was by the editor himself, Wight, sharp and clever enough, but devoid of the rich inner man. You know what I mean.

“You naturally think the articles on Moffat are by myself. Not so. They are writen by my friend Grierson, the minister of Kirkbean, one of the greatest mountain-climbers of the age.

“I rejoice to hear of your literary progress and success; but I reserve it all for our rest under the pear-tree of Paradise.”

“21st Dec. 1850.—My dear Friend,— . . . Certain things should never be named, even for condemnation. That Byronism [Byron’s ‘ bit of blasphemy ’] about ‘Carnage’ is precisely such a thing. Why not let it sink out of sight to Tartarus ? Why immortalise it in heavenly

‘Amber and colours of the showery arch’?”

“3d July 1S51.—Some little family adjustments call me over to Roxburghshire in the end of this month, so I have been obliged to postpone my visit to Dundee. . . . I trust you will enjoy your trip to London, and enrich your mind with a hundred suggestive points. In that nidits they won’t be long in ripening. Our summer here is now beautiful ; but to me a shadow is in it from the deplorable illness of my friend and neighbour, Archie Hamilton. His heart is extensively diseased, and cannot send the blood with sufficient force through his large body. A deposit of water is the consequence, and it will drown him ere long. How he does labour for breath in the flood!”

Mr Hamilton was a solicitor in Dumfries and an elder of the Church, conspicuous for his portly presence and genial character. At his death he bequeathed a large Bible to Mr Aird, who records the gift on the opening page in these words: “My friend Archibald Hamilton died on 4th August 1851, and this Bible came into my possession accordingly. Our blessed Lord help me to read it with profit.”

2d Oct. 1S51.—A curse on magazine writing, which looks to the present and forgets futurity ! I am just about to begin a short memoir. Could you kindly send me what letters you had from Moir, that I may make a discreet use of them? I had a day of Carlyle lately. He is well. Browning and he are off to France. He gave me a private reading of his ‘ Sterling.’ It is very able and interesting; but it might have been as well to let the poor forlorn ‘sheet-lightning’ die away in its cloud.’’

"25th January 1852.—When was I in such arrears with you before? But I have been kept depressed and reluctant to work with this painful affection of my heart. Delta’s proofs are still coming upon me; and I have been in constant intercourse with the Crichton Institution for some weeks, in consequence of the terrible seizures of a poor friend of mine there, and the visits of his Edinburgh relatives. All this, with my usual weekly work, has been quite enough for me. My brother James told me of you the other day. I am specially thankful to hear that Mrs Gilfillan is so well now. Spring will be upon us immediately, and dibble and hoe in her eident hand. And you, G. G., down with your pen and out to the ‘ paidle’ an hour every morning and evening. ... I share your zeal about Croly. Poor fellow ! I am sorry to hear he is in very bad health. Lockhart, also, has been very unwell. The ‘Critic,’ I am afraid, wants body and substance. The last No. is exceedingly poor. That alms-basket of critical scraps won’t do. Tell me, when you write, not only of yourself, but of Dobell and all the worthies. Tennyson, I am told, has a large poem on hand. I have a little piece in the forthcoming ‘Blackwood.’ ‘A simple thing, but mine own,’ quod Touchstone. We have been drowned with floods; but I expect to hear the laverock tomorrow.”

“17th January 1854.—Your account of the Stirling meeting tickled me greatly. I have ordered a copy of the ‘Eclectic.’ My interest in Wilson, and my affection for him, deepen as his life runs low. . . . Give my kind regards to Yendys when you see him. Balder is not yet The Poem. He has been sowing bolls of pearls and ‘bags of fiery opals’ in the desert of Sahara. I am provoked at a chap of such powers not knowing better."

“1st April 1856.— I have just received your note. Many thanks for all your great kindness. In the continued exercise of it, do not fail to see my brother James as often as you can, and cheer him up, poor fellow! . . . I have had a very severe go of sore throat and bronchitis, and am still mainly confined to the house. Oh for ‘ the dew-dropping south ’ ! Sarah and her little body were to have been with me on Monday; but she, too, has influenza.

“Amidst all my snivelling, I have exchanged kind notes with Kingsley, and David Masson, and Dr Waller of Dublin ; and long friendly letters with James Hannay (who is a very rising chap, and will lend lustre to good old Dumfries), and Professor Blackie, and Sarnuel Ferguson—author of ‘The Forging of the Anchor,’and a man who had it in him to be the greatest poet of the time. Our own Samuel, too—dear Brown—dictated for me a short and affectionate note. I hope Mrs Gilfillan is not suffering from this intergrilling, interchilling of summer and winter in one.”

“25th August 1856.—My dear Friend,—Cats and hens have carried the day, or rather the night, against me, and I am off to Mountain Hall, a villa not far from Dr Browne’s upper gate. I flitted on Saturday : a pony-cart carried my whole gear—the gatherings of twenty-one years—so my organ of acquisitiveness cannot be very large. My Tusculum is a charming one in fine weather; but in winter it will be dull, I fear, and rather inconvenient for me. I must just do the best I can. Would I were nearer you ! The Rev. Arthur P. Stanley, the biographer of Arnold, with two young Oxonians, was here on Friday. They brought a note of introduction from a friend in Moffat, and I had much pleasure in showing them the antiquities of our town. Stanley is a little man, upwards of forty, with grizzled hair, thoughtful and somewhat careworn aspect, soft moist eyes, and mild quiet manners—quite the Christian gentleman of the English Church. His companions, Lushington and Shairp, were very fine fellows also.”

Aird was much gratified by a public entertainment, which was given on the nth of May 1847, to one of the most popular men in Dumfriesshire, Mr John M'Diarmid, the proprietor and editor of the ‘Courier.’ Mr James Stuart Menteath, younger, of Closeburn, occupied the chair, supported by the leading gentlemen of the town and district. Aird took an active part in the proceedings, and proposed a congenial toast, “Success to the Drama.” Though politically opposed to the guest of the evening, he never allowed party feeling to interfere with his private intercourse and personal esteem. On the contrary, writing soon afterwards to Dr Carruthers of Inverness, who was d prevented from being present, he described the meeting as a triumphant one, over which he rejoiced, in compliment to his friend and brother journalist.

Dumfries, like Stratford-upon-Avon and Dryburgh, is memorable as the burial-place of the mighty dead, and a shrine to which pilgrims from all lands resort continually in streaming and enthusiastic crowds. It contains the mausoleum of Robert Burns, and many memorials of his family and history, which possessed a deep personal interest for Aird. He went to reside there only a few months after the death of the poet’s widow, and became intimately acquainted with three of his sons, and several of his contemporaries. For Burns himself he entertained the profoundest admiration, ranking him among the greatest minds in natural force and originality of genius. Of the errors and infirmities of the man he seldom spoke, regarding these as shadows passing over a noble picture, upon which it was ungenerous to enlarge. There is a striking chapter in the pages of the ‘Old Bachelor,’ in which the autfior pays a glowing tribute to the great poet of his country, and represents the Spirit of the Bard meeting at midnight with the Spirits of the Martyrs on the Mount of Communion, and holding a sublime colloquy. Aird was a member of the Burns Club, which has been long established in Dumfries. He presided at the annual dinner of the society on the 25th January 1840; and he was in the habit for many years of joining his fellow-citizens at their pleasant anniversaries. The centenary of the poet’s birth in 1859 was celebrated, however, with an enthusiasm which far surpassed any previous demonstration, and which is unparalleled perhaps in the annals of hero-worship. No fewer than 872 meetings were held all the world over, thus verifying remarkably the prophetic words of Burns in his lifetime, that he would be more thought of a hundred years hence than he was then. A ringing cheer arose that night in Scotland and the British Isles. It was caught up by our kinsmen in the great continent of America; it was passed on to our countrymen in Australia and the distant blast: and the shout of jubilee resounded in all quarters of the globe. It seems as if men, and particularly Scotchmen, had been touched by electricity ; for they banded together like brothers on that occasion, and, for the sake of dear Auld Lang Syne, they sang, with one voice and with one heart, the immortal songs of the Scottish ploughman :—

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tab a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.”

Dumfries, as the guardian of the poet’s sepulchre was called upon, par excellence, to take a prominent part in the rejoicings of the day. Upwards of a thousand persons, chiefly working men, assembled to do honour to a Scotchman who belonged to their own ranks. Another festive meeting of the citizens was also held, under the presidency of Dr W. A. F. Browne, one of H.M. Commissioners in Lunacy. Colonel William Burns, the eldest surviving son of the poet, was present; and Aird, who spoke from the croupier’s chair, made a memorable appearance on the occasion, displaying an eloquence which might have given him a distinguished position in the Church :—

“He proposed ‘The Fine Arts.’ They were now, he said, met to pay a special tribute to poetry, and he was sure they would extend their loyal good wishes to the whole of the charming sisterhood. Each of them had their own distinctive features, but Beauty based upon Utility was the common soul of all of them. And if any man loved poetry, he was compelled, by the constitution of his nature, more or less to love all the arts. By the consent of critics, he might say of mankind, poetry had been placed foremost of the band. The reason was obvious. From the flexibility and infinite variety of her medium of words, Poetry could embody in a moment the subtlest and most complex emotions of the human mind, and could express flux and reflux, transition and progress.” After an illustration of this, drawn from one of the ancient poets, Mr Aird apologised for travelling out of Kyle on such a night. “Very well. Burns in his ‘Twa Dogs,’alluding to the fashionable follies of the young buck of his day, says—

‘Or by Madrid he takes the route,
To thrum guitars, and fecht \vi’ nowte.’

Let them mark the power of the word ‘nowte.’ Had the poet said that our young fellow went to Spain to fight with bulls, there would have been some dignity in the thing ; but think of him going all that way to ‘fecht wi nowte!’ It was felt at once to be ridiculous. Such was the power of the single word ‘nowte,’ as chosen by Burns. It conveyed at once a statement of the folly and a sarcastic rebuke of the folly. Such were those single decisive strokes, as from a sledge-hammer, which sent the Burns’ broad-arrow deep and for ever into the very heart of the matter. Such a feat as the word 1 nowte had thus achieved was beyond the reach of any other of the Fine Arts.”

In 1863 Aird retired from the editorship of the ‘Herald,’ after a service of twenty-eight years. He was entertained at a public dinner on the occasion, and presented with a handsome testimonial. Mr J. Macalpine Leny, convener of the county, occupied the chair, and was supported by Mr James Gordon, Provost of the burgh, Sheriff Trotter, and a large assemblage of gentlemen, who united, irrespective of politics, to do honour to one of whom all parties were proud. Aird accepted the compliment with modest pride, and remarked, in the course of an effective speech—

“Mr Leny, you said to me a month ago—‘Aird, you are not faithful to our great Conservative oracle, Lord Eldon. “ Never resign !” was his maxim.’ Well, if I were a judge, I should never resign; if I were a physician, I should never resign ; if I were a minister of the Gospel, I should never resign. And fifty other spheres of active duty there are which can be not only well served, but best served, by the ripeness of years and judgment. But, gentlemen the Press is scarcely one of these. I may say decisively, it is not one of these. It demands ceaseless vigilance, ceaseless enterprise, ceaseless animation, and this in many cases by night as well as by day. The demand is all the more exacting in these our times of restless competition, and when the very lightning of heaven, which we have caught and yoked in harness, comes floating in its telegrams the whole night long, up to the very hour of morning publication. Under such a system there are no holidays, properly so called, for an editor. He cannot be away from his post: he cannot even afford to be unwell. When I tell you, for myself, I have been on the ‘Herald’ for twenty-eight years, and during all that time, through good health and bad health, have written more or less in every newspaper, and have borne alone the necessary anxiety of every recurring week, you will scarcely wonder that I am now needing my day of rest, and I beg it respectfully from you.”

A great banquet, attended by two hundred gentlemen, was held at Dumfries on the 9th August 1871, in commemoration of the centenary of Sir Walter Scott. In the absence of the Lord Advocate of Scotland, afterwards Lord Young, who was detained in London by parliamentary duty, Aird was unanimously called upon to preside. The position was quite a novel one for him to occupy, but he spoke with an oratorical ability which took all by surprise, and called forth the acclamations of an enthusiastic meeting. In proposing the immortal memory of Scott (whom he had often seen in his youth both at Melrose and Edinburgh), he said :—

“Gentlemen,—I propose it with an affectionate reverence, due less to the great literary author than to the great and good man. It was fortunate for the full development, alike of Scott’s personal character and his literary genius, that his youth was nurtured, half amidst the picturesque forms of the old Border feudalism, in the tender twilight of its passing away; and half in the civic amenities and practical life of the new order of things. A certain romantic play of thought and feeling, ever contrasting yet ever blending, never failing to harmonise the elements of the old and the new, was one ot his main distinctions accordingly, and his most peculiar charm as a man and a writer. To all his neighbours in country and town, Scott, at once so chivalrous and so homely simple, was a pride and a joy. Serenely elevated above the petty intrigues, envy, and jealousy of authorship, throughout the Guild of Letters he was loved as a brother—a brother ever ready to help where and when he could. No sounder, healthier, clearer spirit was ever given to be a model to men.

“It is mainly as a Poet and Novelist, that Scott is such a power in the world. The larger poems, which may be called Romantic Epics, sprang by natural and easy evolution from that spirit of ballad minstrelsy within him to which his youth was attuned. The wild sweet freshness of ‘The Lay of the Last Minstrel' still keeps it the prime favourite with not a few. ‘Marmion’ has more varied and imposing characters, more breadth and depth of action, more startling contrasts of shade an d light. It is Scott’s most powerful poem. The battle of Flodden in it is a piece of strenuous animation without a pause, hardly equalled by Homer himself. ‘ The Lady of the Lake,’ with its lovely scenery, its romantic characters and story, and its pleasing symmetry of effect, is the most captivating to the general heart, especially of the young. ‘The Lord of the Isles’ and ‘Rokeby’ have splendid passages ; but on the whole they are decidedly inferior to their predecessors. Many, too many of the so-called poets of our day, are analysts rather than poets. They give us morbid subjective introspection, instead of the clear, open face of self-illustrating, self-showing nature. It is as if a painter, in presenting the ‘human face divine,’ were to exhibit all the facial ramifications of nerves and of muscles. Pray, good friend, draw the epidermis over your tissues; loyal to peerless ‘ Ellen of the Lake,’ let us have the grace and bloom of that bewitching cheek. Scott’s poetry may be sneered at now and then by the disciples of the Self-conscious school; but it is a pictorial embodiment of thought and feeling, which is far better than a description and discussion of them ; it is natural, healthy, and refreshing as sunshine, dew, and air, and will never go out of fashion.

“How shall we characterise the Waverley Novels? They are a world in themselves: a world of individual and social character and life, in their infinite interpenetrating varieties of war and peace, business and sport, tragic passion and comic mirth. No such one body of imaginative literature of this order has ever been given to the world. The Scottish series, drawn very much from our author’s own sympathetic knowledge and experience, have the highest value; but the splendours of such tales as ‘Ivanhoe,’ ‘Kenilworth,’ ‘Quentin Durward,’ ‘The Talisman,’ are without a parallel in their own sphere. Such are these wonderful books. Untainted by the slightest blot of moral impurity—full of the treasures of wisdom—wisdom made captivating by all the graces of fancy and imagination, how many millions of human spirits have they cheered and elevated! Strike the Waverley Novels from the world, and what a dreary blank to the heart of humanity! Apart from their endless other merits, were I simply to name to you all Scott’s distinct creations of character in his poetry and novels, what a bead-roll of wonders they would be! Would, rather, I were a magician for an hour, to make them file over before you in faithful embodiment! What a procession! What a multiform, picturesque procession! Yes: in creative genius, Scott, is almost the very foremost of men. If second, second only to Shakespeare.

“I have touched on Sir Walter Scott’s generosity as a man. It ran into excess. This was the one flaw in the sound constitutional economy of his character and life. It ran into excess in his baronial hospitalities: it ran into excess in his over-confidence in others : it ran into excess in his gentle incapacity (how gentle !) of deserting ineffective old friends whom he had linked to himself in his plans. The error and the ruin were great. Great though they were, the world can hardly afford to lament them; for they brought before us one of the most august figures on the stage of time, our shattered Titan, silting solitary in the twilight of his fortunes—shattered; ay, but sublimely invincible in his toil of reparation. Labour after labour, greater than the labours of Hercules, did he fling into his scale of that ill-adjusted balance; yea, and in the prodigality of his self-sacrifice, he flung into it his own magnanimous life, till he more than pressed down the scale to the most sensitive level of honesty and honour. Here is a lesson of moral manhood, for the generations and the ages yet unborn, great in value beyond all his writings.

‘The glory dies not, and the grief is past.’ ”

Aird next proposed the immortal memory of Burns, and said :—

“Gentlemen,—We are here this evening to do special honour to our Walter Scott. It is a double distinction to us that we meet on the very spot which holds the dust of our Robert Burns, the greatest lyric poet of any age or country. It is pleasant for me to remember, and to remind you, that Burns and Scott once met. Would I were a painter, to try my hand at the scene ! What a capital picture it would make! The place of meeting, as. you all know, was the breakfast-room of Dr Adam Ferguson, the historian and philosopher. Professor Dugald Stewart, another celebrity in moral science, was also present. Fine accessaries you be, Sages of the Chair ! Ay, smile complacently as you may in your self-conscious superiority, accessaries you are, and nothing more. The two central figures in the picture are the fair-haired boy Walter, and that wonderful young Ploughman to whose compliment he is blushing. No disparagement to our two philosophic fathers. They did well in their function. But how limited their function, compared with the world-wide instruction and delight about to issue from those two young hearts and heads before them ! Gentlemen, let us now call to mind how long the literary genius of the country was kept in thrall by the neat antithetic clink-clink of the Pope couplet. It really seemed for a while, as if poetry could never again be cast in any other form. In came our century; forth burst poetry in a storm of revolution. The more we value the power, freedom, and variety of the new order of things ; the more let Burns have his first great distinction. He was one of the master-forces to break up that artificial monotonous sing-song tyranny. Intellect direct and masculine; vivid imagination; wit, humour, tenderness, all fused into one in the passionate wells of fire, were the molten outburst of our new Son of Song—new and unexpected. And here let me say, once for all, of Burns, in the way of blame and apology,—the volcanic eruption was at times a devouring fire, to which consideration and conviction are stubble and tow. Vehement impulsive power is certainly the man’s grand characteristic. . . . All is pungent pith. Not a verse, not a clause of a verse, but tingles with life to the last tip of articulation.

“These be the anxious days of war and defence; stand forward, Blue Bonnet:—

"The kettle o’ the Kirk and State,
Perhaps a clout may fail in’t;
But deil a foreign tinkler loon
Shall ever ca’ a nail in’t.

Our fathers’ bluid the kettle bought;
And wha wad dare to spoil it,
By Heaven ! the sacrilegious dog
Shall fuel be to boil it.’

"A patriotic burst of graphic humour worth a troop of horse! . . . Lord Ravensworth, who has translated some of Horace’s odes wonderfully well, tells us that he has been twenty years trying every conceivable variety of form in which to render the lines—

‘Dulce ridentem Lalagen amabo,
Dulce loquentem

Two lines musical of the very soul of love, and certainly all but untranslatable. If we cannot translate them, we can more than match their loveliness from our Scottish Ploughman:—

‘Sae flaxen were her ringlets;
Her eyebrows of a darker hue
Bewitchingly o'erarching
Twa laughing een o’ bonnie blue.’

What troubadour, dedicated to Beauty and Love, has warbled us out such a charm as—

‘Bewitchingly o’erarching Twa laughing een o’ bonnie blue ’?

‘Dulce ridentem’ is very sweet; yet how general and vague, compared with the exquisite picturesque speciality of life in—

‘Twa laughing een o’ bonnie blue’!

Gentlemen, the main service done by Burns to the world lives, and lives for ever, in his Songs. The service is great, without a parallel in the uninspired literature of mankind. Those old Scottish melodies of ours, sweet though they were, strong and sweet, were all the more, by their very strength and sweetness, a moral plague, from the indecent songs that had long been set to them. How was the plague to be stayed ? All the preachers in the land could not divorce the grossness from its pride of place in the music. The only way was to put something better in its stead. This inestimable ‘something better,’ not to be bought by Californian mines, was given us by Burns. Down slunk the foul rhymes to the moles and to the bats. A social reform, beyond the power of Pulpit or Parliament, was accomplished at once. Think of more than three hundred healthy Songs, ranging along the whole gamut of the human bosom, supplied by one man—a man who died in his thirty-eighth year! A short gush from the heart to the heart,—such is the vital nature of these Songs—such the secret of their everlasting, ever-widening popularity. In the Far West, the settlers, we are told,

‘Read, by turns,
The Psalms of David and the Songs of Burns.’

Ay, and on to the end of time will these Songs, singing themselves to our old Scottish music, be light and gladness, and spiritual health to the dwellers of every clime, millions of millions, kindred of our ancient blood and tongue.”

Owing to his simple tastes and frugal habits, Aird had acquired a comfortable independence, and his last years were passed in much peace and quietness. He was never married, and his wants were unostentatious and few. An aristocrat in theory, he was a democrat in practice, and pursued without ambition his own path. His books, or rather his thoughts, were his companions, for his library was not an extensive one. He resembled the great poet of the English Lakes in various respects—in his pure and consecrated life, his musings among the woods and streams, his modest and retiring ways. Every nest in spring was known to him, and every flower which summer brings. The beautiful meadow of the Dock, on the banks of the winding Nith, was his favourite haunt, and here he used to watch the autumn sun as he sank in crimson clouds behind the hills of Galloway, and flushed the river with his dying glory. The numerous visitors who came from far and near were also dear to him; for though his head was getting grey, his heart remained youthful to the last. His conversational powers were of a high order; and unlike such brilliant talkers as Macaulay and Sydney Smith, he did not require the excitement of a mixed company or of the dinner-table, to call them into exercise. A walk in the country was sufficient to set thoughts and words aflow; and it was delightful to be his companion in the fields, while he pointed out the beauties of earth and sky, or told some story of the demigods of literature in his young days. Aird was particularly fond of his birds, and used to speak of the starlings and mavises as if they had been distinguished personages arriving or departing. Robin fed from his hand, and his pet chaffinch “Tibbie ” took crumbs of bread from his mouth. When asked for the secret of his taming powers over birds, he replied, “ A pure conscience and a steady eye are the only lures ; they will know at once if you mean to harm, and disguises are useless.” The spotted flycatcher was one of his tender anxieties, for he was in the habit of defending her low-built nest from cats, by placing thorn and holly branches round the root of the tree. Then in autumn he would watch with interest the young swallows as they wheeled about overhead, till he was satisfied that they were fit for their long flight to winter quarters in Africa. It is thus he sings of the Swallow in one of his loveliest poems :—

“The little comer’s coming, the comer o’er the sea,
The comer of the summer, all the sunny days to be.
How pleasant through the pleasant sleep thy early twitter heard,
O swallow by the lattice! Glad days be thy reward!

The silent Power that brings thee back with leading-strings of love
To haunts where first the summer sun fell on thee from above,
Shall bind thee more to come aye to the music of our leaves,
For here thy young, where thou hast sprung, shall glad thee in our eaves.”

Aird wrote to Mrs Smith of Whitehaven :—

“20th June 1864.

“Tibbie and Chirsty (as we have named our two hen shilfas) are well, and so are Robin and our other little friends. Tibbie takes crumbs from the hand now. One day as I was musing on the gate up the road, she sat down on it close beside me, and let me touch her with my finger. Another day she followed me as far as the lodge, when. I advised her to go home and not make a fool of herself and me in the Dumfries market. Tell all this to Tottie and Tom,—it is meant for them.”

'3d November 1864.

“I trust Tom is finding his tongue, and conqueringon from word to word. Tell him to throw the crumbs carelessly to Bobby at first, and keep well back till little Red-waistcoat gets faith in him. Dr Brown, author of ‘ Rab and his Friends,’ was visiting me lately. He was charmed with Robin feeding on my hand, but Tibbie was not at home. Under the high pressure of the general gregarious instinct overriding the special familiarity, she has been much away in the fields of late with the flocks of finches. On Sunday last, when I was at the head of our little field by the gate, she detached herself from a flock on a high tree, and came and sat down quite beside me. I almost touched her with my hand as I held crumbs to her, but she did not care for them even when I laid them down. Her object was pure friendly recognition. Dear wee Tibbie ! Since her ancestress came out of Noah’s Ark, there has been no such shilfa, nor will there ever be such another, at least till the Millennium.”

Dr Brown thus refers in congenial and loving terms to Tibbie and her winning ways :—

“23 Rutland Street, Edinburgh, 19th April 1866.

“My dear Mr Aird,—Many thanks for your ‘ Notes,’ especially for dear little Tibbie, of whom I have often thought; it is delightfully because simply told. Are you never in Edinburgh ? Be sure to find me out, if you are. I am always at home from 1 to 2.30.

“Thomas the True came off most victoriously.*

*Mr Carlyle in his Rectorial Address before the University of Edinburgh.

It was a wonderful homage to genius and worth and nature, to witness the nine-tenths of his immense company (not audience) sitting patiently and more, without getting one word, for an hour and a half.— Yours ever truly, J. Brown.

“P.S.—I have sent Tibbie to the ‘Scotsman.’ ”

The “Notes” referred to by Dr Brown were contributed by Aird in 1864 to the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, and appeared in the form of a charming paper upon Birds. They were afterwards printed among the Transactions of the Society ; and the following extract will be read with pleasure for the sake of gentle “Tibbie,” the poet’s darling friend :—

“The Chaffinch.—It is my first business, when I step out in the morning, to call on Robin ; and he comes and sits on my hand, and eats his breakfast of oaten cake broken into crumbs. With all his habits of familiarity, it is not easy to get Robin to do this. We have also with us at Mountain Hall a hen chaffinch or shilfa, whose tameness is even more peculiar than Bob’s. She was bred close beside the house in 1863. All last winter, and especially in spring, when the natural food of birds gets scanty, she was very much about the door, and ventured often into the lobby. She was gradually brought to take food from the hand ; and when she was hatching, and came down to me from her nest, eager for supplies, I put the bit of cake in my mouth, and she flew straight to my face c and took it. When her young were out, she took none of the cake to them in the nest, but fed them with the small green caterpillars from the leaves. When the fledgelings had got to the garden, however, she followed me assiduously for the cake, hovering about my face till I got it into my mouth, and then made off with it to her young ones. I may remark here that oaten bread is preferred by the birds to every other kind : there is much flint in the oat for the bones, and the instinct of birds may like it accordingly. When her brood was dismissed to take charge of themselves, Tibbie (for such is the name we have given our little friend) continued to be very familiar with the people of the house ; and often, when I was leaning on the gate, the breadth of a field away from our avenue, she came and sat down on the gate beside me. Once, but only once, she allowed me to touch her with my forefinger. After a proper interval, she dressed up her old nest (not a very common thing), and brought out a second brood in it. About the middle of July, Tibbie began to be much away from us, yet visiting us from time to time. For the cake she seemed no longer to care : I suppose she was getting food in the fields which she liked better. I have seen the flock of chaffinches repeatedly in our upper grounds; and have noticed, in accordance with White of Selborne’s observation, that the most of them are hens. One day lately, w'hen I was by a bit of paling up in one of the fields, I saw Tibbie detach herself from a flock of finches on a high tree; and down she sat on the paling close beside me. I offered her some small crumbs, but she declined them : her object was pure friendly recognition. After she had sat awhile, and I had bantered her for her faithlessness to the kind old door, she answered with a chirrup, and rejoined the sisterhood on the tree.”

Such was the life of the Old Bachelor and his birds at sweet Mountain Hall :—

"Farewell, farewell ! but this I tell
To thee, thou wedding guest!
lie prayeth well who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
lie prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God that loveth us,
He made and loveth all.”

In summer-time Aird would visit his brother, Mr James Aird, in Dundee, or his sisters, Mrs Paisley and Mrs Smith, who lived near his old home in Tweed-side, the visits becoming rarer as the years passed on. The pious son was an affectionate brother and a generous uncle, for the ties of kindred were sacred in his eyes, and wound themselves like tendrils round his heart. The death, in 1837, of his brother Adam, a most lovable man, was a great grief to him, as to all the family.

While his niece was dying at Bowden, he thus writes to her sister:—

“Dumfries, 22d October 1S54.

“I have received all your letters duly, and also letters direct from Galashiels. Like yourself, I am unable to be at Bowden. My old enemy has rne so severely by the neck and shoulders just now, and my heart is so affected, and I am so morbidly sensitive about cold, that the doctor has advised me strongly not to venture. The dear lamb will accept William’s visit as one from yourself; and I am sure she will not doubt my affection for her. I wrote to her yesterday, and also to my father, begging him just to engage some quiet woman to sleep with Isa and help her during the night, in order to save Grannie, till your mother got forward. If your mother and Grannie be with her at last, it is enough. Many of us would only disturb and distract her in her last moments. It is sad to lose one so endeared to us all; and infinitely affecting when we think of her as the bit ewe-lamb that has lain so long in Grannie’s bosom. But oh, to herself it will be a blessed release from a life of suffering! For our gracious Lord will make her glad according to the years wherein she has seen sorrow.”

Aird was a good master, too—most considerate and kind—as the following beautiful letter, written in his old age, will show :—

“30th July 1873.

“My dear Sarah,—That very day on which Cousin Robert died, I found my faithful friend and servant Mary lying in her night-clothes, early in the morning, dead on her bedroom floor. Heart-disease is pronounced to have been the cause of death. From what her eldest sister tells me, Mary seems to have had a presentiment of it. I found her lying stretched out on her left side. Before her on the floor was a breakfast-cup, with a little water in the bottom. The body was stiff and cold. I noticed, however, that she had been in bed. My notion is, that finding the mortal ail upon her, she had risen and made her way to the spigot for a drink, and returning to her room, had sunk on the floor unable to get into bed. Even in the pangs of dissolution, the poor thing, in the strength of that something heavenly within us stronger than death or the grave, had bethought her of womanly delicacy and the duty of giving as gentle a shock as possible to the afflicted friend, who was to be the first to find her in the morning. And so she had stretched out her limbs, laid one ankle over the other, drawn her night -dress carefully down over her knees, and gathered it over her breast, holding it with her left hand close under her chin. On Friday I gave her worthy burial, and laid her head in the grave beside her father and mother in Terregles churchyard. My poor Mary ! Her affectionate loyalty to me was a thing not to be got with money. I have no hope of falling in with it again in this mortal life. I have much to tell you about her afterwards. In the meantime, I may just mention to you that her tremendous fall backward on a stone pavement from a window two storeys up, gave a shock to her nervous system from which she never wholly recovered. I have learned since her death that she was a raving maniac for half a year under Dr Browne’s charge. I wish I had known all this before. Tenderly though I have invariably treated her, my reverence for her innocent sufferings would have made my care of her all the more tender.”

Aird lived and died in communion with the Church of Scotland, and between him and his venerable clergyman, the late Rev. Dr "Wallace* of St Michael’s, there existed the warmest affection and regard. He was a daily reader of the Bible, and observed devoutly the practice of family prayer. Though indifferent to questions of ecclesiastical government and ceremonial, he was a firm believer in those great verities embodied in the Apostle ’Creed, which constitute the Christian faith, and underlie all forms of it, Catholic and Protestant. Of the heathen world he ever spoke with charity and compassion, esteeming the sincere idolater who worshipped the Most High under imperfect symbols, and walked up to the light which he possessed. Sunday was to Aird a day of gladness, and he used to quote with pleasure the saying of the old bishop, that our heavenly Father loves to see His children in the playground as well as in the school. His views of life were hopeful, and far removed from ascetic gloom or fanatic zeal. He was a lover of the drama, and of all that is beautiful in art, regarding these as the handmaids of nature and religion, and the good gifts of God. His piety altogether was of a mild and cheerful character, but modest and reserved; and, like the best of men, he did not care to speak much to others of his spiritual experiences. Nor was it necessary.

*Dr Wallace, who dierl at Dumfries, 20th November 1864, was also the clergyman of Mrs Burns, the widow of the poet.

He was well known to all with whom he came in contact, by the quiet dignity of his daily walk; and his sun went down without the shadow of a cloud to dim the remembrance of its noontide lustre.

The end came in 1876. In February of that year, the public journals announced with concern the serious illness of Thomas Aird. The complaint, which was of a dropsical nature, was attended with distressing breathlessness, and for several weeks he was obliged to remain night and day in his arm-chair. He was much exhausted at this time from the want of sleep; but a merciful lull took place in his sufferings, during which he was able -to converse with his faithful medical attendant, Dr Borthwick, and the loving relatives around him. In conversation he turned wistfully to the scenes and memories of his boyhood, and spoke much to his sisters of Melrose and the Tweed—“the ever-dear Tweed ” (as he once wrote “whose waters flow continually through my heart, and make me often greet in my lonely evenings.” One warm sunny day in April he sat for a little while at the door in his garden-chair, enjoying once more the sweetness of the spring and the sight of his young plants in the rockery. It was a delightful hour to him, though mingled with solemn thoughts. The Nith was flowing at his feet, and as “ he looked down upon the shining river—that symbol of human life— and turned his eyes towards the old-fashioned church and churchyard of Troqueer, on the other bank of the stream, he was reminded that there was only such a gap between life and death.”

Though so much better for the time being, Aird never shared in the hopes of recovery which were expressed by some of his friends. From the beginning of his illness he knew that the hand of death was upon him, but his mind was composed to the last, and his faith was clear. Fie felt grateful for the kind visits of his clergyman, Mr Paton, who spoke one day with diffidence of his ability to comfort him. “Speak on,” replied the dying man, “and pray for me. I feel just like a little child before my God.”

On Tuesday morning, 25th April, Aird rose and read his usual portions of Scripture. Flis niece, Mrs Smith, and Miss Thorburn, a dear and intimate acquaintance, were sitting beside him, and he conversed with interest upon various subjects. One of the ladies read aloud an article of Mr Gilfillan’s, and had just finished, when the final change came on with startling suddenness. He lay breathing quietly and easily for about an hour, perfectly conscious, and engaged in silent prayer. “I am quite comfortable, quite comfortable,” he said to the fond inquiries that were made from time to time. The expression of his face was * Scotsman,’ April 27, 1876. rapt and beautiful. Gradually his breathing grew weaker, and without a sigh he expired in the arms of his devoted friends.

The intelligence was received with a feeling of profound sorrow throughout the whole of Scotland. The community of Dumfries sincerely mourned the loss of its most conspicuous citizen, and, at the request of the inhabitants, the funeral was a public one. The interment took place on the ist of May, in St Michael’s churchyard, the burial service being performed at the house of the deceased and at the grave. Mr James Aird of Dundee, and other relatives and friends, were the pall-bearers; and as the procession moved onward to the cemetery, it was attended by crowds of sorrowing spectators who lined the streets. The day was the first of summer, and the bright sunshine which filled the sky seemed to celebrate the close of a beautiful life. The remains of the poet were laid amid the-scenes he loved, not far from the grave which holds the sacred ashes of Burns, and from the venerable church of St Michael, in which for forty years he was a reverent worshipper.

Thomas Aird died in the seventy-fourth year of his age, leaving behind him an honourable name in the literature of Scotland. Wilson, Hogg, Lockhart, Dr Quincey, Moir, Cunningham, Pollok, Motherwell, were among the friends and contemporaries of his youth, and with him lias passed away almost the last representative of a brilliant race. Of the comrades of earlier days, the illustrious Carlyle alone survives :

“But ’tis an old belief,
That on some solemn shore,
Beyond the sphere of Grief,
Dear friends shall meet once more;

Beyond the sphere of Time,
And Sin, and Fate’s control:
Serene in endless prime
Of body and of soul.

That creed I fain would beep,
That hope I’ll not forego—
Eternal be the sleep
Unless to waken so.”

John Gibson Lockhart.
J. W

Manse. of Traquair,
March 1878.

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