Robert Hetrick

Elegy on the Death of Burns

Ye drooping willows of the lonely dale, 
The haunt of those who weep their slighted loves, 
Permit me to sing o’er the mournful tale, 
While I recline among your shady groves.

And with me, Coila! weep what thou hast lost; 
Thy much regarded poet is no more; 
Thy BURNS, so late thy honest pride and boast, 
Has trode that path his fathers trode before.

My heart exulted when a bard arose 
To sing sweet Coila into endless fame; 
Her summer-scented vales and winter snows, 
That ne’er were known by a poetic name.

Where Irvine, gurgling through her towns of trade, 
In gay meanders sweeps the sandy shore; 
Where Ayr traverses o’er her pebbled bed 
Until she mingles with the dashing roar.

And lovely Doon that wanders from the hills, 
Where powerful nature’s varied forms appear; 
Where Ness the mind with admiration fills, 
And grandly thunders all the rolling year:

With these He sung sweet Coila’s fertile plains, 
Where Ceres mild her aheafy empire holds; 
And heathy hills where peaceful shepherd swains 
Conduct their guiltless flocks into their folds.

There oft our Bard, in hardy, honest toil, 
Would gladly mingle with the rural throng; 
And, in his much lov’d Caledonian stile, 
Would cheer the rustics with his tale and song.

Or, when the feather’d songsters of the grove, 
With chearful voices hail’d the ruddy dawn, 
So would our youthful poet early rove, 
And chime his notes across the dewy lawn.

Or, when the sun his radiant course had run, 
To dart his rays beyond the western main, 
And mild and gentle the refulgent moon, 
Proclaimed to man her modest silver reign;

Would Burns oft wander by the river Ayr,
To court his muse beside the lonely bower; 
And, happy to be woo’d, the heavenly fair 
Would gladly meet him at the midnight hour –

There to infuse into his soaring mind 
The heavenly strains of liberty and song; 
With every graceful ornament combined, 
With every sentimental feeling strong.

A guardian o’er his youthful days, 
To stimulate his soaring mind, 
And model into sweet harmonious lays 
His just reflections on the human kind.

Alike our bard could paint the blooming shade,
Where hawthorn’s scent perfumed the evening gale;
Where the fond lover met the bashful maid,
To breathe alternately their artless tale.

Or the brave monarch, in his country’s cause,
Urging his army to assault the foes,
Resolved to perish with her dying laws,
Or overcome the author of her woes.

Or when his sober mind would grace the lyre,
With sacred verses simple and divine;
Or with a happy, mild, poetic fire, 
Would make his hero in a cottar shine.

But ah! his genius, like the early rose
That spreads its blossom in the April morn,
Before it into sweet perfection grows
To ruin is by fond admirers torn.

But while sweet Coila’s liberty remains,
Her homely toils secure a virtuous praise;
Her nymphs will chaunt, re-echoed by her swains,
His free, expressive and exalted lays.

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