Robert Hetrick

Anniversary Ode, Recited at the Burns’ Club Held in Burns’ Cottage

In days of yore, a poet of renown 
Was never in our western regions known; 
Or, if there was a genius of the kind, 
He breathed his lays in silence to the wind; 
Till youthful Burns inhaled the sacred fire, 
And highly graced the Caledonian lyre. 
He added beauty to the Scottish rhyme, 
And energy unknown before his time. 
The charms of nature flourish in his lays, 
And every line new harmony displays. 
He was no mean nor mercenary bard, 
To flatter power for favour or regard. 
If aught at all his poetry outshined, 
It was the independence of his mind. 
He saw that worth was to no class confined, 
But more or less diffused through all mankind; 
The humble cottar’s son might far excel 
The haughty lord’s, and be his cottar still. 
Indeed, our Bard would honour and adore 
The man of worth though he was ne’er so poor.
Despising tyrants, as we all should do, 
That would our rights and liberties subdue. 
’Twas he alone had the unrivall’d art, 
To wing the fancy and to touch the heart; 
To make us patriots for our country’s right, 
And join the ranks of glorious Wallace Wight; 
Or share in Bruce’s troubles, wants, and woes, 
To pour his vengeance on his country’s foes; 
Or tear at Charles Stewart’s griefs and pains, 
A vagrant monarch in his own domains. 
In short we know not whether to extol 
The most – his sentimental or his droll – 
His Johnnie Hornbook, Poosie Nansie’s core, 
Or Tam o’ Shanter’s drucken midnight splore. 
His songs of feeling, love, and sentiment, 
Are all unrivalled in the realms of print.  
And see in yonder lonely low abode, 
His cottar dwells, the humble man of God, 
Imploring heaven, to keep within his grace, 
And guide through life his uncorrupted race. 
Whate’er our worthy Poet said or sang, 
It seemed to be as if from nature’s tongue. 
Oh! had his genius been matured by age, 
His mind of course, more serious and sage, 
Perhaps th’ effusions of his riper muse, 
The godliest mind might with delight peruse. 
But ah! we little knew his richer bloom 
Was deeply woven with his early doom; 
That heart that deeply felt for human woe, 
Warm to his friends and friendly to his foe;
That tongue that had the all enchanting power 
To keep the jocund table in a roar, 
Are cold and silent as the kindred clods 
That wrap his ashes in their dark abodes; 
Yet still those themes his genius did pursue, 
And striking pictures that his fancy drew, 
Will be revered and sung in every clime, 
And forward borne upon the wings of time; 
And every where they’ll welcome the return 
Of this proud night on which, our Bard was born: 
This night, my friend, we are assembled here 
To reverence his memory so dear – 
To celebrate again with due regard 
The natal night of our illustrious bard. 
Long may we love and cherish in our breasts 
That independence he so strong exprest; 
That love of country and of all mankind 
That was so deep imprest upon his mind. 
And oft may we this holy day renew, 
Where first the breath of life our poet drew, 
With hearts of friendship, harmony and glee, 
To drink one round unto his memory.

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