Janet Hamilton

1795-1873 / Scotland

Centenary Poem

Recited at Burns' Centenary Festival, held at Mauchlin, January 25, 1859

Oh Bard beloved! as pilgrims to thy shrine,
With song and gift we come, our vows to pay;
The growing fame of hundred years is thine,
And lands and nations hail thy natal day.
We bring thee hearts that while life's pulses beat
Shall throb with love and pride, regret and shame;
Love of thy worth, pride in thy genius great,
Regret that Death, not Life, gave world-wide fame.
And shame that Scotia, dazzled by the blaze
Lit by her peasant Bard's poetic fire,
Should, while she sunned her in the living rays,
On Want's chill bosom see her Bard expire.
Oh shade revered! the altar of thy fame
This day we wreathe with fair immortal flowers
Culled from each spot that's hallowed by thy name-
By Doon, by Nith, by fair Montgomery's towers.
From 'Bonny Doon bring rose and woodbine twine,'
From 'Winding Ayr the birch and hawthorn hoar,'
The flowers he pressed when Mary lay reclined
Within his arms that clasped her nevermore.
'The mountain daisy, bring the red red rose,'
From haunted Alloway the ivy green,
The 'yellow broom' where stealing burnie flows,
And 'Coila's gift, the holly' sharp and sheen.
And bring the 'rough burr thistle, spreading wide,'
The poet's hand aye 'spared the symbol dear,'
'The big ha' Bible ance his faither's pride;'
Lives there a Scot but bids it welcome here?
Oh! we have heard the Bruce at Bannockburn,
When pealed his battle hymn along the line,
Felt with the Bard that 'Man was made to mourn,'
And thrilled with memories of 'Auld langsyne.'
Great poet painter, these twin loves of thine,
Fair Nature, and fair Woman, Nature's flower,
Each in her beauty, in thy soul's deep shrine
Were worshipped, painted, with a master's power.
Fair was the pictured scene, sweet Ballochmyle,
He drew within thy dewy glades at e'en,
And fair the beauteous portrait drawn the while,
He sung in glowing strains his 'Bonny Jean.'
Fair as thine own fair form, sad captive queen,
The scenes portrayed in weeping Memory's eye,
Thy Scotia robed in Nature's mantle green,
Bestrewn with flowery gems of richest dye.
The lily bank, the daisy-sheeted lea,
The blossomed thorn, the primrose by the brae,
No fairer sketch of Nature we may see,
No sorrows sung in more pathetic lay.
Burns-Nature's noblest, brightest, dearest son-
Large, loving heart, and independent mind
Were his-not to be bought, or warped, but won
To love and sympathy for all mankind.
Bright on the altar of his manly heart
The holy flame of patriot ardour glowed;
Love's fragrant incense, Truth undimmed by Art,
And wit and humour flashing as they flowed.
'A man's a man' whatever may befal
Of honest poverty or lowly name-
Birth, rank, and wealth, the poet lacked them all,
But worth and genius gave him love and fame.
And now, though 'mouldering in the silent dust,'
The heart that dearly loved fair Scotia lies,
'Still in her bosom's core' he lives, and must
To Fame's bright zenith nearer, higher rise.
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