Written for, and read at the Celebration of, ROBERT BURNS' Birth-Day, Paisley, 29th Jan., 1805.

ONCE on a time, almighty Jove [1]
Invited all the minor gods above
To spend one day in social festive pleasure ;
His regal robes were laid aside,
His crown, his sceptre, and his pride ;
And, wing'd with joy,
The hours did fly,
The happiest ever Time did measure.

Of love and social harmony they sung,
Till Heav'n's high golden arches echoing rung ;
And as they quaffed the nectar-flowing can,
Their toast was—
“Universal peace 'twixt man and man.”
Their godships' eyes beam'd gladness with the wish,
And Mars [2] half-reddened with a guilty blush;
Jove swore he'd hurl each rascal to perdition,
Who'd dare deface his works with wild ambition ;
But pour'd encomiums on each patriot band
Who, hating conquest, guard their native land.
Loud, thund'ring plaudits shook the bright abodes,
Till Merc'ry, [3] solemn voic'd, assail'd their ears,
Informing that a stranger, all in tears,
Weeping, implored an audience of the gods.

Jove, ever prone to succour the distrest,
A swell redressive glow'd within his breast,
He pitied much the stranger's sad condition,
And order'd his immediate admission.

The stranger enter'd, bowed respect to all ;
Respectful silence reign'd throughout the hall.
His chequer'd robes excited their surprise,
Richly transvers'd with various glowing dyes ;
A target on his strong left arm he bore,
Broad as the shield the mighty Fingal wore ; [4]
The glowing landscape on its centre shin'd,
And massy thistles [5] round the borders twin'd;
His brows were bound with yellow blossom'd brume,
Green birch and roses blending in perfume ; [6]
His eyes beam'd honour, tho all red with grief,
And thus Heav'n's King spake comfort to the Chief.
“My son, let speech unfold thy cause of woe,
Say, why does Melancholy cloud thy brow ?
Tis mine the wrongs of Virtue to redress;
Speak, for tis mine to succour deep distress.”
Then thus he spake : “O King ! by thy command,
I am the guardian of that far fam'd land
Nam'd Caledonia, [7] great in arts and arms,
And every worth that social fondness charms,
With every virtue that the heart approves,
Warm in their friendships, rapt'rous in their loves,
Profusely generous, obstinately just,
Inflexible as death their vows of trust ;
For independence fires their noble minds,
Scorning deceit, as gods do scorn the fiends.
But what avail the virtues of the north,
No Patriot Bard to celebrate their worth,

No heav'n taught. Minstrel, with the voice of song,
To hymn their deeds, and make their names live long!
And ah ! should Luxury, with soft winning wiles,
Spread her contagion o'er my subject isles,
My hardy sons, no longer Valour's boast,
Would sink, despis'd,—their wonted greatness lost.
Forgive my wish, 0 King ! I speak with awe,
Thy will is fate, thy word is sovereign law !
O, would'st thou deign thy suppliant to regard,
And grant my country one true Patriot Bard,
My sons would glory in the blessing given,
And virtuous deeds spring from the gift of heaven!”
To which the god—“My son, cease to deplore ;
Thy name in song shall sound the world all o'er ;
Thy Bard shall rise full fraught with all the fire
That Heav'n and free born Nature can inspire.
Ye sacred Nine, [8] your golden harps prepare
T' instruct the fav'rite of my special care,
That, whether the song be rais'd to war or love,
His soul-wing'd strains may equal those above.
Now, faithful to thy trust, from sorrow free,
Go, wait the issue of our high decree.”—
Speechless the Genius stood, in glad surprise,
Adoring gratitude beam'd in his eyes;
The promis'd Bard his soul with transport fills,
And, light with joy, he sought his native hills.

Twas in regard of Wallace [9] and his worth,
Jove honour'd Coila [10] with his birth,
And on that morn,
When Burns was born,
Each Muse with joy
Did hail the boy;

And Fame, on tiptoe, fain would blown her horn,
But Fate forbade the blast, too premature,
Till Worth should sanction it beyond the critic's pow'r.

His merits proven—Fame her blast hath blown,
Now Scotia's Bard o'er all the world is known ;—
But trembling doubts here check my unpolished lays,
What can they add to a whole world's praise ;
Yet, while revolving Time this day returns,
Let Scotsmen glory in the name of Burns. [11]

This Ode first appeared in Maver's Glasgow periodical, the Selector, vol. 2, p. 54. See Note to No. 5.—Ed.

[1] One of the names of Jupiter, the supreme deity in Heathen Mythology son of Saturn and Ops.—Ed.

[2] In Heathen Mythology, the god of War.—Ed.

[3] In Heathen Mythology, the god of War.—Ed.

[4] Ossian, in his poem of Fingal, Book I., said—“His spear is a blasted pine, his shield the rising moon;” and in that of Carthona—“The varied face of the moon is not broador than thy shield.”—Ed.

[5] Cotton thistle, Onopordum Acanthium flowers in August. Stem from 4 to 5 feet high, winged, edges of the wings spinous. Leaves woolly on both sides. Flowers large, purple. The whole plant is covered with a white woolly down, which is easily rubbed off. This is the Scots Thistle of our gardens.—Ed.

[6] Compare these 36th and 37th lines with the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th lines of “Langsyne beside the woodlan burn,” No. 83.—Ed.

[7] In ancient geography, the name of that part of Great Britain called Scotland.—Ed.

[8] The Nine Muses, imaginary deities, daughters of Jupiter and Mnemosyne, accounted goddesses of music and poetry, and of other liberal arts and sciences, residing on the lofty mountain of Parnassus, and named—

CALLIOPE, Patroness of Harmony and Heroic Poetry.
CLIO, History and Heroic Poets.
ERATO, Amorous Poetry.
EUTERPE, Mathematics and Flute Playing.
MELPOMENE,Tragedies, Odes, and Songs.
POLYHYMNIA, Hymns and Songs played on the Lute.
TERPSICHORE, Dancing and Balls.
THALIA, Geometry and Husbandry.
URANIA, Astronomy and Astrology.—Ed.

[9] See the Notes to the “Lament of Wallace after the Battle of Falkirk,” No. 94.

[10] One of the three divisions of Ayrshire, where Burns was born, named after King Coilus, described by the historian Boece—“Kyle namit fra Coyl, kyng of the Britons;” and by Burns himself—
“Coila my name,
And this district as mine I claim.”

The “Vision”

[11] At the First Anniversary Meeting of the Paisley Burns' Society, held in 1805, John King, weaver, Paisley, one of the original members of the Society, proposed the second toast—“May the genius of Scotland be as conspicuous as her mountains.” He delivered an address on the subject, which has been preserved ; and referring to other poets, he said—“We have the correct and elegant versification of Campbell, the pleasant legendary tales of Scott, the grave and sententious couplets of Pope, the brilliant flashes of Moore, the energetic diction of Thomson, the terrific bursts of Shakespeare, &c.” After the address, he sung a song written by himself for the occasion. The song was copied into the Society's Minute-Book by Tannahill, the clerk. It is now transferred into this Note to show that another weaver could both compose and sing “all manner of songs” :—

“When to honour the birth of our favourite Bard,
The lovers of Genius join,
The angels approve with a rapt'rous regard,
And acknowledge the meeting divine.
Let the proud hero boast of his muscular arm,
Of wielding the ponderous steel ;
But Burns hath bequeath'd a superior charm
For souls that exaltedly feel.

Our glorious Bard, from a village obscure,
Rushed forth like the comet's bright blaze ;
The world of Taste saw his genius pure,
And pour'd to his merits their praise.
Tho' the Bard he no more, yet he lives in our love;¬
O cherish the rapturous glow!
For his fame the gods have imprinted above,
And with time it will journey below
                                         JOHN KING.”

John King wrote several other songs, one of which—“The Deil's Address to the Plunkin Corks”—appeared in the Gaberlunzie, a local publication of 1825, and the others still remain in manuscript. He was born 1st August, 1779, and died unmarried in 1836, aged 57. See Notes to No. 73.—Ed.

[Semple 6]