The Tomb of Burns

What woos the world to yonder shrine?
What sacred clay, what dust divine?
Was this some Master faultless-fine,
In whom we praise
The cunning of the jewelled line
And carven phrase?

A searcher of our source and goal,
A reader of God's secret scroll?
A Shakespeare, flashing o'er the whole
Of man's domain
The splendour of his cloudless soul
And perfect brain?

Some Keats, to Grecian gods allied,
Clasping all beauty as his bride?
Some Shelley, soaring dim-descried
Above Time's throng,
And heavenward hurling wild and wide
His spear of song?

A lonely Wordsworth, from the crowd
Half hid in light, half veiled in cloud?
A sphere-born Milton, cold and proud,
In hallowing dews
Dipt, and with gorgeous ritual vowed
Unto the Muse?

Nay, none of these,—and little skilled
On heavenly heights to sing and build!
Thine, thine, O Earth, whose fields he tilled,
And thine alone,
Was he whose fiery heart lies stilled
'Neath yonder stone.

He came when poets had forgot
How rich and strange the human lot;
How warm the tints of Life; how hot
Are Love and Hate;
And what makes Truth divine, and what
Makes Manhood great.

A ghostly troop, in pale amaze
They melted 'neath that living gaze—
His in whose spirit's gusty blaze
We seem to hear
The crackling of their phantom bays
Sapless and sere!

For, mid an age of dust and dearth,
Once more had bloomed immortal worth.
There, in the strong, splenetic North,
The Spring began.
A mighty mother had brought forth
A mighty man.

No mystic torch through Time he bore,
No virgin veil from Life he tore;
His soul no bright insignia wore
Of starry birth;
He saw what all men see—no more—
In heaven and earth:

But as, when thunder crashes nigh,
All darkness opes one flaming eye,
And the world leaps against the sky—
So fiery-clear
Did the old truths that we pass by
To him appear.

How could he 'scape the doom of such
As feel the airiest phantom-touch
Keenlier than others feel the clutch
Of iron powers—
Who die of having lived so much
In their large hours?

He erred, he sinned: and if there be
Who, from his hapless frailties free,
Rich in the poorer virtues, see
His faults alone—
To such, O Lord of Charity,
Be mercy shown!

Singly he faced the bigot brood,
The meanly wise, the feebly good;
He pelted them with pearl, with mud;
He fought them well—
But ah, the stupid million stood,
And he—he fell!

All bright and glorious at the start,
'Twas his ignobly to depart,
Slain by his own too affluent heart,
Too generous blood;
A voyager that lost Life's chart
In midmost flood.

So closes the fantastic fray,
The duel of the spirit and clay!
So come bewildering disarray
And blurring gloom,
The irremediable day
And final doom.

So passes, all confusedly
As lights that hurry, shapes that flee
About some brink we dimly see,
The trivial, great,
Squalid, majestic tragedy
Of human fate.

Not ours to gauge the more or less,
The will's defect, the blood's excess,
The earthly humours that oppress
The radiant mind.
His greatness, not his littleness,
Concerns mankind.

A dreamer of the common dreams,
Here, mid the world that round us streams,
He chased the transitory gleams
That all pursue;
But on his lips the eternal themes
Again were new.

With shattering ire or withering mirth
He smote each worthless claim to worth.
The barren fig-tree cumbering Earth
He would not spare.
Through ancient lies of proudest birth
He drove his share.

To him the Powers that formed him brave,
Yet weak to breast the fatal wave,
A mighty gift of Hatred gave—
A gift above
All other gifts benefic, save
The gift of Love.

He saw 'tis meet that Man possess
The will to curse as well as bless,
To pity—and be pitiless,
To make, and mar;
The fierceness that from tenderness
Is never far.

And so his fierce and tender strain
Lives, and his idlest words remain
To flout oblivion, that in vain
Strives to destroy
One lightest record of his pain
Or of his joy.

And though thrice statelier names decay,
His own can wither not away
While plighted lass and lad shall stray.
Among the broom,
Where evening touches glen and brae
With rosy gloom;

While Hope and Love with Youth abide;
While Age sits at the ingleside;
While yet there have not wholly died
The heroic fires,
The patriot passion, and the pride
In noble sires;

While, with the conquering Teuton breed
Whose fair estate of speech and deed
Heritors north and south of Tweed
Alike may claim,
The dimly mingled Celtic seed
Flowers like a flame;

While nations see in holy trance
That vision of the world's advance
Which glorified his countenance
When from afar
He hailed the Hope that shot o'er France
Its crimson star;

While, plumed for flight, the Soul deplores
The cage that foils the wing that soars;
And while, through adamantine doors
In dreams flung wide,
We hear, around these mortal shores,
The immortal tide.
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