Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TO ROBERT BURNS; AN EPISTLE ON INSTINCT, by ROBERT SEYMOUR BRIDGES



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TO ROBERT BURNS; AN EPISTLE ON INSTINCT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Thou art a poet, robbie burns
Last Line: My friendly sentence.
Alternate Author Name(s): Bridges, Robert+(2)
Subject(s): Burns, Robert (1759-1796); Poetry & Poets


1
Thou art a poet, Robbie Burns,
Master of words and witty turns,
Of lilting songs and merry yarns,
Drinking and kissing:
There's much in all thy small concerns,
But more that's missing.

2
The wisdom of thy common sense,
Thy honest hate of vain pretence,
Thy love and wide benevolence
Full often lead thee
Where feeling is its own defence;
Yet while I read thee,

3
It seems but chance that all our race
Trod not the path of thy disgrace,
And, living freely to embrace
The moment's pleasure,
Snatch'd not a kiss of Nature's face
For all her treasure.

4
The feelings soft, the spirits gay
Entice on such a flowery way,
And sovran youth in high heyday
Hath such a fashion
To glorify the bragging sway
Of sensual passion.

5
But rakel Chance and Fortune blind
Had not the power: -- Eternal Mind
Led man upon a way design'd,
By strait selection
Of pleasurable ways, to find
Severe perfection.

6
For Nature did not idly spend
Pleasure: she ruled it should attend
On every act that doth amend
Our life's condition:
'Tis therefore not well-being's end,
But its fruition.

7
Beasts that inherited delight
In what promoted health or might,
Survived their cousins in the fight:
If some -- like Adam --
Prefer'd the wrong tree to the right,
The devil had 'em.

8
So when man's Reason took the reins,
She found that she was saved her pains;
She had but to approve the grains
Of agelong inscience,
And spin it fresh into her brains
As moral conscience.

9
But Instinct in the beasts that live
Is of three kinds; (Nature did give
To man three shakings in her sieve) --
The first is Racial,
The second Self-preservative,
The third is Social.

10
Without the first no race could be,
So 'tis the strongest of the three;
Nay, of such forceful tyranny
'Tis hard to attune it,
Because 'twas never made to agree
To serve the unit:

11
Art will not picture it, its name
In common talk is utter shame:
And yet hath Reason learn'd to tame
Its conflagration
Into a sacramental flame
Of consecration.

12
Those hundred thousand years, ah me!
Of budding soul! What slow degree,
With aim so dim, so true! We see,
Now that we know them,
Our humble cave-folk ancestry,
How much we owe them:

13
While with the savage beasts around
They fought at odds, yet underground
Their miserable life was sound;
Their loves and quarrels
Did well th' ideal bases found
Of art and morals:

14
One prime distinction, Good and Ill,
Was all their notion, all their skill; --
But Unity stands next to Nil; --
Want of analysis
Saved them from doubts that wreck the Will
With pale paralysis

15
In vain philosophers dispute
'Is Good or Pleasure our pursuit?' --
The fruit likes man, not man the fruit;
The good that likes him,
The good man's pleasure 'tis to do 't;
That's how it strikes him.

16
Tho' Science hide beneath her feet
The point where moral reasonings meet,
The vicious circle is complete;
There is no lodgement
Save Aristotle's own retreat,
The just man's judgement.

17
And if thou wert not that just man,
Wild Robin, born to crown his plan,
We shall not for that matter ban
Thy petty treason,
Nor closely thy defection scan
From highest Reason.

18
Thou might'st have lived like Robin Hood
Waylaying Abbots in the wood,
Doing whate'er thee-seemed good,
The law defying,
And 'mong the people's heroes stood
Living and dying:

19
Yet better bow than his thou bendest,
And well the poor man thou befriendest,
And oftentime an ill amendest;
When, if truth touch thee,
Sharply the arrow home thou sendest;
There's none can match thee.

20
So pity it is thou knew'st the teen
Of sad remorse: the Might-have-been
Shall not o'ercloud thy merry scene
With vain repentance,
Nor forfeit from thy spirit keen
My friendly sentence.





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