Page:The World's Famous Orations Volume 5.djvu/206

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THE WORLD'S FAMOUS ORATIONS

perhaps, many developments. If so, we have no time to consider it to-night; but I personally believe the causes are, like most great causes, simple, tho it might take long to point out all the ways in which they operate. The secret, as it seems to me, lies in two words — inspiration and sympathy.

There are two great forces which seem sheer inspiration and nothing else — I mean Shake- speare and Burns. This is not the place or the time to speak of the miracle called Shakespeare, but one must say a word of the miracle called Burns.

Try and reconstruct Burns as he was — a peasant born in a cottage that no sanitary in- spector in these days would tolerate for a moment; struggling with desperate effort against pauperism, almost in vain; snatching at scraps of learning in the intervals of toil, as it were, with his teeth; a heavy, silent lad, proud of his plow. All of a sudden, without preface or warning, be breaks out into exquisite song like a nightingale from the brushwood, and con- tinues singing as sweetly, in nightingale pauses, till he dies. The nightingale sings because he can not help it ; he can only sing exquisitely, be- cause he knows no other. So it was with Burns. What is this but inspiration? One can no more measure or reason about it than measure or rea- son about Niagara; and remember, the poetry is only a fragment of Burns. Amazing as it may seem, all contemporary testimony is unanimous 176

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