The Book of Scottish Song/To Mary in Heaven

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For other versions of this work, see To Mary in Heaven (Burns).

To Mary in Heaven.

[It is deeply affecting to turn from the lively and buoyant strain of the above song—(lively and buoyant with young life and love, notwithstanding that the poet was at the moment encompassed with worldly difficulties,)—to the solemn pathos, the wild despair, of the following production of his later years, now that his Mary was dead and in her grave. "This celebrated poem," says Lockhart, "was composed in September, 1789, on the anniversary of the day in which he heard of the death of his early love, Mary Campbell. According to Mrs. Burns, he spent that day, though labouring under cold, in the usual work of his harvest, and apparently in excellent spirits. But as the twilight deepened, he appeared to grow 'very sad about something,' and at length wandered out to the barn-yard, to which his wife, in her anxiety for his health, followed him, entreating him, in vain, to observe that the frost had set in, and to return to the fireside. On being again and again requested to do so, he always promised compliance—but still remained where he was, striding up and down slowly, and contemplating the sky, which was singularly clear and starry. At last Mrs. Burns found him stretched on a mass of straw, th his eyes fixed on a beautiful planet 'that shone like another moon,' and prevailed on him to come in. He immediately, on entering the house, called for his desk, and wrote as they now stand, with all the ease of one copying from memory, these sublime and pathetic verses."—The verses, it may be added, were first published in the third volume of Johnson's Museum, where Burns requested they should be set to a plaintive air called "The Death of Captain Cook," which was accordingly done.]

Thou ling'ring star, with less'ning ray,
That lov'st to greet the early morn!
Again thou usher'st in the day,
My Mary from my soul was torn.
Oh, Mary, dear departed shade!
Where is thy place of blissful rest?
See'st thou thy lover lowly laid?
Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast?

That sacred hour can I forget?—
Can I forget the hallow'd grove,
Where, by the winding Ayr, we met,
To live one day of parting love?
Eternity will not efface
Those records dear of transports past;
Thy image at our last embrace;—
Ah! little thought we 'twas our last!

Ayr, gurgling, kiss'd his pebbled shore,
O'erhung with wild woods thickening green;
The fragrant birch, the hawthorn hoar,
Twined amorous round the raptured scene.
The flowers sprung wanton to be prest,
The birds sung love on every spray;
Till too, too soon the glowing west
Proclaim'd the speed of winged day.

Still o'er these scenes my memory wakes,
And fondly broods with miser care;
Time but the impression stronger makes,
As streams their channels deeper wear.
My Mary, dear departed shade!
Where is thy place of blissful rest?
See'st thou thy lover lowly laid?
Hear'st thou the groans that rend his breast?