Robert Burns stole thoughts from a lesser-known English poet?November 1st, 2009 - 1:23 pm ICT by ANI
London, Nov 1 (ANI): Robert Burns, the renowned and much praised 18th century Scottish poet, may have ripped off ideas from a lesser-known English poet, according to experts.
Rab Wilson, the Burns Writing Fellow for Dumfries and Galloway Arts Association, has found a striking similarity between a passage in Burns’ “Tam O’ Shanter”, known as Augustan Digression, and Edmund Bolton’s “A Palinode”, reports The Scotsman.
“The Palinode” includes lines:
“As melteth snow upon the mossie Mountaines.So melts, so vanisheth, so fades, so withers,The Rose, the shine, the bubble and the snow…”And Augustan Digression in “Tam O’ Shanter” consists of the lines:”You seize the flow’r, its bloom is shed;Or like the snow falls in the river,A moment white-then melts for ever…”
Speaking about Burn’s transition from Scots into English, Wilson said: “The Augustan Digression has fascinated me for years.
“This digression in ‘Tam O’ Shanter’ rollicks along in Scots, then all of a sudden there’s a marked bit of Augustan, high-flown English.
“I stumbled across ‘A Palinode’ a few years ago and something struck me as being familiar while reading it. It was only recently that I realised that this bore a very close resemblance to the sentiments and imagery and words in the digression in ‘Tam O’ Shanter’.”
Wilson believes Burns must have come across ‘A Palinode’ when it first appeared in England’s Helicon, an anthology of poetry by his friend Robert Riddles.
The expert added: “This would have been a very popular poetry anthology of the time. I can well imagine Burns being given this by one of the wealthy gentry, coming across the poem - and it contains these themes that appear frequently in his other works,” the Scotsman quoted Wilson, as saying.
“There have been debates about this digression since it was written. There are references in various works that people in the past think could have influenced this section, but ‘A Palinode’ is the first time we have seen these references, phrases such as ‘withereth’ and ‘vanisheth the light’.
“Bolton talks about the melting of the snow in the river, talking about the brief transience of joy and pleasure and how quickly they disappear, and that is the whole sentiment that Burns is making in the digression.”
Dr Gerry Carruthers, head of Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow, corroborated Wilson’s theory.
He said: “The echoes are so strong between ‘A Palinode’ and ‘Tam O’ Shanter’ that I think Burns must have had the piece consciously in mind.
“‘Tam O’ Shanter’ is so full of embedded folk stories, chapbook material and different kinds of literary voice that the references to ‘A Palinode’ are probably part of the same design.
“Burns’ poem is almost post-modern in its playfulness, with different kinds of stories, different kind of texts being thrown into the mix. Rab Wilson has done a very nice job in spotting the parallel, which I certainly hadn’t seen before.” (ANI)
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Tags: 18th century, anthology of poetry, augustan, digression, dumfries and galloway, edmund bolton, english poet, fades, friend robert, nov 1, palinode, poetry anthology, resemblance, riddles, robert burns, scots, scotsman, scottish poet, striking similarity, tam o shanter