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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Blair, the Reverend Dr Hugh

Dr Blair, of whom Dr Blacklock had written: 'His taste is too polished and his genius too regular in its emotions to make allowances of a more impetuous ardour', communicated his views to Burns on the proposed second edition of his poems. Blair's undated notes, published in the Burns Chronicle of 1932, throw clear light on the orthodoxy of his literary tastes:

["A Dedication to G- H- Esq.;", line 49] The Line And och — that's nae Regen-n — ought to be omitted as Mr Burns agreed.

[Ibid, ll. 68ff.] The Paragraph beginning with this line O ye what leave the spring o' C-lv-n — had much better I think be omitted. The Poem will be better without it, & it will give offence by the ludicrous views of the punishments of Hell.

["Epistle to J. R.-", stanzas 7ff.] The Description of shooting the hen is understood, I find, to convey an indecent meaning: tho' in reading the poem, I confess, I took it literally, and the indecency did not strike me. But if the Author meant to allude to an affair with a Woman, as its supposed, the whole Poem ought undoubtedly to be left out of the new edition.

["The Holy Fair", stanza 12] The line — wi'tidings of Sal-v-n — ought to be alter'd as it gives just offence. The Author may easily contrive some other Rhyme in place of the word Sal-v-n

["Address to the Deil", stanza 11] The stanza of — There be mystic knots make great abuse — had better be left out, as indecent.

["A Dream", stanza 13] The stanza — Young Royal Tarry Breeks, I learn — is also coarse, and had better be omitted.

["Epitaph for G.H. Esq.;"] The last line — May I be saved or d-d — is very exceptionable. The general thought may remain, may I be with him wherever he is — but may be d-d with him, is too much, & ought undoubtedly to be altered.

Of the proposed additions to the New Edition some are very good. The best, I think, are — "John Barleycorn" — "Death & Dr, Hornbook" — "The Winter Night" — the verses left in a friend's house where the Author slept.

There are a few which in my opinion ought not to be published.

The two stanzas to the tune of "Gilliecrankie", which refer to the death of Zimir and Cozbi as related in the book of Numbers, are beyond doubt quite inadmissible.

The Verses entitled "The Prophet" and "God's Complaint", from the 15th Ch. Of Jeremiah, are also inadmissible. They would be considered burlesquing the Scriptures.

The Whole of What is called the Cantata, the Song of the Beggars and their Doxies* with the Grace at the end of them, are altogether unfit in my opinion for publication. They are by much too licentious; and fall below the dignity which Mr Burns possesses in the rest of his poems & would rather degrade them.

These observations are Submitted by one who is a great friend to Mr Burn's Poems and wishes him to preserve the fame of Virtuous Sensibility, & of humorous fun, without offence.

*Refers to 'Love and Liberty' ('The Jolly Beggars')

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