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Robert Burns
by [?]

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Burns once explained to Doctor Moore that the first fine, careless rapture of his song was awakened into being when he was sixteen years old, by “a bonnie sweet sonsie lass” whom we now know as “Handsome Nell.” Her other name to us is vapor, and history is silent as to her life-pilgrimage. Whether she lived to realize that she had first given voice to one of the great singers of earth–of this we are also ignorant. She was one year younger than Burns, and little more than a child when she and Bobby lagged behind the troop of tired haymakers, and walked home, hand in hand, in the gloaming. Here is one of the stanzas addressed to “Handsome Nell”:

“She dresses all so clean and neat,
Both decent and genteel,
And then there’s something in her gait
Makes any dress look weel.”

And how could Nell then ever guess why her cheeks burned scarlet, and why she was so sorry when haying-time was over? She was sweet, innocent, artless, and their love was very natural, tender, innocent. It’s a pity that all loves can not remain in just that idyllic, milkmaid stage, where the girls and boys awaken in the early morning with the birds, and hasten forth barefoot across the dewy fields to find the cows. But love never tarries. Love is progressive; it can not stand still. I have heard of the “passiveness” of woman’s love, but the passive woman is only one who does not love–she merely consents to have affection lavished upon her. When I hear of a passive woman, I always think of the befuddled sailor who once saw one of those dummy dress-frames, all duly clothed in flaming bombazine (I think it was bombazine) in front of a clothing establishment. The sailor, mistaking the dummy for a near and dear lady friend, embraced the wire apparatus and imprinted a resounding smack on the chaste plaster-of-Paris cheek. Meeting the sure-enough lady shortly after, he upbraided her for her cold passivity on the occasion named.

A passive woman–one who consents to be loved–should seek occupation among those worthy firms who warrant a fit in ready-made gowns, or money refunded.

Love is progressive–it hastens onward like the brook hurrying to the sea. They say that love is blind: love may be short-sighted, or inclined to strabismus, or may see things out of their true proportion, magnifying pleasant little ways into seraphic virtues, but love is not really blind–the bandage is never so tight but that it can peep. The only kind of love that is really blind and deaf is Platonic love. Platonic love hasn’t the slightest idea where it is going, and so there are surprises and shocks in store for it. The other kind, with eyes wide open, is better. I know a man who has tried both. Love is progressive. All things that live should progress. To stand still is to retreat, and to retreat is death. Love dies, of course. All things die, or become something else. And often they become something else by dying. Behold the eternal Paradox! The love that evolves into a higher form is the better kind. Nature is intent on evolution, yet of the myriads of spores that cover earth, most of them are doomed to death; and of the countless rays sent out by the sun, the number that fall athwart this planet are infinitesimal. Edward Carpenter calls attention to the fact that disappointed love–that is, love that is “lost”–often affects the individual for the highest good. But the real fact is, nothing is ever lost. Love in its essence is a spiritual emotion, and its office seems to be an interchange of thought and feeling; but often thwarted in its object, it becomes general, transforms itself into sympathy, and embracing a world, goes out to and blesses all mankind.