"The Light That Led Astray Was Light From Heaven"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The muse appearing to encourage the despondent poet was a familiar theme of the eighteenth century, but here Burns makes the theme quite his own. First, in contrast to the usual poetic surroundings in such poems, he describes himself as having come in from a long day of plowing to sit wearily by his smoky fireside listening to the rats rustling in the thatched roof. The muse herself, "A tight outlandish hizzie, braw," is Coila, native spirit of his Ayrshire region of Scotland. She is robed in a tartan, decked with Scottish holly, and her mantle depicts national scenes. She adjures the poet no longer to despair, for greater bliss shall be his than could be won by success in commercial endeavors. Further, she notes that Burns serves Scotland by writing of rustic matters as fully as do bards in writing of sublimer themes. She assures him she has always guided his steps. Perchance it was a shade wishfully that Burns, who was indeed often "By passion driven," has her declaim:

"I saw thy pulse's maddening play
Wild send thee pleasure's devious way,
Misled by fancy's meteor ray,
By passion driven;
But yet the light that led astray
Was light from Heaven."