Specimens with Memoirs of the Less-known British Poets, Vol. 3
Part 3 out of 7
and hair's-breadth escapes in the Highlands, he found refuge in France.
As he was a general favourite, and as much allowance was made for his
poetical temperament, a pardon was soon procured for him by his friends,
and he returned to his native country. His health, however, originally
delicate, had suffered by his Highland privations, and he was compelled
to seek the milder clime of Lyons, where he died in 1754.
Hamilton was what is called a ladies'-man, but his attachments were not
deep, and he rather flirted than loved. A Scotch lady, who was annoyed
at his addresses, asked John Home how she could get rid of them. He,
knowing Hamilton well, advised her to appear to favour him. She acted on
the advice, and he immediately withdrew his suit. And yet his best poem
is a tale of love, and a tale, too, told with great simplicity and
pathos. We refer to his 'Braes of Yarrow,' the beauty of which we never
felt fully till we saw some time ago that lovely region, with its 'dowie
dens,'--its clear living stream,--Newark Castle, with its woods and
memories,--and the green wildernesses of silent hills which stretch on
all sides around; saw it, too, in that aspect of which Wordsworth sung
in the words--
'The grace of forest charms decayed
And pastoral melancholy.'
It is the highest praise we can bestow upon Hamilton's ballad that it
ranks in merit near Wordsworth's fine trinity of poems, 'Yarrow
Unvisited,' 'Yarrow Visited,' and 'Yarrow Revisited.'
THE BRAES OF YARROW.
1 A. Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny bonny bride,
Busk ye, busk ye, my winsome marrow!
Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny bonny bride,
And think nae mair on the Braes of Yarrow.
2 B. Where gat ye that bonny bonny bride?
Where gat ye that winsome marrow?
A. I gat her where I darena weil be seen,
Pouing the birks on the Braes of Yarrow.
3 Weep not, weep not, my bonny bonny bride,
Weep not, weep not, my winsome marrow!
Nor let thy heart lament to leave
Pouing the birks on the Braes of Yarrow.
4 B. Why does she weep, thy bonny bonny bride?
Why does she weep, thy winsome marrow?
And why dare ye nae mair weil be seen,
Pouing the birks on the Braes of Yarrow?
5 A. Lang maun she weep, lang maun she, maun she weep,
Lang maun she weep with dule and sorrow,
And lang maun I nae mair weil be seen
Pouing the birks on the Braes of Yarrow.
6 For she has tint her lover lover dear,
Her lover dear, the cause of sorrow,
And I hae slain the comeliest swain
That e'er poued birks on the Braes of Yarrow.
7 Why runs thy stream, O Yarrow, Yarrow, red?
Why on thy braes heard the voice of sorrow?
And why yon melancholious weeds
Hung on the bonny birks of Yarrow?
8 What's yonder floats on the rueful rueful flude?
What's yonder floats? O dule and sorrow!
Tis he, the comely swain I slew
Upon the duleful Braes of Yarrow.
9 Wash, oh wash his wounds his wounds in tears,
His wounds in tears with dule and sorrow,
And wrap his limbs in mourning weeds,
And lay him on the Braes of Yarrow.
10 Then build, then build, ye sisters sisters sad,
Ye sisters sad, his tomb with sorrow,
And weep around in waeful wise,
His helpless fate on the Braes of Yarrow.
11 Curse ye, curse ye, his useless useless shield,
My arm that wrought the deed of sorrow,
The fatal spear that pierced his breast,
His comely breast, on the Braes of Yarrow.
12 Did I not warn thee not to lue,
And warn from fight, but to my sorrow;
O'er rashly bauld a stronger arm
Thou met'st, and fell on the Braes of Yarrow.
13 Sweet smells the birk, green grows, green grows the grass,
Yellow on Yarrow bank the gowan,
Fair hangs the apple frae the rock,
Sweet the wave of Yarrow flowan.
14 Flows Yarrow sweet? as sweet, as sweet flows Tweed,
As green its grass, its gowan as yellow,
As sweet smells on its braes the birk,
The apple frae the rock as mellow.
15 Fair was thy love, fair fair indeed thy love
In flowery bands thou him didst fetter;
Though he was fair and weil beloved again,
Than me he never lued thee better.
16 Busk ye then, busk, my bonny bonny bride,
Busk ye, busk ye, my winsome marrow,
Busk ye, and lue me on the banks of Tweed,
And think nae mair on the Braes of Yarrow.
17 C. How can I busk a bonny bonny bride,
How can I busk a winsome marrow,
How lue him on the banks of Tweed,
That slew my love on the Braes of Yarrow?
18 O Yarrow fields! may never never rain
Nor dew thy tender blossoms cover,
For there was basely slain my love,
My love, as he had not been a lover.
19 The boy put on his robes, his robes of green,
His purple vest, 'twas my ain sewin',
Ah! wretched me! I little little kenned
He was in these to meet his ruin.
20 The boy took out his milk-white milk-white steed,
Unheedful of my dule and sorrow,
But e'er the to-fall of the night
He lay a corpse on the Braes of Yarrow.
21 Much I rejoiced that waeful waeful day;
I sang, my voice the woods returning,
But lang ere night the spear was flown
That slew my love, and left me mourning.
22 What can my barbarous barbarous father do,
But with his cruel rage pursue me?
My lover's blood is on thy spear,
How canst thou, barbarous man, then woo me?
23 My happy sisters may be may be proud;
With cruel and ungentle scoffin',
May bid me seek on Yarrow Braes
My lover nailed in his coffin.
24 My brother Douglas may upbraid, upbraid,
And strive with threatening words to move me;
My lover's blood is on thy spear,
How canst thou ever bid me love thee?
25 Yes, yes, prepare the bed, the bed of love,
With bridal sheets my body cover,
Unbar, ye bridal maids, the door,
Let in the expected husband lover.
26 But who the expected husband husband is?
His hands, methinks, are bathed in slaughter.
Ah me! what ghastly spectre's yon,
Comes, in his pale shroud, bleeding after?
27 Pale as he is, here lay him lay him down,
Oh, lay his cold head on my pillow!
Take aff take aff these bridal weeds,
And crown my careful head with willow.
28 Pale though thou art, yet best yet best beloved;
Oh, could my warmth to life restore thee,
Ye'd lie all night between my breasts!
No youth lay ever there before thee.
29 Pale pale, indeed, O lovely lovely youth;
Forgive, forgive so foul a slaughter,
And lie all night between my breasts;
No youth shall ever lie there after.
30 A. Return, return, O mournful mournful bride,
Return and dry thy useless sorrow:
Thy lover heeds nought of thy sighs,
He lies a corpse on the Braes of Yarrow.
Crawford Muir, in Lanarkshire, was the birthplace of this true poet. His
father was manager of the Earl of Hopetoun's lead-mines. Allan was born
in 1686. His mother was Alice Bower, the daughter of an Englishman who
had emigrated from Derbyshire. His father died while his son was yet in
infancy; his mother married again in the same district; and young Allan
was educated at the parish school of Leadhills. At the age of fifteen,
he was sent to Edinburgh, and bound apprentice to a wig-maker there.
This trade, however, he left after finishing his term. He displayed
rather early a passion for literature, and made a little reputation by
some pieces of verse,--such as 'An Address to the Easy Club,' a convivial
society with which he was connected,--and a considerable time after by
a capital continuation of King James' 'Christis Kirk on the Green.'
In 1712, he married a writer's daughter, Christiana Ross, who was his
affectionate companion for thirty years. Soon after, he set up a
bookseller's shop opposite Niddry's Wynd, and in this capacity edited
and published two collections,--the one of songs, some of them his own,
entitled 'The Tea-Table Miscellany,' and the other of early Scottish
poems, entitled 'The Evergreen.' In 1725, he published 'The Gentle
Shepherd.' It was the expansion of one or two pastoral scenes which he
ad shewn to his delighted friends. The poem became instantly popular,
and was republished in London and Dublin, and widely circulated in the
colonies. Pope admired it. Gay, then in Scotland with his patrons the
Queensberry family, used to lounge into Ramsay's shop to get explanations
of its Scotch phrases to transmit to Twickenham, and to watch from the
window the notable characters whom Allan pointed out to him in the
Edinburgh Exchange. He now removed to a better shop, and set up for his
sign the heads of Ben Jonson and Drummond, who agreed better in figure
than they had done in reality at Hawthornden. He established the first
circulating library in Scotland. His shop became a centre of intelligence,
and Ramsay sat a Triton among the minnows of that rather mediocre day
--giving his little senate laws, and inditing verses, songs, and fables.
At forty-five--an age when Sir Walter Scott had scarcely commenced his
Waverley novels, and Dryden had by far his greatest works to produce
--honest Allan imagined his vein exhausted, and ceased to write, although
he lived and enjoyed life for nearly thirty years more. At last, after
having lost money and gained obloquy, in a vain attempt to found the
first theatre in Edinburgh, and after building for himself a curious
octagon-shaped house on the north side of the Castle Hill, which, while
he called it Ramsay Lodge, his enemies nicknamed 'The Goose-pie,' and
which, though altered, still, we believe, stands, under the name of
Ramsay Garden, the author of 'The Gentle Shepherd' breathed his last on
the 7th of January 1758. He died of a scurvy in the gums. His son became
a distinguished painter, intimate with Johnson, Burke, and the rest of
that splendid set, although now chiefly remembered from his connexion
with them and with his father.
Allan Ramsay was a poet with very few of the usual poetical faults. He
had an eye for nature, but he had also an eye for the main chance. He
'kept his shop, and his shop kept him.' He might sing of intrigues, and
revels, and houses of indifferent reputation; but he was himself a
quiet, _canny_, domestic man, seen regularly at kirk and market. He had
a great reverence for the gentry, with whom he fancied himself, and
perhaps was, through the Dalhousie family, connected. He had a vast
opinion of himself; and between pride of blood, pride of genius, and
plenty of means, he was tolerably happy. How different from poor maudlin
Fergusson, or from that dark-browed, dark-eyed, impetuous being who was,
within a year of Ramsay's death, to appear upon the banks of Doon,
coming into the world to sing divinely, to act insanely, and prematurely
A bard, in the highest use of the word, in which it approaches the
meaning of prophet, Ramsay was not, else he would not have ceased so
soon to sing. Whatever lyrical impulse was in him speedily wore itself
out, and left him to his milder mission as a broad reflector of Scottish
life--in its humbler, gentler, and better aspects. His 'Gentle Shepherd'
is a chapter of Scottish still-life; and, since the pastoral is
essentially the poetry of peace, the 'Gentle Shepherd' is the finest
pastoral in the world. No thunders roll among these solitary crags; no
lightnings affright these lasses among their _claes_ at Habbie's Howe;
the air is still and soft; the plaintive bleating of the sheep upon the
hills, the echoes of the city are distant and faintly heard, so that the
very sounds seem in unison and in league with silence. One thinks of
Shelley's isle 'mid the Aegean deep:--
'It is an isle under Ionian skies,
Beautiful as the wreck of Paradise;
And for the harbours are not safe and good,
The land would have remained a solitude,
But for some pastoral people, native there,
Who from the Elysian clear and sunny air
Draw the last spirit of the age of gold,
Simple and generous, innocent and bold.
* * * * *
The winged storms, chanting their thunder psalm
To other lands, leave azure chasms of calm
Over this isle, or weep themselves in dew,
From whence the fields and woods ever renew
Their green and golden immortality.'
Yet in the little circle of calm carved out by the magician of 'The
Gentle Shepherd' there is no insipidity. Lust is sternly excluded, but
love of the purest and warmest kind there breathes. The parade of
learning is not there; but strong common sense thinks, and robust and
manly eloquence declaims. Humour too is there, and many have laughed at
Mause and Baldy, whom all the frigid wit of 'Love for Love' and the
'School for Scandal' could only move to contempt or pity. A _dénouement_
of great skill is not wanting to stir the calm surface of the story by
the wind of surprise; the curtain falls over a group of innocent,
guileless, and happy hearts, and as we gaze at them we breathe the
prayer, that Scotland's peerage and Scotland's peasantry may always thus
be blended into one bond of mutual esteem, endearment, and excellence.
Well might Campbell say--'Like the poetry of Tasso and Ariosto, that of
the "Gentle Shepherd" is engraven on the memory of its native country.
Its verses have passed into proverbs, and it continues to be the delight
and solace of the peasantry whom it describes.'
Ramsay has very slightly touched on the religion of his countrymen. This
is to be regretted; but if he had no sympathy with that, he, at least,
disdained to counterfeit it, and its poetical aspects have since been
adequately sung by other minstrels.
LOCHABER NO MORE.
1 Farewell to Lochaber, and farewell, my Jean,
Where heartsome with thee I've mony day been;
For Lochaber no more, Lochaber no more,
We'll maybe return to Lochaber no more.
These tears that I shed they are a' for my dear,
And no for the dangers attending on weir;
Though borne on rough seas to a far bloody shore,
Maybe to return to Lochaber no more.
2 Though hurricanes rise, and rise every wind,
They'll ne'er make a tempest like that in my mind;
Though loudest of thunder on louder waves roar,
That's naething like leaving my love on the shore.
To leave thee behind me my heart is sair pained;
By ease that's inglorious no fame can be gained;
And beauty and love's the reward of the brave,
And I must deserve it before I can crave.
3 Then glory, my Jeany, maun plead my excuse;
Since honour commands me, how can I refuse?
Without it I ne'er can have merit for thee,
And without thy favour I'd better not be.
I gae then, my lass, to win honour and fame,
And if I should luck to come gloriously hame,
I'll bring a heart to thee with love running o'er,
And then I'll leave thee and Lochaber no more.
THE LAST TIME I CAME O'ER THE MOOR.
1 The last time I came o'er the moor,
I left my love behind me;
Ye powers! what pain do I endure,
When soft ideas mind me!
Soon as the ruddy morn displayed
The beaming day ensuing,
I met betimes my lovely maid,
In fit retreats for wooing.
2 Beneath the cooling shade we lay,
Gazing and chastely sporting;
We kissed and promised time away,
Till night spread her black curtain.
I pitied all beneath the skies,
E'en kings, when she was nigh me;
In raptures I beheld her eyes,
Which could but ill deny me.
3 Should I be called where cannons roar,
Where mortal steel may wound me;
Or cast upon some foreign shore,
Where dangers may surround me;
Yet hopes again to see my love,
To feast on glowing kisses,
Shall make my cares at distance move,
In prospect of such blisses.
4 In all my soul there's not one place
To let a rival enter;
Since she excels in every grace,
In her my love shall centre.
Sooner the seas shall cease to flow,
Their waves the Alps shall cover,
On Greenland ice shall roses grow,
Before I cease to love her.
5 The next time I go o'er the moor,
She shall a lover find me;
And that my faith is firm and pure,
Though I left her behind me:
Then Hymen's sacred bonds shall chain
My heart to her fair bosom;
There, while my being does remain,
My love more fresh shall blossom.
FROM 'THE GENTLE SHEPHERD.'
ACT I.--SCENE II.
A flowrie howm between twa verdant braes,
Where lasses used to wash and spread their claes,
A trotting burnie wimpling through the ground,
Its channel peebles shining smooth and round:
Here view twa barefoot beauties clean and clear;
First please your eye, then gratify your ear;
While Jenny what she wishes discommends,
And Meg with better sense true love defends.
PEGGY AND JENNY.
_Jenny_. Come, Meg, let's fa' to wark upon this green,
This shining day will bleach our linen clean;
The water's clear, the lift unclouded blue,
Will mak them like a lily wet with dew.
_Peggy_. Gae farrer up the burn to Habbie's How,
Where a' that's sweet in spring and simmer grow:
Between twa birks, out o'er a little linn,
The water fa's, and maks a singin' din:
A pool breast-deep, beneath as clear as glass,
Kisses with easy whirls the bordering grass.
We'll end our washing while the morning's cool,
And when the day grows het we'll to the pool,
There wash oursells; 'tis healthfu' now in May,
And sweetly caller on sae warm a day.
_Jenny_. Daft lassie, when we're naked, what'll ye say,
Giff our twa herds come brattling down the brae,
And see us sae?--that jeering fellow, Pate,
Wad taunting say, 'Haith, lasses, ye're no blate.'
_Peggy_. We're far frae ony road, and out of sight;
The lads they're feeding far beyont the height;
But tell me now, dear Jenny, we're our lane,
What gars ye plague your wooer with disdain?
The neighbours a' tent this as well as I;
That Roger lo'es ye, yet ye carena by.
What ails ye at him? Troth, between us twa,
He's wordy you the best day e'er ye saw.
_Jenny_. I dinna like him, Peggy, there's an end;
A herd mair sheepish yet I never kenn'd.
He kames his hair, indeed, and gaes right snug,
With ribbon-knots at his blue bonnet lug;
Whilk pensylie he wears a thought a-jee,
And spreads his garters diced beneath his knee.
He falds his owrelay down his breast with care,
And few gangs trigger to the kirk or fair;
For a' that, he can neither sing nor say,
Except, 'How d'ye?--or, 'There's a bonny day.'
_Peggy_. Ye dash the lad with constant slighting pride,
Hatred for love is unco sair to bide:
But ye'll repent ye, if his love grow cauld;--
What like's a dorty maiden when she's auld?
Like dawted wean that tarrows at its meat,
That for some feckless whim will orp and greet:
The lave laugh at it till the dinner's past,
And syne the fool thing is obliged to fast,
Or scart anither's leavings at the last.
Fy, Jenny! think, and dinna sit your time.
_Jenny_. I never thought a single life a crime.
_Peggy_. Nor I: but love in whispers lets us ken
That men were made for us, and we for men.
_Jenny_. If Roger is my jo, he kens himsell,
For sic a tale I never heard him tell.
He glowers and sighs, and I can guess the cause:
But wha's obliged to spell his hums and haws?
Whene'er he likes to tell his mind mair plain,
I'se tell him frankly ne'er to do't again.
They're fools that slavery like, and may be free;
The chiels may a' knit up themselves for me.
_Peggy_. Be doing your ways: for me, I have a mind
To be as yielding as my Patie's kind.
_Jenny_. Heh! lass, how can ye lo'e that rattleskull?
A very deil, that aye maun have his will!
We soon will hear what a poor fechtin' life
You twa will lead, sae soon's ye're man and wife.
_Peggy_. I'll rin the risk; nor have I ony fear,
But rather think ilk langsome day a year,
Till I with pleasure mount my bridal-bed,
Where on my Patie's breast I'll lay my head.
There he may kiss as lang as kissing's good,
And what we do there's nane dare call it rude.
He's get his will; why no? 'tis good my part
To give him that, and he'll give me his heart.
_Jenny_. He may indeed for ten or fifteen days
Mak meikle o' ye, with an unco fraise,
And daut ye baith afore fowk and your lane:
But soon as your newfangleness is gane,
He'll look upon you as his tether-stake,
And think he's tint his freedom for your sake.
Instead then of lang days of sweet delight,
Ae day be dumb, and a' the neist he'll flyte:
And maybe, in his barlichood's, ne'er stick
To lend his loving wife a loundering lick.
_Peggy_. Sic coarse-spun thoughts as that want pith to move
My settled mind; I'm o'er far gane in love.
Patie to me is dearer than my breath,
But want of him, I dread nae other skaith.
There's nane of a' the herds that tread the green
Has sic a smile, or sic twa glancing een.
And then he speaks with sic a taking art,
His words they thirl like music through my heart.
How blithely can he sport, and gently rave,
And jest at little fears that fright the lave.
Ilk day that he's alane upon the hill,
He reads feil books that teach him meikle skill;
He is--but what need I say that or this,
I'd spend a month to tell you what he is!
In a' he says or does there's sic a gate,
The rest seem coofs compared with my dear Pate;
His better sense will lang his love secure:
Ill-nature hefts in sauls are weak and poor.
_Jenny._ Hey, 'bonnylass of Branksome!' or't be lang,
Your witty Pate will put you in a sang.
Oh, 'tis a pleasant thing to be a bride!
Syne whinging gets about your ingle-side,
Yelping for this or that with fasheous din:
To mak them brats then ye maun toil and spin.
Ae wean fa's sick, and scads itself wi' brue,
Ane breaks his shin, anither tines his shoe:
The 'Deil gaes o'er John Wabster:' hame grows hell,
When Pate misca's ye waur than tongue can tell.
_Peggy._ Yes, it's a heartsome thing to be a wife,
When round the ingle-edge young sprouts are rife.
Gif I'm sae happy, I shall have delight
To hear their little plaints, and keep them right.
Wow, Jenny! can there greater pleasure be,
Than see sic wee tots toolying at your knee;
When a' they ettle at, their greatest wish,
Is to be made of, and obtain a kiss?
Can there be toil in tenting day and night
The like of them, when loves makes care delight?
_Jenny_. But poortith, Peggy, is the warst of a',
Gif o'er your heads ill chance should beggary draw:
There little love or canty cheer can come
Frae duddy doublets, and a pantry toom.
Your nowt may die; the speat may bear away
Frae aff the howms your dainty rucks of hay;
The thick-blawn wreaths of snaw, or blashy thows,
May smoor your wethers, and may rot your ewes;
A dyvour buys your butter, woo', and cheese,
But, or the day of payment, breaks and flees;
With gloomin' brow the laird seeks in his rent,
'Tis no to gie, your merchant's to the bent;
His honour maunna want, he poinds your gear;
Syne driven frae house and hald, where will ye steer?--
Dear Meg, be wise, and lead a single life;
Troth, it's nae mows to be a married wife.
_Peggy_. May sic ill luck befa' that silly she,
Wha has sic fears, for that was never me.
Let fowk bode weel, and strive to do their best;
Nae mair's required--let Heaven make out the rest.
I've heard my honest uncle aften say,
That lads should a' for wives that's vertuous pray;
For the maist thrifty man could never get
A well-stored room, unless his wife wad let:
Wherefore nocht shall be wanting on my part
To gather wealth to raise my shepherd's heart.
Whate'er he wins, I'll guide with canny care,
And win the vogue at market, tron, or fair,
For healsome, clean, cheap, and sufficient ware.
A flock of lambs, cheese, butter, and some woo',
Shall first be sald to pay the laird his due;
Syne a' behind's our ain.--Thus without fear,
With love and rowth we through the warld will steer;
And when my Pate in bairns and gear grows rife,
He'll bless the day he gat me for his wife.
_Jenny_. But what if some young giglet on the green,
With dimpled cheeks, and twa bewitching een,
Should gar your Patie think his half-worn Meg,
And her kenn'd kisses, hardly worth a feg?
_Peggy_. Nae mair of that:--dear Jenny, to be free,
There's some men constanter in love than we:
Nor is the ferly great, when Nature kind
Has blest them with solidity of mind;
They'll reason calmly, and with kindness smile,
When our short passions wad our peace beguile:
Sae, whensoe'er they slight their maiksat hame,
'Tis ten to ane their wives are maist to blame.
Then I'll employ with pleasure a' my art
To keep him cheerfu', and secure his heart.
At even, when he comes weary frae the hill,
I'll have a' things made ready to his will:
In winter, when he toils through wind and rain,
A bleezing ingle, and a clean hearth-stane:
And soon as he flings by his plaid and staff,
The seething-pot's be ready to take aff;
Clean hag-abag I'll spread upon his board,
And serve him with the best we can afford:
Good-humour and white bigonets shall be
Guards to my face, to keep his love for me.
_Jenny_. A dish of married love right soon grows cauld,
And dozins down to nane, as fowk grow auld.
_Peggy_. But we'll grow auld together, and ne'er find
The loss of youth, when love grows on the mind.
Bairns and their bairns make sure a firmer tie,
Than aught in love the like of us can spy.
See yon twa elms that grow up side by side,
Suppose them some years syne bridegroom and bride;
Nearer and nearer ilka year they've pressed,
Till wide their spreading branches are increased,
And in their mixture now are fully blessed:
This shields the other frae the eastlin' blast;
That in return defends it frae the wast.
Sic as stand single, (a state sae liked by you,)
Beneath ilk storm frae every airt maun bow.
_Jenny_. I've done,--I yield, dear lassie; I maun yield,
Your better sense has fairly won the field.
With the assistance of a little fae
Lies dern'd within my breast this mony a day.
_Peggy_. Alake, poor pris'ner!--Jenny, that's no fair,
That ye'll no let the wee thing take the air:
Haste, let him out; we'll tent as well's we can,
Gif he be Bauldy's, or poor Roger's man.
_Jenny_. Anither time's as good; for see the sun
Is right far up, and we're not yet begun
To freath the graith: if canker'd Madge, our aunt,
Come up the burn, she'll gie's a wicked rant;
But when we've done, I'll tell you a' my mind;
For this seems true--nae lass can be unkind.
 Howm: holm.
 Claes: clothes.
 'Lift:' sky.
 'Linn:' a waterfall.
 'Blate:' bashful.
 'Pensylie:' sprucely.
 'A-jee:' to one side.
 'Owrelay:' cravat.
 'Dorty:' pettish.
 'Dawted wean:' spoiled child.
 'Tarrows at its meat:' refuses its food.
 'Feckless:' silly.
 'Orp:' fret.
 'Glowers:' stares.
 'Barlichoods:' cross-moods.
 'Skaith:' harm.
 'Feil:' many.
 'Fasheous:' troublesome.
 'Scads itself wi' brue:' scalds itself with broth.
 'Deil gaes o'er John Wabster:' all goes wrong.
 'Toom:' empty.
 'Speat:' land-flood.
 'A dyvour:' bankrupt.
 'Mows:' jest.
 'Rowth:' plenty.
 'Maiks:' mates.
 'Hag-abag:' huckaback.
 'White bigonets:' linen caps or coifs.
 'Dozins:' dwindles.
 'Airt:' quarter.
We come now to another cluster of minor poets,--such as Robert Dodsley,
who rose, partly through Pope's influence, from a footman to be a
respectable bookseller, and who, by the verses entitled 'The Parting
'One fond kiss before we part,
Drop a tear and bid adieu;
Though we sever, my fond heart,
Till we meet, shall pant for you,' &c.--
seems to have suggested to Burns his 'Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;'
--John Brown, author of certain tragedies and other works, including the
once famous 'Estimate of the Manners and Principles of Modern Times,' of
which Cowper says--
'The inestimable Estimate of Brown
Rose like a paper kite and charmed the town;
But measures planned and executed well
Shifted the wind that raised it, and it fell:'
and who went mad and died by his own hands;--John Gilbert Cooper, author
of a fine song to his wife, one stanza of which has often been quoted:--
'And when with envy Time transported
Shall think to rob us of our joys;
You'll in your girls again be courted,
And I'll go wooing in my boys;'--
Cuthbert Shaw, an unfortunate author of the Savage type, who wrote an
affecting monody on the death of his wife;--Thomas Scott, author of
'Lyric Poems, Devotional and Moral: London, 1773;'--Edward Thompson, a
native of Hull, and author of some tolerable sea-songs;--Henry Headley,
a young man of uncommon talents, a pupil of Dr Parr in Norwich, who,
when only twenty-one, published 'Select Beauties of the Ancient English
Poets,' accompanied by critical remarks discovering rare ripeness of mind
for his years, who wrote poetry too, but was seized with consumption, and
died at twenty-two;--Nathaniel Cotton, the physician, under whose care,
at St Alban's, Cowper for a time was;--William Hayward Roberts, author of
'Judah Restored,' a poem of much ambition and considerable merit;--John
Bampfylde, who went mad, and died in that state, after having published,
when young, some sweet sonnets, of which the following is one:--
'Cold is the senseless heart that never strove
With the mild tumult of a real flame;
Rugged the breast that music cannot tame,
Nor youth's enlivening graces teach to love
The pathless vale, the long-forsaken grove,
The rocky cave that bears the fair one's name,
With ivy mantled o'er. For empty fame
Let him amidst the rabble toil, or rove
In search of plunder far to western clime.
Give me to waste the hours in amorous play
With Delia, beauteous maid, and build the rhyme,
Praising her flowing hair, her snowy arms,
And all that prodigality of charms,
Formed to enslave my heart, and grace my lay;'--
Lord Chesterfield, who wrote some lines on 'Beau Nash's Picture at full
length, between the Busts of Newton and Pope at Bath,' of which this is
the last stanza--
'The picture placed the busts between,
Adds to the thought much strength;
Wisdom and Wit are little seen,
But Folly's at full length;'--
Thomas Penrose, who is more memorable as a warrior than as a poet,
having fought against Buenos Ayres, as well as having written some
elegant war-verses;--Edward Moore, a contributor to the _World_;--Sir
John Henry Moore, a youth of promise, who died in his twenty-fifth year,
leaving behind him such songs as the following:--
'Cease to blame my melancholy,
Though with sighs and folded arms
I muse with silence on her charms;
Censure not--I know 'tis folly;
Yet these mournful thoughts possessing,
Such delights I find in grief
That, could heaven afford relief,
My fond heart would scorn the blessing;'--
the Rev. Richard Jago, a friend of Shenstone's, and author of a pleasing
fable entitled 'Labour and Genius;'--Henry Brooke, better known for a
novel, once much in vogue, called 'The Fool of Quality,' than for his
elaborate poem entitled 'Universal Beauty,' which formed a prototype of
Darwin's 'Botanic Garden,' but did not enjoy that poem's fame;--George
Alexander Stevens, a comic actor, lecturer on 'heads,' and writer of
some poems, novels, and Bacchanalian songs:--and, in fine, Mrs Greville,
whose 'Prayer for Indifference' displays considerable genius. We quote
'I ask no kind return in love,
No tempting charm to please;
Far from the heart such gifts remove
That sighs for peace and ease.
'Nor ease, nor peace, that heart can know
That, like the needle true,
Turns at the touch of joy and woe,
But, turning, trembles too.
'Far as distress the soul can wound,
'Tis pain in each degree;
'Tis bliss but to a certain bound--
Beyond, is agony.
'Then take this treacherous sense of mine,
Which dooms me still to smart,
Which pleasure can to pain refine,
To pain new pangs impart.
'Oh, haste to shed the sovereign balm,
My shattered nerves new string,
And for my guest, serenely calm,
The nymph Indifference bring.'
ISAAC HAWKINS BROWNE.
This writer was born at Burton-on-Trent, in 1705. He was educated at
Westminster and Cambridge, and studied law at Lincoln's Inn. He was a
man of fortune, and sat in two parliaments for Wenlock, in Shropshire.
He died in 1760. His imitations of authors are clever and amusing, and
seem to have got their hint from 'The Splendid Shilling,' and to have
given it to the 'Rejected Addresses.'
IMITATION OF THOMSON.
----Prorumpit ad aethera nubem
Turbine, fumantem piceo. VIRG.
O thou, matured by glad Hesperian suns,
Tobacco, fountain pure of limpid truth,
That looks the very soul; whence pouring thought
Swarms all the mind; absorpt is yellow care,
And at each puff imagination burns:
Flash on thy bard, and with exalting fires
Touch the mysterious lip that chants thy praise
In strains to mortal sons of earth unknown.
Behold an engine, wrought from tawny mines
Of ductile clay, with plastic virtue formed,
And glazed magnific o'er, I grasp, I fill.
From Paetotheke with pungent powers perfumed,
Itself one tortoise all, where shines imbibed
Each parent ray; then rudely rammed, illume
With the red touch of zeal-enkindling sheet,
Marked with Gibsonian lore; forth issue clouds
Thought-thrilling, thirst-inciting clouds around,
And many-mining fires; I all the while,
Lolling at ease, inhale the breezy balm.
But chief, when Bacchus wont with thee to join,
In genial strife and orthodoxal ale,
Stream life and joy into the Muse's bowl.
Oh, be thou still my great inspirer, thou
My Muse; oh, fan me with thy zephyrs boon,
While I, in clouded tabernacle shrined,
Burst forth all oracle and mystic song.
IMITATION OF POPE.
--Solis ad ortus
Vanescit fumus. LUCAN.
Blest leaf! whose aromatic gales dispense
To Templars modesty, to parsons sense:
So raptured priests, at famed Dodona's shrine,
Drank inspiration from the steam divine.
Poison that cures, a vapour that affords
Content, more solid than the smile of lords:
Rest to the weary, to the hungry food,
The last kind refuge of the wise and good.
Inspired by thee, dull cits adjust the scale
Of Europe's peace, when other statesmen fail.
By thee protected, and thy sister, beer,
Poets rejoice, nor think the bailiff near.
Nor less the critic owns thy genial aid,
While supperless he plies the piddling trade.
What though to love and soft delights a foe,
By ladies hated, hated by the beau,
Yet social freedom, long to courts unknown,
Fair health, fair truth, and virtue are thy own.
Come to thy poet, come with healing wings,
And let me taste thee unexcised by kings.
IMITATION OF SWIFT.
Ex fumo dare lucem.--HOR.
Boy! bring an ounce of Freeman's best,
And bid the vicar be my guest:
Let all be placed in manner due,
A pot wherein to spit or spew,
And London Journal, and Free-Briton,
Of use to light a pipe or * *
* * * * *
This village, unmolested yet
By troopers, shall be my retreat:
Who cannot flatter, bribe, betray;
Who cannot write or vote for * * *
Far from the vermin of the town,
Here let me rather live, my own,
Doze o'er a pipe, whose vapour bland
In sweet oblivion lulls the land;
Of all which at Vienna passes,
As ignorant as * * Brass is:
And scorning rascals to caress,
Extol the days of good Queen Bess,
When first tobacco blessed our isle,
Then think of other queens--and smile.
Come, jovial pipe, and bring along
Midnight revelry and song;
The merry catch, the madrigal,
That echoes sweet in City Hall;
The parson's pun, the smutty tale
Of country justice o'er his ale.
I ask not what the French are doing,
Or Spain, to compass Britain's ruin:
Britons, if undone, can go
Where tobacco loves to grow.
Oldys was born in 1696, and died in 1761. He was a very diligent
collector of antiquarian materials, and the author of a Life of Raleigh.
He was intimate with Captain Grose, Burns' friend, who used to rally him
on his inordinate thirst for ale, although, if we believe Burns, it was
paralleled by Grose's liking for port. The following Anacreontic is
SONG, OCCASIONED BY A FLY DRINKING OUT OF A CUP OF ALE.
Busy, curious, thirsty fly,
Drink with me, and drink as I;
Freely welcome to my cup,
Couldst thou sip and sip it up.
Make the most of life you may--
Life is short, and wears away.
Both alike are, mine and thine,
Hastening quick to their decline:
Thine's a summer, mine no more,
Though repeated to threescore;
Threescore summers, when they're gone,
Will appear as short as one.
Robert Lloyd was born in London in 1733. He was the son of one of the
under-masters of Westminster School. He went to Cambridge, where he
became distinguished for his talents and notorious for his dissipation.
He became an usher under his father, but soon tired of the drudgery, and
commenced professional author. He published a poem called 'The Actor,'
which attracted attention, and was the precursor of 'The Rosciad.' He
wrote for periodicals, produced some theatrical pieces of no great
merit, and edited the _St James' Magazine_. This failed, and Lloyd,
involved in pecuniary distresses, was cast into the Fleet. Here he was
deserted by all his boon companions except Churchill, to whose sister he
was attached, and who allowed him a guinea a-week and a servant, besides
promoting a subscription for his benefit. When the news of Churchill's
death arrived, Lloyd was seated at dinner; he became instantly sick,
cried out 'Poor Charles! I shall follow him soon,' and died in a few
weeks. Churchill's sister, a woman of excellent abilities, waited on
Lloyd during his illness, and died soon after him of a broken heart.
This was in 1764.
Lloyd was a minor Churchill. He had not his brawny force, but he had
more than his liveliness of wit, and was a much better-conditioned man,
and more temperate in his satire. Cowper knew, loved, admired, and in
some of his verses imitated, Robert Lloyd.
THE MISERIES OF A POET'S LIFE.
The harlot Muse, so passing gay,
Bewitches only to betray.
Though for a while with easy air
She smooths the rugged brow of care,
And laps the mind in flowery dreams,
With Fancy's transitory gleams;
Fond of the nothings she bestows,
We wake at last to real woes.
Through every age, in every place,
Consider well the poet's case;
By turns protected and caressed,
Defamed, dependent, and distressed.
The joke of wits, the bane of slaves,
The curse of fools, the butt of knaves;
Too proud to stoop for servile ends,
To lacquey rogues or flatter friends;
With prodigality to give,
Too careless of the means to live;
The bubble fame intent to gain,
And yet too lazy to maintain;
He quits the world he never prized,
Pitied by few, by more despised,
And, lost to friends, oppressed by foes,
Sinks to the nothing whence he rose.
O glorious trade! for wit's a trade,
Where men are ruined more than made!
Let crazy Lee, neglected Gay,
The shabby Otway, Dryden gray,
Those tuneful servants of the Nine,
(Not that I blend their names with mine,)
Repeat their lives, their works, their fame.
And teach the world some useful shame.
Of Carey, the author of the popular song, 'Sally in our Alley,' we know
only that he was a professional musician, composing the air as well as
the words of 'Sally,' and that in 1763 he died by his own hands.
SALLY IN OUR ALLEY.
1 Of all the girls that are so smart,
There's none like pretty Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.
There is no lady in the land
Is half so sweet as Sally:
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.
2 Her father he makes cabbage-nets,
And through the streets does cry 'em;
Her mother she sells laces long,
To such as please to buy 'em:
But sure such folks could ne'er beget
So sweet a girl as Sally!
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.
3 When she is by, I leave my work,
(I love her so sincerely,)
My master comes like any Turk,
And bangs me most severely:
But, let him bang his belly full,
I'll bear it all for Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.
4 Of all the days that's in the week,
I dearly love but one day;
And that's the day that comes betwixt
A Saturday and Monday;
For then I'm dressed all in my best,
To walk abroad with Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.
5 My master carries me to church,
And often am I blamed,
Because I leave him in the lurch,
As soon as text is named:
I leave the church in sermon time,
And slink away to Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.
6 When Christmas comes about again,
O then I shall have money;
I'll hoard it up, and box it all,
I'll give it to my honey:
I would it were ten thousand pounds,
I'd give it all to Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.
7 My master, and the neighbours all,
Make game of me and Sally;
And, but for her, I'd better be
A slave, and row a galley:
But when my seven long years are out,
O then I'll marry Sally,
O then we'll wed, and then we'll bed,
But not in our alley.
David Mallett was the son of a small innkeeper in Crieff, Perthshire,
where he was born in the year 1700. Crieff, as many of our readers know,
is situated on the western side of a hill, and commands a most varied and
beautiful prospect, including Drummond Castle, with its solemn shadowy
woods, and the Ochils, on the south,--Ochtertyre, one of the loveliest
spots in Scotland, and the gorge of Glenturrett, on the north,--and the
bold dark hills which surround the romantic village of Comrie, on the
west. Crieff is now a place of considerable note, and forms a centre
of summer attraction to multitudes; but at the commencement of the
eighteenth century it must have been a miserable hamlet. _Malloch_ was
originally the name of the poet, and the name is still common in that
part of Perthshire. David attended the college of Aberdeen, and became,
afterwards, an unsalaried tutor in the family of Mr Home of Dreghorn,
near Edinburgh. We find him next in the Duke of Montrose's family, with
a salary of £30 per annum. In 1723, he accompanied his pupils to London,
and changed his name to Mallett, as more euphonious. Next year, he
produced his pretty ballad of 'William and Margaret,' and published it
in Aaron Hill's 'Plain Dealer.' This served as an introduction to the
literary society of the metropolis, including such names as Young and
Pope. In 1733, he disgraced himself by a satire on the greatest man then
living, the venerable Richard Bentley. Mallett was one of those mean
creatures who always worship a rising, and turn their backs on a setting
sun. By his very considerable talents, his management, and his address,
he soon rose in the world. He was appointed under-secretary to the Prince
of Wales, with a salary of £200 a-year. In conjunction with Thomson, to
whom he was really kind, he wrote in 1740, 'The Masque of Alfred,' in
honour of the birthday of the Princess Augusta. His first wife, of whom
nothing is recorded, having died, he married the daughter of Lord
Carlisle's steward, who brought him a fortune of £10,000. Both she and
Mallett himself gave themselves out as Deists. This was partly owing to
his intimacy with Bolingbroke, to gratify whom, he heaped abuse upon Pope
in a preface to 'The Patriot-King,' and was rewarded by Bolingbroke
leaving him the whole of his works and MSS. These he afterwards
published, and exposed himself to the vengeful sarcasm of Johnson, who
said that Bolingbroke was a scoundrel and a coward;--a scoundrel, to
charge a blunderbuss against Christianity; and a coward, because he durst
not fire it himself, but left a shilling to a beggarly Scotsman to draw
the trigger after his death. Mallett ranked himself among the
calumniators and, as it proved, murderers of Admiral Byng. He wrote a
Life of Lord Bacon, in which, it was said, he forgot that Bacon was a
philosopher, and would probably, when he came to write the Life of
Marlborough, forget that he was a general. This Life of Bacon is now
utterly forgotten. We happened to read it in our early days, and thought
it a very contemptible performance. The Duchess of Marlborough left £1000
in her will between Glover and Mallett to write a Life of her husband.
Glover threw up his share of the work, and Mallett engaged to perform the
whole, to which, besides, he was stimulated by a pension from the second
Duke of Marlborough. He got the money, but when he died it was found that
he had not written a line of the work. In his latter days he held the
lucrative office of Keeper of the Book of Entries for the port of London.
He died on the 2lst April 1765.
Mallett is, on the whole, no credit to Scotland. He was a bad, mean,
insincere, and unprincipled man, whose success was procured by despicable
and dastardly arts. He had doubtless some genius, and his 'Birks of
Invermay,' and 'William and Margaret,' shall preserve his name after his
clumsy imitation of Thomson, called 'The Excursion,' and his long,
rambling 'Amyntor and Theodora;' have been forgotten.
WILLIAM AND MARGARET.
1 'Twas at the silent, solemn hour
When night and morning meet;
In glided Margaret's grimly ghost,
And stood at William's feet.
2 Her face was like an April-morn,
Clad in a wintry cloud;
And clay-cold was her lily hand,
That held her sable shroud.
3 So shall the fairest face appear,
When youth and years are flown:
Such is the robe that kings must wear,
When death has reft their crown.
4 Her bloom was like the springing flower,
That sips the silver dew;
The rose was budded in her cheek,
Just opening to the view.
5 But love had, like the canker-worm,
Consumed her early prime:
The rose grew pale, and left her cheek;
She died before her time.
6 'Awake!' she cried, 'thy true love calls,
Come from her midnight-grave;
Now let thy pity hear the maid,
Thy love refused to save.
7 'This is the dumb and dreary hour,
When injured ghosts complain;
When yawning graves give up their dead,
To haunt the faithless swain.
8 'Bethink thee, William, of thy fault,
Thy pledge and broken oath!
And give me back my maiden-vow,
And give me back my troth.
9 'Why did you promise love to me,
And not that promise keep?
Why did you swear my eyes were bright,
Yet leave those eyes to weep?
10 'How could you say my face was fair,
And yet that face forsake?
How could you win my virgin-heart,
Yet leave that heart to break?
11 'Why did you say my lip was sweet,
And made the scarlet pale?
And why did I, young witless maid!
Believe the flattering tale?
12 'That face, alas! no more is fair,
Those lips no longer red:
Dark are my eyes, now closed in death,
And every charm is fled.
13 'The hungry worm my sister is;
This winding-sheet I wear:
And cold and weary lasts our night,
Till that last morn appear.
14 'But, hark! the cock has warned me hence;
A long and late adieu!
Come, see, false man, how low she lies,
Who died for love of you.'
15 The lark sung loud; the morning smiled,
With beams of rosy red:
Pale William quaked in every limb,
And raving left his bed.
16 He hied him to the fatal place
Where Margaret's body lay;
And stretched him on the green-grass turf,
That wrapped her breathless clay.
17 And thrice he called on Margaret's name.
And thrice he wept full sore;
Then laid his cheek to her cold grave,
And word spake never more!
THE BIRKS OF INVERMAY.
The smiling morn, the breathing spring,
Invite the tunefu' birds to sing;
And, while they warble from the spray,
Love melts the universal lay.
Let us, Amanda, timely wise,
Like them, improve the hour that flies;
And in soft raptures waste the day,
Among the birks of Invermay.
For soon the winter of the year,
And age, life's winter, will appear;
At this thy living bloom will fade,
As that will strip the verdant shade.
Our taste of pleasure then is o'er,
The feathered songsters are no more;
And when they drop and we decay,
Adieu the birks of Invermay!
Merrick was a clergyman, as well as a writer of verse. He was born in
1720, and became a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, where Lord North
was one of his pupils. He took orders, but owing to incessant pains in
the head, could not perform duty. He died in 1769. His works are a
translation of Tryphiodorus, done at twenty, a version of the Psalms, a
collection of Hymns, and a few miscellaneous pieces, one good specimen
of which we subjoin.
Oft has it been my lot to mark
A proud, conceited, talking spark,
With eyes that hardly served at most
To guard their master 'gainst a post;
Yet round the world the blade has been,
To see whatever could be seen.
Returning from his finished tour,
Grown ten times perter than before;
Whatever word you chance to drop,
The travelled fool your mouth will stop:
'Sir, if my judgment you'll allow--
I've seen--and sure I ought to know.'--
So begs you'd pay a due submission,
And acquiesce in his decision.
Two travellers of such a cast,
As o'er Arabia's wilds they passed,
And on their way, in friendly chat,
Now talked of this, and then of that;
Discoursed a while, 'mongst other matter,
Of the chameleon's form and nature.
'A stranger animal,' cries one,
'Sure never lived beneath the sun:
A lizard's body lean and long,
A fish's head, a serpent's tongue,
Its foot with triple claw disjoined;
And what a length of tail behind!
How slow its pace! and then its hue--
Who ever saw so fine a blue?'
'Hold there,' the other quick replies,
''Tis green, I saw it with these eyes,
As late with open mouth it lay,
And warmed it in the sunny ray;
Stretched at its ease the beast I viewed,
And saw it eat the air for food.'
'I've seen it, sir, as well as you,
And must again affirm it blue;
At leisure I the beast surveyed
Extended in the cooling shade.'
''Tis green, 'tis green, sir, I assure ye.'
'Green!' cries the other in a fury:
'Why, sir, d' ye think I've lost my eyes?'
''Twere no great loss,' the friend replies;
'For if they always serve you thus,
You'll find them but of little use.'
So high at last the contest rose,
From words they almost came to blows:
When luckily came by a third;
To him the question they referred:
And begged he'd tell them, if he knew,
Whether the thing was green or blue.
'Sirs,' cries the umpire, 'cease your pother;
The creature's neither one nor t' other.
I caught the animal last night,
And viewed it o'er by candle-light:
I marked it well, 'twas black as jet--
You stare--but sirs, I've got it yet,
And can produce it.'--'Pray, sir, do;
I'll lay my life the thing is blue.'
'And I'll be sworn, that when you've seen
The reptile, you'll pronounce him green.'
'Well, then, at once to ease the doubt,'
Replies the man, 'I'll turn him out:
And when before your eyes I've set him,
If you don't find him black, I'll eat him.'
He said; and full before their sight
Produced the beast, and lo!--'twas white.
Both stared, the man looked wondrous wise--
'My children,' the chameleon cries,
(Then first the creature found a tongue,)
'You all are right, and all are wrong:
When next you talk of what you view,
Think others see as well as you:
Nor wonder if you find that none
Prefers your eyesight to his own.'
DR JAMES GRAINGER.
This writer possessed some true imagination, although his claim to
immortality lies in the narrow compass of one poem--his 'Ode to
Solitude.' Little is known of his personal history. He was born in 1721
--belonging to a gentleman's family in Cumberland. He studied medicine,
and was for some time a surgeon connected with the army. When the peace
came, he established himself in London as a medical practitioner. In
1755, he published his 'Solitude,' which found many admirers, including
Dr Johnson, who pronounced its opening lines 'very noble.' He afterwards
indited several other pieces, wrote a translation of Tibullus, and
became one of the critical staff of the _Monthly Review_. He was unable,
however, through all these labours to secure a competence, and, in 1759,
he sought the West Indies. In St Christopher's he commenced practising
as a physician, and married the Governor's daughter, who brought him a
fortune. He wrote a poem entitled 'The Sugar-cane.' This was sent over
to London in MS., and was read at Sir Joshua Reynold's table to a
literary coterie, who, according to Boswell, all burst out into a laugh
when, after much blank-verse pomp, the poet began a new paragraph thus--
'Now, Muse, let's sing of _rats_!
And what increased the ridicule was, that one of the company, slily
overlooking the reader, found that the word had been originally 'mice,'
but had been changed to rats as more dignified.
Boswell goes on to record Johnson's opinion of Grainger. He said, 'He
was an agreeable man, a man that would do any good that was in his
power.' His translation of Tibullus was very well done, but 'The Sugar-
cane, a Poem,' did not please him. 'What could he make of a Sugar-cane?
one might as well write "The Parsley-bed, a Poem," or "The Cabbage
Garden, a Poem."' Boswell--'You must then _pickle_ your cabbage with the
_sal Atticum_.' Johnson--'One could say a great deal about cabbage. The
poem might begin with the advantages of civilised society over a rude
state, exemplified by the Scotch, who had no cabbages till Oliver
Cromwell's soldiers introduced them, and one might thus shew how arts
are propagated by conquest, as they were by the Roman arms.' Cabbage, by
the way, in a metaphorical sense, might furnish a very good subject for
a literary _satire_.
Grainger died of the fever of the country in 1767. Bishop Percy
corroborates Johnson's character of him as a man. He says, 'He was not
only a man of genius and learning, but had many excellent virtues, being
one of the most generous, friendly, benevolent men I ever knew.'
Grainger in some points reminds us of Dyer. Dyer staked his reputation
on 'The Fleece;' but it is his lesser poem, 'Grongar Hill,' which
preserves his name; that fine effusion has survived the laboured work.
And so Grainger's 'Solitude' has supplanted the stately 'Sugar-cane.'
The scenery of the West Indies had to wait till its real poet appeared
in the author of 'Paul and Virginia.' Grainger was hardly able to cope
with the strange and gorgeous contrasts it presents of cliffs and crags,
like those of Iceland, with vegetation rich as that of the fairest parts
of India, and of splendid sunshine, with tempests of such tremendous
fury that, but for their brief continuance, no property could be secure,
and no life could be safe.
The commencement of the 'Ode to Solitude' is fine, but the closing part
becomes tedious. In the middle of the poem there is a tumult of
personifications, some of them felicitous and others forced.
'Sage Reflection, bent with years,'
may pass, but
'Conscious Virtue, void of fears,'
'Halcyon Peace on moss reclined,'
is a picture;
'Retrospect that scans the mind,'
'Health that snuffs the morning air,'
is a living image; but what sense is there in
'Full-eyed Truth, with bosom bare?'
and how poor his
'Laughter in loud peals that breaks,'
'Laughter, holding both his sides!'
The paragraph, however, commencing
'With you roses brighter bloom,'
and closing with
'The bournless macrocosm's thine,'
is very spirited, and, along with the opening lines, proves
Grainger a poet.
ODE TO SOLITUDE.
O solitude, romantic maid!
Whether by nodding towers you tread,
Or haunt the desert's trackless gloom,
Or hover o'er the yawning tomb,
Or climb the Andes' clifted side,
Or by the Nile's coy source abide,
Or starting from your half-year's sleep
From Hecla view the thawing deep,
Or, at the purple dawn of day,
Tadmor's marble wastes survey,
You, recluse, again I woo,
And again your steps pursue.
Plumed Conceit himself surveying,
Folly with her shadow playing,
Purse-proud, elbowing Insolence,
Bloated empiric, puffed Pretence,
Noise that through a trumpet speaks,
Laughter in loud peals that breaks,
Intrusion with a fopling's face,
Ignorant of time and place,
Sparks of fire Dissension blowing,
Ductile, court-bred Flattery, bowing,
Restraint's stiff neck, Grimace's leer,
Squint-eyed Censure's artful sneer,
Ambition's buskins, steeped in blood,
Fly thy presence, Solitude.
Sage Reflection, bent with years,
Conscious Virtue, void of fears,
Muffled Silence, wood-nymph shy,
Meditation's piercing eye,
Halcyon Peace on moss reclined,
Retrospect that scans the mind,
Rapt, earth-gazing Reverie,
Blushing, artless Modesty,
Health that snuffs the morning air,
Full-eyed Truth, with bosom bare,
Inspiration, Nature's child,
Seek the solitary wild.
You, with the tragic muse retired,
The wise Euripides inspired,
You taught the sadly-pleasing air
That Athens saved from ruins bare.
You gave the Cean's tears to flow,
And unlocked the springs of woe;
You penned what exiled Naso thought,
And poured the melancholy note.
With Petrarch o'er Vaucluse you strayed,
When death snatched his long-loved maid;
You taught the rocks her loss to mourn,
Ye strewed with flowers her virgin urn.
And late in Hagley you were seen,
With bloodshot eyes, and sombre mien,
Hymen his yellow vestment tore,
And Dirge a wreath of cypress wore.
But chief your own the solemn lay
That wept Narcissa young and gay,
Darkness clapped her sable wing,
While you touched the mournful string,
Anguish left the pathless wild,
Grim-faced Melancholy smiled,
Drowsy Midnight ceased to yawn,
The starry host put back the dawn,
Aside their harps even seraphs flung
To hear thy sweet Complaint, O Young!
When all nature's hushed asleep,
Nor Love nor Guilt their vigils keep,
Soft you leave your caverned den,
And wander o'er the works of men;
But when Phosphor brings the dawn
By her dappled coursers drawn,
Again you to the wild retreat
And the early huntsman meet,
Where as you pensive pace along,
You catch the distant shepherd's song,
Or brush from herbs the pearly dew,
Or the rising primrose view.
Devotion lends her heaven-plumed wings,
You mount, and nature with you sings.
But when mid-day fervours glow,
To upland airy shades you go,
Where never sunburnt woodman came,
Nor sportsman chased the timid game;
And there beneath an oak reclined,
With drowsy waterfalls behind,
You sink to rest.
Till the tuneful bird of night
From the neighbouring poplar's height
Wake you with her solemn strain,
And teach pleased Echo to complain.
With you roses brighter bloom,
Sweeter every sweet perfume,
Purer every fountain flows,
Stronger every wilding grows.
Let those toil for gold who please,
Or for fame renounce their ease.
What is fame? an empty bubble.
Gold? a transient shining trouble.
Let them for their country bleed,
What was Sidney's, Raleigh's meed?
Man's not worth a moment's pain,
Base, ungrateful, fickle, vain.
Then let me, sequestered fair,
To your sibyl grot repair;
On yon hanging cliff it stands,
Scooped by nature's salvage hands,
Bosomed in the gloomy shade
Of cypress not with age decayed.
Where the owl still-hooting sits,
Where the bat incessant flits,
There in loftier strains I'll sing
Whence the changing seasons spring,
Tell how storms deform the skies,
Whence the waves subside and rise,
Trace the comet's blazing tail,
Weigh the planets in a scale;
Bend, great God, before thy shrine,
The bournless macrocosm's thine.
* * * * *
We refer our readers to Dr Mackelvie's well-known and very able Life of
poor Bruce, for his full story, and for the evidence on which his claim
to the 'Cuckoo' is rested. Apart from external evidence, we think that
poem more characteristic of Bruce's genius than of Logan's, and have
therefore ranked it under Bruce's name.
Bruce was born on the 27th of March 1746, at Kinnesswood, parish of
Portmoak, county of Kinross. His father was a weaver, and Michael was
the fifth of a family of eight children.
Poor as his parents were, they were intelligent, religious, and most
conscientious in the discharge of their duties to their children. In the
summer months Michael was sent out to herd cattle; and one loves to
imagine the young poet wrapt in his plaid, under a whin-bush, while the
storm was blowing,--or gazing at the rainbow from the summit of a
fence,--or admiring at Lochleven and its old ruined castle,--or weaving
around the form of some little maiden, herding in a neighbouring field
--some 'Jeanie Morrison'--one of those webs of romantic early love which
are beautiful and evanescent as the gossamer, but how exquisitely
relished while they last! Say not, with one of his biographers, that his
'education was retarded by this employment;' he was receiving in these
solitary fields a kind of education which no school and no college could
furnish; nay, who knows but, as he saw the cuckoo winging her way from
one deep woodland recess to another, or heard her dull, divine monotone
coming from the heart of the forest, the germ of that exquisite strain,
'least in the kingdom' of the heaven of poetry in size, but immortal in
its smallness, was sown in his mind? In winter he went to school, and
profited there so much, that at fifteen (not a very early period, after
all, for a Scotch student beginning his curriculum--in our day twelve
was not an uncommon age) he was judged fit for going to college. And
just in time a windfall came across the path of our poet, the mention of
which may make many of our readers smile. This was a legacy which was
left his father by a relative, amounting to 200 merks, or £11, 2s.6d.
With this munificent sum in his pocket, Bruce was sent to study at
Edinburgh College. Here he became distinguished by his attainments, and
particularly his taste and poetic powers; and here, too, he became
acquainted with John Logan, afterwards his biographer. After spending
three sessions at college, supported by his parents and other friends,
he returned to the country, and taught a school at Gairney Bridge (a
place famous for the first meeting of the first presbytery of the
Seceders) for £11 of salary. Thence he removed to Foresthill, near
Alloa, where a damp school-room, poverty, and hard labour in teaching,
united to injure his health and depress his spirits. At Foresthill he
wrote his poem 'Lochleven,' which discovers no small descriptive power.
Consumption began now to make its appearance, and he returned to the
cottage of his parents, where he wrote his 'Elegy on Spring,' in which
he refers with dignified pathos to his approaching dissolution. On the
5th of July 1767, this remarkable youth died, aged twenty-one years and
three months. His Bible was found on his pillow, marked at the words,
Jer. xxii. 10, 'Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him: but weep
sore for him that goeth away: for he shall return no more, nor see his
Lord Craig wrote some time afterwards an affecting paper in the _Mirror_,
recording the fate, and commending the genius of Bruce. John Logan, in
1770, published his poems. In the year 1807, the kind-hearted Principal
Baird published an edition of the poems for the behoof of Bruce's mother,
then an aged widow. And in 1837, Dr William Mackelvie, Balgedie, Kinross-
shire, published what may be considered the standard Life of this poet,
along with a complete edition of his Works.
It is impossible from so small a segment of a circle as Bruce's life
describes, to infer with any certainty the whole. So far as we can judge
from the fragments left, his power was rather in the beautiful, than in
the sublime or in the strong. The lines on Spring, from the words 'Now
spring returns' to the close, form a continuous stream of pensive
loveliness. How sweetly he sings in the shadow of death! Nor let us too
severely blame his allusion to the old Pagan mythology, in the words--
'I hear the helpless wail, the shriek of woe,
I see the muddy wave, the dreary shore;'
remembering that he was still a mere student, and not recovered from
that fine intoxication in which classical literature drenches a young
imaginative soul, and that at last we find him 'resting in the hopes of
an eternal day.' 'Lochleven' is the spent echo of the 'Seasons,' although,
as we said before, its descriptions possess considerable merit. His 'Last
Day' is more ambitious than successful. If we grant the 'Cuckoo' to be
his, as we are inclined decidedly to do, it is a sure title to fame,
being one of the sweetest little poems in any language. Shakspeare would
have been proud of the verse--
'Sweet bird! thy bower is ever green,
Thy sky is ever clear;
Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,
No winter in thy year.'
Bruce has not, however, it has always appeared to us, caught so well as
Wordsworth the differentia of the cuckoo,--its invisible, shadowy,
shifting, supernatural character--heard, but seldom seen--its note so
limited and almost unearthly:--
'O Cuckoo, shall I call thee bird,
Or but a _wandering voice_?'
How fine this conception of a separated voice--'The viewless spirit of a
_lonely_ sound,' plaining in the woods as if seeking for some incarnation
it cannot find, and saddening the spring groves by a note so contradictory
to the genius of the season. In reference to the note of the cuckoo we
find the following remarks among the fragments from the commonplace-book
of Dr Thomas Brown, printed by Dr Welsh:--'The name of the cuckoo has
generally been considered as a very pure instance of imitative harmony.
But in giving that name, we have most unjustly defrauded the poor bird of
a portion of its very small variety of sound. The second syllable is not
a mere echo of the first; it is the sound reversed, like the reading of
a sotadic line; and to preserve the strictness of the imitation we should
give it the name of Ook-koo.' _This_ is the prose of the cuckoo after its
TO THE CUCKOO.
1 Hail, beauteous stranger of the grove!
The messenger of spring!
Now Heaven repairs thy rural seat,
And woods thy welcome sing.
2 Soon as the daisy decks the green,
Thy certain voice we hear;
Hast thou a star to guide thy path,
Or mark the rolling year?
3 Delightful visitant! with thee
I hail the time of flowers,
And hear the sound of music sweet,
From birds among the bowers.
4 The school-boy, wandering through the wood
To pull the primrose gay,
Starts thy curious voice to hear,
And imitates the lay.
5 What time the pea puts on the bloom,
Thou fli'st thy vocal vale,
An annual guest in other lands,
Another spring to hail.
6 Sweet bird! thy bower is ever green,
Thy sky is ever clear;
Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,
No winter in thy year.
7 Oh, could I fly, I'd fly with thee!
We'd make with joyful wing
Our annual visit o'er the globe,
Attendants on the spring.
ELEGY, WRITTEN IN SPRING.
1 'Tis past: the North has spent his rage;
Stern Winter now resigns the lengthening day;
The stormy howlings of the winds assuage,
And warm o'er ether western breezes play.
2 Of genial heat and cheerful light the source,
From southern climes, beneath another sky,
The sun, returning, wheels his golden course:
Before his beams all noxious vapours fly.
3 Far to the North grim Winter draws his train,
To his own clime, to Zembla's frozen shore;
Where, throned on ice, he holds eternal reign,
Where whirlwinds madden, and where tempests roar.
4 Loosed from the bonds of frost, the verdant ground
Again puts on her robe of cheerful green,
Again puts forth her flowers, and all around,
Smiling, the cheerful face of Spring is seen.
5 Behold! the trees new-deck their withered boughs;
Their ample leaves, the hospitable plane,
The taper elm, and lofty ash disclose;
The blooming hawthorn variegates the scene.
6 The lily of the vale, of flowers the queen,
Puts on the robe she neither sewed nor spun:
The birds on ground, or on the branches green,
Hop to and fro, and glitter in the sun.
7 Soon as o'er eastern hills the morning peers,
From her low nest the tufted lark upsprings;
And cheerful singing, up the air she steers;
Still high she mounts, still loud and sweet she sings.
8 On the green furze, clothed o'er with golden blooms
That fill the air with fragrance all around,
The linnet sits, and tricks his glossy plumes,
While o'er the wild his broken notes resound.
9 While the sun journeys down the western sky,
Along the green sward, marked with Roman mound,
Beneath the blithesome shepherd's watchful eye,
The cheerful lambkins dance and frisk around.
10 Now is the time for those who wisdom love,
Who love to walk in Virtue's flowery road,
Along the lovely paths of Spring to rove,
And follow Nature up to Nature's God.
11 Thus Zoroaster studied Nature's laws;
Thus Socrates, the wisest of mankind;
Thus heaven-taught Plato traced the Almighty cause,
And left the wondering multitude behind.
12 Thus Ashley gathered academic bays;
Thus gentle Thomson, as the seasons roll,
Taught them to sing the great Creator's praise,
And bear their poet's name from pole to pole.
13 Thus have I walked along the dewy lawn;
My frequent foot the blooming wild hath worn:
Before the lark I've sung the beauteous dawn,
And gathered health from all the gales of morn.
14 And even when Winter chilled the aged year,
I wandered lonely o'er the hoary plain:
Though frosty Boreas warned me to forbear,
Boreas, with all his tempests, warned in vain.
15 Then sleep my nights, and quiet blessed my days;
I feared no loss, my mind was all my store;
No anxious wishes e'er disturbed my ease;
Heaven gave content and health--I asked no more.
16 Now Spring returns: but not to me returns
The vernal joy my better years have known;
Dim in my breast life's dying taper burns,
And all the joys of life with health are flown.
17 Starting and shivering in the inconstant wind,
Meagre and pale, the ghost of what I was,
Beneath some blasted tree I lie reclined,
And count the silent moments as they pass:
18 The winged moments, whose unstaying speed
No art can stop, or in their course arrest;
Whose flight shall shortly count me with the dead,
And lay me down at peace with them at rest.
19 Oft morning-dreams presage approaching fate;
And morning-dreams, as poets tell, are true.
Led by pale ghosts, I enter Death's dark gate,
And bid the realms of light and life adieu.
20 I hear the helpless wail, the shriek of woe;
I see the muddy wave, the dreary shore,
The sluggish streams that slowly creep below,
Which mortals visit, and return no more.
21 Farewell, ye blooming fields! ye cheerful plains!
Enough for me the churchyard's lonely mound,
Where Melancholy with still Silence reigns,
And the rank grass waves o'er the cheerless ground.
22 There let me wander at the shut of eve,
When sleep sits dewy on the labourer's eyes:
The world and all its busy follies leave,
And talk of wisdom where my Daphnis lies.
23 There let me sleep forgotten in the clay,
When death shall shut these weary, aching eyes;
Rest in the hopes of an eternal day,
Till the long night is gone, and the last morn arise.
We hear of 'Single-speech Hamilton.' We have now to say something of
'Single-poem Smart,' the author of one of the grandest bursts of
devotional and poetical feeling in the English language--the 'Song to
David.' This poor unfortunate was born at Shipbourne, Kent, in 1722.
His father was steward to Lord Barnard, who, after his death, continued
his patronage to the son, who was then eleven years of age. The Duchess
of Cleveland, through Lord Barnard's influence, bestowed on Christopher
an allowance of £40 a-year. With this he went to Pembroke Hall, Cam-
bridge, in 1739; was in 1745 elected a Fellow of Pembroke, and in 1747
took his degree of M.A. At college, Smart began to display that reckless
dissipation which led afterwards to such melancholy consequences. He
studied hard, however, at intervals; wrote poetry both in Latin and
English; produced a comedy called a 'Trip to Cambridge; or, The Grateful
Fair,' which was acted in the hall of Pembroke College; and, in spite of
his vices and follies, was popular on account of his agreeable manners
and amiable dispositions. Having become acquainted with Newberry,
the benevolent, red-nosed bookseller commemorated in 'The Vicar of
Wakefield,'--for whom he wrote some trifles,--he married his step-
daughter, Miss Carnan, in the year 1753. He now removed to London, and
became an author to trade. He wrote a clever satire, entitled 'The
Hilliad,' against Sir John Hill, who had attacked him in an underhand
manner. He translated the fables of Phaedrus into verse,--Horace into
prose ('Smart's Horace' used to be a great favourite, under the rose,
with schoolboys); made an indifferent version of the Psalms and
Paraphrases, and a good one, at a former period, of Pope's 'Ode on St
Cecilia's Day,' with which that poet professed himself highly pleased.
He was employed on a monthly publication called _The Universal Visitor_.
We find Johnson giving the following account of this matter in Boswell's
Life:--'Old Gardner, the bookseller, employed Rolt and Smart to write a
monthly miscellany called _The Universal Visitor_.' There was a formal
written contract. They were bound to write nothing else,--they were to
have, I think, a third of the profits of the sixpenny pamphlet, and the
contract was for ninety-nine years. I wrote for some months in _The
Universal Visitor_ for poor Smart, while he was mad, not then knowing
the terms on which he was engaged to write, and thinking I was doing him
good. I hoped his wits would soon return to him. Mine returned to me, and
I wrote in _The Universal Visitor_ no longer.'
Smart at last was called to pay the penalty of his blended labour and
dissipation. In 1763 he was shut up in a madhouse. His derangement had
exhibited itself in a religious way: he insisted upon people kneeling
down along with him in the street and praying. During his confinement,
writing materials were denied him, and he used to write his poetical
pieces with a key on the wainscot. Thus, 'scrabbling,' like his own hero,
on the wall, he produced his immortal 'Song to David.' He became by and
by sane; but, returning to his old habits, got into debt, and died in the
King's Bench prison, after a short illness, in 1770.
The 'Song to David' has been well called one of the greatest curiosities
of literature. It ranks in this point with the tragedies written by Lee,
and the sermons and prayers uttered by Hall in a similar melancholy state
of mind. In these cases, as well as in Smart's, the thin partition
between genius and madness was broken down in thunder,--the thunder of a
higher poetry than perhaps they were capable of even conceiving in their
saner moments. Lee produced in that state--which was, indeed, nearly his
normal one--some glorious extravagancies. Hall's sermons, monologised
and overheard in the madhouse, are said to have transcended all that he
preached in his healthier moods. And, assuredly, the other poems by Smart
scarcely furnish a point of comparison with the towering and sustained
loftiness of some parts of the 'Song to David.' Nor is it loftiness
alone,--although the last three stanzas are absolute inspiration, and
you see the waters of Castalia tossed by a heavenly wind to the very
summit of Parnassus,--but there are innumerable exquisite beauties and
subtleties, dropt as if by the hand of rich haste, in every corner of
the poem. Witness his description of David's muse, as a
'Blest light, still gaining on the gloom,
The more _than Michal of his bloom_,
The _Abishag of his age_!
The account of David's object--
'To further knowledge, silence vice,
And plant perpetual paradise,
When _God had calmed the world_.'
Of David's Sabbath--
''Twas then his thoughts self-conquest pruned,
And heavenly melancholy tuned,
To bless and bear the rest.'
One of David's themes--
'The multitudinous abyss,
Where secrecy remains in bliss,
And wisdom hides her skill.'
And, not to multiply instances to repletion, this stanza about gems--
'Of gems--their virtue and their price,
Which, hid in earth from man's device,
Their _darts of lustre sheath_;
The jasper of the master's stamp,
The topaz blazing like a lamp,
Among the mines beneath.'
Incoherence and extravagance we find here and there; but it is not the
flutter of weakness, it is the fury of power: from the very stumble of
the rushing steed, sparks are kindled. And, even as Baretti, when he
read the _Rambler_, in Italy, thought within himself, If such are the
lighter productions of the English mind, what must be the grander and
sterner efforts of its genius? and formed, consequently, a strong desire
to visit that country; so might he have reasoned, If such poems as
'David' issue from England's very madhouses, what must be the writings
of its saner and nobler poetic souls? and thus might he, from the
parallax of a Smart, have been able to rise toward the ideal altitudes
of a Shakspeare or a Milton. Indeed, there are portions of the 'Song to
David,' which a Milton or a Shakspeare has never surpassed. The blaze of
the meteor often eclipses the light of
'The loftiest star of unascended heaven,
Pinnacled dim in the intense inane.'
SONG TO DAVID.
1 O thou, that sitt'st upon a throne,
With harp of high, majestic tone,
To praise the King of kings:
And voice of heaven, ascending, swell,
Which, while its deeper notes excel,
Clear as a clarion rings:
2 To bless each valley, grove, and coast,
And charm the cherubs to the post
Of gratitude in throngs;
To keep the days on Zion's Mount,
And send the year to his account,
With dances and with songs:
3 O servant of God's holiest charge,
The minister of praise at large,
Which thou mayst now receive;
From thy blest mansion hail and hear,
From topmost eminence appear
To this the wreath I weave.
4 Great, valiant, pious, good, and clean,
Sublime, contemplative, serene,
Strong, constant, pleasant, wise!
Bright effluence of exceeding grace;
Best man! the swiftness and the race,
The peril and the prize!
5 Great--from the lustre of his crown,
From Samuel's horn, and God's renown,
Which is the people's voice;
For all the host, from rear to van,
Applauded and embraced the man--
The man of God's own choice.
6 Valiant--the word, and up he rose;
The fight--he triumphed o'er the foes
Whom God's just laws abhor;
And, armed in gallant faith, he took
Against the boaster, from the brook,
The weapons of the war.
7 Pious--magnificent and grand,
'Twas he the famous temple planned,
(The seraph in his soul:)
Foremost to give the Lord his dues,
Foremost to bless the welcome news,
And foremost to condole.
8 Good--from Jehudah's genuine vein,
From God's best nature, good in grain,
His aspect and his heart:
To pity, to forgive, to save,
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