Page images
PDF
EPUB

But here was peace, that peace which home can yield;
The grasshopper, the partridge in the field,
And ticking clock, were all at once become
The substitute for clarion, fife, and drum.
While thus I mused, still gazing, gazing still,
On beds of moss that spread the window sill,
I deemed no moss my eyes had ever seen
Had been so lovely, brilliant, fresh, and green,
And guessed some infant hand had placed it there,
And prized its hue, so exquisite, so rare.
Feelings on feelings mingling, doubling rose;
My heart felt everything but calm repose;

I could not reckon minutes, hours, nor years,
But rose at once, and bursted into tears;
Then, like a fool, confused, sat down again,
And thought upon the past with shame and pain;
I raved at war and all its horrid cost,
And glory's quagmire, where the brave are lost.
On carnage, fire, and plunder long I mused,
And cursed the murdering weapons I had used.

Two shadows then I saw, two voices heard, One bespoke age, and one a child's appeared. In stepped my father with convulsive start, And in an instant clasped me to his heart. Close by him stood a little blue-eyed maid; And stooping to the child, the old man said, 'Come hither, Nancy, kiss me once again. This is your uncle Charles, come home from Spain.' The child approached, and with her fingers light, Stroked my old eyes, almost deprived of sight. But why thus spin my tale-thus tedious be? Happy old soldier! what's the world to me!

[To his Wife.]

I rise, dear Mary, from the soundest rest,
A wandering, way-worn, musing, singing guest.
I claim the privilege of hill and plain;
Mine are the woods, and all that they contain;
The unpolluted gale, which sweeps the glade;
All the cool blessings of the solemn shade;
Health, and the flow of happiness sincere ;
Yet there's one wish-I wish that thou wert here;
Free from the trammels of domestic care,
With me these dear autumnal sweets to share;
To share my heart's ungovernable joy,
And keep the birthday of our poor lame boy.
Ah! that's a tender string! Yet since I find
That scenes like these can soothe the harassed mind,
Trust me, 'twould set thy jaded spirits free,
To wander thus through vales and woods with me.
Thou know'st how much I love to steal away
From noise, from uproar, and the blaze of day;
With double transport would my heart rebound
To lead thee where the clustering nuts are found;
No toilsome efforts would our task demand,
For the brown treasure stoops to meet the hand.
Round the tall hazel beds of moss appear
In green swards nibbled by the forest deer,
Sun, and alternate shade; while o'er our heads
The cawing rook his glossy pinions spreads;
The noisy jay, his wild woods dashing through;
The ring-dove's chorus, and the rustling bough;
The far resounding gate; the kite's shrill scream;
The distant ploughman's halloo to his team.
This is the chorus to my soul so dear;

It would delight thee too, wert thou but here:
For we might talk of home, and muse o'er days
Of sad distress, and Heaven's mysterious ways;
Our chequered fortunes with a smile retrace,
And build new hopes upon our infant race;
Pour our thanksgivings forth, and weep the while;
Or pray for blessings on our native isle.
But vain the wish! Mary, thy sighs forbear,
Nor grudge the pleasure which thou canst not share;
Make home delightful, kindly wish for me,
And I'll leave hills, and dales, and woods for thee.

JOHN LEYDEN.

JOHN LEYDEN, a distinguished oriental scholar as well as a poet, was a native of Denholm, Roxburghshire. He was the son of humble parents, but the ardent borderer fought his way to learning and celebrity. His parents, seeing his desire for instruction, determined to educate him for the church, and he was entered of Edinburgh college in 1790, in the fifteenth year of his age. He made rapid progress; was an excellent Latin and Greek scholar, and acquired also the French, Spanish, Italian, and German, besides studying the Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian. He became no mean proficient in mathematics and various branches of science. Indeed, every difficulty seemed to vanish before his commanding talents, his retentive memory, and robust application. His college vacations were spent at home; and as his father's cottage afforded him little opportunity for quiet and seclusion, he looked out for accommodations abroad. In a wild recess,' says Sir Walter Scott, in the den or glen which gives name to the village of Denholm, he contrived a sort of furnace for the purpose of such chemical experiments as he was adequate to performing. But his chief place of retirement was the small parish church, a gloomy and ancient building, generally believed in the L neighbourhood to be haunted. To this chosen place of study, usually locked during week days, Leyden made entrance by means of a window, read there for many hours in the day, and deposited his books and specimens in a retired pew. It was a well-chosen spot of seclusion, for the kirk (excepting during divine service) is rather a place of terror to the Scottish rustic, and that of Cavers was rendered more so by many a tale of ghosts and witchcraft, of which it was the supposed scene, and to which Leyden, partly to indulge his humour, and partly to secure his retirement, contrived to make some modern additions. The nature of his abstruse studies, some specimens of natural history, as toads and adders, left exposed in their spirit-vials, and one or two practical jests played off upon the more curious of the peasantry, rendered his gloomy haunt not only venerated by the wise, but feared by the simple of the parish.' From this singular and romantic study, Leyden sallied forth, with his curious and various stores, to astonish his college associates. He already numbered among his friends the most distinguished literary and scientific men of Edinburgh. On the expiration of his college studies, Leyden accepted the situation of tutor to the sons of Mr Campbell of Fairfield, whom he accompanied to the university of St Andrews. There he pursued his own researches connected with oriental learning, and in 1799 published a sketch of the Discoveries and Settlements of the Europeans in Northern and Western Africa. He wrote also various copies of verses and translations from the northern and oriental languages, which he published in the Edinburgh Magazine. In 1800 Leyden was ordained for the church. He continued, however, to study and compose, and contributed to Lewis's Tales of Wonder and Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. So ardent was he in assisting the editor of the Minstrelsy, that he on one occasion walked between forty and fifty miles, and back again, for the sole purpose of visiting an old person who possessed an ancient historical ballad. His next publication was a new edition of The Complaynt of Scotland, an ancient work written about 1548, which Leyden enriched with a preliminary dissertation, notes, and a glossary. He also undertook the management, for one year, of the Scots Magazine. His strong desire to visit foreign countries

[ocr errors]

induced his friends to apply to government for some appointment for him connected with the learning and languages of the East. The only situation which they could procure was that of surgeon's assistant; and in five or six months, by incredible labour, Leyden qualified himself, and obtained his diploma. 'The sudden change of his profession,' says Scott, * gave great amusement to some of his friends.' In December 1802, Leyden was summoned to join the Christmas fleet of Indiamen, in consequence of his appointment as assistant-surgeon on the Madras establishment. He finished his poem, The Scenes of Infancy, descriptive of his native vale, and left Scotland for ever. After his arrival at Madras, the health of Leyden gave way, and he was obliged to remove to Prince of Wales Island. He resided there for some time, visiting Sumatra and the Malayan peninsula, and amassing the curious information concerning the language, literature, and descent of the Indo-Chinese tribes, which afterwards enabled him to lay a most valuable dissertation before the Asiatic Society at Calcutta. Leyden quitted Prince of Wales Island, and was appointed a professor in the Bengal college. This was soon exchanged for a more lucrative appointment, namely, that of a judge in Calcutta. His spare time was, as usual, devoted to oriental manuscripts and antiquities. may die in the attempt,' he wrote to a friend, but if I die without surpassing Sir William Jones a hundredfold in oriental learning, let never a tear for me profane the eye of a borderer.' The possibility of an early death in a distant land often crossed the mind of the ambitious student. In his Scenes of Infancy,' he expresses his anticipation of such an event in a passage of great melody and pathos.

I

"

·

The silver moon at midnight cold and still,
Looks, sad and silent, o'er yon western hill;
While large and pale the ghostly structures grow,
Reared on the confines of the world below.
Is that dull sound the hum of Teviot's stream?
Is that blue light the moon's, or tomb-fire's gleam?
By which a mouldering pile is faintly seen,
The old deserted church of Hazeldean,
Where slept my fathers in their natal clay,
Till Teviot's waters rolled their bones away?
Their feeble voices from the stream they raise-
Rash youth! unmindful of thy early days,
Why didst thou quit the peasant's simple lot?
Why didst thou leave the peasant's turf-built cot,
The ancient graves where all thy fathers lie,
And Teviot's stream that long has murmured by?
And we when death so long has closed our eyes,
How wilt thou bid us from the dust arise,
And bear our mouldering bones across the main,
From vales that knew our lives devoid of stain?
Rash youth! beware, thy home-bred virtues save,
And sweetly sleep in thy paternal grave.'

In 1811 Leyden accompanied the governor-general to Java. His spirit of romantic adventure,' says Scott, led him literally to rush upon death; for, with another volunteer who attended the expedition, be threw himself into the surf, in order to be the first Briton of the expedition who should set foot upon Java. When the success of the well-concerted movements of the invaders had given them possession of the town of Batavia, Leyden displayed the same ill-omened precipitation, in his haste to examine a library, or rather a warehouse of books, in which many Indian manuscripts of value were said to be deposited. A library in a Dutch settlement was not, as might have been expected, in the best order; the apartment had not been regularly ventilated, and either from this circumstance, or already affected by the fatal sickness peculiar to Batavia,

61

Leyden, when he left the place, had a fit of shivering, and declared the atmosphere was enough to give any mortal a fever. The presage was too just he took his bed, and died in three days (August 28, 1811), on the eve of the battle which gave Java to the British empire.' The Poetical Remains of Leyden were published in 1819, with a Memoir of his Life, by the Rev. James Morton. Sir John Malcolm and Sir Walter Scott both honoured his memory with notices of his life and genius. The Great Minstrel has also alluded to his untimely death in his Lord of the Isles.'

Scarba's Isle, whose tortured shore
Still rings to Corrievreckin's roar,
And lonely Colonsay;

Scenes sung by him who sings no more,
His bright and brief career is o'er,

And mute his tuneful strains; Quenched is his lamp of varied lore, That loved the light of song to pour: A distant and a deadly shore

Has Leyden's cold remains.

The allusion here is to a ballad by Leyden, entitled The Mermaid, the scene of which is laid at Corrievreckin, and which was published with another, The Cout of Keeldar, in the Border Minstrelsy. His longest poem is his Scenes of Infancy,' descriptive of his native vale of Teviot. His versification is soft and musical; he is an elegant rather than a forcible poet. His ballad strains are greatly superior to his 'Scenes of Infancy.' Sir Walter Scott has praised the opening of 'The Mermaid,' as exhibiting a power of numbers which, for mere melody of sound, has seldom been excelled in English poetry.

Sonnet on Sabbath Morn.

With silent awe I hail the sacred morn,

That scarcely wakes while all the fields are still;
A soothing calm on every breeze is borne,
A graver murmur echoes from the hill,
And softer sings the linnet from the thorn;
The skylark warbles in a tone less shrill.
Hail, light serene! hail, sacred Sabbath morn!
The sky a placid yellow lustre throws;
The gales that lately sighed along the grove
Have hushed their drowsy wings in dead repose;
The hovering rack of clouds forgets to move:
So soft the day when the first morn arose!*

Ode to an Indian Gold Coin. [Written in Cherical, Malabar.]

Slave of the dark and dirty mine!

What vanity has brought thee here? How can I love to see thee shine

So bright, whom I have bought so dear!
The tent-ropes flapping lone I hear
For twilight converse, arm in arm;

The jackal's shriek bursts on mine ear
When mirth and music wont to cheer.
By Cherical's dark wandering streams,

Where cane-tufts shadow all the wild,
Sweet visions haunt my waking dreams

Of Teviot loved while still a child, Of castled rocks stupendous piled By Esk or Eden's classic wave,

Where loves of youth and friendships smiled, Uncursed by thee, vile yellow slave!

* A writer in the Edinburgh Review (1805) considers that Grahame borrowed the opening description in his Sabbath from the above sonnet by Leyden. The images are common to poetry, besides being congenial to Scottish habits and feel|ings.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

As you pass through Jura's sound,
Bend your course by Scarba's shore;
Shun, O shun, the gulf profound,

Where Corrievreckin's surges roar!
If from that unbottomed deep,
With wrinkled form and wreathed train,
O'er the verge of Scarba's steep,

The sea-snake heave his snowy mane,

Unwarp, unwind his oozy coils,

Sea-green sisters of the main, And in the gulf where ocean boils, The unwieldy wallowing monster chain, Softly blow, thou western breeze,

Softly rustle through the sail! Soothe to rest the furrowed seas,

Before my love, sweet western gale!' Thus all to soothe the chieftain's wo,

Far from the maid he loved so dear, The song arose, so soft and slow,

He seemed her parting sigh to hear. The lonely deck he paces o'er,

Impatient for the rising day, And still from Crinan's moonlight shore, He turns his eyes to Colonsay.

The moonbeams crisp the curling surge, That streaks with foam the ocean green; While forward still the rowers urge

Their course, a female form was seen. That sea-maid's form, of pearly light,

Was whiter than the downy spray, And round her bosom, heaving bright, Her glossy yellow ringlets play. Borne on a foamy crested wave,

She reached amain the bounding prow, Then clasping fast the chieftain brave, She, plunging, sought the deep below. Ah! long beside thy feigned bier,

The monks the prayer of death shall say, And long for thee, the fruitless tear,

Shall weep the maid of Colonsay! But downward like a powerless corse,

The eddying waves the chieftain bear; He only heard the moaning hoarse

Of waters murmuring in his ear. The murmurs sink by slow degrees,

No more the waters round him rave; Lulled by the music of the seas,

He lies within a coral cave.

In dreamy mood reclines he long,

Nor dares his tranced eyes unclose, Till, warbling wild, the sea-maid's song Far in the crystal cavern rose.

Soft as that harp's unseen control,

In morning dreams which lovers hear, Whose strains steal sweetly o'er the soul, But never reach the waking ear.

As sunbeams through the tepid air,
When clouds dissolve the dews unseen,
Smile on the flowers that bloom more fair,
And fields that glow with livelier green-

So melting soft the music fell;

It seemed to soothe the fluttering spray'Say, heard'st thou not these wild notes swell Ah! 'tis the song of Colonsay.'

Like one that from a fearful dream Awakes, the morning light to view, And joys to see the purple beam,

Yet fears to find the vision true,

He heard that strain, so wildly sweet,
Which bade his torpid languor fly;
He feared some spell had bound his feet,
And hardly dared his limbs to try.
"This yellow sand, this sparry cave,

Shall bend thy soul to beauty's sway; Can'st thou the maiden of the wave

Compare to her of Colonsay?'

Roused by that voice of silver sound,

From the paved floor he lightly sprung, And glancing wild his eyes around Where the fair nymph her tresses wrung,

No form he saw of mortal mould;

It shone like ocean's snowy foam; Her ringlets waved in living gold,

Her mirror crystal, pearl the comb. Her pearly comb the siren took,

And careless bound her tresses wild; Still o'er the mirror stole her look,

As on the wondering youth she smiled.
Like music from the greenwood tree,

Again she raised the melting lay;
'Fair warrior, wilt thou dwell with me,
And leave the maid of Colonsay?
Fair is the crystal hall for me

With rubies and with emeralds set;
And sweet the music of the sea

Shall sing, when we for love are met. How sweet to dance with gliding feet

Along the level tide so green, Responsive to the cadence sweet

That breathes along the moonlight scene! And soft the music of the main

Rings from the motley tortoise-shell, While moonbeams o'er the watery plain Seem trembling in its fitful swell.

How sweet, when billows heave their head, And shake their snowy crests on high, Serene in Ocean's sapphire-bed

Beneath the tumbling surge to lie; To trace, with tranquil step, the deep, Where pearly drops of frozen dew In concave shells unconscious sleep,

Or shine with lustre, silvery blue! Then all the summer sun, from far,

Pour through the wave a softer ray; While diamonds in a bower of spar,

At eve shall shed a brighter day. Nor stormy wind, nor wintry gale,

That o'er the angry ocean sweep, Shall e'er our coral groves assail,

Calm in the bosom of the deep. Through the green meads beneath the sea,

Enamoured we shall fondly strayThen, gentle warrior, dwell with me,

And leave the maid of Colonsay!' 'Though bright thy locks of glistering gold, Fair maiden of the foamy main ! Thy life-blood is the water cold,

While mine beats high in every vein:

If I, beneath thy sparry cave,

Should in thy snowy arms recline, Inconstant as the restless wave,

My heart would grow as cold as thine.' As cygnet down, proud swelled her breast, Her eye confessed the pearly tear: His hand she to her bosom pressed,

'Is there no heart for rapture here?

These limbs, sprung from the lucid sea,
Does no warm blood their currents fill,
No heart-pulse riot, wild and free,

To joy, to love's delicious thrill?'
'Though all the splendour of the sea
Around thy faultless beauty shine,
That heart, that riots wild and free,
Can hold no sympathy with mine.
These sparkling eyes, so wild and gay,
They swim not in the light of love;
The beauteous maid of Colonsay,

Her eyes are milder than the dove!
Even now, within the lonely isle,

Her eyes are dim with tears for me; And canst thou think that siren smile Can lure my soul to dwell with thee?" An oozy film her limbs o'erspread,

Unfolds in length her scaly train; She tossed in proud disdain her head,

And lashed with webbed fin the main. (Dwell here alone!' the Mermaid cried,

And view far off the sea-nymphs play; The prison-wall, the azure tide,

Shall bar thy steps from Colonsay. Whene'er, like ocean's scaly brood,

I cleave with rapid fin the wave, Far from the daughter of the flood, Conceal thee in this coral cave.

I feel my former soul return,

It kindles at thy cold disdain ; And has a mortal dared to spurn

A daughter of the foamy main !' She fled, around the crystal cave

The rolling waves resume their road; On the broad portal idly rave,

But enter not the nymph's abode.
And many a weary night went by,

As in the lonely cave he lay;
And many a sun rolled through the sky,
And poured its beams on Colonsay.
And oft beneath the silver moon,

He heard afar the Mermaid sing;
And oft to many a meting tune,

The shell-formed lyres of ocean ring. And when the moon went down the sky,

Still rose, in dreams, his native plain, And oft he thought his love was by,

And charmed him with some tender strain:

And heart-sick, oft he waked to weep,

When ceased that voice of silver sound, And thought to plunge him in the deep That walled his crystal cavern round. But still the ring, of ruby red,

Retained its vivid crimson hue, And each despairing accent fled,

To find his gentle love so true. When seven long lonely months were gone, The Mermaid to his cavern came, No more misshapen from the zone, But like a maid of mortal frame.

"O give to me that ruby ring,
That on thy finger glances gay,
And thou shalt hear the Mermaid sing
The song thou lov'st of Colonsay.'
"This ruby ring, of crimson grain,
Shall on thy finger glitter gay,
If thou wilt bear me through the main
Again to visit Colonsay."

Gifford hated his new profession with a perfect hatred. At this time he possessed but one book in the world, and that was a treatise on algebra, of which he had no knowledge; but meeting with Fenning's Introduction, he mastered both works. This was not done,' he states, without difficulty. I had not a farthing on earth, nor a friend to give me one: pen, ink, and paper, therefore (in despite of the flippant remark of Lord Orford), were, for the most part, as completely out of my reach as a crown and sceptre. There was indeed a resource, but the utmost caution and secrecy were necessary in applying it. I beat out pieces of leather as smooth as possible, and wrought my problems on them with a blunted awl: for the rest, my memory was tenacious, and I could multiply and divide by it to a great extent.' He next tried poetry, and some of his 'lamentable doggerel' falling into the hands of Mr Cookesley a benevolent surgeon of Ashburton, that gentleman set about a subscription for purchasing the remainder of the time of his apprenticeship, and enabling him to procure a better education. The scheme was successful; and in little more than two years, Gifford had made such extraordinary application, that he was pronounced fit for the university. The place of Biblical Lecturer was procured for him at Exeter college, and this, with such occasional assistance from the country as Mr Cookesley undertook to provide, was thought sufficient to enable him to live, at least, till he had taken a degree. An accidental circumstance led to Gifford's advancement. He had been accustomed to correspond, on literary subjects, with a person in London, his letters being enclosed in covers, and sent, to save postage, to Lord Grosvenor. One day he inadvertently omitted the direc tion, and his lordship necessarily supposing the letter to be meant for himself, opened and read it. He was struck with the contents, and after seeing WILLIAM GIFFORD, a poet, translator, and critic, the writer and hearing him relate the circumstances afforded a remarkable example of successful appli- of his life, undertook the charge of his present supcation to science and literature under the most un- port and future establishment; and, till this last favourable circumstances. He was born at Ash- could be effected to his wish, invited him to come burton, in Devonshire, in April 1756. His father and reside with him. These,' says the grateful had been a painter and glazier, but both the parents scholar, were not words of course: they were more of the poet died when he was young; and after some than fulfilled in every point. I did go and reside little education, he was, at the age of thirteen, placed with him, and I experienced a warm and cordial on board a coasting vessel by his godfather, a man reception, and a kind and affectionate esteem, that who was supposed to have benefited himself at the has known neither diminution nor interruption from expense of Gifford's parents. It will be easily con- that hour to this, a period of twenty years.' Part ceived,' he says, that my life was a life of hardship. of these, it may be remarked, were spent in attendI was not only "a ship-boy on the high and giddying the earl's eldest son, Lord Belgrave, on a tour mast," but also in the cabin, where every menial of Europe, which must have tended greatly to inoffice fell to my lot: yet if I was restless and discon- form and expand the mind of the scholar. Gifford tented, I can safely say it was not so much on appeared as an author in 1794. His first production account of this, as of my being precluded from all was a satirical poem entitled The Baviad, which possibility of reading; as my master did not possess, was directed against a class of sentimental poetasters nor do I recollect seeing, during the whole time of of that day, usually passing under the collective my abode with him, a single book of any description, appellation of the Della Crusca School, (Mrs Piozzi, except the Coasting Pilot.' Whilst thus pursuing Mrs Robinson, Mr Greathead, Mr Merry, Weston, his life of a cabin boy, Gifford was often seen by the Parsons, &c.), conspicuous for their affectation and fishwomen of his native town running about the bad taste, and their high-flown compliments on one beach in a ragged jacket and trousers. They men- another. There was a specious brilliancy in these tioned this to the people of Ashburton, and never exotics,' he remarks, which dazzled the native without commiserating his change of condition. grubs, who had scarce ever ventured beyond a sheep, This tale, often repeated, awakened at length the pity and a crook, and a rose-tree grove; with an ostenof the auditors, and, as the next step, their resent- tatious display of "blue hills," and "crashing torment against the man who had reduced him to such rents," and "petrifying suns.' Gifford's vigorous a state of wretchedness. His godfather was, on this exposure completely demolished this set of rhymeaccount, induced to recall him from the sea, and put sters, who were probably the spawn of Darwin and him again to school. He made rapid progress, and Lichfield. Anna Matilda, Laura Maria, Edwin, even hoped to succeed his old and infirm school- Orlando, &c., sunk into instant and irretrievable master. In his fifteenth year, however, his god- contempt; and the worst of the number (a man father, conceiving that he had got learning enough, Williams, who assumed the name of Pasquin for his and that his own duty towards him was fairly ' ribald strains') was nonsuited in an action against discharged, put him apprentice to a shoemaker. Gifford's publisher. The satire was universally read

6

'Except thou quit thy former love,
Content to dwell for aye with me,
Thy scorn my finny frame might move
To tear thy limbs amid the sea.'
'Then bear me swift along the main,
The lonely isle again to see,
And when I here return again,

I plight my faith to dwell with thee.'
An oozy film her limbs o'erspread,

While slow unfolds her scaly train; With gluey fangs her hands were clad; She lashed with webbed fin the main. He grasps the Mermaid's scaly sides,

As with broad fin she oars her way;
Beneath the silent moon she glides,

That sweetly sleeps on Colonsay.
Proud swells her heart! she deems at last
To lure him with her silver tongue,
And, as the shelving rocks she passed,

She raised her voice, and sweetly sung.
In softer, sweeter strains she sung,

Slow gliding o'er the moonlight bay, When light to land the chieftain sprung, To hail the maid of Colonsay.

O sad the Mermaid's gay notes fell,
And sadly sink remote at sea!
So sadly mourns the writhed shell

Of Jura's shore, its parent sea.

And ever as the year returns,

The charm-bound sailors know the day;
For sadly still the Mermaid mourns
The lovely chief of Colonsay.

WILLIAM GIFFORD.

ILLIAM

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »