Page images

in painting the rural life of England in true colours. His picture of the gipsies, and his sketches of venal clerks and rapacious overseers, are genuine likenesses. He has not the raciness or the distinctness of Crabbe, but is equally faithful, and as sincerely a friend to humanity. He pleads warmly for the poor vagrant tribe :

Still mark if vice or nature prompts the deed;
Still mark the strong temptation and the need:
On pressing want, on famine's powerful call,
At least more lenient let thy justice fall.
For him who, lost to every hope of life,
Has long with Fortune held unequal strife,
Known to no human love, no human care,
The friendless homeless object of despair;
For the poor vagrant feel, while he complains,
Nor from sad freedom send to sadder chains.
Alike if folly or misfortune brought

Those last of woes his evil days have wrought;
Believe with social mercy and with me,
Folly 's misfortune in the first degree.

Perhaps on some inhospitable shore

The houseless wretch a widowed parent bore;
Who then, no more by golden prospects led,
Of the poor Indian begged a leafy bed.
Cold on Canadian hills or Minden's plain,
Perhaps that parent mourned her soldier slain;
Bent o'er her babe, her eye dissolved in dew,
The big drops mingling with the milk he drew,
Gave the sad presage of his future years,
The child of misery, baptised in tears.

This allusion to the dead soldier and his widow on the field of battle was made the subject of a print by Bunbury, under which were engraved the pathetic lines of Langhorne. Sir Walter Scott has mentioned, that the only time he saw Burns, the Scottish poet, this picture was in the room. Burns shed tears over it; and Scott, then a lad of fifteen, was the only person present who could tell him. where the lines were to be found. The passage is beautiful in itself, but this incident will embalm and preserve it for ever.

When the poor hind, with length of years decayed,
Leans feebly on his once-subduing spade,
Forgot the service of his abler days,
His profitable toil, and honest praise,
Shall this low wretch abridge his scanty bread,
This slave, whose board his former labours spread?
When harvest's burning suns and sickening air
From labour's unbraced hand the grasped hook tear,
Where shall the helpless family be fed,

That vainly languish for a father's bread?
See the pale mother, sunk with grief and care,
To the proud farmer fearfully repair;
Soon to be sent with insolence away,
Referred to vestries, and a distant day!
Referred to perish! Is my verse severe ?
Unfriendly to the human character?
Ah! to this sigh of sad experience trust:
The truth is rigid, but the tale is just.

If in thy courts this caitiff wretch appear,
Think not that patience were a virtue here.
His low-born pride with honest rage control;
Smite his hard heart, and shake his reptile soul.

But, hapless! oft through fear of future wo,
And certain vengeance of the insulting foe;
Oft, ere to thee the poor prefer their prayer,
The last extremes of penury they bear.

Wouldst thou then raise thy patriot office higher
To something more than magistrate aspire!
And, left each poorer, pettier chase behind,
Step nobly forth, the friend of human kind!
The game I start courageously pursue!
Adieu to fear! to insolence adieu!

And first we'll range this mountain's stormy side,
As meet no more the wintry blast to bear,
Where the rude winds the shepherd's roof deride,
And all the wild hostilities of air.
That roof have I remembered many a year;
It once gave refuge to a hunted deer-
Here, in those days, we found an aged pair;
But time untenants-ha! what seest thou there!
'Horror!-by Heaven, extended on a bed
of naked fern, two human creatures dead!
Embracing as alive!-ah, no !—no life!
Cold, breathless!'

'Tis the shepherd and his wife.

[Appeal to Country Justices in Behalf of the Rural I knew the scene, and brought thee to behold


Let age no longer toil with feeble strife,
Worn by long service in the war of life;

Nor leave the head, that time hath whitened, bare
To the rude insults of the searching air;
Nor bid the knee, by labour hardened, bend,

O thou, the poor man's hope, the poor man's friend!
If, when from heaven severer seasons fall,
Fled from the frozen roof and mouldering wall,
Each face the picture of a winter day,
More strong than Teniers' pencil could portray;
If then to thee resort the shivering train,
Of cruel days, and cruel man complain,
Say to thy heart (remembering him who said),
"These people come from far, and have no bread.'
Nor leave thy venal clerk empowered to hear;
The voice of want is sacred to thy ear.
He where no fees his sordid pen invite,
Sports with their tears, too indolent to write;
Like the fed monkey in the fable, vain
To hear more helpless animals complain.

But chief thy notice shall one monster claim;
A monster furnished with a human frame-
The parish-officer!-though verse disdain
Terms that deform the splendour of the strain,
It stoops to bid thee bend the brow severe
On the sly, pilfering, cruel overseer;
The shuffling farmer, faithful to no trust,
Ruthless as rocks, insatiate as the dust!

What speaks more strongly than the story toldThey died through want

'By every power I swear,

If the wretch treads the earth, or breathes the air,
Through whose default of duty, or design,
These victims fell, he dies.'

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

[An Advice to the Married.]

Should erring nature casual faults disclose,
Wound not the breast that harbours your repose;
For every grief that breast from you shall prove,
Is one link broken in the chain of love.
Soon, with their objects, other woes are past,
But pains from those we love are pains that last.
Though faults or follies from reproach may fly,
Yet in its shade the tender passions die.

Love, like the flower that courts the sun's kind ray,
Will flourish only in the smiles of day;
Distrust's cold air the generous plant annoys,
And one chill blight of dire contempt destroys.
Oh shun, my friend, avoid that dangerous coast,
Where peace expires, and fair affection's lost;
By wit, by grief, by anger urged, forbear
The speech contemptuous and the scornful air.

The Dead.

Of them, who wrapt in earth are cold, No more the smiling day shall view, Should many a tender tale be told,

For many a tender thought is due.


Why else the o'ergrown paths of time,
Would thus the lettered sage explore,
With pain these crumbling ruins climb,
And on the doubtful sculpture pore?
Why seeks he with unwearied toil,

Through Death's dim walks to urge his way,
Reclaim his long asserted spoil,

And lead Oblivion into day?

'Tis nature prompts by toil or fear,

Unmoved to range through Death's domain; The tender parent loves to hear

Her children's story told again!

Eternal Providence.

Light of the world, Immortal Mind;
Father of all the human kind!
Whose boundless eye that knows no rest,
Intent on nature's ample breast,
Explores the space of earth and skies,
And sees eternal incense rise!
To thee my humble voice I raise;
Forgive, while I presume to praise.

Though thou this transient being gave,
That shortly sinks into the
Yet 'twas thy goodness still to give
A being that can think and live;
In all thy works thy wisdom see,
And stretch its towering mind to thee.
To thee my humble voice I raise;
Forgive, while I presume to praise.

And still this poor contracted span,
This life, that bears the name of man,
From thee derives its vital ray,
Eternal source of life and day!
Thy bounty still the sunshine pours,
That gilds its morn and evening hours.
To thee my humble voice I raise;
Forgive, while I presume to praise.

Through error's maze, through folly's night,
The lamp of reason lends me light;
Where stern affliction waves her rod,
My heart confides in thee, my God!
When nature shrinks, oppressed with woes,
Even then she finds in thee repose.
To thee my humble voice I raise;
Forgive, while I presume to praise.

Affliction flies, and Hope returns;
Her lamp with brighter splendour burns;
Gay Love with all his smiling train,
And Peace and Joy are here again;
These, these, I know, 'twas thine to give;
I trusted; and, behold, I live!
To thee my humble voice I raise;
Forgive, while I presume to praise.
O may I still thy favour prove!
Still grant me gratitude and love.
Let truth and virtue guard my heart;
Nor peace, nor hope, nor joy depart:
But yet, whate'er my life may be,
My heart shall still repose on thee!
To thee my humble voice I raise;
Forgive, while I presume to praise.

TO 1780.

[A Farewell Hymn to the Valley of Irwan.]
Farewell the fields of Irwan's vale,

My infant years where Fancy led,
And soothed me with the western gale,

Her wild dreams waving round my head, While the blithe blackbird told his tale. Farewell the fields of Irwan's vale!

The primrose on the valley's side,
The green thyme on the mountain's head,
The wanton rose, the daisy pied,

The wilding's blossom blushing red;
No longer I their sweets inhale.
Farewell the fields of Irwan's vale!

How oft, within yon vacant shade,

Has evening closed my careless eye! How oft, along those banks I've strayed,

And watched the wave that wandered by;
Full long their loss shall I bewail.
Farewell the fields of Irwan's vale!

Yet still, within yon vacant grove,
To mark the close of parting day;
Along yon flowery banks to rove,

And watch the wave that winds away;
Fair Fancy sure shall never fail,
Though far from these and Irwan's vale.


Few votaries of the muses have had the resolution to abandon their early worship, or to cast off the Dalilahs of the imagination,' when embarked on more gainful callings. An example of this, however, is afforded by the case of SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE (born in London in 1723, died 1780), who, having made choice of the law for his profession, and entered himself a student of the Middle Temple, took formal leave of poetry in a copy of natural and pleasing verses, published in Dodsley's Miscellany. Blackstone rose to rank and fame as a lawyer, wrote a series of masterly commentaries on the laws of England, was knighted, and died a judge in the court of common pleas. From some critical notes on Shakspeare by Sir William, published by Stevens, it would appear that, though he had forsaken his muse, he still (like Charles Lamb, when he had given up the use of the great plant,' tobacco) 'loved to live in the suburbs of her graces.'

[ocr errors]

The Lawyer's Farewell to his Muse.
As, by some tyrant's stern command,
A wretch forsakes his native land,
In foreign climes condemned to roam
An endless exile from his home;
Pensive he treads the destined way,
And dreads to go; nor dares to stay;
Till on some neighbouring mountain's brow
He stops, and turns his eyes below;
There, melting at the well-known view,
Drops a last tear, and bids adieu :
So I, thus doomed from thee to part,
Gay queen of fancy and of art,
Reluctant move, with doubtful mind,
Oft stop, and often look behind.
Companion of my tender age,
Serenely gay, and sweetly sage,
How blithesome we were wont to rove,
By verdant hill or shady grove,

Where fervent bees, with humming voice,
Around the honied oak rejoice,
And aged elms with awful bend,
In long cathedral walks extend!
Lulled by the lapse of gliding floods,
Cheered by the warbling of the woods,

[ocr errors]

How blest my days, my thoughts how free,
In sweet society with thee!
Then all was joyous, all was young,
And years unheeded rolled along:
But now the pleasing dream is o'er,

These scenes must charm me now no more;
Lost to the fields, and torn from you-
Farewell!-a long, a last adieu.

Me wrangling courts, and stubborn law,
To smoke, and crowds, and cities draw:
There selfish faction rules the day,
And pride and avarice throng the way;
Diseases taint the murky air,
And midnight conflagrations glare;
Loose Revelry, and Riot bold,

In frighted streets their orgies hold;
Or, where in silence all is drowned,
Fell Murder walks his lonely round;
No room for peace, no room for you;
Adieu, celestial nymph, adieu!
Shakspeare, no more thy sylvan son,
Nor all the art of Addison,

Pope's heaven-strung lyre, nor Waller's ease,
Nor Milton's mighty self must please:
Instead of these, a formal band
In furs and coifs around me stand;
With sounds uncouth and accents dry,
That grate the soul of harmony,
Each pedant sage unlocks his store
Of mystic, dark, discordant lore,
And points with tottering hand the ways
That lead me to the thorny maze.
There, in a winding close retreat,
Is justice doomed to fix her seat;
There, fenced by bulwarks of the law,
She keeps the wondering world in awe;
And there, from vulgar sight retired,
Like eastern queen, is more admired.
Oh let me pierce the secret shade
Where dwells the venerable maid!
There humbly mark, with reverent awe,
The guardian of Britannia's law;
Unfold with joy her sacred page,
The united boast of many an age;
Where mixed, yet uniform, appears
The wisdom of a thousand years.
In that pure spring the bottom view,
Clear, deep, and regularly true;
And other doctrines thence imbibe
Than lurk within the sordid scribe;
Observe how parts with parts unite
In one harmonious rule of right;
See countless wheels distinctly tend
By various laws to one great end;
While mighty Alfred's piercing soul
Pervades, and regulates the whole.
Then welcome business, welcome strife,
Welcome the cares, the thorns of life,
The visage wan, the pore-blind sight,
The toil by day, the lamp at night,
The tedious forms, the solemn prate,
The pert dispute, the dull debate,
The drowsy bench, the babbling hall,
For thee, fair Justice, welcome all!
Thus though my noon of life be past,
Yet let my setting sun, at last,
Find out the still, the rural cell,
Where sage retirement loves to dwell!
There let me taste the homefelt bliss
Of innocence and inward peace;
Untainted by the guilty bribe,
Uncursed amid the harpy tribe;
No orphan's cry to wound my ear;
My honour and my conscience clear.
Thus may I calmly meet my end,
Thus to the grave in peace descend.


DR THOMAS PERCY, afterwards bishop of Dromore, in 1765 published his Reliques of English Poetry, in which several excellent old songs and ballads were revived, and a selection made of the best lyrical pieces scattered through the works of modern authors. The learning and ability with which Percy executed his task, and the sterling value of his materials, recommended his volumes to public favour. They found their way into the hands of poets and poetical readers, and awakened a love of nature, simplicity, and true passion, in contradistinction to that coldly-correct and sentimental style which pervaded part of our literature. The influence of Percy's collection was general and extensive. It is evident in many contemporary authors. It gave the first impulse to the genius of Sir Walter Scott; and it may be seen in the writings of Coleridge and Wordsworth. A fresh fountain of poetry was opened up-a spring of sweet, tender, and heroic thoughts and imaginations, which could never be again turned back into the artificial channels in which the genius of poesy had been too long and too closely confined. Percy was himself a poet. His ballad, O, Nanny, wilt Thou Gang wi' Me,' the Hermit of Warkworth,' and other detached pieces, evince both taste and talent. We subjoin a cento, The Friar of Orders Gray,' which Percy says he compiled from fragments of ancient ballads, to which he added supplemental stanzas to connect them together. The greater part, however, is his own. The life of Dr Percy presents little for remark. He was born at Bridgnorth, Shropshire, in 1728, and, after his education at Oxford, entered the church, in which he was successively chaplain to the king, dean of Carlisle, and bishop of Dromore: the

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

O, Nanny, wilt Thou Gang wi' Me.

O, Nanny, wilt thou gang wi' me,
Nor sigh to leave the flaunting town?
Can silent glens have charms for thee,
The lowly cot and russet gown?
Nae langer drest in silken sheen,

Nae langer decked wi' jewels rare,
Say, canst thou quit each courtly scene,
Where thou wert fairest of the fair?

O, Nanny, when thou'rt far awa,

Wilt thou not cast a look behind? Say, canst thou face the flaky snaw,

Nor shrink before the winter wind? O can that soft and gentle mien

Severest hardships learn to bear, Nor, sad, regret each courtly scene, Where thou wert fairest of the fair?

O Nanny, canst thou love so true,

Through perils keen wi' me to gae? Or, when thy swain mishap shall rue, To share with him the pang of wae? Say, should disease or pain befall,

Wilt thou assume the nurse's care, Nor, wishful, those gay scenes recall, Where thou wert fairest of the fair? And when at last thy love shall die,

Wilt thou receive his parting breath? Wilt thou repress each struggling sigh,

And cheer with smiles the bed of death? And wilt thou o'er his much-loved clay Strew flowers, and drop the tender tear? Nor then regret those scenes so gay,

Where thou wert fairest of the fair?

The Friar of Orders Gray.

It was a friar of orders gray

Walked forth to tell his beads, And he met with a lady fair,

Clad in a pilgrim's weeds.

Now Christ thee save, thou reverend friar !

I pray thee tell to me,

If ever at yon holy shrine

My true love thou didst see.'

And how should I know your true love

From many another one?'
Oh! by his cockle hat and staff,
And by his sandal shoon:

But chiefly by his face and mien,
That were so fair to view,

His flaxen locks that sweetly curled,
And eyes of lovely blue.'

'O lady, he is dead and gone!
Lady, he's dead and gone!
At his head a green grass turf,
And at his heels a stone.
Within these holy cloisters long
He languished, and he died,
Lamenting of a lady's love,

And 'plaining of her pride.
Here bore him barefaced on his bier
Six proper youths and tall;
And many a tear bedewed his grave
Within yon kirkyard wall.'

'And art thou dead, thou gentle youth-
And art thou dead and gone?
And didst thou die for love of me?
Break, cruel heart of stone!'

'O weep not, lady, weep not so,

Some ghostly comfort seek:
Let not vain sorrow rive thy heart,
Nor tears bedew thy cheek.'
"O do not, do not, holy friar,
My sorrow now reprove;
For I have lost the sweetest youth
That e'er won lady's love.

And now, alas! for thy sad loss

I'll evermore weep and sigh; For thee I only wished to live, For thee I wish to die.'

'Weep no more, lady, weep no more; Thy sorrow is in vain:

For violets plucked, the sweetest shower
Will ne'er make grow again.

Our joys as winged dreams do fly;
Why then should sorrow last?
Since grief but aggravates thy loss,
Grieve not for what is past.'

'O say not so, thou holy friar!
I pray thee say not so;
For since my true love died for me,
'Tis meet my tears should flow.
And will he never come again-

Will he ne'er come again?

Ah, no! he is dead, and laid in his grave,
For ever to remain.

His cheek was redder than the rose-
The comeliest youth was he;

But he is dead and laid in his grave,
Alas! and wo is me.'

'Sigh no more, lady, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot on sea, and one on land,
To one thing constant never.

Hadst thou been fond, he had been false,
And left thee sad and heavy;

For young men ever were fickle found,
Since summer trees were leafy.'

'Now say not so, thou holy friar,

I pray thee say not so;

My love he had the truest heart

O he was ever true!

And art thou dead, thou much-loved youth? And didst thou die for me?

Then farewell home; for evermore

A pilgrim I will be.

But first upon my true love's grave

My weary limbs I'll lay,

And thrice I'll kiss the green grass turf

That wraps his breathless clay.'

'Yet stay, fair lady, rest a while Beneath this cloister wall;

The cold wind through the hawthorn blows,

And drizzly rain doth fall.'

'O stay me not, thou holy friar,

O stay me not, I pray;
No drizzly rain that falls on me,
Can wash my fault away.'

'Yet stay, fair lady, turn again,

And dry those pearly tears;
For see, beneath this gown of gray,
Thy own true love appears.

Here, forced by grief and hopeless love,
These holy weeds I sought;
And here, amid these lonely walls,

To end my days I thought.


ments of his countrymen to listen to the tales and compositions of their ancient bards, and he described these fragments as full of pathos and poetical imagery. Under the patronage of Mr Home's friends-Blair, Carlyle, and Fergusson-Macpherson published a small volume of sixty pages, entitled Fragments of Ancient Poetry; translated from the Gaelic or Erse Language. The publication attracted universal attention, and a subscription was made to enable Macpherson to make a tour in the Highlands to collect other pieces. His journey proved to be highly successful. In 1762 he presented the world with Fingal, an Ancient Epic Poem, in Six Books; and in 1763 Temora, another epic poem, in eight books. The sale of these works was immense. The possibility that, in the third or fourth century, among the wild remote mountains of Scotland, there existed a people exhibiting all the high and chivalrous feelings of refined valour, generosity, magnanimity, and virtue, was eminently calculated to excite astonishment; while the idea of the poems being handed down by tradition through so many centuries among rude, savage, and barbarous tribes, was no less astounding. Many doubted -others disbelieved-but a still greater number 'indulged the pleasing supposition that Fingal fought and Ossian sung.' Macpherson realised £1200, it is said, by these productions. In 1764 the poet accompanied Governor Johnston to Pensacola as his secretary, but quarrelling with his patron, he returned, and fixed his residence in London. He became one of the literary supporters of the administration, published some historical works, and was a copious pamphleteer. In 1773 he published a translation of the Iliad in the same style of poetical prose as Ossian, which was a complete failure, unless as a source of ridicule and personal opprobrium to the translator. was more successful as a politician. A pamphlet of his in defence of the taxation of America, and another on the opposition in parliament in 1779, were much applauded. He attempted (as we have seen from his manuscripts) to combat the Letters of Junius, writing under the signatures of Musæus,' 'Scævola,' &c. He was appointed agent for the Nabob of Arcot, and obtained a seat in parliament as representative for the borough of Camelford. It does not appear, however, that, with all his ambition and political zeal, Macpherson ever attempted to speak in the House of Commons. In 1789 the poet, having realised a handsome fortune, purchased the property of Raitts, in his native parish, and having changed its name to the more euphonious and sounding one of Belleville, he built upon it a splendid residence, designed by the Adelphi Adams, in the style of an Italian villa, in which he hoped to spend an old age of ease and dignity. He died at JAMES MACPHERSON was born at Kingussie, a Belleville on the 17th of February 1796, leaving a village in Inverness-shire, on the road northwards handsome fortune, which is still enjoyed by his fa from Perth, in 1738. He was intended for the mily. His eldest daughter, Miss Macpherson, is at church, and received the necessary education at present (1842) proprietrix of the estate, and another Aberdeen. At the age of twenty, he published a daughter of the poet is the wife of the distinguished heroic poem, in six cantos, entitled The Highlander, natural philosopher, Sir David Brewster. The eagerwhich at once proved his ambition and his incapa- ness of Macpherson for the admiration of his fellowcity. It is a miserable production. For a short creatures was seen by some of the bequests of his time Macpherson taught the school of Ruthven, will. He ordered that his body should be interred near his native place, whence he was glad to remove in Westminster Abbey, and that a sum of £300 as tutor in the family of Mr Graham of Balgowan. should be laid out in erecting a monument to his While attending his pupil (afterwards Lord Lyne- memory in some conspicuous situation at Belleville. doch) at the spa of Moffat, he became acquainted Both injunctions were duly fulfilled: the body was with Mr John Home, the author of Douglas,' to interred in Poets' Corner, and a marble obelisk, conwhom he showed what he represented as the trans-taining a medallion portrait of the poet, may be seen lations of some fragments of ancient Gaelic poetry, gleaming amidst a clump of trees by the road-side which he said were still floating in the Highlands. near Kingussie. He stated that it was one of the favourite amuse

[ocr errors]


The fierce controversy which raged for some time

« PreviousContinue »