« AnteriorContinuar »
No more the smiling day shall view,
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!
[4 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;
And watch the wave that winds away;
SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE.
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.'
Light of the world, Immortal Mind;
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 rore, 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,
DR THOMAS PERCY.
How blest my days, my thoughts how free,
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, • 0, 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
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
O weep not, lady, weep not so,
Some ghostly comfort seek:
Nor tears bedew thy cheek.'
My sorrow now reprove;
That e'er won lady's love.
I'll evermore weep and sigh ; For thee I only wished to live,
For thee I wish to die.'
Thy sorrow is in vain :
Will ne'er make grow again.
Why then should sorrow last! Since grief but aggravates thy loss,
Grieve not for what is past.' O say not so, thou holy friar ! pray
thee say not so; For since my true love died for me,
"Tis mcet my tears should flow. And will he never come again
Will he ne'er come again?
For ever to remain.
The comeliest youth was he;
Alas! and wo is me.'
Men were deceivers ever;
To one thing constant never.
And left thee sad and heavy;
Since summer trees were leafy.'
I pray thee say not so;
O he was ever true!
And didst thou die for me?
A pilgrim I will be.
My weary limbs I'll lay,
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, I pray;
0, Nanny, wilt Thou Gang wi' Me. 0, 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 ? 0, 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,
Clad in a pilgrim's weeds.
I pray thee tell to me,
My true love thou didst sce.' * And how should I know your true love
From many another one?
And by his sandal shoon:
That were so fair to view,
And eyes of lovely blue.'
Lady, he's dead and gone!
And at his heels a stone. Within these holy cloisters long
He languished, and he died,
And 'plaining of her pride.
Six proper youths and tall;
Within yon kirkyard wall.'
And art thou dead and gone? And didst thou die for love of me?
Break, cruel heart of stone!'
These holy weeds I sought;
But haply, for my year of grace
ments of his countrymen to listen to the tales and Is not yet passed away,
compositions of their ancient bards, and he deMight I still hope to win thy love,
scribed these fragments as full of pathos and poeNo longer would I stay.'
tical imagery. Under the patronage of Mr Home's Now farewell grief, and welcome joy
friends-Blair, Carlyle, and Fergusson-MacpherOnce more unto my heart;
son published a small volume of sixty pages, enFor since I've found thee, lovely youth,
titled Fragments of Ancient Poetry; translated from We never more will part.'
the Gaelic or Erse Language. The publication attracted universal attention, and a subscription was
made to enable Macpherson to make a tour in the JAMES MACPHERSON.
Highlands to collect other pieces. His journey The translator of Ossian stands in rather a proved to be highly successful. In 1762 he predubious light with posterity, and seems to have sented the world with Fingal, an Ancient Epic Poem, been willing that his contemporaries should be no in Six Books; and in 1763 T'emora, 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. He 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 James Macpherson.
Junius, writing under the signatures of 'Musæus,' better informed. With the Celtic Homer, however, Scævola,' &c. He was appointed agent for the the name of Macpherson is inseparably connected. Nabob of Arcot, and obtained a seat in parliament They stand, as liberty does with reason,
as representative for the borough of Camelford. It
does not appear, however, that, with all his ambiTwinned, and from her hath no dividual being.
tion and political zeal, Macpherson ever attempted Time and a better taste have abated the pleasure to speak in the House of Commons. In 1789 the with which these productions were once read; but poet, having realised a handsome fortune, purchased poems which engrossed so much attention, which the property of Raitts, in his native parish, and were translated into many different languages, which having changed its name to the more euphonious were hailed with delight by Gray, by David Hume, and sounding one of Belleville, he built upon it a John Home, and other eminent persons, and which splendid residence, designed by the Adelphi Adams, formed the favourite reading of Napoleon, cannot in the style of an Italian villa, in which he hoped be considered as unworthy of notice.
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 bis 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 wh he represented as the trans- taining a medallion trait 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 The fierce controversy which raged for some time
as to the authenticity of the poems of Ossian, the thing poetical and striking in Ossian-a wild soliincredulity of Johnson, and the obstinate silence of tary magnificence, pathos, and tenderness—is unMacpherson, are circumstances well known. There deniable. The Desolation of Balclutba, and the seems to be no doubt that a great body of tradi- lamentations in the Song of Selma, are conceived tional poetry was floating over the Highlands, which with true feeling and poetical power. The battles of Macpherson collected and wrought up into regular the car-borne heroes are, we confess, much less to our poems. It would seem also that Gaelic manuscripts taste, and seem stilted and unnatural. They are were in existence, which he received from different like the Quixotic encounters of knightly romance, families to aid in his translation. How much of the and want the air of remote antiquity, of dim and published work is ancient, and how much fabricated, solitary grandeur, and of shadowy superstitious fear, cannot now be ascertained. The Highland Society which shrouds the wild heaths, lakes, and mountains instituted a regular inquiry into the subject; and in of Ossian. their report, the committee state that they have not been able to obtain any one poem the same in title
[Ossian's Address to the Sun.] and tenor with the poems published.' Detached passages, the names of characters and places, with I feel the sun, O Malvina ! leave me to my rest. some of the wild imagery characteristic of the Perhaps they may come to my dreams; I think I country, and of the attributes of Celtic imagination, hear a feeble voice! The beam of heaven delights to undoubtedly existed. The ancient tribes of the shine on the grave of Carthon: I feel it warm around. Celts had their regular bards, even down to a com- O thou that rollest above, round as the shield of paratively late period. A people like the natives of my fathers! Whence are thy beams, O sun! thy the Highlands, leading an idle inactive life, and everlasting light? Thou comest forth in thy awful doomed from their climate to a severe protracted beauty; the stars hide themselves in the sky; the winter, were also well adapted to transmit from one moon, cold and pale, sinks in the western wave; but generation to another the fragments of ancient song thou thyself movest alone. Who can be a companion which had beguiled their infancy and youth, and of thy course? The oaks of the mountains fall; the which flattered their love of their ancestors. No mountains themselves decay with years; the ocean person, however, now believes that Macpherson shrinks and grows again; the moon herself is lost in found entire epic poems in the Highlands. The heaven, but thou art for ever the same, rejoicing in origin materials were probably as scanty as those on the brightness of thy course. When the world is dark which Shakspeare founded the marvellous super- with tempests, when thunder rolls and lightning flies, structures of his genius; and he himself has not thou lookest in thy beauty from the clouds, and scrupled to state (in the preface to his last edition laughest at the storin. But to Ossian thou lookest in of Ossian) that .a translator who cannot equal his vain, for he beholds thy beams no more; whether thy original is incapable of expressing its beauties.' Sir yellow hair flows on the eastern clouds, or thou tremJames Mackintosh has suggested, as a supposition blest at the gates of the west. But thou art perhaps countenanced by many circumstances, that, after like me for a season; thy years will have an end. enjoying the pleasure of duping so many critics, Thou shalt sleep in thy clouds careless of the voice of Macpherson intended one day to claim the poems as
the morning. Exult then, O sun, in the strength of his own. 'If he had such a design, considerable thy youth! Age is dark and unlovely; it is like the obstacles to its execution arose around him. He was glimmering light of the moon when it shines through loaded with so much praise, that he seemed bound in broken clouds, and the mist is on the hills: the blast honour to his admirers not to desert them. The of the north is on the plain; the traveller shrinks in support of his own country appeared to render the midst of his journey. adherence to those poems, which Scotland incon. siderately sanctioned, a sort of national obligation.
[Fingal's Airy Hall.] Exasperated, on the other hand, by the perhaps unduly vehement, and sometimes very coarse attacks
His friends sit around the king, on mist! They made on him, he was unwilling to surrender to such / hear the songs of Ullin: he strikes the half-viewless opponents. He involved himself at last so deeply, harp. He raises the feeble voice. The lesser heroes, as to leave him no decent retreat. A somewhat with a thousand meteors, light the airy hall. Malvina sudden and premature death closed the scene on rises in the midst ; a blush is on her cheek. She
beholds the unknown faces of her fathers. She turns Macpherson ; nor is there among the papers which aside her humid eyes. • Art thou come so soon !' said he left behind him a single line that throws any light Fingal, • daughter of generous Toscar. Sadness dwells upon the controversy. Mr Wordsworth has condemned the imagery of the breeze of Cona, that was wont to lift thy heavy
in the halls of Lutha. My aged son is sad! I hear Ossian as spurious. 'In nature everything is dis- locks. It comes to the hall, but thou art not there. tinct, yet nothing defined into absolute independent Its voice is mournful among the arms of thy fathers ! singleness. In Macpherson's work it is exactly the Go, with thy rustling wing, oh breeze! sigh on Malreverse; everything (that is not stolen) is in this vina's tomb. It rises yonder beneath the rock, at the manner defined, insulated, dislocated, deadenedyet nothing distinct. It will always be so when their place. Thou alone, oh breeze, mournest there !!
blue stream of Lutha. The maids are departed to words are substituted for things.' Part of this censure may perhaps be owing to the style and diction of Macpherson, which have a broken abrupt appear
[Address to the Moon.] ance and sound. The imagery is drawn from the Daughter of heaven, fair art thou ! the silence of natural appearances of a rude mountainous coun- thy face is pleasant! Thou comest forth in loveliness. try. The grass of the rock, the flower of the heath, The stars attend thy blue course in the east. The the thistle with its beard, are (as Blair observes) clouds rejoice in thy presence, O moon! they brighten the chief ornaments of his landscapes. The desert, their dark-brown sides. Who is like thee in heaven, with all its woods and deer, was enough for Fin light of the silent night? The stars are ashamed in gal. We suspect it is the sameness---the perpetual thy presence. They turn away their sparkling eyes. recurrence of the same images--which fatigues the Whither dost thou retire from thy course, when the reader, and gives a misty confusion to the objects darkness of thy countenance grows ? hast thou thy and incidents of the poem. That there is some- hall, like Ossian? dwellest thou in the shadow of