Imagens das páginas

The great may exclaim, and with fury enclose me;

But fools, or the rabble, shall growl now in vain: Their madness, their malice shall ne'er discompose me,

Since Matty commends and delights in my strain. And kind is the lovely, the charming young creature;

Sweet beauty and innocence smile in her cheek; In raptures I wander, and gaze o'er each feature,

My bosom unable its transports to speak. When lock'd arm in arm we retire from the city,

To stray through the meadow or shadowy grove, How oft do I wake her compassion and pity,

While telling some tale of unfortunate love. Her innocent answers delight me to hear them,

For art or dissembling to her are unknown; And false protestations she knows not to fear them,

But thinks that each heart is as kind as her own.

And lives there a villain, who, born to dissemble,

Would dare an attempt to dishonour her fame; May blackest confusion, surrounding, assemble,

And bury the wretch in distraction and shame. Ye pow'rs! be my task to protect and behold her,

To wander delighted with her all the day; When sadness dejects, in my arms to enfold her,

And kiss, in soft raptures, her sorrows away. But hush! who comes yonder? 'tis Matty, my dearest:

The moon, how it brightens, while she treads the plain! I'll welcome my beautiful nymph, by the nearest,

And pour my whole soul in her bosom again. *

* “ Alexander Wilson, the author of the above song, was born in the town of Paisley, and received the elements of a classical education at a grammar school of his native place. About the

age of ten he had the misfortune to lose his mother; and his father, who was closely engaged in the occupation of a distiller, feeling the necessity of an adjunct in the government of an infant family, again entered into the matrimonial state. Young Wilson's father had designed him for a learned profession; but this intention, how agreeable soever to parental feelings, was not relished by the son, who had imbibed some prejudices, which were the cause of the project being abandoned. The introduction of a stepmother into Mr. Wilson's family, as is too often the case, was productive of unhappiness. The subject of this memoir became the object of aversion, through some unknown cause, to his new guardian; who employed her influence to his disadvantage with such effect, that the poor lad was compelled to forsake his paternal roof, and to seek an asylum under that of his brother-in-law, William Duncan, who resided at Queensferry, on the Frith of Forth. Mr. Duncan was a weaver; and young Wilson, convinced by experience of the necessity of selfexertion, applied himself with diligence to acquire a knowledge of that trade, at-which he continued for several years. At an early period of his life he evinced a strong desire for learning; and the perusal of old magazines and pamphlets, to which he had ready access, was an additional stimulus to further exertion. His mind, it is reasonable to eonjecture, was not a little agitated at the solemn alternative of persecution, or of relinquishing for ever the fostering attentions of a parent, to whom he was most dutitally and affectionately attached ; and he experienced consolation by devoting his leisure hours to reading and writing. Poetry attracted his regard; it was the vehicle of sentiments which were in unison with his sanguine feelings: he had early imbibed a love of virtue ; and it now assumed a romantic cast, by assimilation with the high-wrought efforts of fancy, combined with the melody of song. Mr. Duncan, with a view of bettering his estate, relinquished the occupation of weaving, and became a travelling merchant, or, in common language, a pedlar. In his expeditions, young Wilson, now approaching to manhood, frequently accompanied him; and thus was a foundation laid of a love for travelling, which became a ruling passion with our author during the remainder of his existence. Alexander was now left to shift for himself; and as he was completely initiated in the art of trading, he shouldered his pack, and cheerfully set out in quest of riches. In a mind of a romantic turn, Scotland affords situations abundantly calculated to arouse all those feelings which the sublime and beautiful, in nature inspire. Wilson was a poetical enthusiast; and the bewitching charms of those mountains, valleys, and streams, long since immortalized in song, filled his soul with rapture, and enkindled all the efforts of his youthful muse. From a habit of contemplating the works of Nature, arose an indiffer. ence to the vulgar employment of trading, which became more disgusting at each interview with the muses; and nothing but the dread of poverty induced him to conform to the dull avocations of common life. He occasionally contributed essays to various periodical publications, amongst which we may name the Bee, conducted at Edinburgh by Dr. Anderson. He likewise was in the habit of frequenting the Pantheon at the same place, wherein a society for debate held their meetings. In this assenbly of wits he delivered several poetical discourses, which obtained him considerable applause. In consequence of his literary attainments, and correct moral deportment, he was admitted to the society of several gentlemen of talents and respectability, who descried in our youth the promise of future eminence. Flattered by attentions which are always grateful to the ingenious mind, he was emboldened to the design of collecting and publishing his various poétical attempts; hoping thereby to realize funds sufficient to enable him to persevere in the walks of learning, which, to his glowing fancy, were profusely strewed with flowers. The volume appeared under the title of Poems, Humorous, Satirical, and Serious, by Alexander Wilson.' These poems went through two small octavo editions, the last of which appeared in 1791. The author reaped no benefit from the publication. About this period of his life the town of Paisley was agitated by a misunderstanding between the manufacturers and the weavers; and all the talents of both parties were exerted on the occasion. Young Wilson, attached to his side by the double tie of principle and interest, boldly espoused their cause, and was considered no mean champion in the controversy. Amongst the manufacturers there was one of considerable wealth and influence, who had ris.

en from a low origin by a concurrence of fortunate circumstances, and who had rendered himself greatly obnoxious by his avarice and knavery. Him our poetical weaver arraigned in a galling satire, written in the Scottish dialect, which of all languages is perhaps the most fertile in terms of sarcasm or abuse. This piece was published anonymously; and though Wilson was suspected to be the writer, yet no evidence could be adduced to establish the fact. But unfortunately as he was one night, at a late hour, returning from Mr. Neilson, his printer, some spies, who had been watching his movements, seized upon him; and papers being found in his possession which indicated the author, he was prosecuted for a libel, sentenced to a short imprisonment, and to burn, with his own hands, the piece at the public cross in the town of Paisley. The printer, it is said, was likewise fined for his share in the publication.

“ In the year 1792, Mr. Wilson wrote his characteristic tale entitled • Watty and Meg.' In this little poem the reader is presented with an exquisite picture from low life, drawn with all the fidelity and exactness of Teniers, or Ostade, and enlivened with the humour of Hogarth. The story excites as much intera est as if it had been written in a dramatic form, and really represented. The interest heightens as it proceeds, and is supported with wonderful spirit to the close of the poem. It must have been in no small degree gratifying to the feelings of the author, who published it anonymously, that during a rapid sale of seven or eight editions, the public universally aseribed it to the pen of Burns. The author of · Will and Jean,' had the candour to acknowledge that he was indebted to this exquisite poem for the foundation of that popular performance. Wilson now began to be dissatisfied with his lot. He was poor, and saw no prospect of bettering his condition in his native country; and having heard flattering accounts of America, he conceived the design of forsaking the land of his forefathers, and settling in the United States. With this intention he arranged his affairs; set out for Belfast in Ireland; engaged his passage in the ship Swift, of New York, Captain Steel, bound to Philadelphia; and arrived at Newcastle, in the state of Delaware, on July 14, 1794. “We now behold Alexander Wilson in a strange land; without an acquaintance on whose counsels and - hospitality he could rely in that state of uncertainty, to which, having no specific object in view, he was of course subjected; without a single letter of introduction; and with only a few shillings in his pocket. But every care was forgotten in his transport at finding himself in the land of freedom. He had often cast a wishful look towards the western hemisphere, and his warm fancy had suggested the idea that among that people only who maintained the doctrine of an equality of rights could political justice and happiness be found. He had become indignant at beholding the influence of the wealthy converted into the means of oppression; and had imputed the wrongs and sufferings of the poor, not to the condition of society, but to the nature and constitution of the government. He was now free, and exulted in his release, as a bird rejoices which escapes from the confinement of the cage. Impatient to set his foot on the soil of the New World, he landed at Newcastle; and shouldering his fowling-piece, directed his route towards Philadelphia, distant about 33 miles. In the year 1795 he travelled through the north part of the state of New Jersey, with an acquaintance, in the capacity of a trader, and inet with tolerable

In the month of October, 1804, Mr. Wilson, accompanied by two of his friends, set out on a pedestrian journey to visit the far-famed Cataract of Niagara, whereof he had heard much, but which he never before had an opportunity of beholding. The magnificent scenery of that beautiful river, as might be expected, filled the bosom of our poet with the most rapturous emotions. He gazed upon the cataract with an enthusiasm bordering on distraction; and ever after declared that no language was sufficiently comprehensive to convey an adequate idea of that wonderful curiosity. It is possible, by the force of description of a work of art, or common scene of nature, to raise the fancy to such a degree that the reality comes short of expectation. But of the Falls of Niagara it may with truth be observed that the utmost stretch of the imagination falls infinitely short of pourtraying the terrific sublimity of the mighty torrent. On the return of Mr. Wilson, he employed his leisure moments in writing a poetical narrative of the journey, entitled “The Forresters.' This expedition was under. taken rather too late in the season, and consequently our travel


« AnteriorContinuar »