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"Now, gentlemen! now, mind the motion, And dinna, this time, mak a botion: Shouther your arms! O! ha'd them tosh on, And not athraw!
Wheel wi' your left hands to the ocean, And march awa!'
Wi' that, the dinlin drums rebound,
Trudge aff, while Echo's self is drowned
SIR ALEXANDER BOSWELL.
SIR ALEXANDER Boswell (1775-1822), the eldest son of Johnson's biographer, was author of some amusing songs, which are still very popular. Auld Gudeman, ye're a Drucken Carle, Jenny's Bawbee, Jenny Dang the Weaver, &c. display considerable comic humour, and coarse but characteristic painting. The higher qualities of simple rustic grace and elegance he seems never to have attempted. In 1803 Sir Alexander collected his fugitive pieces, and published them under the title of Songs chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. In 1810 he published a Scottish dialogue, in the style of Fergusson, called Edinburgh, or the Ancient Royalty; a Sketch of Manners, by Simon Gray. This Sketch is greatly overcharged. Sir Alexander was an ardent lover of our early literature, and reprinted several works at his private printing-press at Auchinleck. When politics ran high, he unfortunately wrote some personal satires, for one of which he received a challenge from Mr Stuart of Dunearn. The parties met at Auchtertool, in Fifeshire: conscious of his error, Sir Alexander resolved not to fire at his opponent; but Mr Stuart's shot took effect, and the unfortunate baronet fell. He died from the wound on the following day, the 26th of March 1822. He had been elevated to the baronetcy only the year previous.
Jenny Dang the Weaver.
And Jenny dang, Jenny dang,
Wi' her he would be bobbing;
And to her would be gabbing; Where'er she gaed, baith butt and ben, The coof would never leave her; Aye keckling like a clocking hen, But Jenny dang the weaver. Jenny dang, &c.
Quo' he, My lass, to speak my mind, In troth I needna swither;
You've bonny een, and if you're kind,
I'll never seek anither:
He hummed and hawed, the lass cried, Peugh, And bade the coof no deave her;
Syne snapt her fingers, lap and leugh,
And Jenny dang, Jenny dang,
The auld will speak, the young maun hear;
Anither's aye hae heart to feel. So, ere I set, I'll see you shine,
I'll see you triumph ere I fa'; My parting breath shall boast you mineGood night, and joy be wi' you a'.
[The High Street of Edinburgh.]
[From Edinburgh, or the Ancient Royalty."]
Tier upon tier I see the mansions rise,
And draughts of wine their various thoughts inspired.
Yes, mark the street, for youth the great resort,
There, midst the crowd, the jingling hoop is driven;
There, in the dirty current of the strand,
Her prayer is heard; the order quick is sped,
Offspring of Birmingham's creative art,
JAMES HOGG, generally known by his poetical name of "The Ettrick Shepherd,' was perhaps the most creative and imaginative of the uneducated poets. His fancy had a wide range, picturing in its flights scenes of wild aerial magnificence and beauty. His taste was very defective, though he had done much to repair his early want of instruction. His occupation of a shepherd, among solitary hills and glens, must have been favourable to his poetical enthusiasm. He was not, like Burns, thrown into society when young, and forced to combat with misfortune. His destiny was unvaried, until he had arrived at a period when the bent of his genius was fixed for life. Without society during the day, his evening hours were spent in listening to ancient legends and ballads, of which his mother (like Burns's) was a great reciter. This nursery of imagination he has himself beautifully described :—
O list the mystic lore sublime
I learned them in the lonely glen,
A something that's without a name.
Hogg was descended from a family of shepherds, and born, as he alleged (though the point was often disputed) on the 25th January (Burns's birthday), in the year 1772. When a mere child he was put out to service, acting first as a cow-herd, until capable of taking care of a flock of sheep. He had in all about half a year's schooling. When eighteen years of age he entered the service of Mr Laidlaw, Blackhouse. He was then an eager reader of poetry and romances, and he subscribed to a circulating library in Peebles, the miscellaneous contents of which he perused with the utmost avidity. He was a remarkably fine-looking young man, with a profusion of light-brown hair, which he wore coiled up
under his hat or blue bonnet, the envy of all the country maidens. An attack of illness, however, brought on by over-exertion on a hot summer day, completely altered his countenance, and changed the very form of his features. His first literary effort was in song-writing, and in 1801 he published a small volume of pieces. He was introduced to Sir Walter Scott by his master's son, Mr William Laidlaw, and assisted in the collection of old ballads for the Border Minstrelsy. He soon imitated the style of these ancient strains with great felicity, and published another volume of songs and poems under the title of The Mountain Bard. He now embarked in sheep-farming, and took a journey to the island of Harris on a speculation of this kind; but all he had saved as a shepherd, or by his publication, was lost in these attempts. He then repaired to Edinburgh, and endeavoured to subsist by his pen. A collection of songs, The Forest Minstrel, was his first effort: his second was a periodical called The Spy: but it was not till the publication of the Queen's Wake, in 1813, that the shepherd established his reputation as an author. This legendary poem' consists of a collection of tales and ballads supposed to be sung to Mary Queen of Scots by the native bards of Scotland assembled at a royal wake at Holyrood, in order that the fair queen might prove
The wondrous powers of Scottish song. The design was excellent, and the execution so varied and masterly, that Hogg was at once placed among the first of our living poets. The different productions of the native minstrels are strung together by a thread of narrative so gracefully written in many parts, that the reader is surprised equally at the delicacy and the genius of the author. At the conclusion of the poem, Hogg alludes to his illustrious friend Scott, and adverts with some feeling to an advice which Sir Walter had once given him, to abstain from his worship of poetry.
The land was charmed to list his lays;
Blest be his generous heart for aye!
Scott was grieved at this allusion to his friendly counsel, as it was given at a time when no one dreamed of the shepherd possessing the powers that he displayed in the Queen's Wake.' Various works
now proceeded from his pen-Mador of the Moor, a poem in the Spenserian stanza; The Pilgrims of the Sun, in blank verse; The Hunting of Budlewe, The Poetic Mirror, Queen Hynde, Dramatic Tales, &c. Also several novels, as Winter Evening Tales, The Brownie of Bodsbeck, The Three Perils of Man, The Three Perils of Woman, The Confessions of a Sinner, &c. &c. Hogg's prose is very unequal. He had no skill in arranging incidents or delineating character. He is often coarse and extravagant; yet some of his stories have much of the literal truth and happy minute painting of Defoe. The worldly schemes of the shepherd were seldom successful. Though he had failed as a sheep farmer, he ventured again, and took a large farm, Mount Benger, from the Duke of Buccleuch. Here he also was unsuccessful; and his sole support, for the latter years of his life, was the remuneration afforded by his literary labours. He lived in a cottage which he had built at Altrive, on a piece of moorland (seventy acres) presented to him by the Duchess of Buccleuch. His love of angling and field-sports amounted to a passion, and when he could no longer fish or hunt, he declared
his belief that his death was near. In the autumn of 1835 he was attacked with a dropsical complaint; and on the 21st November of that year, after some days of insensibility, he breathed his last as calmly, and with as little pain, as he ever fell asleep in his gray plaid on the hill-side. His death was deeply mourned in the vale of Ettrick, for all rejoiced in his fame; and notwithstanding his personal foibles, the shepherd was generous, kind-hearted, and charitable far beyond his means.
In the activity and versatility of his powers, Hogg resembled Allan Ramsay more than he did Burns. Neither of them had the strength of passion or the grasp of intellect peculiar to Burns; but, on the other hand, their style was more discursive, playful, and fanciful. Burns seldom projects himself, as it were, out of his own feelings and situation, whereas both Ramsay and Hogg are happiest when they soar into the world of fancy or the scenes of antiquity. The Ettrick Shepherd abandoned himself entirely to the genius of old romance and legendary story. He loved, like Spenser, to luxuriate in fairy visions, and to picture scenes of supernatural splendour and beauty, where
The emerald fields are of dazzling glow, And the flowers of everlasting blow.
His' Kilmeny' is one of the finest fairy tales that ever was conceived by poet or painter; and passages in thePilgrims of the Sun' have the same abstract remote beauty and lofty imagination. Burns would have scrupled to commit himself to these aërial phantoms. His visions were more material, and linked to the joys and sorrows of actual existence. Akin to this peculiar feature in Hogg's poetry is the spirit of most of his songs-a wild lyrical flow of fancy, that is sometimes inexpressibly sweet and musical. He wanted art to construct a fable, and taste to give due effect to his imagery and conceptions; but there are few poets who impress us so much with the idea of direct inspiration, and that poetry is indeed an art unteachable and untaught.'
The scarlet hypp and the hindberrye,
Late, late in a gloamin, when all was still,
And in that waik there is a wene,
And in that wene there is a maike
That neither hath flesh, blood, nor bane;
They lifted Kilmeny, they led her away, And she walked in the light of a sunless day; The sky was a dome of crystal bright, The fountain of vision, and fountain of light; The emerald fields were of dazzling glow, And the flowers of everlasting blow. Then deep in the stream her body they laid, That her youth and beauty never might fade; And they smiled on heaven when they saw her lie In the stream of life that wandered by; And she heard a song, she heard it sung, She kend not where, but sae sweetly it rung, It fell on her ear like a dream of the morn.
'O! blest be the day Kilmeny was born! The sun that shines on the world sae bright, A borrowed gleid frae the fountain of light;
And the moon that sleeks the sky sae dun,
Then Kilmeny begged again to see
The friends she had left in her own countrye,
To suck the flowers and drink the spring,
Oh, then the glen was all in motion;
And the merl and the mavis forhooyed their young;
When a month and a day had come and gane,
To the Comet of 1811.
How lovely is this wildered scene,
As twilight from her vaults so blue Steals soft o'er Yarrow's mountains green, To sleep embalmed in midnight dew! All hail, ye hills, whose towering height, Like shadows, scoops the yielding sky! And thou, mysterious guest of night, Dread traveller of immensity!