Obrazy na stronie

Helen of Kirkconnel.

[Helen Irving, a young lady of exquisite beauty and accomplishments, daughter of the Laird of Kirkconnel, in Annandale, was betrothed to Adam Fleming de Kirkpatrick, a young gentleman of rank and fortune in that neighbourhood. Walking with her lover on the sweet banks of the Kirtle, she was murdered by a disappointed and sanguinary rival. This catastrophe took place during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots, and is the subject of three different ballads: the first two are old, the third is the composition of the author of the Siller Gun. It was first inserted in the Edinburgh Annual Register (1815) by Sir Walter Scott.]

I wish I were where Helen lies,
For, night and day, on me she cries;
And, like an angel, to the skies
Still seems to beckon me !
For me she lived, for me she sighed,
For me she wished to be a bride;
For me in life's sweet morn she died
On fair Kirkconnel-Lee ||

Where Kirtle-waters gently wind,
As Helen on my arm reclined,
A rival with a ruthless mind,
Took deadly aim at me:
My love, to disappoint the foe,
Rushed in between me and the blow;
And now her corse is lying low
On fair Kirkconnel-Lee |

Though heaven forbids my wrath to swell,
I curse the hand by which she fell—
The fiend who made my heaven a hell,
And tore my love from me!
For if, where all the graces shine-
Oh! if on earth there’s aught divine,
My Helen all these charms were thine-
They centered all in thee!

Ah! what avails it that, amain,
I clove the assassin's head in twain?
No peace of mind, my Helen slain,
No resting-place for me:
I see her spirit in the air—
I hear the shriek of wild despair,
When Murder laid her bosom bare,
On fair Kirkconnel-Lee |

Oh! when I’m sleeping in my grave,
And o'er my head the rank weeds wave,
May He who life and spirit gave
Unite my love and me !
Then from this world of doubts and sighs,
My soul on wings of peace shall rise;
And, joining Helen in the skies,
Forget Kirkconnel-Lee!"

[Mustering of the Trades to Shoot for the Siller Gun.]

The lift was clear, the morn serene,
The sun just glinting owre the scene,
When James M'Noe began again
To beat to arms,
Rousing the heart o' man and wean
Wi’ war's alarms.

*The concluding verse of the old ballad is finer:
I wish I were where Helen lies!
Night and day on me she cries,
And I am weary of the skies

For her sake that died for me.

Also an earlier stanza:
Curst be the heart that thought the thought,
And curst the hand that fired the shot,
When in my arms bird Helen dropt,

426 And died to succour me;

Frae far and near the country lads
(Their joes ahint them on their yads)
Flocked in to see the show in squads;
And, what was dafter,
Their pawky mithers and their dads
Cam trotting after !

And mony a beau and belle were there,
Doited wi' dozing on a chair;
For lest they’d, sleeping, spoil their hair,
Or miss the sight,
The gowks, like bairns before a fair,
Sat up a night!

Wi’ hats as black as ony raven,
Fresh as the rose, their beards new shaven,
And a their Sunday’s cleeding having
Sae trim and gay,
Forth cam our Trades, some ora saving
To wair that day.

Fair fa’ ilk canny, caidgy carl,
Weel may he bruik his new apparel!
And never dree the bitter snarl
O scowling wife
But, blest in pantry, barn, and barrel,
Be blithe through life!

Hech, sirs’ what crowds cam into town,
To see them mustering up and down!
Lasses and lads, sunburnt and brown-
Women and weans,
Gentle and semple, mingling, crown
The gladsome scenes !

At first, forenent ilk Deacon's hallan,
His ain brigade was made to fall in;
And, while the muster-roll was calling,
And joy-bells jowing,
Het-pints, weel spiced, to keep the saulin,
Around were flowing !

Broiled kipper, cheese, and bread, and ham,
Laid the foundation for a dram
O whisky, gin frae Rotterdam,
Or cherry brandy;
Whilk after, a was fish that cam
To Jock or Sandy:

0! weel ken they wha lo'e their chappin,
Drink maks the auldest swack and strapping;
Gars Care forget the ills that happen-
The blate look spruce—
And even the thowless cock their tappin,
And craw fu' croose!

The muster owre, the different bands

File affin parties to the sands;

Where, 'mid loud laughs and clapping hands,
Gley'd Geordy Smith

Reviews them, and their line expands
Alang the Nith !

But ne'er, for uniform or air,
Wassic a group reviewed elsewhere!
The short, the tall; fat folk, and spare;
Syde coats, and dockit;
Wigs, queues, and clubs, and curly hair;
Round hats, and cockit!

As to their guns—thae fell engines,
Borrowed or begged, were of a kinds
For bloody war, or bad designs,
Or shooting cushies—
Lang fowling-pieces, carabines,
And blunderbusses!

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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. His brother, JAMEs Boswell (1779–1822), an accomplished scholar and student of our early literature, edited Malone's edition of Shakspeare, 21 vols. 8vo, 1821. Sir Alexander had just returned

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Here, in these chambers, ever dull and dark,
The lady gay received her gayer spark,
Who, clad in silken coat, with cautious tread,
Trembled at opening casements overhead;
But when in safety at her porch he trod,
He seized the ring, and rasped the twisted rod.
No idlers then, I trow, were seen to meet,
Linked, six a-row, six hours in Princes Street;
But, one by one, they panted up the hill,
And picked their steps with most uncommon skill;
Then, at the Cross, each joined the motley mob-
‘How are ye, Tam,? and how’s a wi' ye, Bob?’
Next to a neighbouring tavern all retired,
And draughts of wine their various thoughts inspired.
O'er draughts of wine the beau would moan his love;
O'er draughts of wine the cit his bargain drove;
O'er draughts of wine the writer penned the will;
And legal wisdom counselled o'er a gill.

* * * *

Yes, mark the street, for youth the great resort,
Its spacious width the theatre of sport.
There, midst the crowd, the jingling hoop is driven;
Full many a leg is hit, and curse is given.
There, on the pavement, mystic forms are chalked,
Defaced, renewed, delayed—but never balked;
There romping Miss the rounded slate may drop,
And kick it out with persevering hop.
There, in the dirty current of the strand,
Boys drop the rival corks with ready hand,
And, wading through the puddle with slow pace,
Watch in solicitude the doubtful race |
And there, an active band, with frequent boast,
Vault in succession o'er each wooden post.
Or a bold stripling, noted for his might,
Heads the array, and rules the mimic fight.
From hand and sling now fly the whizzing stones,
Unheeded broken heads and broken bones.
The rival hosts in close engagement mix,
Drive and are driven by the dint of sticks.
The bicker rages, till some mother's fears
Ring a sad story in a bailie's ears.
Her prayer is heard; the order quick is sped,
And, from that corps which hapless Porteous led,
A brave detachment, probably of two,
Rush, like two kites, upon the warlike crew,
Who, struggling, like the fabled frogs and mice,
Are pounced upon, and carried in a trice.
But, mark that motley group, in various garb-
There vice begins to form her rankling barb;
The germ of gambling sprouts in pitch-and-toss,
And brawl, successive, tells disputed loss.
From hand to hand the whirling halfpence pass,
And, every copper gone, they fly to brass.
Those polished rounds which decorate the coat,
And brilliant shine upon some youth of note,
Offspring of Birmingham's creative art,
Now from the faithful button-holes depart.
To sudden twitch the rending stitches yield,
And Enterprise again essays the field.
So, when a few fleet years of his short span
Have ripened this dire passion in the man,
When thousand after thousand takes its flight
In the short circuit of one wretched night,
Next shall the honours of the forest fall,
And ruin desolate the chieftain's hall;
Hill after hill some cunning clerk shall gain;
Then in a mendicant behold a thane !

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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

James Hogg.

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:

0 list the mystic lore sublime
Of fairy tales of ancient time!
I learned them in the lonely glen,
The last abodes of living men,
Where never stranger came our way
By summer night, or winter day;
Where neighbouring hind or cot was none—
Our converse was with heaven alone—
With voices through the cloud that sung,
And brooding storms that round us hung.
0 lady, judge, if judge ye may,
How stern and ample was the sway
Of themes like these when darkness fell,
And gray-haired sires the tales would tell!
When doors were barred, and eldern dame
Plied at her task beside the flame
That through the smoke and gloom alone
On dim and umbered faces shone-
The bleat of mountain-goat on high,
That from the cliff came quavering by;
The echoing rock, the rushing flood,
The cataract's swell, the moaning wood;
The undefined and mingled hum-
Woice of the desert never dumb |
All these have left within this heart
A feeling tongue can ne'er impart;
A wildered and unearthly flame,
A something that’s without a name.

Hogg was descended from a family of shepherds, and born in the vale of Ettrick, Selkirkshire. According to the parish register, he was baptised

on the 9th of December 1770. 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 but little schooling, though he was too prone to represent himself as an uninstructed prodigy of nature. When twenty 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 in 1807 another volume of songs and poems, under the title of The Mountain Bard. He 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 (1810), 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 native 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;
It knew the harp of ancient days.
The border chiefs that long had been
In sepulchres unhearsed and green,
Passed from their mouldy vaults away
In armour red and stern array,
And by their moonlight halls were seen
In visor, helm, and habergeon.
Even fairies sought our land again
So powerful was the magic strain.
Blest be his generous heart for aye!
He told me where the relic lay;
Pointed my way with ready will
Afar on Ettrick's wildest hill;
Watched my first notes with curious eye,
And wondered at my minstrelsy:
He little weened a parent's tongue
Such strains had o'er my cradle sung.
But when to native feelings true,

I struck upon a chord was new;


When by myself I'gan to play,
He tried to wile my harp away.
Just when her notes began with skill,
To sound beneath the southern hill,
And twine around my bosom's core,
How could we part for evermore?
'Twas kindness all—I cannot blame—
For bootless is the minstrel flame:
But sure a bard might well have known
Another's feelings by his own!

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# the Moor, a poem in the Spenserian stanza; The Pilgrims of the Sun, in blank verse; The Hunting of Badlewe, 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. 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 De Foe. 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 of 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 hillside. 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 the Pilgrims of the Sun have the same abstract remote beauty and lofty imagination. Burns would have scrupled to commit himself to these aérial 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 'it 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.”

Bonny Kilmeny. [From The Queen's Wake.]

Bonny Kilmeny gaed up the glen;
But it wasna to meet Duneira's men,
Nor the rosy monk of the isle to see,
For Kilmeny was pure as pure could be.
It was only to hear the yorlin sing,
And pu' the cress-flower round the spring;
The scarlet hypp and the hindberrye,
And the nut that hang frae the hazel-tree;
For Kilmeny was pure as pure could be.
But lang may her minny look o'er the wa',
And lang may she seek i' the greenwood shaw;
Lang the laird of Duneira blame,
And lang, lang greet or Kilmeny come hame!
When many a day had come and fled,
When grief grew calm, and hope was dead,
When mass for Kilmeny's soul had been sung,
When the beadsman had prayed, and the dead-bellrung,
Late, late in a gloamin, when all was still,
When the fringe was red on the westlin' hill,
The wood was sere, the moon i' the wane,
The reek o' the cot hung over the plain
Like a little wee cloud in the world its lane;
When the ingle lowed with an eiry leme,
Late, late in the gloamin, Kilmeny came hame!
“Kilmeny, Kilmeny, where have you been?
Langhae we sought baith holt and dean;
By linn, by ford, and greenwood tree,
Yet you are halesome and fair to see.
Where gat ye that joup o' the lily sheen?
That bonny snood of the birk sae green?
And these roses, the fairest that ever were seen ?
Kilmeny, Kilmeny, where have you been?’
Kilmeny looked up with a lovely grace,
But nae smile was seen on Kilmeny's face;
As still was her look, and as still was her e'e,
As the stillness that lay on the emerant lea,
Or the mist that sleeps on a waveless sea.
For Kilmeny had been she knew not where,
And Kilmeny had seen what she could not declare;
Kilmeny had been where the cock never crew,
Where the rain never fell, and the wind never blew,
But it seemed as the harp of the sky had rung,
And the airs of heaven played round her tongue,
When she spake of the lovely forms she had seen,
And a land where sin had never been. . . .
In yon greenwood there is a waik,
And in that waik there is a wene,
And in that wene there is a maike
That neither hath flesh, blood, nor bane;
And down in yon greenwood he walks his lane!
In that green wene Kilmeny lay,
Her bosom happed wi' the flowrets gay;
But the air was soft, and the silence deep,
And bonny Kilmeny fell sound asleep;
She kend nae mair, nor opened her e'e,
Till waked by the hymns of a far countrye,
She wakened on a couch of the silk sae slim,
All striped wi' the bars of the rainbow's rim;
And lovely beings round were rife,
Who erst had travelled mortal life. . . .
They clasped her waist and her hands sae fair,
They kissed her cheek, and they kamed her hair,
And round came many a blooming fere,
saying: 'Bonn, Kilmeny, Ye're welcome here !’

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