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by the voice of a country girl in an adjoining field singing by herself a song of his own—
We'll meet beside the dusky glen, on yon burnside;
and he used to say he was more pleased at this evidence of his popularity, than at any tribute which had ever been paid him. He afterwards contributed some songs to Mr George Thomson's Select Melodies, and exerted himself to procure Irish airs, of which he was very fond. Whilst delighting all classes of his countrymen with his native songs, the poet fell into a state of morbid despondency, aggravated by bodily weakness, and a tendency to consumption. He had prepared a new edition of his poems for the press, and sent the manuscript to Mr Constable the publisher; but it was returned by that gentleman, in consequence of his having more new works on hand than he could undertake that season. This disappointment preyed on the spirits of the sensitive poet, and his melancholy became deep and habitual. He burned all his manuscripts, and sank into a state of mental derangement. Returning from a visit to Glasgow on the 17th of May 1810, the unhappy poet retired to rest; but “suspicion having been excited, in about an hour afterwards it was discovered that he had stolen out unperceived. Search was made in every direction, and by the dawn of the morning, the coat of the poet was discovered lying at the side of the tunnel of a neighbouring brook, pointing out but too surely where his body was to be found.” Tannahill was a modest and temperate man, devoted to his kindred and friends, and of unblemished purity and correctness of conduct. His lamentable death arose from no want or irregularity, but was solely caused by that morbid disease of the mind which at length overthrew his reason. The poems of this ill-starred son of genius are greatly inferior to his songs. They have all a commonplace artificial character. His lyrics, on the other hand, are rich and original both in description and sentiment. His diction is copious and luxuriant, particularly in describing natural objects and the peculiar features of the Scottish landscape. His simplicity is natural and unaffected; and though he appears to have possessed a deeper sympathy with nature than with the workings of human feeling, or even the passion of love, he is often tender and pathetic. His “Gloomy winter's now awa’ is a beautiful concentration of tenderness and melody.
When the rude wintry win’
And the roar of the linn
* Memoir prefixed to Tannahill's Works. Glasgow: 1833.
* Then ilk thing around us was blithesome and cheerie, |
Then ilk thing around us was bonnie and braw; Now naething is heard but the wind whistling drearie,
And naething is seen but the wide-spreading snaw. The trees are a' bare, and the birds mute and dowie ;
They shake the cauld drift frae their wings as they
flee; And chirp out their plaints, seeming wae for my Johnie ; 'Tis winter wi' them, and ’tis winter wi' me.
Gloomy Winter's now Awa.
Gloomy winter's now awa,
Towering o'er the Newton woods,
* RICHARD GALL.
Contemporary with Tannahill, and possessing a kindred taste in song-writing, was Richard GALL (1776–1801), who, whilst employed as a printer in Edinburgh, threw off some Scottish songs that were justly popular. “My only jo and dearie O, for pleasing fancy and musical expression, is not unworthy Tannahill. “I remember,’ says Allan Cunningham, ‘when this song was exceedingly popular: its sweetness and ease, rather than its originality and vigour, might be the cause of its success. The third verse contains a very beautiful picture of early attachment—a sunny bank, and some sweet soft schoolgirl, will appear to many a fancy when these lines are sung.’
Then I wad daut thee night and day,
Nor ither warldly care wad hae,
Till life's warm stream forgot to play, My only jo and dearie 0.
Farewell to Ayrshire.
John Mayne, author of the Siller Gun, Glasgow,
and other poems, was a native of Dumfries—born in the year 1761—and died in London in 1836. He was brought up to the printing business, and whilst apprentice in the Dumfries Journal office in 1777, in his sixteenth year, he published the germ of his “Siller Gun' in a quarto page of twelve stanzas. The subject of the poem is an ancient custom in Dumfries, called “Shooting for the Siller Gun, the gun being a small silver tube presented by James VI. to the incorporated trades as a prize to the best marksman. This poem Mr Mayne continued to enlarge and improve up to the time of his death.
The twelve stanzas expanded in two years to two
cantos; in another year (1780) the poem was published—enlarged to three cantos—in Ruddiman's Magazine; and in 1808 it was published in London in four cantos. This edition was seen by Sir Walter Scott, who said (in one of his notes to the Lady of the Lake) ‘that it surpassed the efforts of Fergusson, and came near to those of Burns.” In 1836 the “Siller Gun' was again reprinted with the addition of a fifth canto. Mr Mayne was author of a short poem on Halloween, printed in Ruddiman's Magazine in 1780; and in 1781 he published at Glasgow his fine ballad of Logan Braes, which Burns had seen, and two lines of which he copied into his Logan Water. The ‘Siller Gun' is humorous and descriptive, and is happy in both. The author is a shrewd and lively observer, full of glee, and also of gentle and affectionate recollections of his native town and all its people and pastimes. The ballad of “Logan Braes' is a simple and beautiful lyric, superior to the more elaborate version of Burns. Though long resident in London (as proprietor of the Star newspaper), Mr Mayne retained his Scottish enthusiasm to the last; and to those who, like ourselves, recollect him in advanced life, stopping in the midst of his duties, as a public journalist, to trace some remembrance
[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,
Where Kirtle-waters gently wind,
Though heaven forbids my wrath to swell,
Ah! what avails it that, amain,
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,
To the River Nith.
| | Hail, gentle stream for ever dear Thy rudest murmurs to mine ear ! Torn from thy banks, though far I rove, The slave of poverty and love, Ne'er shall thy bard, where'er he be, Without a sigh remember thee! For there my infant years began, And there my happiest minutes ran ; And there to love and friendship true, The blossoms of affection grew. Blithe on thy banks, thou sweetest stream That ever nursed a poet's dream Oft have I in forbidden time (If youth could sanctify a crime), | With hazel rod and fraudful fly, Ensnared thy unsuspecting fry; | In o have o: them from their den, t Till, chased by lurking fishermen, Away I've flown as fleet as wind, My lagging followers far behind, And when the vain pursuit was o'er, Returned successful as before.
[Mustering of the Trades to Shoot for the Siller Gun.]
The lift was clear, the morn serene,
Frae far and near the country lads
And mony a beau and belle were there,
Wi’ hats as black as ony raven,
Fair fa’ ilk canny, caidgy carl,
“Now, gentlemen! now, mind the motion,
* 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 Barbee, 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 Wearer. At Willie's wedding on the green, The lassies, bonny witches : Were a' dressed out in aprons clean, And braw white Sunday mutches: Auld Maggie bade the lads tak’ tent, But Jock would not believe her; But soon the fool his folly kent, For Jenny dang the weaver. And Jenny dang, Jenny dang, Jenny dang the weaver; But soon the fool his folly kent, For Jenny dang the weaver. At ilka country dance or reel, Wi’ her he would be bobbing; When she sat down, he sat down, 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 dang the silly weaver. And Jenny dang, Jenny dang, Jenny dang the weaver; Syne snapt her fingers, lap and leugh, And dang the silly weaver.
Tier upon tier I see the mansions rise,
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.
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Yes, mark the street, for youth the great resort,