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In joy and gladness,
[Death.] [This poem is supposed to have been the last, or among the last, of Nicoll's compositions.]
The dew is on the summer's greenest grass,
The sun shines sweetly—sweeter may it shine!—
These words have shaken mighty human souls—
Are there not aspirations in each heart
Death comes to take me where I long to be ;
If I have loved the forest and the field,
A change from wo to joy—from earth to heaven,
Death gives me this—it leads me calmly where The souls that long ago from mine were riven
May meet again Death answers many a prayer.
Though no Scottish poetry besides that of Burns attracts attention out of its native country, there is not wanting a band of able and warm-hearted men who continue to cultivate it for their own amusement and that of their countrymen. Amongst these may be mentioned MEssrs RodgeR, BALLANTYNE, VEDDER, and GRAY : a high place in the class is due to MR Robert GILFILLAN, a native of Dunfermline, whose Poems and Songs have passed through three editions. The songs of Mr Gilfillan are marked by gentle and kindly feelings, and a smooth flow of versification, which makes them eminently suitable for being expressed in music.
The Erile's Song.
Oh! why left I my hame?
In the Days o' Langsme.
In the days o' langsyne, when we carles were young, An' nae foreign fashions amang us had sprung; . When we made our ain bannocks, and brewed our ain
y111, An' were clad frae the sheep that gaed white on the hill; O ! the thocht o' thae days gars my auld heart aye fill! In the days o' langsyne we were happy and free, Proud lords on the land, and kings on the seal To our foes we were fierce, to our friends we were kind, An' where battle raged loudest, you ever did find The banner of Scotland float high in the winds In the days o' langsyne we aye ranted and sang By the warm ingle side, or the wild braes amang; Our lads busked braw, and our lasses looked fine, An' the sun on our mountains seemed ever to shine; O! where is the Scotland o’ bonnie langsynet In the days o' langsyne ilka glen had its tale, Sweet voices were heard in ilk breath of the gale; An' ilka wee burn had a sang o' its ain, As it trotted alang through the valley or plain; Shall we e'er hear the music o' streamlets again! In the days o' langsyne there were feasting and glee, Wi’ pride in ilk heart, and joy in ilk ee; [tyne, And the auld, 'mang the nappy, their eild seemed to It was your stoup the nicht, and the morn 'twas mine: 0 ! the days o' langsyne–0 ! the days o' langsyne.
The Hills o' Gallowa”. [By Thomas Cunningham.] [Thomas Cunningham was the senior of his brother Allan by some years, and was a copious author in prose and vets’, though with an undistinguished name, long before the author of the Lives of the British Painters was known. He died in 1834.]
Amang the birks sae blithe and gay, I met my Julia hameward gaun;
The linties chantit on the spray, The lammies loupit on the lawn;
* Lucy's Flittin'. [By William Laidlaw.]
[William Laidlaw is son of the Ettrick Shepherd's master at Blackhouse. All who have read Lockhart's Life of Scott, know how closely Mr Laidlaw was connected with the illustrious baronet of Abbotsford. He was his companion in some of his early wanderings, his friend and land-steward in advanced years, his amanuensis in the composition of some of his novels, and he was one of the few who watched over his last sad and painful moments. Lucy's Flittin' is deservedly popular for its unaffected tenderness and simplicity. In printing the song, Hogg added the last four lines to “complete the story."]
[James Hislop was born of humble parents in the parish of Kirkconnel, in the neighbourhood of Sanquhar, near the source of the Nith, in July 1798. He was employed as a shepherd-boy in the vicinity of Airsinoss, where, at the gravestone of a party of slain covenanters, he composed the following striking poem. He afterwards became a teacher, and his poetical effusions having attracted the favourable notice of Lord Jeffrey, and other eminent literary characters, he was, through their influence, appointed schoolmaster, first onboard the Doris, and subsequently the Tweed man-of-war. He died on the 4th December 1827 from fever caught by sleeping one night in the open air upon the island of St Jago. His compositions display an elegant rather than a vigorous imagination, much chasteness of thought, and a pure but ardent love of nature.]
In a dream of the night I was wafted away,
‘Twas a dream of those ages of darkness and blood, When the minister's home was the mountain and wood; When in Wellwood's dark valley the standard of Zion, All bloody and torn 'mong the heather was lying.
‘Twas morning; and summer's young sun from the east Lay in loving repose on the green mountain's breast; Qn Wardlaw and Cairntable the clear shining dew,
Glistened there 'mong the heath bells and mountain
classes. The increased competition in business has also made our “nation of shopkeepers’ a busier and harder-working race than their forefathers; and the diffusion of cheap literature may have further tended to thin the theatres, as furnishing intellectual entertainment for the masses at home at a cheaper rate than dramatic performances. The London managers appear to have had considerable influence in this matter. They lavish enormous sums on scenic decoration and particular actors, and aim rather at filling their houses by some ephemeral and dazzling display, than by the liberal encouragement of native talent and genius. To improve, or rather re-establish the acted drama, a periodical writer suggests that there should be a classification of theatres in the metropolis, as in Paris, where each theatre has its distinct species of the drama, and performs it well. ‘We believe,” he says, “that the evil is mainly occasioned by the vain endeavour of managers to succeed by commixing every species of entertainment—huddling together tragedy, comedy, farce, melo-drama, and spectacle— and striving, by alternate exhibitions, to draw all the dramatic public to their respective houses. Imperfect—very imperfect companies for each species are engaged; and as, in consequence of the general imperfection, they are forced to rely on individual excellence, individual performers become of inordinate importance,. and the most exorbitant salaries are given to procure them. These individuals are thus placed in a false position, and indulge themselves in all sorts of mannerisms and absurdities. The public is not unreasonably dissatisfied with imperfect companies and bad performances; the managers wonder at their ruin; and critics become elegiacal over the mournful decline of the drama! Not in this way can a theatre flourish; since, if one species of performance proves attractive, the others are at a discount, and their companies become useless burdens; if none of them prove attractive, then the loss ends in ruin.” Too many instances of this have occurred within the last twenty years. Whenever a play of real excellence has been brought forward, the public has shown no insensibility to its merits; but so many circumstances are requisite to its successful representation—so expensive are the companies, and so capricious the favourite actors—that men of talent are averse to hazard a competition. The true dramatic talent is also a rare gift. Some of the most eminent poets have failed in attempting to portray actual life and passion in interesting situations on the stage; and as Fielding and Smollett proved unsuccessful in comedy (though the former wrote a number of pieces), so Byron and Scott were found wanting in the qualities requisite for the tragic drama. “It is evident,’ says Campbell, “that Melpomene demands on the stage something, and a good deal more, than even poetical talent, rare as that is. She requires a potent and peculiar faculty for the invention of incident adapted to theatric effect; a faculty which may often exist in those who have been bred to the stage, but which, generally speaking, has seldom been shown by any poets who were not professional players. There are exceptions to the remark, but there are not many. If Shakspeare had not been a player, he would not have been the dramatist that he is.’ Dryden, Addison, and Congreve, are conspicuous exceptions to this rule; also Goldsmith in comedy, and, in our own day, Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer in the romantic drama. The Colmans, Sheridan, Morton, and Reynolds, never, . we believe, wore the sock or buskin; but they were either managers, or closely connected with the theatre.
* Edinburgh Review for 1843.
In the first year of this period, Robert JEPhson | (1786-1803) produced his tragedy of The Count of | Narbonne, copied from Walpole's Castle of Otranto, and it was highly attractive on the stage. In 1785 Jephson brought out another tragedy, The Duke of | Braganza, which was equally successful. He wrote three other tragedies, some farces, and operas; but the whole are now utterly neglected. Jephson was no great dramatic writer; but a poetical critic has recorded to his honour, that, “at a time when the native genius of tragedy seemed to be extinct, he | came boldly forward as a tragic poet, and certainly with a spark of talent; for if he has not the full flame of genius, he has at least its scintillating light.' The dramatist was an Irishman by birth, a captain in the army, and afterwards a member of the Irish House of Commons. The stage was aroused from a state of insipidity or degeneracy by the introduction of plays from the German, which, amidst much false and exaggerated sentiment, appealed to the stronger sympathies of our nature, and drew crowded audiences to the theatres. |One of the first of these was The Stranger, said to be translated by Benjamin Thompson; but the greater part of it, as it was acted, was the production of Sheridan. It is a drama of domestic life, not very moral or beneficial in its tendencies (for it is calculated to palliate our detestation of adultery), yet abounding in scenes of tenderness and surprise, well adapted to produce effect on the stage. The principal characters were acted by Kemble and Mrs Siddons, and when it was brought out in the season of 1797-8, it was received with immense applause. In 1799 Sheridan adapted another of Kotzebue's plays, Pizarro, which experienced still greater success. In the former drama the German author had violated the proprieties of our moral code, by making an injured husband take back his guilty though penitent wife; and in Pizarro he has invested a fallen female with tenderness, compassion, and heroism. The obtrusion of such a character as a prominent figure in the scene was at least indelicate; but, in the hands of Mrs Siddons, the taint was scarcely perceived, and Sheridan had softened down the most objectionable parts. The play was produced with all the aids of splendid scenery, music, and fine acting, and these, together with its displays of generous and heroic feeling on the part of Rolla, and of parental affection in Alonzo and Cora, were calculated to lead captive a general audience. “Its subject was also new, and peculiarly fortunate. It brought the adventures of the most romantic kingdom of Christendom (Spain) into picturesque combination with the simplicity and superstitions of the transatlantic world; and gave the imagination a new and fresh empire of paganism, with its temples, and rites, and altars, without the stale associations of pedantry.’ Some of the sentiments and descriptions in Pizarro are said to have originally formed part of Sheridan's famous speech on the impeachment of Warren Hastings! They are often inflated and bombastic, and full of rhetorical glitter. Thus Rollo soliloquises in Alonzo's dungeon: — O holy Nature thou dost never plead in vain. There is not of our earth a creature, bearing form and life, human or savage, native of the forest wild or giddy air, around whose parent bosom thou hast not a cord entwined of power to tie them to their offspring's claims, and at thy will to draw them back to thee. On iron pinions borne the blood-stained vulture cleaves the storm, yet is the plumage closest to her heart soft as the cygnet's down; and o'er her unshelled brood the murmuring ring-dove sits not more gently.' Or the speech of Rolla to the Peruvian army at the consecration of the banners:– My brave
associates! partners of my toil, my feelings, and my fame!
you have judged, as I have, the foulness of the
lude you. mine has, the motives which, in a war like this, can animate their minds and ours. They, by a strange frenzy driven, fight for power, for plunder, and extended rule. We, for our country, our altars, and our homes. They follow an adventurer whom they fear, and a power which they hate. We serve a monarch whom we love—a God whom we adore 1 Where'er they move in anger, desolation tracks their progress; where'er they pause in amity, affliction mourns their friendship. They boast they come but to improve our state, enlarge our thoughts, and free us from the yoke of error. Yes, they will give
selves the slaves of passion, avarice, and pride. They offer us their protection; yes, such protection as vultures give to lambs—covering and devouring them . They call on us to barter all of good we have inherited and proved, for the desperate chance of something better which they promise. Be our plain answer this: the throne we honour is the people's choice; the laws we reverence are our brave fathers' legacy; the faith we follow teaches us to live in bonds of charity with all mankind, and die with hopes of bliss beyond the grave. Tell your invaders this, and tell them, too, we seek no change, and least of all such change as they would bring us." Animated apostrophes like these, rolled from the lips of Kemble, and applied, in those days of war, to British valour and patriotism arrayed against France, could hardly fail of an enthusiastic reception. A third drama by Kotzebue was some years afterwards adapted for the English stage by Mrs Inchbald, and performed under the title of Lovers' Vows. “The grand moral of the play is to set forth the miserable consequences which arise from the neglect, and to enforce the watchful care of illegitimate offspring; and surely as the pulpit has not had eloquence to eradicate the crime of seduction, the stage may be allowed a humble endeavour to prevent its most fatal effects.” Lovers' Vows also became a popular acting play, for stage effect was carefully studied, and the scenes and situations skilfully arranged. While filling the theatres, Kotzebue's plays were generally condemned by the critics. They cannot be said to have produced any permanent bad effect on our national morals, but they presented many false and peruicious pictures to the mind. “There is an affectation,’ as Scott remarks, “of attributing noble and virtuous sentiments to the persons least qualified by habit or education to entertain them ; and of describing the higher and better educated classes as uniformly deficient in those feelings of liberality, generosity, and honour, which may be considered as proper to their situation in life. This contrast may be true in particular instances, and being used sparingly, might afford a good moral lesson; but in spite of truth and probability, it has been assumed, upon all occasions, by those authors as the groundwork of a sort of intellectual Jacobinism." Scott himself, it will be recollected, was fascinated by the German drama, and translated a play of Goethe. The excesses of Kotzebue were happily ridiculed by Canning and Ellis in their amusing satire, The Rovers. At length, after a run of unexampled success, these plays ceased to attract attention, though one or two are still occasionally performed. With all their absurdities, we cannot but believe that they exercised an in
spiring influence on the rising genius of that age.
Can Rolla's words add vigour to the virtuous energies which inspire your hearts? No!'
crafty plea by which these bold invaders would deYour generous spirit has compared, as
enlightened freedom to our minds, who are them