« PreviousContinue »
The Ettrick Shepherd was born in Selkirkshire in Scotland, on the twenty-fifth of January, 1772. His forefathers for five centuries had pursued the same humble calling among the solitudes of the Ettrick and the Yarrow, and when but seven years of age, the destined poet was compelled to earn his own bread by herding the cows of a neighbouring farmer. He had therefore no opportunity to acquire the ordinary education of the Scottish peasant. Of all the bards of his country, he was the only one really self-instructed. BURNs, compared with Hogg, had the accomplishments of a gentleman. He was taught to read, and he wrote a clear hand. But the subject of our biography, was in his twentieth year before he learned the alphabet. Knowing by rote the words of ballads he had heard his mother sing, in his long leisure on the hills he compared them with the printed pages, and by such slow process, advanced until “the hardest Scripture names could scarcely daunt him.” The rough but forcible stanzas beginning
“My name is Donald McDonald,
were sung throughout the empire before their author could distinguish a printed copy of them from a leaf of Blackstone. About the year 1802, he went to Edinburgh with a flock of sheep, for the disposal of which he was obliged to wait a few days in town. He could now write; he had acquired some local reputation by his traditionary songs and ballads; and he determined to have a small volume of them printed. He succeeded; the collection, which in his memoirs he declares was “extraordinar’ stupit,” attracted the attention of Scott and others in the metropolis, and increased the consideration with which the shepherd was regarded by his class. It was not successful in a pecuniary point of view; but he was ambitious and undaunted; he soon had ready a second volume, for which Constable paid him a hundred and fifty pounds, and with this amount, and another hundred received for a treatise on the management of sheep, he
deemed himself a rich man. He unwisely 80
settled as a tenant on a large farm; in three years was penniless, and went to Edinburgh to pursue the business of authorship. His first attempt was an unsalable book of verses; his second a weekly newspaper, which was sustained for more than a year; and when they failed, and his town friends began to desert him, he retired to a quiet old house in the suburbs, and wrote “The Queen's Wake,” which surprised his acquaintances, and established on a firm basis his reputation as a poet. Removing once more into the denser portion of the city, he took up his quarters at the little tavern made famous afterward as the scene of the “Noctes Ambrosiamas,” where he continued to reside for many years. He wrote the “Witch of Fife,” “Queen Hynde,” “Mador of the Moor,” the “Pilgrims of the Sun,” and other poems, and several volumes of tales and sketches, of various merit, besides his contributions to “Blackwood's Magazine,” of which he was one of the principal founders. This world-renowned periodical had been established by Thomas PRINGLE and a Mr. CLEGHoRN, who, disagreeing with the publisher, set up a rival under the auspices of Constable. Blackwood engaged Wilson, Hogg, and a few other writers, and continued his miscellany with such spirit and ability, that it soon acquired a vast circulation. The “Noctes Ambrosianae,” constituted the most remarkable series of papers ever printed in a periodical, and instead of being merely invented, as may have been supposed, were for a considerable period adaptations of what actually took place at Hogg's lodgings. Among the Shepherd's various literary productions not before mentioned, were a compilation of “Jacobite Relics,” and two novels entitled “The Three Perils of Man,” and “The Three Perils of Woman,” published by Longman, for which the author received some two hundred and fifty pounds. Hogg was married in 1823, and embarking soon afterward in too extensive farming operations, he lost the money he had acquired by his literary labours. He laughed at misfortunes while he alone was a sufferer, but he could ill bear the presence of poverty in the home of his family. He visited London in 1833, for the first and only time, and like every stranger of distinction was cordially welcomed in the higher circles as well as by all literary men; but he returned even poorer than he went, and at the end of two years, on the twenty-first of November, 1835,-he died. He was a frank, generous, simple-hearted man; vain, indeed, of his abilities, but never unwilling to recognise genius in others.
Box NY KILMEN1 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 hangs 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 green-wood 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 bedes-man had pray'd, and the deadbell rung, 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 gloaming Kilmeny came hame ! “Kilmeny, Kilmeny, where have you been 1 Lang hae we sought baith holt and dean; By linn, by ford, and green-wood tree, Yet you are halesome and fair to see. Where gat you that joup o' the lily sheen 4 That bonny snood of the birk sae green 1 And these roses, the fairest that ever were seen 1 Kilmeny, Kilmeny, where have you been o’’ Kilmeny look'd up with a lovely grace, But nae smile was seen on Kilmeny's face; As still was her look, and as still was her ee, 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; Kilneny had been where the cock never crew, Where the rain never fell, and the wind never blew. But it seem'd as the harp of the sky had rung, And the airs of heaven play'd round her tongue,
When Southey visited Scotland in 1820, he remarked to Mr. Telford, his companion, that there was “one distinguished individual whom he would wish to see again—the Ettrick Shepherd, who,” said he, “is altogether an extraordinary being, a character such as will not appear twice in five centuries, and differing most remarkably from BURNs and all other self-taught writers.” He admired “his peculiar and innate power, of which there are ample evidences in all his poetical works, however defective they may be as to the accomplishment of art.”
When she spake of the lovely forms she had seen,
Sweet will thy welcome and bed of love be!
Oh to abide in the desert with thee!
QUEEN MARY'S RETURN TO SCOT.
Aften a youth by woes o'ercast,
Her comely form and graceful mien
Light on her airy steed she sprung,
When Mary turn'd her wond'ring eyes