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What field of all the civil war
And Hampton shows what part
Where, twining civil fears with hope,
That Charles himself might chase
That thence the royal actor borne
While round the armed bands
He nothing common did or mean
But with his keener eye
Nor called the gods, with vulgar spite,
But bowed his comely head
And he who wrote this was Cromwell's Latin Secretary! and Cromwell's other Latin Secretary was Milton! There have been many praises of the Lord Protector written latterly, but these two facts seem to me worth them all.
Two of the ballads of William Motherwell are among the most beautiful in the Scottish dialect, so full of lyrical beauty; and yet the one which is the most touching is scarcely known, except to a few lovers of poetry. “ Jeanie Morrison,” indeed, has an extensive popularity in Scotland, and yet even that charming song is comparatively little known in this country.
Burns is the only poet with whom, for tenderness and pathos, Motherwell can be compared. The elder bard has written much more largely, is more various, more fiery, more abundant; but I doubt if there be in the whole of his collection any thing so exquisitely finished, so free from a line too many, or a word out of place, as the two great ballads of Motherwell. And let young writers observe that this finish was the result, not of a curious felicity, but of the nicest elaboration. By touching and retouching, during many years, did “ Jeanie Morrison" attain her perfection, and yet how completely has art concealed art ! How entirely does that charming song appear like an irrepressible gush of feeling that would find vent. In “ My heid is like to rend, Willie,” the appearance of spontaneity is still more striking, as the passion is more intense,-intense, indeed, almost to painfulness.
Like Burns, Motherwell died before he attained his fortieth year, and like him, too, although a partisan of far different opinions, he was ardently engaged in political discussion as the editor of a Tory newspaper in Glasgow. He was even the Secretary of an Institution that sounds strangely in English ears-a Scotch Orange Lodge. I notice these facts only to observe, that they are already almost forgotten. The elements of bitterness aná hatred, in which the politician revels, live through their little day, then pass away forever : while the deep and pure feelings of a true poet are imperishable.
As with “ Percy's Reliques," my own copy of Motherwell has to me an interest beside that of its high literary merits. If I would explain the source of that interest, I must even tell the story, luckily a very short one.
Three years ago a friend, to whom I owe a thousand obligations of all sorts and kinds, posted London over to procure this volume. Now my friend is a man of book-shops and book-stalls, but only one copy could he meet with, and that was neither Scotch nor English, but American, from the great Boston publishers, Ticknor and Company. The book became immediately a favorite, and was laid on the table--a phrase which in my little drawing-room has a very different sense from that which it bears in the House of Commons.
One fine summer afternoon, shortly after I had made this acquisition, two young Americans made their appearance, with letters of introduction from some honored friends. There was no mention of profession or calling, but I soon found that they were not only men of intelligence and education, but of literary taste and knowledge ; one especially had the look, the air, the conversation of a poet. We talked on many subjects, and got at last to the delicate question of American reprints of English authors; on which, much to their delight, and a little to their surprise, there was no disagreement; I for my poor part pleading guilty to the taking pleasure in such a diffusion of my humble works. “Beside,” continued I, “you send us better things things otherwise unattainable. I could only procure the fine poems of Motherwell in this Boston edition.” My two visitors smiled at each other. " This is a most singular coincidence,” cried the one whom I knew by instinct to be a poet. "I am a younger partner in this Boston house, and at my pressing instance this book was reprinted. I can not tell you how pleased I am to see it here !" · Mr. Field's visit was necessarily brief; but that short interview has laid the foundation of a friendship which will, I think, last as long as my frail life, and of which the benefit is all on my side. He sends me charming letters, verses which are fast ripening into true poetry, excellent books; and this autumn he brought back himself, and came to pay me a visit; and he must
come again, for of all the kindnesses with which he loads me, I like his company best.
My heid is like to rend, Willie,
My heart is like to break,-
I'm dying for your sake!
Your hand on my briest-bane, -
When I am deid and gane !
Sair grief maun hae its will, —
To sob and greet my fill.
Let me shed by your hair,
I never sall see mair!
For the last time in my life, -
A mither, yet nae wife.
And press it mair and mair, -
Sae strong is its despair !
Oh wae's me for the love, Willie,
When we thegither met, -
That our first tryst was set !
Where we were wont to gae,-
That gart me love thee sae !
I donna seek to blame, -
And dree a warld's shame!
And hailin' o'er your chin;
For sorrow and for sin ?
And sick wi' a' I see,
I canna live as I hae lived,
And be as I should be.
The heart that still is thine,-
Ye said was red lang syne.
A sair stoun' through my heart,
Thy brow ere we twa pairt.
How fast my heart-strings break!
Step lichtly for my sake !
That lilts far ower our heid,
Abuve the clay-cauld deid;
Wi' dew-draps skimmerin' sheen,
As warld hae seldom seen.
On land where'er ye be,-
That ne'er luvit ane but thee!
That file my yellow hair,-
Ye never sall kiss mair!
The following Cavalier Song was first given by Motherwell as an original manuscript by Lovelace, accidentally discovered on a fly-leaf of his poems. The story found believers. They ought to have seen that the imitation, though very skillful, was too close. Lovelace was the last man in the world to have repeated his own turns of phrase.
A steedel a steede of matchless speed,
A sword of metal keene !
All else on earth is meane.
The rowlinge of the drum,
Be soundes from heaven that come: