« ZurückWeiter »
the collection, as a whole, gave little indication of with madness'—an allusion to the hereditary in* The Minstrel.. The poems, without the transla- sanity of their mother. By nature, Beattie was a tions, were reprinted in 1766, and a copy of verses man of quick and tender sensibilities. A fine land
scape or music (in which he was a proficient), affected
O to thy cursed scream, discordant still,
Insult thy crest, and glossy pinions tear,
the world. He ceased to correspond with his friends, James Beattie.
or to continue his studies. Shattered by a long on the Death of Churchill were added. The latter train of nervous complaints, in April 1799 the poet are mean and reprehensible in spirit, as Churchill had a stroke of palsy, and after different returns of had expiated his early follies by an untimely death. the same malady, which excluded him from all Beattie was a sincere lover of truth and virtue, but society, he died on the 18th of August 1803. his ardour led him at times into intolerance, and he In the early training of his eldest and beloved son, was too fond of courting the notice and approbation Dr Beattie adopted an expedient of a romantic and of the great. In 1770 the poet appeared as a meta- interesting description. His object was to give him physician, by his Essay on Truth, in which good the first idea of a Supreme Being; and his method, principles were advanced, though with an unphiloso- as Dr Porteous, bishop of London, remarked, 'had phical spirit, and in language which suffered greatly all the imagination of Rousseau, without his folly from comparison with that of his illustrious oppo- and extravagance.' nent, David Hume. Next year Beattie appeared in He had,' says Beattie, 'reached his fifth (or his true character as a poet. The first part of. The sixth) year, knew the alphabet, and could read a Minstrel' was published, and was received with uni- little; but had received no particular information versal approbation. Honours flowed in on the for- with respect to the author of his being, because I tunate author. He visited London, and was ad- thought he could not yet understand such informamitted to all its brilliant and distinguished circles. tion, and because I had learned, from my own exGoldsmith, Johnson, Garrick, and Reynolds, were perience, that to be made to repeat words not unnumbered among his friends. On a second visit in derstood, is extremely detrimental to the faculties 1773, he had an interview with the king and queen, of a young mind. In a corner of a little garden, which resulted in a pension of £200 per annum. without informing any person of the circumstance, The university of Oxford conferred upon him the I wrote in the mould, with my finger, the three inidegree of LL.D. and Reynolds painted his portrait tial letters of his name, and sowing garden cresses in an allegorical picture, in which Beattie was seen in the furrows, covered up the seed, and smoothed by the side of an angel pushing down Prejudice, the ground. Ten days after he came running to me, Scepticism, and Folly! Need we wonder that poor and with astonishment in his countenance, told me Goldsmith was envious of his brother poet? To the that his name was growing in the garden. I smiled honour of Beattie, it must be recorded, that he de- at the report, and seemed inclined to disregard it; clined entering the church of England, in which but he insisted on my going to see what had hap. preferment was promised him, and no doubt would pened. “Yes," said I carelessly, on coming to the have been readily granted. The second part of the place ; “I see it is so; but there is nothing in this
Minstrel was published in 1774. Domestic circum- worth notice; it is mere chance," and I went away. stances marred the felicity of Beattie's otherwise He followed me, and taking hold of my coat, said with happy and prosperous lot. His wife (the daughter some earnestness, “It could not be mere chance, for of Dr Dun, Aberdeen) became insane, and was ob- that somebody must have contrived matters so as liged to be confined in an asylum. He had two sons, to produce it.” I pretend not to give his words or my both amiable and accomplished youths. The eldest own, for I have forgotten both, but I give the sublived till he was twenty-two, and was associated stance of what passed between us in such language with his father in the professorship: he died in as we both understood. So you think,” I said, 1790, and the afflicted parent soothed his grief by " that what appears so regular as the letters of your writing his life, and publishing some specimens of name cannot be by chance?” “Yes," said he with his composition in prose and verse. The second son firmness, “I think so !” “Look at yourself,” I replied, died in 1796, aged eighteen; and the only consola- “ and consider your hands and fingers, your legs and tion of the now lonely poet was, that he could not feet, and other limbs; are they not regular in their have borne to see their elegant minds mangled appearance, and useful to you?” He said they were.
Came you then hither," said I,“ by chance ?" "No," There are, who, deaf to mad Ambition's call, he answered, "that cannot be; something must have Would shrink to hear the obstreperous trump of Faine; made me.” " And who is that something ?" I asked. Supremely blest, if to their portion fall He said he did not know. (I took particular notice Health, competence, and peace. Nor higher aim that he did not say, as Rousseau fancies a child in Had he, whose simple tale these artless lines proclaim. like circumstances would say, that his parents made The rolls of fame I will not now explore; him.) I had now gained the point I aimed at; and Nor need I here describe, in learned lay, saw that his reason taught him (though he could How forth the Minstrel fared in days of yore, not so express it) that what begins to be, must have Right glad of heart, though homely in array ; a cause, and that what is formed with regularity; His waving locks and beard all hoary gray; must have an intelligent cause. I therefore told While from his bending shoulder, decent hung him the name of the Great Being who made him His harp, the sole companion of his way, and all the world, concerning whose adorable nature which to the whistling wind responsive rung: I gave him such information as I thought he could And ever as he went some merry lay he sung. in some measure comprehend. The lesson affected him deeply, and he never forgot either it or the Fret not thyself, thou glittering child of pride, circumstance that introduced it.'
That a poor villager inspires my strain; • The Minstrel,' on which Beattie's fame now rests, With thee let Pageantry and Power abide; is a didactic poem, in the Spenserian stanza, de - The gentle Muses baunt the sylvan reign ; signed to 'trace the progress of a poetical genius, Where through wild groves at eve the lonely swain born in a rude age, from the first dawning of fancy Enraptured roams, to gaze on Nature's charms. and reason till that period at which he may be They hate the sensual, and scorn the vain ;
The parasite their influence never warms, supposed capable of appearing in the world as a minstrel.' The idea was suggested by Percy's pre- Nor him whose sordid soul the love of gold alarms. liminary Dissertation to his Reliques--one other Though richest hues the peacock’s plumes adorn, benefit which that collection has conferred upon Yet horror screams from his discordant throat. the lovers of poetry. The character of Edwin, the Rise, sons of harmony, and hail the morn, minstrel (in which Beattie embodied his own early While warbling larks on russet pinions float: feelings and poetical aspirations), is very finely Or seek at noon the woodland scene remote, drawn. The romantic seclusion of his youth, and Where the gray linnets carol from the hill, his ardour for knowledge, find a response in all o let them ne'er, with artificial note, young and generous minds; while the calm philo- To please a tyrant, strain the little bill, [will. sophy and reflection of the poet, interest the more But sing what Heaven inspires, and wander where they mature and experienced reader. The poem was Liberal, not lavish, is kind Nature's hand; left unfinished, and this is scarcely to be regretted. Nor was perfection made for man below. Beattie had not strength of pinion to keep long on Yet all her schemes with nicest art are planned, the wing in the same lofty region; and Edwin would Good counteracting ill, and gladness wo. have contracted some earthly taint in his descent. With gold and gems if Chilian mountains glow; Gray thought there was too much description in If bleak and barren Scotia's hills arise ; the first part of the · Minstrel,' but who would ex-There plague and poison, lust and rapine grow; change it for the philosophy of the second part? | Here peaceful are the vales, and pure the skies, The poet intended to have carried his hero into a And freedom fires the soul, and sparkles in the eyes. life of variety and action, but he certainly would Then grieve not thou, to whom the indulgent Muse not have succeeded. As it is, when he finds it Vouchsafes a portion of celestial fire : necessary to continue Edwin beyond the flowery Nor blame the partial lates, if they refuse path' of childhood, and to explore the shades of life, The imperial banquet and the rich attire. he calls in the aid of a hermit, who schools the young Know thine own worth, and reverence the lyre. enthusiast on virtue, knowledge, and the dignity of Wilt thou debase the heart which God refined ? man. The appearance of this sage is happily de- No; let thy heaven-taught soul to Heaven aspire, scribed
To fancy, freedom, harmony, resigned ;
On the dull couch of Luxury to loll,
Fain to implore the aid of Flattery's screen,
Even from thyself thy loathsome heart to hide A wreath of woodbine round his antlers tall, (The mansion then no more of joy serene), And hung his lofty neck with many a floweret small. Where fear, distrust, malevolence abide,
And impotent desire, and disappointed pride ? [Opening of the Minstrel.]
O how canst thou renounce the boundless store Ah! who can tell how hard it is to climb
Of charms which Nature to her votary yields ! The steep where Fame's proud temple shines afar; The warbling woodland, the resounding shore, Ah! who can tell how many a soul sublime
The pomp of groves, and garniture of fields; Has felt the influence of malignant star,
All that the genial ray of morning gilds, And waged with Fortune an eternal war;
And all that echoes to the song of even, Checked by the scoff of Pride, by Envy's frown, All that the mountain's sheltering bosom shields, And Poverty's unconquerable bar,
And all the dread magnificence of heaven, In life's low vale remote has pined alone,
( how canst thou renounce, and hope to be forgiven? Then dropped into the grave, unpitied and unknown! And yet the languor of inglorious day
There lived in Gothic days, as legends tell, Not equally oppressive is to all;
A shepherd-swain, a man of low degree, Him, who ne'er listened to the voice of praise, Whose sires, perchance, in Fairyland might dwell, The silence of neglect can ne'er appal.
Sicilian groves, or vales of Arcady;
But he, I ween, was of the north countrie;
In billows, lengthening to the horizon round, A nation famed for song, and beauty's charms; Now scooped in gulfs, with mountains now embossed ! Zealous, yet modest; innocent, though free;
And hear the voice of mirth and song rebound, Patient of toil; serene amidst alarms;
Flocks, herds, and waterfalls, along the hoar proInflexible in faith; invincible in arms.
found ! The shepherd swain of whom I mention made, In truth he was a strange and wayward wight, On Scotia's mountains fed his little flock;
Fond of each gentle and each dreadful scene. The sickle, scythe, or plough he never swayed ;
In darkness and in storm he found delight; An honest heart was almost all his stock;
Nor less than when on ocean-wave serene,
The southern sun diffused his dazzling shene.
And if a sigh would sometimes intervene,
And down his cheek a tear of pity roll, Did guide and guard their wanderings, whereso'er A sigh, a tear, so sweet, he wished not to control. they went.
Oft when the winter storm had ceased to rave, [Description of Edwin.]
He roamed the snowy waste at even, to view
The cloud stupendous, from the Atlantic wave And yet poor Edwin was no vulgar boy.
High-towering, sail along the horizon blue ; Deep thought oft seemed to fix his infant eye. Where, 'midst the changeful scenery, ever new, Dainties he heeded not, nor gaude, nor toy,
Fancy a thousand wondrous forms descries, Save one short pipe of rudest minstrelsy;
More wildly great than ever pencil drew; Silent when glad; affectionate, though shy ;
Rocks, torrents, gulfs, and shapes of giant size, And now his look was most demurely sad,
And glittering cliffs on cliffs, and fiery ramparts rise. And now he laughed aloud, yet none knew why. The neighbours stared and sighed, yet blessed the lad; Thence musing onward to the sounding shore, Some deemed him wondrous wise, and some believed The lone enthusiast oft would take his
way, him mad.
Listening, with pleasing dread, to the deep roar
In black array
When sulphurous clouds rolled on the autumnal day, Concourse, and noise, and toil, he ever fled;
Even then he hastened from the haunt of man, Nor cared to mingle in the clamorous fray
Along the trembling wilderness to stray, Of squabbling imps; but to the forest sped,
What time the lightning's fierce career began, Or roamed at large the lonely mountain's head, And o'er heaven's rending arch the rattling thunder Or where the maze of some bewildered stream To deep untrodden groves his footsteps led, There would he wander wild, till Phæbus' beam,
Responsive to the sprightly pipe, when all Shot from the western cliff, released the weary team.
In sprightly dance the village youth were joined,
Edwin, of melody aye held in thrall, The exploit of strength, dexterity, or speed,
From the rude gambol far remote reclined, To him nor vanity nor joy could bring :
Soothed with the soft notes warbling in the wind. His heart, from cruel sport estranged, would bleed
Ah then, all jollity seemed noise and folly! To work the wo of any living thing,
To the pure soul by Fancy's fire refined,
Ah, what is mirth but turbulence unholy,
When with the charm compared of heavenly melanHe wished to be the guardian, not the king,
choly ! Tyrant far less, or traitor of the field,
Is there a heart that music cannot melt? And sure the sylvan reign unbloody joy might yield. Alas! how is that rugged heart forlorn ;
Is there, who ne'er those mystic transports felt Lo! where the stripling, wrapt in wonder, roves
Of solitude and melancholy born? Beneath the precipice o'erhung with pine ;
He needs not woo the Muse; he is her scorn. And sees on high, amidst the encircling groves,
The sophist's rope of cobweb he shall twine ; From cliff to cliff the foaming torrents shine;
Mope o'er the schoolman's peevish rage; or mourn, While waters, woods, and winds, in concert join,
And delve for life in Mammon's dirty mine; And echo swells the chorus to the skies.
Sneak with the scoundrel fox, or grunt with glutton Would Edwin this majestic scene resign
swine. For aught the huntsman's puny craft supplies ? Ah, no! he better knows great Nature's charms to For Edwin, Fate a nobler doom had planned ; prize.
Song was his favourite and first pursuit.
The wild harp rang to his adventurous hand, And oft he traced the uplands to survey,
And languished to his breath the plaintive flute. When o'er the sky advanced the kindling dawn, His infant muse, though artless, was not mute. The crimson cloud, blue main, and mountain gray, Of elegance as yet he took no care ; And lake, dim-gleaming on the smoky lawn :
For this of time and culture is the fruit;
As in some future verse I purpose to declare.
Meanwhile, whate'er of beautiful or new, But, lo! the sun appears ! and heaven, earth, ocean, Sublime, or dreadful, in earth, sea, or sky, smile.
By chance, or search, was offered to his view,
He scanned with curious and romantic eye. And oft the craggy cliff he loved to climb,
Whate'er of lore tradition could supply When all in mist the world below was lost
From Gothic tale, or song, or fable old, What dreadful pleasure there to stand sublime, Roused him, still keen to listen and to pry. Like shipwrecked mariner on desert coast,
At last, though long by penury controlled, And view the enormous waste of vapour, tost
And solitude, his soul her graces 'gan unfold.
Thus on the chill Lapponian's dreary land,
Shall I be left forgotten in the dust,
When in the crimson cloud of even
The lingering light decays,
And Hesper on the front of heaven
His glittering gem displays ;
Deep in the silent vale, unseen,
Beside a lulling stream,
A pensive youth, of placid mien,
Indulged this tender theme.
• Ye cliffs, in hoary grandeur piled
High o'er the glimmering dale;
Ye woods, along whose windings wild
Murmurs the solemn gale :
Where Melancholy strays forlorn,
And Wo retires to weep,
What time the wan moon's yellow horn
Gleams on the western deep :
To you, ye wastes, whose artless charms
Ne'er drew Ambition's eye,
'Scaped a tumultuous world's alarms,
To your retreats I fly.
Deep in your most sequestered bower
Let me at last recline,
Leans on her ivied shrine.
How shall I woo thee, matchless fair ?
Thy heavenly smile how win?
Thy smile that smooths the brow of Care,
And stills the storm within.
O wilt thou to thy favourite grove
Thine ardent votary bring,
And bless his hours, and bid them move
Serene, on silent wing?
Oft let Remembrance soothe his mind
With dreams of former days,
When in the lap of Peace reclined
He framed his infant lays ;
When Fancy roved at large, nor Care
Nor cold Distrust alarmed,
Nor Envy, with malignant glare,
His simple youth had harmed.
'Twas then, O Solitude! to thee
From heart sincere, and warm, and free,
Devoted to the shade.
Ah why did Fate his steps decoy
In stormy paths to roam,
Remote from all congenial joy !-
O take the wanderer home.
Thy shades, thy silence now be mine,
Thy charms my only theme;
My haunt the hollow cliff, whose pine
Waves o'er the gloomy stream.
Whence the scared owl on pinions gray
Breaks from the rustling boughs,
And down the lone vale sails away
To more profound repose.
O, while to thee the woodland pours
Its wildly warbling song,
And balmy from the bank of flowers
The zephyr breathes along;
Let no rude sound invade from far,
CHRISTOPHER SMART, an unfortunate and irre-
gular man of genius, was born in 1722 at Ship
bourne in Kent. His father was steward to Lord Thy hallowed bowers explore,
Barnard (afterwards Earl of Darlington), and dying
when his son was eleven years of age, the patronage For he of joys divine shall tell,
of Lord Barnard was generously continued to his That wean from earthly wo,
family. Through the influence of this nobleman, And triumph o'er the mighty spell
Christopher procured from the Duchess of CleveThat chains his heart below.
land an allowance of £40 per annum. He was ad
mitted of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, in 1739, For me, no more the path invites
elected a fellow of Pembroke in 1745, and took his Ambition loves to tread;
degree of M.A. in 1747. At college, Smart was No more I climb those toilsome heights, remarkable for folly and extravagance, and his By guileful Hope misled;
distinguished contemporary Gray prophesied truly Leaps my fond fluttering heart no more that the result of his conduct would be a jail or To Mirth's enlivening strain;
bedlam. In 1747, he wrote a comedy called a Trip For present pleasure soon is o'er,
to Cambridge, or The Grateful Fair, which was acted And all the past is vain.'
in Pembroke College Hall, the parlour of which was
made the green-room. No remains of this play have The Hermit.
been found, excepting a few songs and a mock
heroic soliloquy, the latter containing the following At the close of the day, when the hamlet is still,
humorous simile :And mortals the sweets of forgetfulness prove, When nought but the torrent is heard on the hill, Thus when a barber and a collier fight, And nought but the nightingale’s song in the grove: The barber beats the luckless collier white; 'Twas thus, by the cave of the mountain afar, The dusty collier heaves his ponderous sack, While his harp rung symphonious, a hermit began : And, big with vengeance, beats the barber black. No more with himself or with nature at war,
In comes the brick-dust man, with grime o'erspread, He thought as a sage, though he felt as a man. And beats the collier and the barber red; "Ah! why, all abandoned to darkness and wo,
Black, red, and white, in various clouds are tossed,
And in the dust they raise the combatants are lost. Why, lone Philomela, that languishing fall? For spring shall return, and a lover bestow,
From the correspondence of Gray, it appears that And sorrow no longer thy bosom inthral:
Smart's income at Cambridge was about £140 per But, if pity inspire thee, renew the sad lay,
annum, and of this his creditors compelled him to Mourn, sweetest complainer, man calls thee to mourn; assign over to them £50 a-year till his debts were O soothe him, whose pleasures like thine pass away: paid. Notwithstanding his irregularities, Smart Full quickly they pass—but they never return. cultivated his talents, and was distinguished both Now gliding remote on the verge of the sky,
for his Latin and English verse. His manners were The moon half extinguished her crescent displays : agreeable, though his misconduct appears to have But lately I marked, when majestic on high
worn out the indulgence of all his college friends, She shone, and the planets were lost in her blaze.
Having written several pieces for periodicals pubRoll on, thou fair orb, and with gladness pursue lished by Newberry, Smart became acquainted The path that conducts thee to splendour again ;
with the bookseller's family, and married his stepBut man's faded glory what change shall renew ?
daughter, Miss Carnan, in the year 1753. He now Ah fool! to exult in a glory so vain !
removed to London, and endeavoured to subsist by 'Tis night, and the landscape is lovely no more ;
his pen. The notorious Sir John Hill-whose wars I mourn, but, ye woodlands, I mourn not for you;
with the Royal Society, with Fielding, &c., are well
known, and who closed his life by becoming a quack For morn is approaching, your charms to restore, Perfumed with fresh fragrance, and glittering with dew: latter replied by a spirited satire entitled The Hil
doctor — having insidiously attacked Smart, the Nor yet for the ravage of winter I mourn; Kind Nature the embryo blossom will save.
liad. Among his various tasks was a metrical But when shall spring visit the mouldering urn!
translation of the Fables of Phædrus. He also O when shall it dawn on the night of the grave !
translated the psalms and parables into verse, but
the version is destitute of talent. He had, how'Twas thus, by the glare of false science betrayed, ever, in his better days, translated with success, and That leads, to bewilder; and dazzles, to blind ;
to Pope's satisfaction, the Ode on St Cecilia's Day. My thoughts wont to roam, from shade onward to In 1756 Smart was one of the conductors of a shade,
monthly periodical called The Universal Visiter ; and Destruction before me, and sorrow behind.
to assist him, Johnson (who sincerely sympathised, “O pity, great Father of Light," then I cried,
as Boswell relates, with Smart's unhappy vacilla" Thy creature, who fain would not wander from thee; tion of mind) contributed a few essays. In 1763 we Lo, humbled in dust, I relinquish my pride:
find the poor poet confined in a mad-house. He From doubt and from darkness thou only canst free!" has partly as much exercise,' said Johnson, as he And darkness and doubt are now flying away, used to have, for he digs in the garden. Indeed, No longer I roam in conjecture forlorn.
before his confinement, he used for exercise to walk So breaks on the traveller, faint, and astray,
to the ale-house ; but he was carried back again, I The bright and the balmy effulgence of morn. did not think he ought to be shut up. His infirSee Truth, Love, and Mercy, in triumph descending, mities were not noxious to society. He insisted on
I And Nature all glowing in Eden's first bloom ! people praying with him (also falling upon his On the cold cheek of death smiles and roses are knees and saying his prayers in the street, or in any blending,
other unusual place); and I'd as lief pray with Kit And beauty immortal awakes from the tomb.' Smart as any one else. Another charge was, that