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anthropic character of one who had learned, like Solomon, after drinking the cup of pleasure to the full, that “all is vanity and vexation of spirit;" but who had not learned, like him, that “wisdom's ways are pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”
Lord Byron died in Greece, at the early age of thirtysix, when his great genius seemed expanding itself to the display of its utmost powers, and awakening to a juster sense of the noble and worthy ends for which such fine powers of intellect are bestowed. Burns and Byron both died nearly at the same age, both leaving monuments of poetic genius such as the world will not willingly let die, yet both leaving on the minds of their most ardent admirers a far deeper sense of sorrowful reflection on what they might have accomplished under happier circumstances, if each had been truer to his great stewardship, in the use of the talents committed to his charge.
Besides the great poets already named, our age has produced not a few whose works will long be valued for the great genius and beauty which they display. Both Burns and Byron produced many imitators, the great majority of whom have sunk into merited oblivion. But, besides these, there are contemporary writers of the same
whose independent and original genius demands our notice. Foremost among the latter stands
BORN, 1773; DIED, 1835.
Tue ETTRICK SHEPHERD, as he is commonly called, was born, if possible, to even a humbler lot than Burns. Descended of a race of shepherds, his childhood and youth were passed entirely in the remote rural dalc with which his name is associated, beyond all reach of literary influence, or the knowledge of books. His whole education, until he reached manhood, consisted but of the fruits of six months' attendance at a country school. Though not without generous friends, raised up to him among the admirers of his untaught genius, Hogg experienced the usual share of misfortunes which have awaited the humble followers of the Muse. But he bore his lot bravely and cheerfully, and died at last in his native dale, beloved and mourned by a numerous circle of admirers. His writings are characterized by great natural vigour, and as the productions of genius entirely self-taught, and nurtured under such disadvantageous circumstances, they are altogether remarkable.
JOHN LEYDEN, M.D.,
BORN, 1775; DIED, 1811,
Was another of the remarkable geniuses born in humble life, in the latter half of the eighteenth century, among the southern dales of Scotland. Leyden was the son of a humble peasant, at Denholm, in Teviotdale, Roxburghshire. He early acquired a large amount of classical and oriental learning, and devoted himself, somewhat abruptly, to the medical profession, in consequence of receiving tho promise of an appointment in India, on the condition of his obtaining a medical degree. He died there of fever, during the English expedition against Java in 1811, at the premature age of thirty-six, when the evidences of fine genius he had already produced, and his wonderful stores of learning, had raised the highest expectations of the results to be derived from his future labours. His principal poem is “Scenes of Infancy;" but, like all the peasant-born poets of Scotland, he delighted in the productions of songs and ballads; and his poems breathe the warmth of his patriotic attachment to his native land.
BORN, 1784; DIED, 1842,
Was born in Dumfries-shire, and employed himself in his earliest years as a stone-mason. A chance introduction to Cromek, the editor of the “Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song,” led to his engaging to collect for this work the traditional poetry of his native district. But the ingenious poet, instead of ransacking the country-side for its old songs, sent to the critic his own beautiful compositions as genuine antiques; and to this happy trick we owe the finest of his natural and vigorous songs and ballads. The editor never suspected the ingenious fraud, and the contrast between the letters, in which Cromek enlarges, with gleeful enthusiasm, on the recovery of such ancient relics, and the measured terms of commendation in which he condescends to patronise the acknowledged productions of the rustic stone-mason, is exceedingly amusing. Under Cromek's advice, and with his friendly aid, Cunningham proceeded to London in 1810, and ultimately obtained a confidential appointment, with liberal emolument, in the studio of Chantrey the sculptor, whom he did not long survive. He was esteemed and loved by all who knew him intimately, having retained to the last, in the uncongenial atmosphere of London, the
honest, upright, independent character, which he took from his native Nithsdale.
Nor can we omit, from our list of modern poets, the names of the two noble brothers, John and Alexander Bethune, justly memorable among the lowly-born poets of Scotland. These two brothers will ever be associated with the gifted Ayrshire peasant, though their poetic genius was no borrowed light, but original, and inspired from nature, like his own. Along with Byron, in like manner, we are accustomed, in some degree, to associate the names of Shelley and Keats; and also, though for different reasons, of Kirke White and Moore. One of the latter owes not a little of his fame to his having been commemorated in the first really vigorous poem of Byron—his “ English Bards and Scotch Reviewers”—and to his having had, as his generous biographer, the poet Southey. The other survived to become the biographer of the author of “Childe Harold,” whom he had known as a friend in earlier life.
PERCY BYSHE SHELLEY,
BORN, 1792; DIED, 1822,
Was the son of Sir Timothy Shelley, of Castle Goring, Essex. Under unwise training, and the influence of the system of our public schools and colleges, which seems
so peculiarly unsuited for wisely fostering genius, this gifted poet went astray into the most crude and extravagant opinions on religion and social government in all its relations. Yet his natural disposition appears to have been most gentle and loveable, and, under wiser training,
might have produced the best fruits. Instead of this, he was expelled from college, cast off from his family, and the whole course of his life forced in unnatural antagonism with society. He withdrew to Switzerland in search of health, and there he for the first time met with his brother poet, Byron. Notwithstanding the licentiousness of his views in regard to nearly all moral, political, and social systems, Shelley was a man of singularly pure moral life; and his biography, written by his widow—the gifted daughter of Godwin and Mary Wolstoncraftshows a peculiarly gentle and affectionate nature, accompanied with great generosity and forbearance for others. No sadder picture, indeed, of a fine genius, marred by the uncongenial effects of an unwise educational system, could be produced, among all the biog nies of great poets. He was drowned in the Gulf of Spezzia, by the upsetting of his pleasure-boat, when he had only reached his thirtieth year. His poetic genius was extremely prolific, and his poems abound in great beauties, though strangely mingled with the idealism of his sceptical philosophy, and also with an illustrative imagery, frequently derived from the most loathsome ideas which nature can present.
BORN, 1796; DIED, 1820.
This youthful poet was the son of a livery-stable keeper in London. He was studying with a view to following the medical profession, when, as is believed, the harsh notice of his fine poem
Endymion,” so preyed upon his