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struck out a particular path for themselves, which composition, of which we find not a trace in the cannot, with strict propriety, be termed either rudeness of the ancient ditty. I can bear witness ancient or modern.
to the older verses having been current while I In the actual imitation of the ancient ballad, was a child, but I never knew a line of the inspired Dr. Percy, whose researches made him well ac- edition of the Ayrshire bard until the appearance quainted with that department of poetry, was of Johnson's Museum. peculiarly successful. The Hermit of Wark- Besides Percy, Burns, and others, we must not worth," the “Childe of Elle,” and other minstrel omit to mention Mr. Finlay, whose beautiful song, tales of his composition, must always be remem
“There came a knight from the field of the slain," bered with fondness by those who have perused them in that period of life when the feelings are is so happily descriptive of antique manners; or strong, and the taste for poetry, especially of this Mickle, whose accurate and interesting imitations simple nature, is keen and poignant. This learned of the ancient ballad we have already mentioned and amiable prelate was also remarkable for his with approbation in the former Essay on Ballad power of restoring the ancient ballad, by throwing Composition. These, with others of modern date, in touches of poetry, so adapted to its tone and at the head of whom we must place Thomas tenor, as to assimilate with its original structure, Moore, have aimed at striking the ancient harp and impress every one who considered the subject with the same bold and rough note to which it as being coeval with the rest of the piece. It must was awakened by the ancient minstrels. Southey, be owned, that such freedoms, when assumed by Wordsworth, and other distinguished names of the a professed antiquary, addressing himself to anti- present century, have, in repeated instances, digquaries, and for the sake of illustrating literary nified this branch of literature; but no one more antiquities, are subject to great and licentious than Coleridge, in the wild and imaginative tale abuse; and herein the severity of Ritson was to a
of the “ Ancient Mariner,” which displays so much certain extent justified. But when the license is beauty with such eccentricity. We should act avowed, and practised without the intention to most unjustly in this department of Scottish ballad deceive, it cannot be objected to but by scrupulous poetry, not to mention the names of Leyden, Hogg, pedantry.
and Allan Cunningham. They have all three honThe poet, perhaps, most capable, by verses, ored their country, by arriving at distinction from lines, even single words, to relieve and heighten a humble origin, and there is none of them under the character of ancient poetry, was the Scottish whose hand the ancient Scottish harp has not bard Robert Burns. We are not here speaking sounded a bold and distinguished tone. Miss Anne of the avowed lyrical poems of his own composi- Bannerman likevise should not be forgotten, whose tion, which he communicated to Mr. George Thom- | “Tales of Superstition and Chivalry” appeared son, but of the manner in which he recomposed about 1802. They were perhaps too mystical and and repaired the old songs and fragments for the too abrupt; yet if it be the purpose of this kind collection of Johnson and others, when, if his of ballad poetry powerfully to excite the imaginamemory supplied the theme, or general subject of tion, without pretending to satisfy it, few persons the song, such as it existed in Scottish lore, his have succeeded better than this gifted lady, whose genius contributed that part which was to give volume is peculiarly fit to be read in a lonely life and immortality to the whole. If this praise house by a decaying lamp. should be thought extravagant, the reader may
As we have already hinted, a numerous class of compare his splendid lyric, “My heart's in the the authors (some of them of the very first class) Highlands,” with the tame and scarcely half-intel- who condescended to imitate the simplicity of anligible remains of that song as preserved by Mr. cient poetry, gave themselves no trouble to obPeter Buchan. Or, what is perhaps a still more
serve the costume, style, or manner, either of the magnificent example of what we mean, “Macpher-old minstrel or ballad-singer, but assumed a strucson's Farewell,” with all its spirit and grandeur, ture of a separate and peculiar kind, which could as repaired by Burns, may be collated with the not be correctly termed either ancient or modern, original poem called “ Macpherson's Lament,” or although made the vehicle of beauties which were sometimes the "Ruffian's Rant." In Burns's bril- common to both. The discrepancy between the liant rifacimento, the same strain of wild ideas is mark which they avowed their purpose of shooting expressed as we find in the original; but with an
at, and that at which they really took aim, is best infusion of the savage and impassioned spirit of illustrated by a production of one of the most disHighland chivalry, which gives a splendor to the tinguished of their number. Goldsmith describes
the young family of his Vicar of Wakefield, as 1 Johnson's " Musical Museum," in 6 vols., was lately re
amusing themselves with conversing about poetry. printed at Edinburgh.
Mr. Burchell observes, that the British poets, who
Its silent waters stole away.'
imitated the classics, have especially contributed | It may be found in Allan Ramsay's “ Tea-table to introduce a false taste, by loading their lines Miscellany." with epithets, so as to present a combination of We need only stop to mention another very luxuriant images, without plot or connection,-a beautiful piece of this fanciful kind, by Dr. Cartstring of epithets that improve the sound, without wright, called Armin and Elvira, containing some carrying on the sense. But when an example of excellent poetry, expressed with unusual felieity. popular poetry is produced as free from the fault I have a vision of having met this accomplished which the critic has just censured, it is the well- gentleman in my very early youth, and am the known and beautiful poem of Edwin and Angelina ! less likely to be mistaken, as he was the first living which, in felicitous attention to the language, and poet I recollect to have seen." His poem had the in fanciful ornament of imagery, is as unlike to a distinguished honor to be much admired by our minstrel ballad, as a lady assuming the dress of a celebrated philosopher, Dugald Stewart, who was Shepherdess for a masquerade, is different from wont to quote with much pathos, the picture of the actual Sisly of Salisbury Plain. Tickell's resignation in the following stanza :beautiful ballad is equally formed upon a pastoral, “ And while his eye to Heaven he raised, sentimental, and ideal model, not, however, less beautifully executed; and the attention of Addison's friend had been probably directed to the ed genius, who have cultivated the Arcadian style
After enumerating so many persons of undoubtballad stanza (for the stanza is all which is imi
of poetry (for to such it may be compared), it tated) by the praise bestowed on Chevy Chase in
would be endless to enumerate the various Sir the Spectator.
Eldreds of the hills and downs whose stories were Upon a later occasion, the subject of Mallet's fine poem, Edwin and Emma, being absolutely to be the name assigned to this half-ancient, half
woven into legendary tales—which came at length rural in itself, and occurring at the hamlet of modern style of composition. Bowes, in Yorkshire, might have seduced the poet from the beau idéal which he had pictured to him cility of this species of composition, the alluring
In general I may observe, that the supposed faself, into something more immediately allied to common life. But Mallet was not a man to neg. it, afforded great attractions for those whose am
simplicity of which was held sufficient to support lect what was esteemed fashionable, and poor bítion led them to exercise their untried talents Hannah Railton and her lover Wrightson were
in verse, but who were desirous to do so with the enveloped in the elegant but tinsel frippery ap- least possible expense of thought. The task seems pertaining to Edward and Emma; for the similes
, to present, at least to the inexperienced acolyte reflections, and suggestions of the poet are, in fact, of the Muses, the same advantages which an intoo intrusive and too well said to suffer the reader
strument of sweet sound and small compass offers to feel the full taste of the tragic tale. The verses are doubtless beautiful, but I must own the shmple either case, however, it frequently happens that
to those who begin their studies in music. In prose of the Curate's letter, who gives the narra
the scholar, getting tired of the palling and monottive of the tale as it really happened, has to me a
onous character of the poetry or music which he tone of serious veracity. more affecting than the produces, becomes desirous to strike a more indeornaments of Mallet's fiction. The same author's
pendent note, even at the risk of its being a more ballad, “William and Margaret," has, in some
difficult one. degree, the same fault. A disembodied spirit is
The same simplicity involves an inconvenience not a person before whom the living spectator fatal to the continued popularity of any species of takes leisure to make remarks of a moral kind, as, poetry, by exposing it in a peculiar degree to ridi" So will the fairest face appear,
cule and to parody. Dr. Johnson, whose style of When youth and years are flown,
poetry was of a very different and more stately And such the robe that Kings must wear
description, could ridicule the ballads of Percy, in When death has reft their crown."
such stanzas as these, Upon the whole, the ballad, though the best of
** The tender infant, meek and mild, Mallet's writing, is certainly inferior to its origi
Fell down upon a stone; nal, which I presume to be the very fine and even
The nurse took up the squalling child, terrific old Scottish tale, beginning,
But still the child squall’d on;" “There came a ghost to Margaret's door.” with various slipshod imitations of the same qual
2 Happily altered by an admiring foreigner, who read
ilf I am right in what must be a very early recollection, I saw Mr. Cartwright (then a student of medicine at the Edinburgh University) at the house of my maternal grandfather, John Rutherford, M. D.
" The silent waters stole away."
ity. It did not require his talents to pursue this honors of their profession. Neither was I in a
vein of raillery, for it was such as most men could situation to be embarrassed by the res angusta 'imitate, and all could enjoy. It is, therefore, little domi, which might have otherwise brought painful wonderful that this sort of composition should be additional obstructions to a path in which progress repeatedly laid aside for considerable periods of is proverbially slow. I enjoyed a moderate degree time, and certainly as little so, that it should have of business for my standing, and the friendship of been repeatedly revived, like some forgotten mel- more than one person of consideration and inody, and have again obtained some degree of pop- fluence efficiently disposed to aid my views in ularity, until it sunk once more under satire, as life. The private fortune, also, which I might exwell as parody, but, above all, the effects of satiety. pect, and finally inherited, from my family, did
During the thirty years that I have paid some not, indeed, amount to affluence, but placed me attention to literary matters, the taste for the an- considerably beyond all apprehension of want. I cient ballad melody, and for the closer or more mention these particulars merely because they are distant imitation of that strain of poetry, has more true. Many better men than myself have owed than once arisen, and more than once subsided, in their rise from indigence and obscurity to their consequence, perhaps, of too unlimited indulgence. own talents, which were, doubtless, much more That this has been the case in other countries, we adequate to the task of raising them than any know ; for the Spanish poet, when he found that which I possess. But although it would be abthe beautiful Morisco romances were excluding all surd and ungracious in me to deny, that I owe other topics, confers upon them a hearty maledic- to literature many marks of distinction to which tion.
I could not otherwise have aspired, and particuA period when this particular taste for the pop- larly that of securing the acquaintance, and even ular ballad was in the most extravagant degree the friendship, of many remarkable persons of the of fashion, became the occasion, unexpectedly, in- age, to whom I could not otherwise have made deed, of my deserting the profession to which I my way; it would, on the other hand, be ridicuwas educated, and in which I had sufficiently ad- lous to affect gratitude to the public favor, either vantageous prospects for a person of limited ambi- for my general position in society, or the means of tion. I have, in a former publication, undertaken supporting it with decency, matters which had to mention this circumstance; and I will endeavor been otherwise secured under the usual chances to do so with becoming brevity, and without more of human affairs. Thus much I have thought it egotism than is positively exacted by the nature necessary to say upon a subject, which is, after all, of the story.
of very little consequence to any one but myself. I I may, in the first place, remark, that although proceed to detail the circumstances which engaged the assertion has been made, and that by persons me in literary pursuits. who seemed satisfied with their authority, it is a During the last ten years of the eighteenth mistake to suppose that my situation in life or century, the art of poetry was at a remarkably place in society were materially altered by such low ebb in Britain. Hayley, to whom fashion had success as I attained in literary attempts. My some years before ascribed a higher degree of repbirth, without giving the least pretension to dis- utation than posterity has confirmed, had now tinction, was that of a gentleman, and connected lost his reputation for talent, though he still lived me with several respectable families and accom- beloved and respected as an amiable and accomplished persons. My education had been a good plished man. The Bard of Memory slumbered one, although I was deprived of its full benefit by on his laurels, and He of Hope had scarce begun indifferent health, just at the period when I ought to attract his share of public attention. Cowper, to have been most sedulous in improving it. The a poet of deep feeling and bright genius, was still young men with whom I was brought up, and alive, indeed; but the hypochondria, which was lived most familiarly, were those, who, from op- his mental malady, impeded his popularity. Burns, portunities, birth, and talents, might be expected whose genius our southern neighbors could hardly to make the greatest advances in the career for yet comprehend, had long confined himself to which we were all destined; and I have the song-writing. Names which are now known and pleasure still to preserve my youthful intimacy distinguished wherever the English language is with no inconsiderable number of them, whom spoken, were then only beginning to be mentheir merit has carried forward to the highest tioned; and, unless among the small number of
i Percy was especially annoyed, according to Boswell, with
And there I met another man
With his hat in his hand."--Ed. 9 See the Introduction to Lockhart's Spanish Ballads, 1823
“ I put my hat upon my head,
And walked into the Strand,
persons who habitually devote a part of their It was so late as the 21st day of April, 1788, leisure to literature, even those of Southey, that the literary persons of Edinburgh, of whom, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, were still but little at that period, I am better qualified to speak than known. The realms of Parnassus, like many a of those of Britain generally, or especially those of kingdom at the period, seemed to lie open to the London, were first made aware of the existence first bold invader, whether he should be a daring of works of genius in a language cognate with the usurper, or could show a legitimate title of sove- English, and possessed of the same manly force of reignty.
expression. They learned, at the same time, that As far back as 1788, a new species of literature the taste which dictated the German compositions began to be introduced into this country. Ger- was of a kind as nearly allied to the English as many, long known as a powerful branch of the Eu- their language. Those who were accustomed from ropean confederacy, was then, for the first time, their youth to admire Milton and Shakspeare, beheard of as the cradle of a style of poetry and lit- came acquainted, I may say for the first time, with erature, of a kind much more analogous to that of the existence of a race of poets who had the same Britain, than either the French, Spanish, or Italian lofty ambition to spurn the flaming boundaries of the schools, though all three had been at various times universe,' and investigate the realms of chaos and cultivated and imitated among us. The names of old night; and of dramatists, who, disclaiming the Lessing, Klopstock, Schiller, and other German pedantry of the unities, sought, at the expense of cepoets of eminence, were only known in Britain very casional improbabilities and extravagancies, to preimperfectly. “The Sorrows of Werter” was the sent life in its scenes of wildest contrast, and in all only composition that had attained any degree of its boundless variety of character, mingling, without popularity, and the success of that remarkable hesitation, livelier with more serious incidents, and novel, notwithstanding the distinguished genius of exchanging scenes of tragic distress, as they occur the author, was retarded by the nature of its inci- in common life, with those of a comic tendency. dents. To the other compositions of Goethé, whose This emancipation from the rules so servilely adtalents were destined to illuminate the age in which hered to by the French school, and particularly by he flourished, the English remained strangers, and their dramatic poets, although it was attended much more so to Schiller, Bürger, and a whole cy- with some disadvantages, especially the risk of cle of foreigners of distinguished merit. The ob- extravagance and bombast, was the means of girscurity to which German literature seemed to be ing free scope to the genius of Goethe, Schiller, condemned, did not arise from want of brilliancy and others, which, thus relieved from shackles, was in the lights by which it was illuminated, but from not long in soaring to the highest pitch of poetie the palpable thickness of the darkness by which sublimity. The late venerable Henry Mackenzie, they were surrounded. Frederick II. of Prussia author of “ The Man of Feeling," in an Essay upon had given a partial and ungracious testimony the German Theatre, introduced his countrymen against his native language and native literature, to this new species of national literature, the pecuand impolitically and unwisely, as well as unjustly, liarities of which he traced with equal truth and had yielded to the French that superiority in let- spirit, although they were at that time known to ters, which, after his death, paved the way for him only through the imperfect and uncongenial their obtaining, for a time, an equal superiority in medium of a French translation. Upon the day arms. That great Prince, by setting the example already mentioned (21st April, 1788), he read to of undervaluing his country in one respect, raised the Royal Society an Essay on German Literaa belief in its general inferiority, and destroyed the ture, which made much noise, and produced a manly pride with which a nation is naturally dis powerful effect. “Germany,” he observed, “ in her posed to regard its own peculiar manners and pe- literary aspect, presents herself to observation in culiar literature.
a singular point of view; that of a country arrived Unmoved by the scornful neglect of its sover- at maturity, along with the neighboring nations, eigns and nobles, and encouraged by the tide of in the arts and sciences, in the pleasures and re native genius, which flowed in upon the nation, finements of manners, and yet only in its infancy German literature began to assume a new, inter- with regard to writings of taste and imagination. esting, and highly impressive character, to which This last path, however, from these very circumit became impossible for strangers to shut their stances, she pursues with an enthusiasm which do eyes. That it exhibited the faults of exaggeration other situation could perhaps have produced, the and false taste, almost inseparable from the first enthusiasm which novelty inspires, and which the attempts at the heroic and at the pathetic, cannot servility incident to a more cultivated and critical be denied. It was, in a word, the first crop of a state of literature does not restrain." At the rich soil, which throws out weeds as well as flowers with a prolific abundance
1 "Flammantia mænia mundi !!_-LUORETIUS.
same time, the accomplished critic showed himself | sufferable bore, and gave the pre-eminence, in equally familiar with the classical rules of the point of masculine character, to his brother Cain, French stage, and failed not to touch upon the ac or even to Lucifer himself. When these jests, knowledged advantages which these produced, by which arose out of the sickly monotony and affectthe encouragement and regulation of taste, though ed ecstasies of the poet, failed to amuse us, we at the risk of repressing genius.
had for our entertainment the unutterable sounds But it was not the dramatic literature alone of manufactured by a Frenchman, our fellow-student, the Germans which was hitherto unknown to their who, with the economical purpose of learning two neighbors—their fictitious narratives, their ballad languages at once, was endeavoring to acquire poetry, and other branches of their literature, German, of which he knew nothing, by means of which are particularly apt to bear the stamp of English, concerning which he was nearly as ignothe extravagant and the supernatural, began to rant. Heaven only knows the notes which he utoccupy the attention of the British literati. tered, in attempting, with unpractised organs, to
In Edinburgh, where the remarkable coincidence imitate the gutturals of these two intractable lanbetween the German language and that of the guages. At length, in the midst of much laughing Lowland Scottish, encouraged young men to ap- and little study, most of us acquired some knowproach this newly discovered spring of literature, ledge, more or less extensive, of the German lana class was formed, of six or seven intimate friends, guage, and selected for ourselves, some in the who proposed to make themselves acquainted with philosophy of Kant, some in the more animated the German language. They were in the habit of works of the German dramatists, specimens more living much together, and the time they spent in to our taste than “The Death of Abel.” this new study was felt as a period of great amuse- About this period, or a year or two sooner, the ment. One source of this diversion was the lazi- accomplished and excellent Lord Woodhouselee,' ness of one of their number, the present author, one of the friends of my youth, made a spirited who, averse to the necessary toil of grammar and version of “The Robbers” of Schiller, which I beits rules, was in the practice of fighting his way to lieve was the first published, though an English the knowledge of the German by his acquaintance version appeared soon afterwards in London, as with the Scottish and Anglo-Saxon dialects, and, the metropolis then took the lead in every thing of course, frequently committed blunders which like literary adventure. The enthusiasm with were not lost on his more accurate and more stu- which this work was received, greatly increased dious companions. A more general source of the general taste for German compositions. amusement, was the despair of the teacher, on While universal curiosity was thus distinguishfinding it impossible to extract from his Scottish ing the advancing taste for the German language students the degree of sensibility necessary, as he and literature, the success of a very young student, thought, to enjoy the beauties of the author to in a juvenile publication, seemed to show that the whom he considered it proper first to introduce prevailing taste in that country might be easily them. We were desirous to penetrate at once employed as a formidable auxiliary to renewing into the recesses of the Teutonic literature, and the spirit of our own, upon the same system as therefore were ambitious of perusing Goethé and when medical persons attempt, by the transfusion Schiller, and others whose fame had been sounded of blood, to pass into the veins of an aged and exby Mackenzie. Dr. Willich (a medical gentleman), hausted patient, the vivacity of the circulation and who was our teacher, was judiciously disposed to liveliness of sensation which distinguish a young commence our studies with the more simple dic- subject. The person who first attempted to intion of Gesner, and prescribed to us “The Death troduce something like the German taste into of Abel," as the production from which our Ger- English fictitious dramatic and poetical composiman tasks were to be drawn. The pietistic style tion, although his works, when first published, of this author was ill adapted to attract young engaged general attention, is now comparatively persons of our age and disposition. We could no forgotten. I mean Matthew Gregory Lewis, whose more sympathize with the overstrained sentimen- character and literary history are so immediately tality of Adam and his family, than we could have connected with the subject of which I am treating, had a fellow-feeling with the jolly Faun of the that a few authentic particulars may be here insame author, who broke his beautiful jug, and then serted by one to whom he was well known.” made a song on it which might have affected all Lewis's rank in society was determined by his Staffordshire. To sum up the distresses of Dr. birth, which, at the same time, assured his fortune. Willich, we, with one consent, voted Abel an in- His father was Under-Secretary at War, at that
| Alexander Fraser Tytler, a Judge of the Court of Session by the title of Lord Woodhouselee, author of the well-known " Elements of General History," and long eminent as Professor
of History in the University of Edinburgh. He died in 1810.-ED.
? See more of Lewis in the Life of Scott, vol. ii. pp. 8–14.