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JAMES BEATTIE, an admired poet and a moralist, priety applied to such a person as he represents, and was born about 1735, in the county of Kincardine, the "Gothic days" in which he is placed are not hisin Scotland. His father was a small farmer, who, torically to be recognized, yet there is great beauty, though living in indigence, had imbibed so much of both moral and descriptive, in the delineation, and the spirit of his country, that he procured for his son perhaps no writer has managed the Spenserian stanza a literary education, first at a parochial school, and with more dexterity and harmony. The second part then at the college of New Aberdeen, in which he of this poem, which contains the maturer part of the entered as a bursar or exhibitioner. In the intervals education of the young bard, did not appear till 1774, of the sessions, James is supposed to have added to and then left the work a fragment. But whatever his scanty pittance by teaching at a country-school. may be the defects of the Minstrel, it possesses beauReturning to Aberdeen, he obtained the situation of ties which will secure it a place among the approved assistant to the master of the principal grammar- productions of the British muse. school, whose daughter he married. From youth he had cultivated a talent for poetry; and in 1760 he ventured to submit the fruit of his studies in this walk to the public, by a volume of "Original Poems and Translations." They were followed, in 1765, by "The Judgment of Paris;" and these performances, which displayed a familiarity with poetic diction, and harmony of versification, seem to have made him favorably known in his neighborhood.
The interest of the Earl of Errol acquired for him the post of professor of moral philosophy and logic in the Marischal College of Aberdeen; in which capacity he published a work, entitled "An Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth, in opposition to Sophistry and Scepticism," 1770. Being written in a popular manner, it was much read, and gained the author many admirers, especially among the most distinguished members of the Church of England; and, at the suggestion of Lord Mansfield, he was rewarded with a pension of 2001. from the King's privy-purse.
Beattie visited London for the first time in 1771, where he was received with much cordiality by the admirers of his writings, who found equal cause to love and esteem the author. Not long afterwards, the degree of LL. D. was conferred on him by his college at Aberdeen. In 1777 a new edition, by subscription, was published of his "Essay on Truth," to which were added three Essays on subjects of polite literature. In 1783 he published Dissertations Moral and Critical," consisting of detached essays, which had formed part of a course of lectures delivered by the author as professor. His last work was "Evidences of the Christian Religion, briefly and plainly stated," 2 vols. 1786. His time was now much occupied with the duties of his station, and particularly with the education of his eldest son, a youth of uncommon promise. His death, of a decline, was a very severe trial of the father's fortitude and resignation; and it was followed some years after by that of his younger son. These afflictions, with other domestic misfortunes, entirely broke his spirits, and brought him to his grave at Aberdeen, in August, 1803, in the 68th year of his age.
In 1771 his fame was largely extended by the first part of his "Minstrel," a piece the subject of which is the imagined birth and education of a poet. Although the word Minstrel is not with much pro-|
THE PROGRESS OF GENIUS.
The design was, to trace the progress of a poetical genius, born in a rude age, from the first dawning of fancy and reason, till that period at which he may be supposed capable of appearing in the world as a Minstrel, that is, as an itinerant poet and musician;—a character which, according to the notions of our forefathers, was not only respectable but sacred.
AH! who can tell how hard it is to climb
And yet the languor of inglorious days,
While from his bending shoulder, decent hung
I have endeavored to imitate Spenser in the measure of his verse, and in the harmony, simplicity, and variety of his composition. Antique expressions I have avoided; admitting, however, some old words, where they seemed to suit the subject: but I hope none will be found that are now obsolete, or in any degree not intelligible to a reader of English poetry.
To those who may be disposed to ask, what could Liberal, not lavish, is kind Nature's hand; induce me to write in so difficult a measure, I can Nor was perfection made for man below. only answer, that it pleases my ear, and seems, Yet all her schemes with nicest art are plann'd. from its Gothic structure and original, to bear Good counteracting ill, and gladness woe. some relation to the subject and spirit of the poem. With gold and gems if Chilian mountains glow; It admits both simplicity and magnificence of sound If bleak and barren Scotia's hills arise; and of language, beyond any other stanza that I There plague and poison, lust and rapine grow; am acquainted with. It allows the sententiousness Here peaceful are the vales, and pure the skies, of the couplet, as well as the more complex modu- And freedom fires the soul, and sparkles in the eyes lation of blank verse. What some critics have remarked, of its uniformity growing at last tiresome to the ear, will be found to hold true, only when the poetry is faulty in other respects.
Fret not thyself, thou glittering child of pride,
The rolls of fame I will not now explore;
Though richest hues the peacock's plumes adorn,
Then grieve not, thou, to whom th' indulgent Muse
Canst thou forego the pure ethereal soul
Him, who ne'er listen'd to the voice of praise,
O how canst thou renounce the boundless store
Would shrink to hear th' obstreperous trump of The warbling woodland, the resounding shore,
The pomp of groves, and garniture of fields;
Supremely blest, if to their portion fall
And all that echoes to the song of even,
Health, competence, and peace. Nor higher aim Had he, whose simple tale these artless lines claim.
All that the mountain's sheltering bosom shields,
These charms shall work thy soul's eternal health.
Why do the birds, that song and rapture brought
See, in the rear of the warm sunny shower
For now the storm of summer-rain is o'er,
And the dead foliage flies in many a shapeless flake. The rainbow brightens to the setting Sun!
Fond fool, that deem'st the streaming glory nigh,
"Where now the rill, melodious, pure, and cool, And meads, with life, and mirth, and beauty crown'd?
Ah! see, th' unsightly slime, and sluggish pool,
"Yet such the destiny of all on Earth:
"And be it so. Let those deplore their doom,
Shall I be left forgotten in the dust,
This truth sublime his simple sire had taught;
"And from the prayer of Want, and plaint of Woe,
Yet couldst thou learn, that thus it fares with age,
When the long-sounding curfew from afar
Or blast that shrieks by fits the shuddering isles along
Or, when the setting Moon, in crimson dyed,
Anon in view a portal's blazon'd arch
The long-rob'd minstrels wake the warbling wire,
With merriment, and song, and timbrels clear,
"Let man's own sphere," said he, "confine his view, And loud enlivening strains provoke the dance.
They meet, they dart away, they wheel askance;
The dream is fled. Proud harbinger of day,
Ah! what were man, should Heaven refuse to hear? Fell chanticleer! who oft hath reft away
My fancied good, and brought substantial ill!
Ah me! neglected on the lonesome plain,
One part, one little part, we dimly scan