« PreviousContinue »
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 ihe 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 beau. Returning 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 Beattie visited London for the first time in 1771, had cultivated a talent for poetry; and in 1760 he where he was received with much cordiality by the ventured to submit the fruit of his studies in this admirers of his writings, who found equal cause to walk to the public, by a volume of “ Original Poems love and esteem the author. Not long afterwards, and Translations.” They were followed, in 1765, by the degree of LL. D. was conferred on him by his “ The Judgment of Paris ;” and these performances, college at Aberdeen. In 1777 a new edition, by subwhich displayed a familiarity with poetic diction, and scription, was published of his “ Essay on Truth," harmony of versification, seem to have made him to which were added three Essays on subjects of favorably known in his neighborhood.
polite literature. In 1783 he published DisserThe interest of the Earl of Errol acquired for him tations Moral and Critical,” consisting of detached the post of professor of moral philosophy and logic essays, which had formed part of a course of lecin the Marischal College of Aberdeen; in which tures delivered by the author as professor. His last capacity he published a work, entitled “ An Essay on work was “ Evidences of the Christian Religion, the Nature and Immutability of Truth, in opposition briefly and plainly stated,” 2 vols. 1786. His time to Sophistry and Scepticism,” 1770. Being written was now much occupied with the duties of his in a popular manner, it was much read, and gained station, and particularly with the education of his the author many admirers, especially among the most eldest son, a youth of uncommon promise. His distinguished members of the Church of England ; death, of a decline, was a very severe trial of the and, at the suggestion of Lord Mansfield, he was father's fortitude and resignation ; and it was fol. rewarded with a pension of 2001. from the King's lowed some years after by that of his younger son. privy-purse.
These afflictions, with other domestic misfortunes, In 1771 his fame was largely extended by the entirely broke his spirits, and brought him to his first part of his " Minstrel," a piece the subject of grave at Aberdeen, in August, 1803, in the 68th which is the imagined birth and education of a poet. year of his age. Although the word Minstrel is not with much pro
While from his bending shoulder, decent hung
His harp, the sole companion of his way,
Which to the whistling wind responsive rung.
And ever as he went some merry lay he sung. OR,
Fret not thyself, thou glittering child of pride,
With thee let Pageantry and Power abide :
Where through wild groves at eve the lonely swain The design was, to trace the progress of a poetical Enraptur'd roams, to gaze on Nature's charms.
genius, born in a rude age, from the first dawning They hate the sensual, and scorn the vain,
Rise, sons of harmony, and hail the morn,
of his verse, and in the harmony, simplicity, and Or seek at noon the woodland scene remote,
they will. 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.
Nor blame the partial Fates, if they resuse
Know thine own worth, and reverence the lyre.
Wilt thou debase the heart which God refind?
No; let thy heaven-taught soul to Heaven aspire, An! who can tell how hard it is to climb To fancy, freedom, harmony, resign'd ; The steep where Fame's proud temple shines afar; Ambition's grovelling crew for ever left behind. Ah! who can tell how many a soul sublime Has felt the influence of malignant star,
Canst thou forego the pure ethereal soul And waged with Fortune an eternal war;
In each fine sense so exquisitely keen, Check'd by the scoff of Pride, by Envy's frown, On the dull couch of Luxury to loll, And I'overty's unconquerable bar,
Stung with disease, and stupefied with spleen; In lise's low vale remote has pined alone,
Fain to implore the aid of Flattery's screen, Then dropt into the grave, unpitied and unknown! Even from thyself thy lothesome heart to hide,
(The mansion then no more of joy serene,) And yet the languor of inglorious days,
Where fear, distrust, malevolence, abide,
And impotent desire, and disappointed pride!
O how canst thou renounce the boundless store There are, who, deaf to mad Ambition's call, Of charms which Nature to her votary yields ! Would shrink 10 hear th’ obstreperous trump of The warbling woodland, the resounding shore, Fame ;
The pomp of groves, and garniture of fields ; Supremely blest, if to their portion fall
All that the genial ray of morning gilds, Health, competence, and peace. Nor higher aim And all that echoes to the song of even, Had he, whose simple tale these artless lines pro- All that the mountain's sheltering bosom shields, claim.
And all the dread magnificence of Heaven,
O how canst thou renounce, and hope to be forgivea? The rolls of fame I will not now explore ; Nor need I here describe in learned lay,
These charms shall work thy soul's eternal health, How forth the Minstrel fard in days of yore, And love, and gentleness, and joy, impart. Right glad of heart, though homely in array; But these thou must renounce, if lust of wealth His waving locks and beard a!l hoary grey: E'er win its way to thy corrupted heart :
Why do the birds, that song and rapture brought See, in the rear of the warm sunny shower
And, lo! in the dark east, expanded high,
Fond fool, that deem'st the streaming glory nigh, Where now the rill, melodious, pure, and cool, How vain the chase thine ardor has begun! And meads, with life, and mirth, and beauty "Tis fed afar, ere half thy purpos'd race be run.
crown'd ? Ah! see, th' unsightly slime, and sluggish pool, Yet couldst thou learn, that thus it fares with age, Have all the solitary vale embrown'd;
When pleasure, wealth, or power, the bosom warm Fled each fair form, and mute each melting sound, This baffled hope might tame thy manhood's rage, The raven croaks forlorn on naked spray:
And disappointment of her sting disarm. And hark! the river, bursting every mound, But why should foresight thy fond heart alarm? Down the vale thunders, and with wasteful sway Perish the lore that deadens young desire ; Uproots the grove, and rolls the shatter'd rocks Pursue, poor imp, th' imaginary charm, away.
Indulge gay hope, and Fancy's pleasing fire :
Fancy and Hope too soon shall of themselves expire Yet such the destiny of all on Earth : So flourishes and fades majestic Man.
When the long-sounding curfew from afar Fair is the bud his vernal morn brings forth, Loaded with loud lament the lonely gale, And fostering gales awhile the nursling fan. Young Edwin, lighted by the evening star, O smile, ye Heavens, serene; ye mildews wan, Lingering and listening, wander'd down the vale. Ye blighting whirlwinds, spare his balmy prime, There would he dream of graves, and corses pale ; Nor lessen of his life the little span.
And ghosts that to the charnel-dungeon throng, Borne on the swift, though silent, wings of Time, And drag a length of clanking chain, and wail, Old age comes on a pace, to ravage all the clime. Till silenc'd by the owl's terrific song,
Or blast that shrieks by fits the shuddering isles along. “And be it so. Let those deplore their doom, Whose hope still grovels in this dark sojourn : Or, when the setting Moon, in crimson dyed, But lofty souls, who look beyond the tomb, Hung o'er the dark and melancholy deep, Can smile at Fate, and wonder how they mourn. To haunted stream, remote from man, he hied, Shall Spring to these sad scenes no more return? Where fays of yore their revels wont to keep; Is yonder wave the Sun's eternal bed ?
And there let Fancy rove at large, till sleep Soon shall the orient with new lustre burn,
A vision brought to his entranced sight. And Spring shall soon her vital influence shed, And first, a wildly-murmuring wind 'gan creep Again attune the grove, again adorn the mead. Shrill to his ringing ear; then tapers bright,
With instantaneous gleam, illum'd the vault of night • Shall I be left forgotten in the dust, When Fate, relenting, lets the flower revive ? Anon in view a portal's blazon'd arch Shall Nature's voice, to man alone unjust,
Arose ; the trumpet bids the valves unfold : Bid him, though doom'd to perish, hope to live? And forth an host of little warriors march, Is it for this fair Virtue oft must strive
Grasping the diamond-lance, and targe of gold. With disappointment, penury, and pain ?
Their look was gentle, their demeanor bold, No: Heaven's immortal Spring shall yet arrive, And green their helms, and green their silk attire ; And man's majestic beauty bloom again,
And here and there, right venerably old, Bright through th' eternal year of Love's triumphant The long-robid minstrels wake the warbling wire, reign.”
And some with mellow breath the martial pipe in
spire. This truth sublime his simple sire had taught ; In sooth, 'twas almost all the shepherd knew. With merriment, and song, and timbrels clear, No subtle nor superfluous lore he sought,
A troop of dames from myrtle bowers advance ; Nor ever wish'd his Edwin to pursue.
The little warriors doff the targe and spear, “ Let man's own sphere,” said he, “confine his view, And loud enlivening strains provoke the dance. Be man's peculiar work his sole delight."
They meet, they dart away, they wheel askance; And much, and oft, he warn'd him to eschew To right, to left, they thrid the flying maze ; Falsehood and guile, and aye maintain the right, Now bound aloft with vigorous spring, then glance By pleasure unseduc'd, unaw'd by lawless might. Rapid along : with many-color'd rays
Of tapers, gems, and gold, the echoing forests blaze And from the prayer of Want, and plaint of Woe, O never, never turn away thine ear!
The dream is fled. Proud harbinger of day, Forlorn, in this bleak wilderness below,
Who scar'd'st the vision with thy clarion shrill, Ah! what were man, should Heaven refuse to hear ? Fell chanticleer! who oft hath reft away To others do (the law is not severe)
My fancied good, and brought substantial ill! What to thyself thou wishest to be done.
O to thy cursed scream, discordant still, Forgive thy foes ; and love thy parents dear, Let Harmony aye shut her gentle ear: And friends, and native land; nor those alone; Thy boastful mirth let jealous rivals spill, All human weal and woe learn thou to make thine Insult thy crest, and glossy pinions tear. own.
And ever in thy dreams the ruthless for appear.
Forbear, my Muse. Let Love attune thy line. Various and strange was the long.winded tale ;
But when to horror his amazement rose,
A gentler strain the beldame would rehearse, The lowing herd; the sheepfold's simple bell ;
A tale of rural life, a tale of woes, The pipe of early shepherd dim descried
The orphan-babes, and guardian uncle fierce In the lone valley; echoing far and wide
() cruel! will no pang of pily pierce The clamorous hom along the cliffs above;
That heart, by lust of lucre sear'd to stone ? The hollow murmur of the ocean-tide;
For sure, if aught of virtue last, or verse, The hum of bees, the linnet's lay of love,
To latest time shall tender souls bemoan And the full choir that wakes the universal grove.
Those hopeless orphan-babes by thy fell arts undone. The cottage-curs at early pilgrim bark;
Behold, with berries smear’d, with brambles torn, Crown'd with her pail, the tripping milk-maid sings: The babes now famish'd lay them down to die : l'he whistling plowman stalks afield; and, hark!
Amidst the howl of darksome woods forlorn, Down the rough slope the ponderous wagon rings; Folded in one another's arms they lie; Through rustling corn the hare astonish'd springs;
Nor friend, nor stranger, hears their dying cry: Slow rolls the village-clock the drowsy hour;
For from the town the man returns no more." The partridge bursts away on whirring wings;
But thou, who Heaven's just vengeance dar’st defy, Deep mourns the turtle in sequester'd bower,
This deed with fruitless tears shalt soon deplore, And shrill lark carols clear from her aërial tour.
When Death lays waste thy house, and flames con
sume thy store. O Nature, how in every charm supreme !
A stifled smile of stern vindictive joy
Brighten'd one moment Edwin's starting tear,
“ But why should gold man's feeble mind decoy, To sing thy glories with devotion due!
And innocence thus die by doom severe ? Blest be the day I 'scaped the wrangling crew,
O Edwin! while thy heart is yet sincere, From Pyrrho's maze, and Epicurus' sty ;
Th' assaults of discontent and doubt repel: And held high converse with the godlike few,
Dark even at noontide is our mortal sphere; Who to th' enraptur'd heart, and ear, and eye,
But let us hope ; to doubt is to rebel ; Teach beauty, virtue, truth, and love, and melody. Let us exult in hope, that all shall yet be well. llence! ye who snare and stupefy the mind,
Nor be thy generous indignation check'd, Sophists, of beauty, virtue, joy, the bane!
Nor check'd the tender tear to Misery given ; Greedy and fell, though impotent and blind, From Guilt's contagious power shall that protect, Who spread your filthy nets in Truth's fair fane,
This soften and refine the soul for Heaven. And ever ply your venom'd fangs amain!
But dreadful is their doom, whom doubt has driven Hence to dark Error's den, whose rankling slime To censure Fate, and pious Hope forego : First gave you form! Hence! lest the Muse should like yonder blasted boughs by lightning riven, deign,
Perfection, beauty, life, they never know, (Though loth on theme so mean to waste a rhyme, But frown on all that pass, a monument of woe, With vengeance to pursue your sacrilegious crime.
Shall he, whose birth, maturity, and age, But hail, ye mighty masters of the lay,
Scarce fill the circle of one summer day,
Shall the poor gnat, with discontent and rage,
If but a momentary shower descend ?
Wide through unnumber'd worlds, and ages without There harmony, and peace, and innocence abide.
Nor is that part, perhaps, what mortals deem;
O then renounce that impious self-esteem,
That aims to trace the secrets of the skies : Much he the tale admir'd, but more the tuneful art. For thou art but of dust; be humble, and be wise. 102
3 S 2