صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[blocks in formation]

ALEXANDER SCOTT.

ALL the poems of this poet that are known to us, owe their preservation to the manuscript collection of George Bannatyne. Beyond the few inferences, deducible from these products of his elegant muse, there is almost nothing that can, with any degree of confidence, be asserted concerning him. That he was in the vigorous exercise of his poetical powers in 1562, is certified by his having, in that year, written the longest of his poems, "Ane New Year's Gift to the Queen Mary when she first came hame in 1562." "To Love, Unloved," subscribed in the MS., "Quod Scott when his wife left him," might reasonably be thought to infer the real occurrence of the unhappy event indicated; yet the last two stanzas, taken in connection with the sentiments of "Return thee, Heart,"-and indeed his whole treatment of the subject of love-his blowing hot and cold alternately-make it doubtful if his love poems have reference to particular events in his own career. His "Lament of the Master of Erskyn," whether referring to a real or a feigned situation, shows how artfully he could assume the attitude of the parting lover, for the purpose of imparting dramatic force to the sentiments proper to such a position; and at least suggests the possibility of his assuming similar circumstances concerning himself, to serve the same end.

An entry in the Privy Seal Register, for 1549, recording the legitimation of John and Alexander Scott, natural sons of Alexander Scott, Prebendary of the

Chapel Royal, Stirling, is hesitatingly supposed by Dr Laing, in his Collected Edition of Scott's Poems, Edinburgh 1821, to indicate the poet's parentage; but he concludes that he must have resided chiefly in Edinburgh.

With the exception of the burlesque poem, "The Justing betwixt Adamson and Sym," at the Drum, near Dalkeith, and his "Address to Queen Mary," his original poems are all amatory. The "Justing," which is in the measure of "Christ's Kirk on the Green," though wanting the rude but natural vigour and simple freshness of that racy sketch of rustic recreation, is not devoid of humour, and, in common with all Scott's poems, exhibits that skill in the art of poesy which is his most distinguishing characteristic; indeed, so great is their artistic perfection, that they convey an impression of elegant insincerity, such as we attach to the character of a gay gallant, or an accomplished man of the world. Their passion seems more the product of observation and reflection, than the spontaneous burst of feeling that wells from the overflowing heart, and touches our sympathy into irresist ible response.

Dr Irving considers that his " "productions may be classed with the most elegant Scottish poems of the sixteenth century," and adds, "that his lyric measures are skilfully chosen; and his language, when compared with that of contemporary poets, will be found to possess an uncommon share of terseness and precision." He also ranks him

among the rational friends of the Reformation.

His political and ecclesiastical opin

ions are contained in his "Address to Queen Mary," which may be defined as an exhortation to good government, both in Church and State. Although almost as outspoken as Lindsay against the vices of the clergy, there can be no doubt that some of his hits have reference to the excesses of the Protestant party. He advises Mary :

At cross gar cry by open proclamation,
Under great pains that neither he nor sho,
Of holy writ have, any disputation,
But lettered men, or learned clerks thereto;
For limmer2 lads and little lasses lo,
Will argue both with bishop, priest, and friar :
To dantoun 3 this thou has eneuch to do,
God give thee grace agains this good New Year.

After enumerating some of the grosser vices of the clergy, he attacks their less culpable, but almost e qually degrading, practices thus:—

They lute 4thy lieges pray to stocks and stones,
And painted papers, wats not what they mean,
They bid them beck, and bynge5 at dead men's
bones;

Offer on knees to kiss, syne save their ein.
Pilgrims and palmers past with them between,
Saint Blais, Saint Boit, blait bodies ein to bleir:6
Now to forbid this great abuse, has been,
God give thee grace agains this good New Year.

[blocks in formation]

With mass nor matins noways will I mell,1 To judge them justly passes my ingine;2 They guide not ill that governs well themsel,

And lelalie on lawtie lays their line: 3

The two last lines have a striking resemblance to the philosophy, if not to the words of Pope's couplet :

"For forms of faith let zealous bigots fight, His can't be wrong whose life is in the right."

He closes his argument on this head with a very ingenious simile, skilfully applied to enforce the doctrine of his exhortation :

As bees takes wax and honey of the flower,
So does the faithful of God's word take fruit;
As wasps receivis of the same but sour,
So reprobatis Christ's book does rebute:
Words without works availis not a cute :4
To seize thy subjects so in love and fear,
That right and reason in thy realm may root,
God give thee grace agains this good New Year.

But, as if to show how slowly and partially superstition is dispelled from the minds even of those who clearly distinguish it in its more degrading aspects, we find him capping the blessings and the greatness which he fondly anticipates as the lot of the beautiful young sovereign of his native country, by quoting the oft misapplied prophecy of Thomas the Rhymer:

Gif saws be sooth to show thy celsitude, What berne should bruke 5 all Britain by the sea?

The prophecy expressly does conclude, The French wife of the Bruce's blood should be:

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
« السابقةمتابعة »