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1535 (?)--1605 (?)

It is stated by Timothy Pont, in 1600, Captain, considers it more probable in his Cuningham Topographized, that that he was a soldier than a sailor ; and Alexander Montgomery was born at that notwithstanding that his references Hazelhead Castle, in Ayrshire ; but he to the experience of a sailor, especially assigns no date to the time of his birth. in “ Navigation,” are many, while those Although nothing is related regarding to military life are few. The fact of his his education, the study of his works being a courtier, and the general tone leaves no doubt that it was liberal, and of his poems, however, do not leave in keeping with his social rank.

the impression that their author spent It is very probable that his family much of his time at sea.

It adds some was a branch of the Montgomeries of confusion to the account of his conEglinton ; and his life seems to have nection with the court of James VI., been neither obscure nor uneventful, that a Captain Robert Montgomery while as a poet he is well known as was at the same time a gentleman of the author of “ The Cherrie and the the King's household, and a poem by Slae ;” yet, notwithstanding the com- the poet is erroneously ascribed to that parative recentness of the time in which name in the Bannatyne MS. he lived, there are few of our elder It is uncertain when he began to poets about whose personal history less write; but from some of his short pieces definite information is preserved. Al- having been inserted in the above MS., most all that we know of him is inferred and from “ The Banks of Helicon,” from references in his poems to “crooks which is the model of the stanza of in his lot,” which place it beyond "* The Cherrie and the Slae,” having doubt that he experienced at least an been preserved in the Maitland MS., average share of life's misfortunes. it is placed beyond a doubt that he One of his biographers, founding upon became an author before 1568. statements put into the mouth of an Banks of Helicon” is inserted anonyimaginary traveller, in his poem entitled mously in the MS., yet the style, the “Navigation," written as a pageant on stanza, and the matter are all so the occasion of James VI.'s "first mag. characteristic of Montgomery, that Dr nificent entry” into Edinburgh in 1579, Laing has little hesitation in attributing makes him a German by birth, though it to him. “ The Cherrie and the of Scotch extraction.

Slae,” “Echo,” and “ The Flyting,” Dr Irving, who writes the memoir of are quoted in " · Ane Schort Treatise him prefixed to Dr David Laing's conteining some Reulis and Cautelis to collected edition of his works (Edin- be observit and eschewit in Scottis burgh, 1821), referring to his being styled | Poesie;" published by King James in

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1584. Montgomery must have been in This is no life that I live upaland favour at court some time previously,

On raw red herring reisted in the reik;

Syne I am subject some time to be sick, for the grant of an annual pension of

And daily dying of my auld disease. five hundred marks, chargeable upon the rents of the archbishopric of Glasgow, King, he displays a wonderful gift for

In some sonnets addressed to the was confirmed to him in 1583.

adulation, not unredeemed by poetical In 1586, a royal licence is granted him to go abroad for five years. In the gracefulness ; yet making every allow

ance for the manners of the times in course of his travels he found himself the inmate of a foreign prison ; but where, estimate in which James' character is

matters of this sort, and for the different and for what reason, is not specified. In connection with his imprisonment,

now held, they can hardly be considered the payment of his pension had been creditable to Montgomery's taste or

manliness. suspended, but on its being shown that “his good services merited rather SONNETS IN PRAISE OF THE KING'S URANIA. augmentation than diminishing of the said pension,” the previous grant was

Bellona's son, of Mars the chosen child, renewed and confirmed by writ of privy Minerva's wit and Mercury's golden tongue, seal in 1588. Nevertheless, he appears Apollo's light, that ignorance exiled, not to have obtained undisputed posses- Thy Uranie, o Second Psalmist ! sung,

From Jove ingendered and from Pallas sprung; sion; for being a charge upon the rents

Truimphs oure death, in register of fame ; of the archbishopric of Glasgow, the

Wherefore thy trophie trimly shall be hung holder of which, James Beaton, was in With laurel green eternizing thy name.

But even as Phæbus' shining does ashame France, payment was withheld on some

Diana, with her borrowed beams, and blind; plea founded on his absence, and the

So when I press thy praises to proclaim, poet had to apply for redress to the

Thy weighty words make mine appear but Court of Session. Several of his sonnets wind. refer to this action, and give anything but Yet worthy Prince ! thou would take in good a favourable characteř of the dispensa- My will for weel ; I want but only art. tion of justice in those days.

His frequent references to his misfor. tunes give an impression that we might Of Titan's harp, sith thou intones the strings,

Of ambrose and of nectar so thou feeds, not be far wrong in sometimes substitut

Not only other poets thou outsprings, ing faults, or at least failings; and his

But whiles, also thy very self exceeds ; readiness of expression, by way of com- Transporting thee as ravished, when thou reads

Thine own invention, wondering at thy wit. plaint, suggests caution in accepting his

What marvel then though our fordulled heads descriptions as the nett product of the

And blunter brains be mair amaized at it ; real state of his affairs. Most readers

To see thy years and age whilks thou has yet, can make a sufficient allowance for the Inferior far to thy so grave ingine, souredness of the following to a friend

Wha hazard at so high a mark, and hit,

In English, as this Urania of thine : at court, from a poet who once ex.

Wherefore thy name, O Prince ! eternal rings perienced the sunshine of court savour:- Whas muse, not Jove, but great Jehovah sings.



war ;

None of our ancient poets had

attained to that artless naturalness, As bright Apollo staineth every star

which, since Burns' time, is recognized, With golden rays, when he begins to rise, Whose glorious glance yet stoutly skails the

in the delineation of the passions, as the skies,

perfection of art; therefore all their When with a wink we wonder where they productions on the subject of love Before his face for fear they fade so far,

appear to us somewhat affected ; but, And vanishes away in such a wise,

taking the old standpoint, the following That in their spheres they dare not enterprise sonnet is an excellent specimen of the

For to appear like planets as they are ; ancient manner, and forecasts some of Or as the Phoenix, with her fedrum fair, the features of the new. Indeed, to none

Excels all fowls in diverse heavenly hues, Whas nature, contrar nature she renews,

of the ancients is the new school more As only but companion or compair

indebted for their bard-craft than to So quintessenst of Kings ! when thou compile, Montgomery, who may be regarded as Thou staines my verses with thy stately style. the last pure representative of the

school of Dunbar. Apart from the obsequiousness, a great part of which must be attributed

To THEE FOR ME. to the ideas of the age in which they were written, these sonnets are evidence “Sweet nightingale ! in holene green that of great poetic skill.


To sport thyself, and special in the Spring; But as he himself confesses, the con

Thy chivring chirls whilk changingly thou cerns of kings, courts, or

chants, wealths, considered politically, were Make all the roches round about thee ring; not the proper subjects for his muse;

Whilk slaiks my sorrow, so to hear thee sing,

And lights my loving langour at the least; but socially he was very much of a

Yet thou sees not, silly saikless thing! courtier, and longed to be restored to

The piercing pike-prods at thy bony breast : royal favour.

Even so am I, by pleasure likewise prest,

In greatest danger where I most delight: “With mighty matters mind I not to mell,

But since thy song, for shoring, has not ceased, As copping courts, or commonwealths, or kings

Should feeble I, for fear, my conquest quit? Whas craig yokes fastest, let them say them

Na, na--I love thee freshest Phænix fair,
In beauty, birth, in bounty but

My thought could never think upon sic
things :

“The Flyting betwixt Montgomery I wantonly write under Venus' wings;

and Polwart,” though in imitation of In Cupid's court ye know I have been kend,

that between Dunbar and Kennedy, is Where muses yet some of my sonnets sings, And shall do always the world's end.

perhaps better known than its prototype, Men has no cause my cunning to commend, and certainly excels it in length, and That it should merit sic a memory ;

consequently in the amount of playful Yet ye have seen his grace oft for me send,

but vile abuse with which the respective When he took pleasure into poesie: Till time may serve, perforce I must refrain,

champions pelt each other, for the sport That please his grace I come to court again." of the philosophic King and his courtiers.


sel ;


Montgomery begins the match with a

writer ; and “Admonition to Young piece of most skilful light raillery :- Lasses,” though hardly a song, is a gem

of its kind. "Polwart, ye peep like a mouse amongst thorns, But “ The Cherrie and the Slae,” Nae cunning ye keep ; Polwart ye peep; Ye look like a sheep, and ye had twa horns :

notwithstanding its defective structure, is Polwart, ye peep like a mouse amongst thorns.

the best test of his poetical power. We Beware what thou speaks, little foul earth tade, the poet changed his purpose in regard

agree with Dr Irving in thinking that With thy Cannigate breeks, beware what thou speaks

to its meaning—beginning it as a love Or there shall be wat cheeks, for the last that allegory, and ending it as a moral homily, thou made;

but“missing stays” in both respects. Its Beware what thou speaks, little foul earth tade.

failure in point of purpose, or even of Foul mismade mytting, born in the Merse meaning, must be taken as an indication By word and by writing, foul mismade mytting of the author's defect in the faculty of Leave off thy flyting, come kiss my erse

design. We have quoted it to the end Foul mismade mytting born in the Merse."

of the love section, which is the most But the mud, as might be expected, poetical ; the remainder is a continuation soon becomes heavier and fouler ; and of the debate which is begun in stanzas it is with some difficulty that a present. xxvii. and xxviii., between the opposing able specimen of Polwart's can be found qualities of the mind, as to whether it The following is a comparatively mild is better for the man to overcome the stanza :

obstacles that intervene between him

and that which is confessedly best, or to “Capped knave, proud slave ! ye rave aye un

rest content with that which is easily rocked ;

The Whiles slaverand, whiles taverand, whiles obtained, but of inferior worth. waverand with wine,

advocates for the nobler, but more Greedy gouked, poor and plucked, ill instruct! | difficult end, carry the day; and on the ye's be knocked ;

resolution to overcome the difficulties Gleyed gangrell, auld mangrell ! to the hang- being taken, they vanish ; forthe cherries,

rell and sae pyne : Calumniator, blasphemator, vile creature, un

which are meant to symbolize the prize

of valour, have ripened, and fall at the Thy cheeping, and peeping, with weeping thou man's feet before resolution evolves shalt rue.”

into action. The allegory has also been Perhaps the most prefect product of explained as referring to the choice Montgomery's muse is his beautiful between a mistress of rank and beauty, lyric, “Hey now the day dawis,” in and one of humble origin ; but this is which the spirit of nature is so skilfully so repugnant to taste and feeling, and conjured, as almost to seem visible as the conditions of allegorical structure, a morning nymph. “The Banks of as to be quite inadmissible. Helicon,” besides being the model of Montgomery, like Dunbar, whom, in the stanza in which it is written, is a much of his mental and moral constifine example of his skill as a love song | tution, he resembles, appears to have

true !


turned pious in his old age, and wrote who died in that year. Dr Irving thinks a short series of devotional poems, an it probable that he survived till 1605, extract or two from one of which throws when his "Mindes Melodie” was pubsome characteristic light upon his muse lished; it is certain, however, that he in her penitential mood.

died before 1615, when Hart's edition

of “The Cherrie and the Slae," revised “Suppose I slide, let me not sleep in sleuth,

not long before the author's death, was In stinking stye with Satan's sinful swine, But make my tongue the trumpet of Thy truth, published. Taking his age to be

And lend my verse sic wings as are divine. seventy, and 1605 the year of his death, Sen Thou has granted me so good ingine this would give 1535 as the year

of his To love thee, Lord, in gallant style and gay,

birth. His sonnets are preserved in a Let me no more so trim a talent tine : Peccavi Pater, miserere mei. manuscript presented by Drummond

of Hawthornden to the Edinburgh “Thy spirit, my spirit to speak, with speed, College Library.

inspire :
Help, Holy Ghost ! and be Montgomerie's

Fly down on me in forked tongues of fire,

As Thou did on Thy own Apostles use ;
And with Thy fire me fervently infuse

To laud the Lord, and longer not delay : About ane bank with balmy bewis," My former foolish fictions I refuse ;

Where nightingales their notes renewis, Peccavi Pater, miserere mei.

With gallant goldspinksgay ;

The mavis, merle, and progne 3 proud, “Stoup, stubborn stomach, that has been so

The lintwhyt,4 lark, and lavrock 5 loud, stout, Stoup, filthy flesh and carrion of clay,

Saluted mirthful May. Stoup, hardened heart before the Lord, and

When Philomel had sweetly sung, lout;

To Progne she deplored, Stoup, stoup in time, defer not day by day; How Tereus cut out her tongue, Thou knows not weel when thou maun pass

An'i falsely her deflowered; 6 away,

Whilk story so sorie
The tempter als is busy to betray,

To show herself she seemed,
Confess thy sins and shame not for to say,
Peccavi Pater, miserere mei.

To hear her so near her,

I doubted if I dreamed. But his poems do not show that he took an active part in the religious The cushat crouds,7 the corbie' cries, controversies of his time, nor is it The cuckoo cuks, the prattling pyes certain to what section of the Church

To gecko her they begin : he adhered. That he lived till 1592 is proved by Boughs.

6 From Ovid's sixth

? Goldfinches. his having written the epitaphs of two


3 Thrush, blackbird, 7 The wood pigeon coos. friends, one of whom was Sir Robert

and swallow.

8 The carrion crow. Drummond of Carnock, grandfather to 4 The linnet.

9 Mock. William Drummond of Hawthornden, 5 The lark, repeated for the measure


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