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SIR JOHN CLERK.
THERE is no better evidence of the general prevalence of the poetic temperament among the people of Scotland than the number of what may be termed her one poem poets. By this term we mean poets who produced single poems of lasting merit, and who, but for a certain indolence of the poetic faculty, might have produced more if they had made the effort.
Sir John Clerk, second baronet of Penicuik, is one of these. He was born in 1680, and succeeded his father in the title and estates in 1722. As early as 1708, he was appointed one of the Barons of Exchequer in Scotland. He was one of the most accomplished
men of his time, and carried on a learned correspondence with the English antiquary, Roger Gale, for about twenty years. Along with Baron Scrope, he wrote An Historical View of the Forms and Powers of the Court of Exchequer in Scotland. He was a great friend of Allan Ramsay, and being himself a poet, knew how to estimate Allan's genius. Sir John died in 1755, and was succeeded by his son Sir James Clerk, who raised an obelisk to Ramsay's memory in the grounds of Penicuik House, with a Latin inscription recording his own and his father's esteem for the poet's genius and worth.
Sir John's song of "The Miller " first appeared in The Charmer in 1751, and has since retained its popularity.
The first stanza is taken from an older song, and gives the key note. The candour with which a regard for the ways and means of domestic comfort is avowed, as a leading consideration in our old love songs, would almost imply that in this, as in some other things, we had taken lessons from our old allies the French. "The Miller" is an excellent representative of this class of songs.
MERRY may the maid be
That marries the miller, For foul day or fair day
Has aye a penny in his purse
He's aye bringing till her;
For dinner and for supper;
And lumps o' yellow butter.
Fair maid, says he, O come and see,
Ye're welcome to my dwelling.
The truth of what he told me, And that his house was warm and couth, And room in it to hold me.
Behind the door a bag o' meal,
And in the kist was plenty
A good fat sow, a sleeky cow
Good signs are these, my mither says,
And bids me tak the miller; For foul day and fair day
He's aye bringing till her; For meal and maut he doesna want, Nor ony thing that's dainty; And now and then a keckling hen To lay her eggs in plenty.
In winter when the wind and rain
ROBERT CRAWFORD, whose best known pieces are "The Bush aboon Traquair" and "Tweedside," was born in Ayrshire about 1690. He was the second son of Patrick Crawford of Drumsoy, his mother being a daughter of Gordon of Turnberry. Allan Ramsay, in the preface to the second volume of the TeaTable Miscellany, says that about thirty of the songs were contributed "by some ingenious young gentlemen," who were pleased with his undertaking. Crawford is said to have been one of them. He appears to have spent a considerable portion of his life in France, and was on his way home from that country in 1733, when he was drowned. His foreign residence may account for the paucity of the particulars of his life that have been preserved. His poetry is characterised by an easy flow of natural and unstrained thought, and a pleasing variation of pastoral images and observations, conveyed in simple but refined language, slightly tinged with the vernacular.
WHAT beauties does Flora disclose!
Not all the gay flowers of the field,
The warblers are heard in the grove,
The linnet, the lark, and the thrush, The blackbird and sweet-cooing dove, With music enchant ev'ry bush. Come, let us go forth to the mead,
Let us see how the primroses spring; We'll lodge in some village on Tweed,
And love while the feather'd folks sing.
How does my love pass the long day?
While happily she lies asleep?
How sweet her face, where every grace
That nae perfection wanted.
But bless my bonnie marrow:
Yet though she's fair, and has full share
Poor me, if love be wanting.
My wand'ring ghaist will ne'er get rest,
Our years around, with love thus, crown'd,
O, sweetest Sue! 'tis only you
Can make life worth my wishes, If equal love your mind can move, To grant this best of blisses. Thou art my sun, and thy least frown Would blast me in the blossom: But if thou shine and make me thine, I'll flourish in thy bosom.
THE BUSH ABOON TRAQUAIR.
HEAR me, ye nymphs, and every swain,
That day she smiled, and made me glad,
I thought myself the luckiest lad,
I tried to sooth my amorous flame
Yet now she scornful flees the plain,
If e'er we meet, she shows disdain,
Ye rural powers, who hear my strains,
If not, my love will turn despair,
THE stimulus given to
Scottish cardine O'Neil, Aberdeenshire, and was poetry by Ramsay's "Gentle Shepherd," | born at Torphins, on the 16th April 1699. happily produced its most successful❘ He was early sent to the parish school, results in a district whose manners, language, and scenery, though quite as pastoral, differed greatly from the romantic valley of the North Esk; yet, by a curious coincidence, having two rivers corresponding in name with | those of Midlothian-North and South Esk.
"Helenore," Ross's chief poem, resembles Ramsay's in little more than the sub-title-the "Fortunate Shepherdess," -in its purely pastoral character, and in being a repository of the dialect of the locality in which its scenes are laid. In structure and treatment the two poems differ entirely; and in both respects Ramsay's is much the superior. Yet Ross's pastoral, besides its general poetical excellence, has the special merit of being a faithful exponent of the thoughts and manners of as interesting, though a less known type of Scottish character, as that delineated in Ramsay's more genial and picturesquely varied representation of rural life.
Alexander Ross was the son of Andrew Ross, a small farmer in Kin
where he received a good education; and at the age of fourteen was entered at Marischal College, Aberdeen, where he won a bursary, payable for four years. He remained at college till the expiry of his bursary, in 1718, and took his degree of M. A. He then obtained the situation of tutor in the family of Sir William Forbes of Craigievar. On the completion of his engagement, Sir William, who was pleased with his services, promised him a presentationof which he had fourteen in his gift--if he prosecuted his divinity studies. Notwithstanding this encouragement, Ross did not return to college, but became a teacher at Aboyne, in his native district of Deeside, for some time. From Aboyne he removed to Laurencekirk, where he became acquainted with the father of Beattie, the author of The Minstrel.
In 1726, he married Jane Catanach, the daughter of a farmer in his native parish. She was a Roman Catholic in religion, but their family was brought up as Protestants, and their difference
of creed does not appear to have in any way interrupted the happiness of their married life.
In 1732 he was appointed teacher of the parish school of Lochlee, in the valley of the South Esk, and in this sequestered but romantic glen he passed the rest of his days, in the quiet and unambitious, but conscientious discharge of the monotonous duties of his small school, varied by those of sessionclerk and precentor. He also qualified as a notary-public, but it is unlikely that the demands upon his time in this capacity were either many or remunerative. His money income, from all sources, did not much exceed twenty pounds a-year, besides a free house; yet, considering the fewness of his wants, and several perquisites in kind, with six acres of grazing and arable land, and an unlimited supply of peat fuel, his circumstances present nothing to excite our commiseration. Indeed, few poets have enjoyed a more equable share of happiness, and endured less of the cankering cares incident to the battle of life. Nothing that he has written bears the slightest trace of discontent.
His leisure time he divided between poetry and classical translation from the Latin, and the lighter relaxations of practising on the violin and angling. He continued his practice of translation from an early date, and wrote most of his poems long before the idea of publication occurred to him. His songs and other poems had a local fame, and appear to have been familiar to several persons of taste and influence in the neighbourhood, whose friendship and esteem he retained by the simplicity (7)
of his character, his self-respect, and the urbanity of his manners.
In this uneventful, yet happy manner, his life passed on, till in his sixtyseventh year, when, requiring to go to Aberdeen on business, the idea struck him of taking his manuscripts along with him. The son of his friend Beattie of Laurencekirk, long since dead, was now professor of moral philosophy in Aberdeen; and though The Minstrel did not appear till two years after, he was known as a poet and elegant essayist-and Ross resolved to submit his manuscripts to his cultivated judgment. Beattie was favourably impressed with the poems and their author, and advised the publication of "Helenore" and a few of the songs. In 1768 the volume made its appearance at Aberdeen, and met with gratifying success. Beattie, to give it a lift, wrote an anonymous letter, and his only specimen of Scotch vernacular poetry, to the printer of the Aberdeen Journal. Ross's preface, which is modest enough. and somewhat prolix, informs us that the MS. lay beside him for many years, and that copies of it having got into circulation, one of the gentlemen who thus read it wrote him urging its publication. He cleared £20 by the venture.
In 1778 Ross resolved to bring out a second edition, which he carefully revised. It was dedicated to the famous Duchess
of Gordon, and contains “Bydby's Dream," his finest imaginative sketch, which he must have written in the interval between the two editions. On its publication, having received an invitation to Gordon Castle, he resolved