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My spirits flag, my hopes decay;
Still that dread death-bell smites my ear; And many a boding seems to say, 'Countess, prepare-thy end is near.'
Thus sore and sad that lady grieved In Cumnor Hall, so lone and drear, And many a heartfelt sigh she heaved, And let fall many a bitter tear.
And ere the dawn of day appeared,
In Cumnor Hall, so lone and drear, Full many a piercing scream was heard, And many a cry of mortal fear.
The death-bell thrice was heard to ring,
The mastiff howled at village door,
The oaks were shattered on the green; Woe was the hour, for never more
That hapless Countess e'er was seen.
And in that manor, now no more
Have spirits haunted Cumnor Hall.
The village maids with fearful glance Avoid the ancient moss-grown wall; Nor ever lead the merry dance
Among the groves of Cumnor Hall.
Full many a traveller has sighed,
And pensive wept the Countess' fall, As wandering onwards they've espied
The haunted towers of Cumnor Hall.
THE SPIRIT OF THE CAPE.
(From The Lusiad.)
[This passage is referred to in Tennant's Anster Fair, and is the subject of a picture by the celebrated artist, David Scott, now in the Custom House of Leith.]
Now prosperous gales the bending canvas swelled;
From these rude shores our fearless course we held :
Beneath the glistening wave the god of day Had now five times withdrawn the parting
When o'er the prow a sudden darkness spread,
And slowly floating o'er the mast's tall head
A black cloud hovered; nor appeared from far
The moon's pale glimpse, nor faintly twinkling star;
So deep a gloom the lowering vapour cast, Transfixed with awe the bravest stood
Meanwhile a hollow bursting roar resounds,
As when hoarse surges lash their rocky mounds;
Nor had the blackening wave, nor frowning heaven,
The wonted signs of gathering tempest given.
Amazed we stood-O thou, our fortune's guide,
Avert this omen, mighty God, I cried; Or through forbidden climes adventurous strayed,
Have we the secrets of the deep surveyed, Which these wide solitudes of sea and sky Were doomed to hide from man's unhallowed eye?
Whate'er this prodigy, it threatens more
Than midnight tempest and the mingled And all the storms that own my sovereign sway,
When sea and sky combine to rock the Who 'mid surrounding rocks and shelves marble shore.
I spoke, when rising through the dark- Where never hero braved my rage before;
Appalled we saw a hideous phantom glare; High and enormous o'er the flood he towered,
And thwart our way with sullen aspect To veil her secret shrine from mortal view, Hear from my lips what direful woes attend,
Unearthly paleness o'er his cheeks was
Erect uprose his hairs of withered red;
His haggard beard flowed quivering on the wind,
Revenge and horror in his mien combined;
His clouded front, by withering lightning
The inward anguish of his soul declared.
Shot livid fires: far echoing o'er the waves His voice resounded, as the caverned shore
And bursting soon shall o'er your race descend.
With every bounding keel that dares my rage,
Eternal war my rocks and storms shall wage;
The next proud fleet that through my dear domain,
With daring search shall hoist the stream-
That gallant navy by my whirlwinds tost,
A naked corse wide floating o'er the tide
With hollow groan repeats the tempest's O Lusus! oft shalt thou thy children wail;
Cold gliding horrors thrilled each hero's breast;
Our bristling hair and tottering knees confessed
Wild dread; the while with visage ghastly
His black lips trembling, thus the Fiend
began: "O you, the boldest of the nations, fired By daring pride, by lust of fame inspired, Who, scornful of the bowers of sweet repose, Through these my waves advance your
fearless prows, Regardless of the lengthening watery way,
Each year thy shipwrecked sons shalt thou deplore,
Each year thy sheeted masts shall strew my shore."
He spoke, and deep a lengthened sigh he drew,
A doleful 'sound, and vanished from the view;
The frightened billows gave a rolling swell;
And distant far prolonged the dismal yell; Faint and more faint the howling echoes die,
And the black cloud dispersing leaves the sky.
And will I see his face again?
as well as the two preceding ones, are unequalled almost by anything I ever heard or read; and the lines
The present moment is our ain,
are worthy of the first poet. It is long posterior to Ramsay's days. About the years 1771 or 1772, it came first on the streets as a ballad; and I suppose the composition of the song was not much anterior to that period."
Burns does not seem to have known that it appeared in Herd's Collection in 1776; and afterwards in several other collections.
It first appeared with an author's name in Sim's edition of Mickle's poems, 1806, and is almost the only poem in the book of which the editor seems to have overlooked the merits.
Its next appearance, along with the first enquiry as to its authorship, is in Select Scottish Songs, with Observations by Burns, edited by Cromek, 1810. It is unnecessary to quote the reasoning by which Cromek assigns it to
Jean Adams, for he has abandoned her claim for that of Mickle; but as it has been taken up by others, who have added nothing to its strength, it may be as well to see what the facts amount to :— "There is living evidence in support of that [the claim] of Jean Adams. Mrs Fullarton, who was a pupil of hers, frequently heard her repeat it, and affirms it to be her composition, and no one at that time disputed her assertion. In addition to this, we may adduce the following extract of a letter from Mrs Crawford (Mrs Fullarton's daughter) in reply to an inquiry from Mrs Fletcher of Edinburgh, at the request of the editor :
"Ratho House, Jan. 24, 1810.
You may assure Mr Cromek that the ballad, There's nae Luck about the House,' was written by Jean Adams, on a couple in Crawfordsdyke, the small town where her father lived. I do not recollect that I ever heard her repeat it; but since I can remember anything, I have always heard it spoken of as her composition by those that she depended much upon. My aunt, Mrs Crawford of Cartsburn, often sung it as a song of Jean Adams'."
I have enclosed."
He then details the variations and in
accuracies, and adds :
"Since I wrote to Mr Mudford, Mrs Mickle has informed me, without being asked, that Mr Mickle gave her the ballad as his own composition, and explained to her the Scottish words and phrases; and she repeated to me, with a very little assistance, the whole of the song, except the eight lines which I have, and I think with justice, ascribed to Dr Beattie. When I asked her why she hesitated at first, she said, that the question coming unexpectedly upon her, flurried her, and the flurry, together with the fear that she might be called upon to substantiate what she then said upon oath, made her answer with diffidence and hesitation. This struck me at that time to have been the case, and I believe such a behaviour to be very natural to persons labouring under a disorder so depressive as paralysis.
I shall only add, that Mickle had too high an opinion of his own poetical powers to have adopted the compositions of but very few of his contemporaries; and certainly too much honour and integrity to
give the least occasion to the publishing of the works of another as his own productions."
A good deal has been written since on the subject; but we are not aware
that a single fact has been added to the case as above stated.
To us, as it stands, the external evidence is unsatisfactory, even as to Mickle's claim, which we have no hesitation in saying has the best of it. The song is so unlike anything else that either is known to have written, that we can draw no inference from that source. Comparing the different early versions of it does not assist us either; but without referring to numerous variations, it may be noted that Herd's version has only ten four-line verses, including the chorus, while Mickle's first sketch, as Sim supposes, has twelve,
and that in his works fourteen,-including Beattie's acknowledged. From this it is evident Herd did not obtain the first published edition now known from Mickle, and must therefore have got it in the form of a street ballad, or from a street singer, the form of its appearance suggested by Burns. Mickle was very unlikely to have launched it in this manner; but if Jean Adams wrote it, this was its most likely way of appearing, for her book was published in the Saltmarket, Glasgow, the very centre of ballad and chap-book lore.
And this leads us to point out what would throw some light upon the question, namely, the production of a chapbook or ballad in which it appeared earlier than 1776. Should any of our readers know of such, we shall be glad to be informed of its existence by a note addressed to the care of the Publishers. We shall also be glad to obtain any facts bearing on the question, which, if deemed of sufficient importance, will be noticed afterwards.