صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

I.

And are ye sure the news is true?
And are ye sure he's weel?

Is this a time to think o' wark?

Ye jauds, fling bye your wheel. Is this a time to think o' wark,

When Colin's at the door?

Rax' me my cloak,—I'll to the quay, And see him come ashore.

And spread the table neat and clean,
Gar ilka thing look braw ;'

For wha can tell how Colin fared,
When he was far awa'?

For there's nae luck, &c.

V.

Sae true his heart, sae smooth his speech,
His breath like cauler2 air;

For there's nae luck about the house, His very foot has music in't,

There's nae luck at a';

There's little pleasure in the house When our gudeman's awa'.

[blocks in formation]

As he comes up the stair.

And will I see his face again?

And will I hear him speak?

I'm downright dizzy wi' the thought,-
In troth, I'm like to greet.3
For there's nae luck, &c.

[blocks in formation]

JAMES BEATTIE.

1735-1803.

BEATTIE'S poetical and critical repu- | gling merit without destroying its artation stood very high in his own day; dour. He entered college with an eye and there is no doubt that, measured by the canons of his times, his literary taste and the elegance of his style deserved all the praise that has been bestowed upon them.

But estimated by the broader principles of a more analytical criticism, a comparatively lower place would now be assigned him than what the amiable majority of his contemporaries thought him entitled to. But for the man's real worth, great amiability, faultless taste, and unerring judgment, one is almost disposed to sympathize with Goldsmith's fantastic jealousy of Beattie's flattering, we might add fluttering, reception by the good and the great of London society. He was constitutionally an elegant poet, but wanted the elements of a great one.

to the ministry; but at the end of his arts curriculum, having taken his M.A. degree, he abandoned the idea, and accepted the situation of parish schoolmaster at Fordoun, in his native county. The locality was every way calculated to foster his love of nature, and to supply his mind with a store of those images and features of landscape and natural phenomena, descriptions of which constitute the chief beauties of the Minstrel.

In 1758, he was elected one of the masters of the Grammar-school of Aberdeen, and two years later, professor of moral philosophy and logic in Marischal College. About the same time appeared his first volume of poems and translations, which were reprinted in 1766, with a poem on the death of Beattie's father was a shopkeeper Churchill, both poor in treatment and and small farmer in the village of Laur- in bad taste; and this he afterwards encekirk, in Kincardineshire. James, admitted by excluding it from his the youngest of the family, was born works. In 1762 appeared his "Essay there on October 25, 1735, and lost his on Poetry ;" and in 1765, his "Judgfather while he was an infant. To the ment of Paris," which was unsuccessful. thoughtfulness of an older brother, who In 1767, he was married to Mary Dun, perceived his talents, he owed his edu- daughter of the rector of the Aberdeen cation at the school of their native vil- Grammar-school; and in 1670, he lage; and his own talents helped to issued his "Essay on Truth," as a refutalighten the burden of keeping him at tion of Hume's philosophical speculaAberdeen University, where he gained tions. It was hailed with almost universal one of those small but useful bursaries, admiration and applause, and was transwhich have done much to assist strug-lated into several foreign languages.

and character. In 1796, his second son also died, in his eighteenth year-an event which caused him to relinquish all interest in worldly affairs. In this forlorn condition he lived till 1803, when he died. He was buried by the side of his sons in the churchyard of St Nicholas, Aberdeen.

But happily for Beattie's fame it does of twenty-two, in 1790. His last liternot rest on his philosophical disserta-ary work was an account of his son's life tion; for that is now of little account amongst students of philosophy, except as a landmark. It is as the author of the Minstrel, the first book of which he issued anonymously in 1771, that he is now remembered. Its reception was so flattering that its authorship cannot have been long concealed, and his friend and fellow-poet, Gray, characterized it in the most ardent terms of praise.

In 1773, Beattie visited London, and was lionized in the highest literary and social circles. He was presented to the king and queen; received a pension of £200 a-year; got his portrait painted by Reynolds in the allegorical attitude of suppressing prejudice, scepticism, and folly; and had the degree of LL.D. conferred on him by the University of Oxford. He was even invited to join the Church of England, with flattering prospects of advancement; but this he wisely declined to be enticed into doing.

Beattie's "Life," by his friend Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo, was published in 1805, and, while a labour of love, ranks high as a literary biography. His conduct in all the relations of life leave the very highest impression of his character

as a man.

We have already indicated our opinion of his position as a poet; but more specially as regards the Minstrel as his chief poem, it may be noted that it is simply a poetical register of the development of the predominant phase of his own mind. Its strength and weakness are in its being so sentimental that his descriptive and imaginative powers are held subdued. Consequently, originaland analytical depth and vigour are awanting.

The second book of the Minstrel ap-ity peared in 1774, with the author's name.

But while thus buoyed on the gale of popular applause as a poet and philosopher, his domestic circumstances were of the most distressing kind to one of such tender sensibilities. His wife became insane, and, after long and anxious attendance on his part, had at last to be committed to an asylum. His family consisted of two sons, to whose training and development he devoted the greatest care. The eldest became his colleague in the professorship, but to his great grief was cut off at the age

[ocr errors]

We have given what we consider its best pieces.

It is to be regretted that he did not write more than one piece in the Scotch vernacular; for the specimen he has left, and which we give, not only shows great ease in the use of the language, but an evident love of it. This is also shown in his two excellent verses (stanza vi.) to that admirable Scotch song, "There's nae Luck about the House."

Regarding his critical and philosophical writings, which do not come

[blocks in formation]

How forth the Minstrel fared in days of Did guide and guard their wanderings,

yore,

wheresoe'er they went.

[blocks in formation]
« السابقةمتابعة »