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Though many a wond'rous tale of elder When in these wilds a jocund, sportive time
Shall grace the wild traditionary rhyme, Yet, not of warring hosts and faulchion wounds,
Each flower, self-sown, my heedless hours
The wabret leaf, that by the pathway grew,' Again the harp of ancient minstrels The wild-briar rose, of pale and blushful sounds: hue,
Be mine to sing the meads, the pensile The thistle's rolling wheel of silken down, groves, The blue-bell, or the daisy's pearly crown, And silver streams, which dear Aurelia The gaudy butterfly, in wanton round, loves. That, like a living pea-flower, skimm'd the ground.
From wilds of tawny heath, and mosses dun,
Through winding glens, scarce pervious
Afraid to glitter in the noon-tide beam,
Till, far retiring from her native rills,
And, gathering wide her waters on their way,
With foamy force emerges into day.
Where'er she sparkles o'er her silver
The daisied meads in glowing hues expand;
Again I view the cairn, and moss-grey
Where oft at eve I wont to muse alone,
Or think, as playful fancy wandered far,
Again I view each rude romantic glade, Where once with tiny steps my childhood stray'd,
To watch the foam-bells of the bubbling brook,
Or mark the motions of the clamorous rook,
Who saw her nest, close thatched with ceaseless toil,
But, more remote, the spangled fields At summer eve become the woodman's
THE antiquated little town of An- | which ended William's commercial struther, in Fife, has within one generation been the birth-place of three eminent men-Thomas Chalmers, William Tennant, and John Goodsir.
William Tennant, the second of the group, was born on the 15th of May 1784. He was the second son of Alexander Tennant, a small merchant and farmer in Anstruther. Physically he was never robust, and though born without any defect, he lost the use of his limbs so early that he may be said never to have had it. In due time he was sent to the burgh school, where diligent application, and a special gift of acquiring languages, placed him at the head of his classes. At the age of fifteen, he was sent to St Andrew's University, where he made rapid progress in Greek and Latin; but at the end of his second session, it was found that his father's means were insufficient to enable him to complete his curriculum. After remaining some time at home, in 1803 he was sent to Glasgow, to act as clerk to his elder brother, then in business there as a corn-factor. The business, not a very prosperous one, was transferred to Anstruther in 1805, when both brothers returned to their native place, William still acting as clerk, and living at his father's house. He continued in this capacity till 1811 when a crisis occurred in his brother's affairs,
During those eight years of uncongenial trafficking, he did not abandon his studies, but by unwearied application, during his leisure hours, read such poets as Ariosto, Wieland, and Camoens, in the original, and he also mastered the Hebrew Bible. Nor did he altogether forsake the Muses, with whom he first dallied at St Andrews; for we find him, before his twentieth year, attempting to sing his enjoyment of the classics.
His first attempt in the humorous vein was "Anster Concert," a purely local poem, of twenty-three stanzas, no way above the average of such effusions. Anster Fair was completed in 1811, and was published anonymously, the preface being dated Edinburgh, 5th May 1812. It soon came under the notice of Lord Woodhouselee, who was so struck with the genius it displayed, that he took immediate steps to find out the author's name; and in August 1812, he wrote Mr Cockburn, Anstruther, its publisher, in terms that must have filled Tennant's heart with joy and gratitude.
In the autumn of 1813, Tennant was appointed to the office of schoolmaster of Dunino, and though the salary did not exceed forty pounds a-year, it was more than equal to his wants. The
office, too, was congenial, and gave him access to the University library at St Andrew's. Here he added Arabic, Syriac, and Persian to the list of his linguistic acquirements. In 1814, he published a second edition of Anster Fair, on the publication of which Jeffrey reviewed it in The Edinburgh in very flattering terms. In 1816 he was promoted, chiefly through the influence of George Thomson, the friend and correspondent of Burns, to be parish teacher of Lasswade. In 1819, | he was elected by the trustees of Dollar Academy, teacher of Classical and Oriental languages in that institution.
Here settled in a highly agreeable and interesting locality, and in a position suited to his tastes, it was expected | that the promise of Anster Fair would be redeemed by something worthy of his literary and scholastic reputation. Accordingly, much interest was excited when, in 1822, his second poem, "The Thane of Fife," appeared. The public expectation was disappointed, for the poem was a manifest falling off, and if not an entire failure, so much so, that its second part never was published. Of his next three poems it will be enough to give the names, seeing none of them added to his reputation. They were issued in the following order: "Papistry Stormed, or the Dingin' Down o' the Cathedral;" "Cardinal Bethune, a Drama in 5 acts;" "John Baliol, an Historical Drama."
In 1834, a vacancy occurred in the chair of Oriental languages in St Mary's College, St Andrew's, and he was at once appointed to the professorship by his friend Jeffrey, then Lord Advocate.
His last publication, "Hebrew Dramas," founded on incidents of Bible history, was published in 1845. Of this work Lord Jeffrey expressed a high opinion. It served to cover his retreat from the poetic arena with dignity, though it can hardly be said to have increased his fame. His death took place at Dollar, in 1848; and at his own request he was buried at Anstruther, where his friends and admirers have placed a monument over his remains.
The works already noticed are all that he published in a collected form; yet, besides a number of small poems and ballads, he contributed prose translations from Greek and German to the Edinburgh Literary Journal, in 1830, and in the same periodical, carried on a correspondence with the "Ettrick Shepherd," anent a new metrical translation of the Psalms, which was published separately. In 1836-37, he contributed a series of five "Hebrew Idylls" to the Scottish Christian Herald, which, with a project for an edition of the Scottish poets, for which he wrote a life of Allan Ramsay, and a Synopsis of Syriac Grammar, published in 1840, form all his literary labours which appear to have been published. The fame of his linguistic acquirements conveys the impression that his power of mastering languages was something wonderful. In character he was humble unassuming, and unaffectedly pious simple in his tastes, and fond of nature and innocent enjoyment, had a quick sense of the ludicrous in all things; and was an acute observer of men and
As a poet, he fills a niche in Scottish literature which had not been pre-occupied. He is another of the poets whom the university did not deprive of the use of his native tongue, and his less known poems are a mine of Scottish words, and as such are valued by our antiquarian collectors. Anster Fair, his passport to immortality, he treated as a sort of illegitimate progeny of his Muse in her frolicsome and unbridled youth, and he never lost hope of being able to produce something that would bear his poetic reputation more in keeping with his notions of respectability. His weakness as a poet was the want of passion; and the success of Anster Fair is owing to its being of that rare species of poetry in which passion has no place.
It is a poem to be enjoyed-as "Tickler" said; to be taken in the pocket on your trip to Holland, and read in the Zuyder Zee. "It is a fine thing, North! full of life, and glee, and glamour."
LEGEND OF ANSTER FAIR.
ANSTER FAIR is unique in British literature, and may be defined as a descriptive poem, with two love stories and a fairy tale, the evolution of whose plots depended upon one another. The outline is as follows:-The fairy, Tommy Puck, incensed at Susan Scott, niece of Sir Michael the Wizard, for meanly jilting her lover, Melville of Carnbee, put the latter up to a plan by which he revenged the indignity. sir Michael having discovered the real author of the plot, determined to punish
the little elf and his wife, and having got hold of them, by his magic power he crammed the one into a pepper-box, and the other into a mustard-pot, there to remain till the hand of the fairest Scottish maid should be won in public competition by the most accomplished athlete in Scotland, The mustard-pot in the course of ages having come into the possession of Maggie Lauder, by special permission of Oberon, Tommy is liberated from his prison long enough to advise her-the fairest Scottish maidhow she may obtain the fairest man in Scotland as her husband. The manner proposed is to offer her hand as the prize of a competition at next Anster Fair. A public proclamation throughout Scotland is made to this effect, and Rob the Ranter, the cleverest man in Scotland, is successful in carrying off the fair prize. The event on which their imprisonment depended being thus brought about, the two fairies regain their liberty. The chief part of the poem, however, is devoted to a description of the various incidents of the Fair and competition, and the various parties, including the King (James v.), who are attracted to them.
[Evening before the Fair.]
Nor less is the disport and joy without, In Anster town and loan, through all
'Tis but one vast tumultuous jovial rout,
Tumult of laughing and of gabbling
And now, like cat, upon their dexterous A thousand fiddles squeak and squeal it shanks
They light, and of new monsters cheat A thousand stormy drones out-gasp in the sky;
Whilst motley Merry-Andrew, with his jokes,
Wide through the incorp'rate mob the bursting laugh provokes.
Others upon the green, in open air,
Enact the best of Davie Lindsay's plays; While ballad-singing women do not spare Their throats to give good utt'rance to their lays ;
And many a leather-lung'd co-chanting pair
Of wood-legg'd sailors, children's laugh
groans their air.
And such a turbulence of general mirth
Looks, wond'ring what may be the
He rests his eye on shores of Fortha's
And smirks, as knowing well the
And bids his gods and goddesses look
To mark the rage of joy that maddens
Lift to the courts of Jove their voices loud, Y-hymning their mishaps, to please the From Cellardyke to wind-swept Pittenheedless crowd.
And from Balhouffie to Kilrennymill, Meanwhile the sun, fatigued (as well he Vaulted with blankets, crofts and meadows may)
With shining on a night till seven o'clock,
Beams on each chimney-head a farewell ray,
Illuming into golden shaft its smoke;
And now in sea, far west from Oronsay, Is dipp'd his chariot-wheel's refulgent
So many tents the grassy spaces fill; Meantime the Moon, yet leaning on the stream,
With fluid silver bathes the welkin chill, That now earth's ball, upon the side of night,
Swims in an argent sea of beautiful moonlight.