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(Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 1832.)
POETRY, which though not dead, has long been sleeping in Scotland, was restored to waking life by THOMSON. His genius was national; and so, too, was the subject of his first and greatest song. By saying that his genius was national, we mean that its temperament was enthusiastic and passionate; and that, though highly imaginative, the sources of its power lay in the heart. The Castle of Indolence is distinguished by purer taste, and finer fancy; but with all its exquisite beauties, that poem is but the vision of a dream. The Seasons are glorious realities; and the charm of the strain that sings the “ rolling year” is its truth. But what mean we by saying that the Seasons are a national subject ?-do we assert that they are solely Scottish? That would be too bold, even for us; but we scruple not to assert, that Thomson has made them so, as far as might be without insult, injury, or injustice, to the rest of the globe. His suns rise and set in Scottish heavens; his “ deep-fermenting tempests, are brewed in grim evening” Scottish skies; Scottish is his thunder of cloud and cataract ; his “ vapours, and snows, and storms,” are Scottish ; and, strange as the assertion would have sounded in the ears of Samuel Johnson, Scottish are his woods, their sugh, and their roar; nor less their stillness, more awful amidst the vast multitude of steady stems, than when all the sullen pine-tops are swinging to the hurri. cane. A dread love of his native land was in his heart when he cried in the solitude
“Hail, kindred glooms! congenial horrors, hail !". The genius of HOME was national and so, too, was the subject of his first and greatest song-Douglas. He had
studied the old ballads. Their simplicities were sweet to him as wallflowers on ruins. On the story of Gill Morice, who was an earl's son, he founded, 'tis said, his tragedy, which surely no Scottish eyes ever witnessed without tears. Are not these most Scottish lines ?
“ Ye woods and wilds, whose melancholy gloom
Accords with my soul's sadness !"
And these even more intensely so,
“ Red came the river down, and loud and oft
The angry spirit of the waters shrieked!”
The Scottish tragedian in an evil hour crossed the Tweed, riding on horseback all the way to London. His genius got Anglified, took a consumption, and perished in the prime of life. But on seeing the Siddons in Lady Ran. dolph, and hearing her low, deep, wild, wobegone voice exclaim, “ My beautiful! my brave !” “ the aged harper's soul awoke," and his dim eyes were again lighted up for a moment with the fires of genius-say rather for a moment bedewed with the tears of sensibility, reawakened from decay and dotage.
The genius of BEATTIE was national, and so was the subject of his greatest son—The Minstrel. For what is its design ? He tells us, to trace the progress of a poetical genius born in a rude age, from the first dawning of rea. son and fancy, till that period at which he may be sup. posed capable of appearing in the world as a minstrel ; that is, as an intinerant poet and musician,-a character which, according to the notions of our forefathers, was not only respectable, but sacred. “ There lived in gothic days, as legends tell,
A shepherd swain, a man of low degree;
Sicilian groves and vales of Arcady;
A nation famed for song and beauty's charms;
Patient of toil, serene amid alarms;
6. The shepherd swain, of whom I mention made,
On Scotia's mountains fed his little flock:
An honest heart was almost all his stock;
The milky dams supplied his board, and lent
And he, though oft with dust and sweat besprent,
Did patriotism ever inspire genius with sentiment more Scottish than that? Did imagination ever create scenery more Scottish ? Manners, morals, life? Never. What! not the following stanzas ?
“ Lo! where the stripling rapt in wonder roves
Beneath the precipice o'erhung with pine;
And echo swells the chorus to the skies!"
The genius of GRAHAME was national, and so too was the subject of his first and best poem-the Sabbath.
“How still the morning of the hallowed day!" is a line that could have been uttered only by a holy Scottish heart. For we alone know what is indeed Sabbath silence-an earnest of everlasting rest. To our hearts, the very birds of Scotland sing holily on that day. A sacred smile is on the dewy flowers. The lilies look whiter in their loveliness ; the blush-rose reddens in the sun with a diviner dye; and with a more celestial scent the hoary hawthorn sweetens the wilderness. Sorely disturbed of yore, over the glens and hills of Scotland, was the day of peace!
“O, the great goodness of the saints of old !" the Covenanters. Listen to the Sabbath-bard.
6. With them each day was holy; but that morn
The genius of SIR WALTER SCOTT, it will not be denied, is pretty national, and so are the subjects of all his noblest works, be they poems, or novels and romances by the author of Waverley. Up to the era of Sir Walter, living
people had some vague, general, indistinct notions about dead people mouldering away to nothing centuries ago, in regular kirkyards and chance burial-places, “ mang muirs and mosses many 0,” somewhere or other in that diffi. cultly distinguished and very debateable district called the Borders. All at once he touched their tombs with a divi. ning rod, and the turf streamed out ghosts. Some in woodmen's dresses—most in warrior's mail-green archers leapt forth with yew-bows and quivers—and giants stalked shaking spears. The gray chronicler smiled ; and, taking up his pen, wrote in lines of light the annals of the chival. rous and heroic days of auld feudal Scotland. The nation then for the first time knew the character of its ancestors ; for those were not spectres—not they indeed-nor phantoms of the brain-but gaunt Aesh and blood, or glad and glorious ;-base-born cottage-churls of the olden time, because Scottish, became familiar to the love of the nation's heart, and so to its pride did the high-born lineage of palace-kings. The worst of Sir Walter is, that he has harried all Scotland. Never was there such a freebooter. He harries all men's cattle-kills themselves off hand, and makes bonfires of their castles. Thus has he dis. turbed and illuminated all the land as with the blazes of a million beacons. Lakes lie with their islands distinct by midnight as by midday; wide woods glow gloriously in the gloom; and by the stormy splendour, you even see ships, with all sail set, far at sea. His themes in prose or numerous verse, are still « knights and lords and mighty earls,” and their lady-loves-chiefly Scottish-of kings that fought for fame or freedom-of fatal Flodden and bright Bannockburn of the DELIVERER. If that be not national to the teeth, Homer was no Ionian, Tyrtæus not sprung from Sparta, and Christopher North a Cockney. Let Abbotsford, then, be cognomen’d by those that choose it, the Ariosto of the north-we shall continue to call him plain, simple, immortal Sir Walter.
We are confining our affection at present, you perceive, to those great or good poets, to whom, from the nature of their genius and its subjects, we are induced to apply, with all propriety of speech, the delightful and endearing term, Scottish. Our enlightened neighbours, the