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Before an eyelid rose and fell,
Ere scarce the words were given,
With its lightning-pace of Heaven.
And night they forged the chain,
To stretch across the main.
Through many an hour of toil,
They wound it coil on coil.
And one was from the Bride,
Across the Atlantic Tide.
Straight for the middle-deep,
Their settled tryst might keep.
Like lovers who have broken
Keeps as a troth-plight token
They welded fast the link
And watched the welding sink
Till it could sink no more;
Home to its native shore.
Between, they unwound the chain,
Along the deep sea-plain.
Where death and silence dwell,
And signalled “All is well."
They saw arise and set the sun; They counted all the anxious hours,
And thought their work was done.
And lashed the Vassal-sea,
He broke in his great agony.
I love it not I wiss ! Take chain and ships, take men and all,
Down to thy dark abyss."
Shatter the costly chain :-
See all their work in vain.
But they who manned the ships were Men,
The bravest of the brave,
Or lie in honoured grave.
They sought the middle-deep,
Had hushed them both asleep.
Knew but a restless rest,
Ruffled the ocean's breast;
Cheerily west and east :
And pray the wedding-priest."
The long betrothed lands
And joined their willing hands,
The cannon spake in thunder ;
"Let no man put asunder.”
The blessed greeting ran,
Goodwill to every man.”
More like to Heaven should be,
THE BALLAD POETRY OF SCOTLAND AND OF IRELAND.*
“If a man were permitted to make the commencement of a peaceful all the ballads, he need not care who future, and the prospect, afterwards should make the laws of a nation.” well réalised, of a national prosperity This is a saying which has often been which neither nation—and especially cited, not always quite so accurately, the weaker of the two-could ever perhaps, as on the present occasion; achieve during repeated centuries but we do not remember that the of hostility. But still, among those memorable conditions under which it who most cordially concurred in the was uttered have ever been alluded to policy, and even the necessity, of in connection with it. Some collectors the union, there could not fail to be of curious tracts may possess “an ac- deep-settled regrets, that in their count of a conversation concerning a day, and by their hands, the long right regulation of governments for line of historical tradition should be the common good of mankind, in a broken, so that an illustrious nationletter to the Marquis of Montrose, ality should live in the history of the the Earls of Rothes, Roxburgh, and past alone. We regret for å short Haddington, from London, the 1st time when such a thing comes to of December 1703." The author pass near our door, as in the exwas the renowned Andrew Fletcher tinction of an ancient house, the fall of Saltoun, and he who peruses the of an old ancestral tree, the removal little tract will, after certain dia- of a venerable bridge or street-even logues as spirited as they are origi- the stopping of the old customary nal, come at last to the saying about stage-coach superseded by the railballads, which has, as it were, dropped way. How deep, then, must have out of its setting and been tossed flowed the fountains of regret in about in the literary world to be ap- those who saw the last Parliament preciated by its own intrinsic merit of Scotland ride back from its old as a separate gem. To understand, hall in all its feudal pageantry to however, the full import intended resign its office for ever, and who to be given to it, and the tenor of felt that last solemn procession to the spirited dialogue in which it is be the symbol that a nation had spoken, there are some preliminary died out with all its associations. matters to be kept in view. Å Fletcher of Saltoun was one of time was coming when a nation, those who admitted the necessity endowed with an almost matchless of a union, while his impetuous and train of the noblest historical tradi- sensitive nature rendered him keenly tions, was to sink her government alive to all the sorrows of the occaand her historical name in fusion sion. He had led a strange, wild, with a neighbouring nation, greater checkered life; had been a soldier and more powerful, but not more in different parts of the world-a truly illustrious. True, it was not rebel and conspirator at home-an submission to the sword of the con- archæologist and devotee of literary queror-not even an ignoble or un- research among the ruins of ancient worthy compromise. Firm to the nations. Whatever he did he did with last in its proud policy of indepen- impetuosity. He took his politics dence, the lesser nation stood out from the purity and single-minded for fair and honourable terms of loftiness which it was fashionable to union, and obtained them, even from attribute to the patriots of antiquity, those who would give them rather and he professed the same rude simfrom fear than from fairness. True, plicity of motive and action which also, there appeared in prospect thé he found in the Homeric heroes and termination of a long cycle of strife in the ballads of his own dear country.
The Ballads of Scotland, edited by William EDMONSTOUNE AYTOUN, 2 vols., 1858. The Ballads of Ireland, collected and edited by EDWARD HAYES, 2 vols. 1856.
Accomplished he was withal, and a were, the string of the bow, affords very pure, vigorous-writer of English. the great conveniency of a cheap and Such was the person who tells us steady conveyance from one part to that he was walking one fine day the other. The shelving situation of slowly and alone in the Mall, when the city is not only most fitted to he was overtaken by his countryman receive the kind influences of the the Earl of Cromarty, and Sir Chris- sun, but to carry off, by common topher Musgrave. The three ad
sewers and other ways, the mire and journed together—as gentlemen did dirt of the streets into the river, then and do now—to the apartments which is cleansed by the tides twice of Sir Christopher, where they were every day. But above all, the ground joined by Sir Edward Seymour, and on which the city stands, being a all took dinner with its adjuncts. gravel, renders the inhabitants healthThus it is that, whether in allegory, ful, and the adjacent country wholeor as the Boswellian record of what some and beautiful. The county of really took place, we are introduced Kent furnishes us with the choicest to the conversation of this select con- fruit; Hertfordshire and Cambridgevivial party. The first topic of con- shire with corn; Lincolnshire, Essex, versation presents a curious contrast and Surrey, with beef, veal, and mutto many conversations which have ton; Buckinghamshire with wood for taken place in the same neighbour- fuel; and the river, with all that the hood among members of Parliament seas and the rest of the world afford.” and other persons. Sir Christopher's And so the English statesman and lodgings in Whitehall have the the Scottish courtier go on rivalling good fortune to overlook the river each other in their glowing pictures Thames, and the speaking starts of the greatness and glory of England, with rapturous eulogiums on the in order that they may impress upon beauty and salubrity of that river. the Scottish patriot the good fortune “You have here, gentlemen,” said in store for his own impoverished the Earl, “two of the noblest ob- country in so august an alliance. The jects that can entertain the eye-the eulogium rises until it irritates the finest river and the greatest city in haughty Scot to sarcastic scepticism, the world. When natural things are which, in its turn, brings out remarks in the greatest perfection, they never not merely in laudation of England, fail to produce most wonderful effects. but in disparagement of Scotland. This most gentle and navigable river, The debate gets hot. Sir Edward, with the excellent genius and indus- all in a flame, cries out—“What a trious inclination of the English pother is here about an union with people, have raised this glorious city Scotland, of which all the advantage to such a height that, if all things we shall have will be no more than be rightly considered, we shall find what a man gets by marrying a begit very far to surpass any other.” gar-a louse for her portion.” The · Before the Scottish lord has gone sting of putting such words into the much further, Sir Christopher takes English gentleman's mouth was that up the eulogium in a more specific he had actually uttered them in Parstrain, indulging in some optimisms liament, and a report of them carried on which the tremendous sanitary to Scotland had aggravated the naproblem, handed down for the work- tional exasperation. Fletcher put ing out of the present generation, is them into the dialogue that he might a sad practical commentary. "The have the opportunity of indulging in whole town lies upon a shelving one of his own touches of courtly situation, descending easily, and, as irony. “I wonder,” he says of Sir it were, in the form of a theatre, Edward, “he is not afraid such lantowards the south and river, covered guage should make us suspect him from the north, north-east, and north- not to be descended of the noble fawest winds ; so that, in very cold and mily whose name he bears."
Sir stormy weather, by means of the Edward passes on to still hotter buildings of the city, and on the ground. What account should Engbridge, it is both warm and calm land make, forsooth, of a country so upon the river, which being, as it often trampled under foot by their
armies ? Were not the Scots routed of both sexes are daily tempted to all by Somerset, “and of late years did manner of lewdness by infamous balnot the very scum of our nation lads sung in every corner of the conquer you?” “ Yes," said I, streets.” One would think," said " after they had, with our assistance, the Earl," this last were of no great conquered the king, and the nobility, consequence.” I said, “I knew a very and gentry of England ; and yet that wise man so much of Sir Christowhich you call a conquest was a dis- pher's sentiment, that he believed if pute between parties, and not a a man were permitted to make all national quarrel." "It was," said he, the ballads he need not care who "inseparable from the fortune of our should make the laws of a nation." Edwards to triumph over your na- Such are the circumstances under tion.” “Do you mean Edward of which this aphorism was uttered ; and Carnarvon,” said I," and his victory they are not uninstructive in bringof Bannockburn?” “No," replied ing us practically home to those he, “I mean Edward I. and III., qualities of our national minstrelsy whose heroic actions no princes have which, in a mind like Fletcher's, ever equalled.” “Sure,” said I, "you naturally formed an element in that do not mean the honour of the first estimate so favourable to his own or the humanity of the third, so sig- country, which he took of the coming nally manifested at Berwick; nor union. the murder of Wallace by the first It is evident that he cannot have Edward, or the poisoning of Ran- meant that an arbitrary, monopoly dolph Earl of Murray by the third, of the making of the ballads would after they had both refused to give give its possessor the power of wieldbattle to those heroes ?"
ing the popular mind, but merely, in The high eulogium on England and a terse shape, to show how emphatiits capital with which the discourse cally that popular mind was embobegan, naturally does not stand out died in the popular literature which through such stormy talk as this. arises out of it, and consequently The shrine of national riches and bears the lines and features of all its magnanimity raised before the eye of more emphatic characteristics. Lookthe Scot to tempt his cupidity, is ing homewards, he could see, as we rent open, and behold, it is a whited do now, the ballad poetry of his sepulchre full of rottenness and dead country representing its thorough men's bones. Scotland may be poor nationality-a quality of which the in the elements of mere material strength is deepened by contrast wealth ; but she has those things when our minstrelsy is compared which gold can never buy-bravery, with that of other countries, and eshardihood, and purity of heart, while pecially with the Irish. It is begotthe wealth and external prosperity ten of a national feeling which never of England only cover an internal sacrifices any of the native traditions, corruption and progressive decay however much they may have been which will bring her, in the end, to the creatures of party strife, to any shame. To prepare him for indig- foreign influences. When the strife nantly denying the honour and fa- is over, we take even the offending vour conferred on his own countryside to our heart more readily than by the proposed alliance, he gets the the stranger. About Wallace, Bruce, Englishmen themselves to say,.“ in and the other heroes of national inthis city, gamesters, stock-jobbers, dependence, there never can be two jockies, and wagerers, make now the sides in Scotland. In Ireland there most considerable figure, and in few would probably have been a strong years have attained to such a degree Anglo - Norman party. The most of perfection in their several ways, zealous enemies of the old French inthat, in comparison to many of the terest look back with a melancholy nobility, gentry, and merchants of pride on the beauty, the fascinations, England, those in Newgate are mere and the talent of Queen Mary; and ignorants and wretches of no expe- even, if in heart believing her guilty, rience.” Again, in the words of Sir can drop a sympathising thought over Christopher, “even the poorer sort the terrible disasters of her life and