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XI.

FINE SINGLE POEMS.

SIR WALTER SCOTT, &c.

NOTHING seems stranger amidst the strange fluctuations of popularity, than the way in which the songs and shorter poems of the most eminent writers occasionally pass from the highest vogue into the most complete oblivion, and are at once forgotten, as if they had never been. Scott's spirited ballad, "The Bonnets of Bonnie Dundee," is a case in point. Several persons (amongst the rest Mrs. Hughes, the valued friend of the author) have complained to me, not only that it is not included amongst Sir Walter's ballads, but that they were unable to discover it elsewhere. Upon mentioning this to another dear friend of mine, the man who, of all whom I have known, has the keenest scent for literary game, and is the most certain to discover a lost poem, he threw himself upon the track, and failing to obtain a printed copy, succeeded in procuring one in manuscript, taken down from the lips of a veteran vocalist; not, as I should judge, from his recitation, but from his singing, for it is no uncommon thing with singers to be unable to divorce the sense from the sound, so that you must

have the music with the words, or go without them altogether.

At all events this transcript is a curiosity. The whole ballad is written as if it were prose: no capital at the beginning of the lines; no break, as indicated by the rhyme, at the conclusion; no division between the stanzas. All these ceremonies are cast aside with a bold contempt for vulgar usages, and the entire song thrown into one long paragraph. I think it is Cowper who wrote a rhyming letter upon the same principle; but the jingle being more obtrusive, and the chorus a wanting, the effect of the intentional pleasantry is far less ludicrous than that produced by this unconscious and graver error.

I endeavoured to restore the natural divisions of the verse; and having since discovered a printed copy, buried in the Doom of Devorgoil, where of course nobody looked for it, I am delighted to transfer to my pages one of the most spirited and characteristic ballads ever written.

To the Lords of Convention 'twas Claverhouse who spoke,
Ere the king's crown shall fall there are crowns to be broke;
So let each cavalier who loves honour and me,
Come follow the bonnets of Bonny Dundee.

Come fill up my cup, come fill up my can ;
Come saddle your horses, and call up your men ;
Come open the Westport and let us gang free,
And its room for the bonnets of Bonny Dundee !

Dundee he is mounted, he rides up the street,
The bells are rung backward, the drums they are beat;
But the Provost, douce man, said, "Just e'en let him be,
The Gude Town is weel quit of that Deil of Dundee !"
Come fill up the cup, &c.

M

As he rode down the sanctified bends of the Bow

Ilk carline was flyting and shaking her pow;

But the young plants of grace they looked cowthie and slee,
Thinking luck to thy bonnet, thou Bonny Dundee !
Come fill up my cup, &c.

With sour-featured Whigs the Grass-market was thranged As if half the West had set tryst to be hanged;

There was spite in each look, there was fear in each e'e,
As they watched for the bonnets of Bonny Dundee.
Come fill up my cup, &c.

These cowls of Kilmarnock had spits and had spears,
And lang-hafted gullies to kill cavaliers;

But they shrunk to close-heads, and the causeway was free
At the toss of the bonnet of Bonny Dundee.

Come fill up my cup, &c.

He spurred to the foot of the proud castle rock,

And with the gay Gordon he gallantly spoke ;

"Let Mons Meg and her marrows speak twa words or three For the love of the bonnet of Bonny Dundee."

Come fill up my cup, &c.

The Gordon demands of him which way he goes-
"Where'er shall direct me the shade of Montrose !
Your Grace in short space shall hear tidings of me
Or that low lies the bonnet of Bonny Dundee.
Come fill up my cup, &c.

"There are hills beyond Pentland, and lands beyond Forth;
If there's lords in the Lowlands, there's chiefs in the North;
There are wild Duniewassals three thousand times three
Will cry Hoigh!' for the bonnet of Bonny Dundee.
Come fill up my cup, &c.

·

"There's brass on the target of barkened bull-hide,
There's steel in the scabbard that dangles beside;
The brass shall be burnished, the steel shall flash free

At a toss of the bonnet of Bonny Dundee.

Come fill up my cup, &c.

"Away to the hills, to the caves, to the rocks,-
Ere I own an usurper I'll crouch with the fox;
And tremble, false Whigs, in the midst of your glee
You have not seen the last of my bonnet and me."
Come fill up my cup, &c.

He waved his proud hand, and the trumpets were blown,
The kettle-drums clashed, and the horsemen rode on,
Till on Ravelston's cliffs and on Clermiston's lea
Died away the wild war-notes of Bonny Dundee.

Come fill up my cup, come fill up my can;
Come saddle the horses, and call up the men ;
Come open your gates, and let me gae free,
For its up with the bonnets of Bonny Dundee !

There are abundant indications that the "Bonnets of Bonny Dundee" was a favourite with its illustrious writer. The following song, from "The Pirate," is interesting, not merely from its own merit, but from an anecdote related by Mr. Lockhart. When on a tour in the North of England, it was sung to Sir Walter as set by Mrs. Robert Arkwright. "Beautiful words," observed he; "Byron's of course." He was much shocked when undeceived.

The stanzas themselves are deeply touching. They form part of a serenade, sung by Cleveland under Minna's window, when compelled to return to his ship.

Farewell! farewell! the voice you hear
Has left its last soft tone with you;
It's next must join the seaward cheer,

And shout among the shouting crew.

The accents which I scarce could form,
Beneath your frown's controlling check,
Must give the word above the storm

To cut the mast and clear the wreck.

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The timid eye I dared not raise,

The hand that shook when pressed to thine,
Must point the guns upon the chase,

Must bid the deadly cutlass shine.

To all I love or hope or fear,

Honour or own, a long adieu!
To all that life has soft and dear,
Farewell! save memory of you!

The lines have much of the flow peculiar to Lord Byron, and were therefore perhaps selected as adapted to her purpose by their accomplished composer. In general, musical people say that Sir Walter Scott's songs are ill suited to music, difficult to set, difficult to sing. One cannot help suspecting that the fault rests with the music, that cannot blend itself with such poetry. Where in our language shall we find more delicious melody than in " County Guy?" The rhythm of the verse rivals the fancy of the imagery and the tenderness of the thought.

Ah! County Guy, the hour is nigh,
The sun has left the lea;

The orange flower perfumes the bower,
The breeze is on the sea.

The lark his lay who trilled all day,
Sits hushed his partner nigh;

Bee, bird, and bower confess the hour :-
But where is County Guy?

The village maid steals through the shade
Her shepherd's suit to hear;

To beauty shy by lattice high,
Sings high-born cavalier.

The star of love, all stars above,
Now reigns o'er earth and sky;

And high and low the influence know :-
But where is County Guy?

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