David Herschell Edwards.

One hundred modern Scottish poets : with biographical and critical notices (Volume 1) online

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Boforc" tho Tiumorv of tlie ]v,ist.

Would tliat our d;iys unMdliod were,
And all the iinv.iid vision iloar,

Life, fresh as April's bcfiuty rare,

Though, liko it. made of smile and tear.

That wc mi(i mohekx SCOTTISH poets.

(), sum of earthly joys complete,
When thus in sweet accordiaice meet,

The building' year, ami life's hri^ht May,
Each or.her'rt light in clear and dark,
They journey on, and scarcely marlc

The shadows falling o'er their way.



XATI^'K of (jlasgow, was })(irn in 18.38. He
is u bnish maker to trade, and lias written
many luunorous sketclies not devoid of ori{^inality.


Nae doot ye've heard o' winsome Jeanie —

Jeanie wi' the licht blue e'en ;
Nae dfiot ye've heard aboot her beauty,

Fair is she, my artless queen.
Cheeks unrivalPd by the roses.

Skin as white's the mountain snaw ;
Sweet an' modest, neat an' robust —

Bonnie Jean o' .\uchinha'.

Heard ye ocht aboot the cottage,

Whaur the leesome lassie dwells ;
There, when evening's gently closin',

A voice so sweet with music swells ;
Owned by her, fair virtue's treasure '■

She v.-ha's got my heart awa' ;
Serene an' bonnie, blythe as ony —

Peerless Jean o' Auchinha".

Wealthy ladies, dressed in fashion.

Rub their faces owre wi' pent ;
A printed short-gown, kilted coaties,

Wash wi' soap, an' .Jean's content.
She's the lass tiiat's worth a wooin',

Fairest ane amang them a';
Braw an' neat, a' complete —

Bonnie Jean o' Auchinha'.




HLTHOUGH a rough-lianded son of toil, there
are few among' the living Scottish poets who
are entitled to a higher place than Alexander Ander-
son, author of "The Two Angels," "A Song of
Labour," " Songs of the Eail," " Ballads and Son-
nets," &c. He was born in 1854, at Kirkcounel,
])iimfriesshire, but his boyhood was spent at
Crocketford, a village at the lower end of Gal-
loway. At a humble school he gained the rudiments
of his early education. He was not remarkable for
any particular aptitude for learning. In an "In-
troductory Sketch" to one of his volumes, published
by Macmillan & Co., Londo7i, from tlie pen of
"Cir. G." — George Gilfillan in all likelihood — we
learn that he was a fair hand at drawing, and en-
joyed a local fame for colouring. " He became a
member of an improvised Academy of Youths, every
one of whom was bound to ])rovide, at short stated
periods, a sketch, to be criticised by the rest. The
result was neither pleasant nor profitable, for he tells
us that ' our strictures were often of the most pun-
gent kind, and violent disputes, that would last for
days, were the invariable results of our love for Art.'
'Deep in colour, they were deficient in harmony.'
'Surfaceman' says — ' I can still see myself trudging
to school, satchel on back, and stopping now and
then to see if my masterpiece was receiving any
damage in its transit.' From these beginnings a
great painter — a Harvey or a Wilkie — miglit have
been looked for, but he soon turned from colours to
word-painting. Ho indulged at this period in dog-
gerel rhymes ; every sentiment that he deemed worth
recording he put into verse, and he blames this for
the stiff prose which he says he writes now, as if
head and hand, so early accustonu>d io rhyming,


disdained to dos(OTid to vulgar prose." "Surface-
man," after ■writing a number of satires, epistles,
and other poems, submitted them all to a tier}'

He returned witli his parents from Crocketford to
his native village, and, coinciding with this in time
was his entire abandonment, fur a S(nison, of poetr}'.
One reascin was his gruwing conviction of the worth-
lessness of what he had written ; and he very
naively adds another, that the nature of his employ-
ment (working in a quarry) was jirobably not con-
ducive to that kind of study.

He now began to extend his reading, but at first
in a wrong direction. He revelled in sensational
literature — novels, plays, &c. "The fountain of
song." says "Gr. G-.." "was sealed, and slumbered
under Circulating Library mud mountains, till at last
' Stronir Peath ' removed the incubus. A beloved
brother, not older than twenty-six, was taken away,
and ' To One in Eternity ' was the result. Thus the
spring was opened, and has never since been shut.
Along with a love of poetry re-awakened, there arose
in his mind a desire for studying languages " With
a French Grrammar in his pocket as he trudged to
find from his work on the line, or sat by the side of
till iron pathway waiting while '■ the monster passed
; long," or during the spare moments of the diet
iiours. did Mr Aiiderson manage to read that
language, and, elated at the new world of letters
thus opened to him, plunged at once into the
comedies of Moliere and the dramas of Voltaire. His
taste of foreign tongues but whetted his appetite for
more, and in succession Grerman, Spanish, and
Italian were taken up. His acquaintance with the
great poetic minds of these countries is of the most
intimate nature ; while, having also some ki.owledge
of both Latin and Greek, he seems to have had par-
ticular friends among the heathen deities, so
familiarly does he discourse and rhyme about the


heroes of Homer, and tlie titular di^'inities of old

His connection with the PeopWH Friend — a journal
which has occupied well a field which had been long
Tiiiocfupied in Scotland, since, at least, the days of
//w//7'.v Instructor, and ]>een an outlet to the overHow-
ing young intellect and genius of our country, par-
ticularly amongst the uneducated but aspiring classes
— began in 1870. Previous to this he liad written a
cop_v of verses in the P('oj)Ie\s Journal on Mr Fergu-
son's fanujus but now forgotten a7ul forgiven e.scapade
against Robert Burns. The first poem in the Friend
was on John Keats. After this he became a regular
contributor, and was very higlil\' apj)reciated by its
readers, till at last, in the autumn of 1873, he was
encouraged to publish his "Bong of Labour, and
other Poems." This was followed in 1875 by "Two
Angels, and other Poems " (Simpkin, Marshall &
Co.), and " Songs of the Rail," all of which met with
an instant and most generous reception both from the
press and the public These volumes are distin-
guished by great variety of subject and modes of
treatment. We meet with numerous sweet Scottish
verses, plaintive or pawlcy, sucli as "Jenny wi' the
Airn Teeth." "Cuddle Doou," and "Jamie's AVee
Chair : " strains of a higher mood, and richer ima-
gination, such as "Alexis " and the "Two Angels" ;
poems written in what may be called peculiarly his
own style, and befitting liis trade — a style of iron
and fire — as "Blood on the Wheel," and several
others ; and, what is generally allowed to be his
most successful etforts, his series of "Scmnets," en-
titled, "In Rome." These have been pronounced
as " a production of great genius." The pioductions
of his prolific brain appear also occMsionally with
much acce])tance in the Jjondon magazines, such as
Good Jfordx, ('mselVx 3I(i(i(i-liie. and Tlic Qv.iccr :
while he also found leisure to ejilcr as a IcTiight ol'
the pen in the poetic tournaments licld annually in con-


iiection Avith the People's Journal, where twice in suc-
cession, a

Online LibraryDavid Herschell EdwardsOne hundred modern Scottish poets : with biographical and critical notices (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 29)