David Herschell Edwards.

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

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were at a low ebb. Mr Allan took over the
management of their works, and since then his
career has been one triumphal progress. Labour-
ing with an energy, a skill, and determination which
have been attended witli results of the most signally
successful and gratifj ing kind, he has developed a
struggling business until it has become one of the
most influential in the north of England. Among
bu.siness men he is honoured and trusted; by work-
ing men he is regarded as a friend. Having com-
menced life on the lowest rung of the ladder, he does
not forget the interests of his wor'^men now that he is
on the highest, and he has been instrumental in in-
troducing many reforn s in the engineering trade,
the necessity of which he felt wh(n he was comj)elled
to wield the hammer ar.d ply the file.

But Mr Allan lives a dual life. His days are
spent at the shrine of industry* — with the eternal
clang of hammers and whirl of lathes sound-


ing in his ears ; liis evenings are spent with the
muses. It is interesting to know that he neither felt
nor developed any faculty for poetical composition
until 1871, after he had sustained severe injuries by
a boiler explosion on board the City of Canton in
Sunderland Docks. He was severely scalded, and
his nervous system received a shock from which he
has not yet perfectly recovered. This appears to
have been the fuse \s hich set on flame the latent fire
within him, and since then it has burned with ever
increasing brightness. Five volumes of poetry have
left his pen, and been received b}- the public with
growing favour, while fugitive pieces have been ap-
pearing in newspapers and magazines all over the
country. The titles of his works are — "Rough
Castings," " Hame-Spun Lilts," "Heather Bells,"
"Ian Vor," and "Rose and Thistle," and the order
in which they are named is the order in which they
appeared. To these it is unnecessary to refer in
detail. Each succeeding volume shows a distinct
improvement upon its predecessors in point of com-
position, culture, and strength, although his earlier
works display as wide sympathy and as deep poetic
feeling as his later ones. In Allan the poet we have
Allan the man. He sings as he thinks and feels —
hence all his effusions liave the stamp of a strong
individuality. He is no abstract poet, writing from
a standpoint far removed from the thoughts of other
men ; but a thinking man with a singing soul, who,
feeling a mission to cast everyday thouglits into
tuneful verse, moulds them into form and gives them
to the world, full, free, and spontaneous as they rise
from his heart. He is no dreamer, but a deeply-read
student in the school of practical philosophy. The
"world is his library and men are his books." He
sings the songs of daily life — those new hymns of la-
bour whi(;h lift the grimy workman into a higher state
of being, and make him glory in his lu-ritage of toil.
Allan is par exc-elUnce the poet of industi-y. You can

284 MOKKHN sroTTisn roKTs.

hear tlio rasping of the file, the clang, clang of the
Imnimer. and tlic panting broath of the iron king as
you listen to his " Song for Men," his " Steam Song,"
liis "Song of Labour," his "Hammer and Chisel
and File," or his " Engineers." Verses these which
lind thuir way to a elass of men to whom Shakespeare
is a sealed Itook and Milton a mystery. They bring
just such responses from their souls as do the poems
of Burns and Hogg from the bo.soms of tlie love-siclc
pastoral swains. Spat-e will not permit us to ex-
amine all the aspects of his poetry. A strong-soulod
patriot he sings of his mother-land with all the
hot fervour of a loving son — sings of her rugged
Bens, her ocean-lashed shores and lonely glens ;
raises loud notes of triumph over her heroes'
struggles in days of strife and danger, and sinks to
wailing over the dead and unfortunate. Broad-
hearted and sympathetic, he shows llie dejrth of his
feeling with human sulfering in'such pieces as "The
Wee Toom Shoon." "The Blin' Bairn," " Puir
Thing," "The Poet Waif," "Naebody's Bairn," and
" Speak Kind to the Bairns." Scorning all that is
low or sordid, he can hurl fierce, crushing bolts of
denimciation, as in "Modern Music Halls," a poem
which was not witliout a salutary effect on the par-
ticular abuse against wluL-h it was directed. A man
who has never been a laggard in toil, he proclaims the
nobility of labour, and r,he might of the horny hand.
But we cannot follow bin into the bewildering maze
of fertile fields into which he has been led by the in-
spired godess. Verses literally drop in showers
from his pen, and his tlioughts are always fresh and
varied. Wide experience, a vivid imagination,
strong dramatif instinct, a nervous impxilsi'. e spii-it,
and true poetic genius enable him to pour them forth
as from an inexhaustible source. Hitherto his best
ellorts have been 1_\ rical, and competent critics have
declared that he is more a lyrical than a dramatic
not.'t. On this point wc suspend judgment. At the


nioment we write tlio most ambitious of all his works
is receiving the final touches from his pen. It is ft
life history, crowded witli pai-.sages of singular pon'or
and heauty, and its publication will probably siiow
him to be equally at home in the dramatic as in the
lyrical form of composition. It will at least prove
greater than any of his works hitherto published.
We liave omitted to speak of his rich fund of wit
and liumour, scattered through all liis volumes, and
bubbling up between the more serious pieces, just as
his own rich, ringing laugh relieves the stern pres-
sure of business, and gives zest to his fireside talk.
"AlasterOg," "The Drucken Piper," and ''To ■.;,
Corn" may be mentioned as examples which most
readily occur to the memory. A man of many moods
himself, in Allan's works will be found something
for everybody — something to cheer the saddened
heart, or draw pity from the callous soul. And we
instance " Eob Roy's Death" as being one of the
most ■\-igorous and po-^orfnl poems in the language.

\\'l)ile the other eve a-walkiiiy;,

Lonely, by the inoaDiiig'sea,
To the waves 1 fell a-talking,

And they soeiued to answer me ;
Tlicn I haw, Ijeyi^nu ^livlaiu;^'.

Hometliirif; moving to and fro.
Something in the waters sliinint:,

With a phosphorescent glow,
And the waves kept falling, falling.
Ever strangely calling, calling,
" ivternitie.''

Then my tungue its gambols ceasiiig,

Quicidy shrank witiiin its cave,
Cnriipsity increasing,

Filleuty done ;
Tl)e Prophet, Poet, and men's tliinker reaps

The inward guertlon of his victory won, —
How grandly lone, waiting with unawed scan.

The silent, slumbrous change, which bears away
Earth's sole potential climax of a man

Unto the realms of everlasting daJ^


A SON (; F H M E N .

Work I work ! work I work like the lirave and the true,

He not an idlrr wliil.- livini; on eartli :
Work I work ! work 1 x^ork whilf tliere'> labour to do,

Toil is tlie i^eniiine eiiihleni of worth.
I'p will) the d;iwn like a man of true spirit.

Shake otf the slmnberfi that would ye control,
I toll tip your sleeves to your work, never fear it,
Know, to a man, 'tis the .soul of his .soul.

'J'hen work! work 1 wurkl work with a, fond lover's
Sweet is the bread ye have stamped with your sweat ;
So work I work I work I work and your duties fulfil,
To glory in toil is tlie joy of the great.

Work I Work I work I work for your children and wives,

Uright is the home of the scion of tf>il :
Work I work I work I work is your love for their lives,

Shun not the labour that brings ye their smile.
Who would tlieir GoJ-given heritage siiirk then ?

Sluill sloth's slavish yoke all your energies cloy?
Nobler to die in the harness of work then

Than live on the garbage the lazy enjoy.
Then work I work 1 work ! work with an honest man's
will, etc.

\\ i>rk I work I work I v.ork is the patriot's mould,

lie not a traitor to couiitrj' or God ;
Woi-k I work I worlc I worl; like the loyal and bold,

•heering your comrades on life's higher road.
The banner of labour is ever unfurled.

Grand are the notes of its loud trumpet call :
O I better be soldier.s that quicken the world

Than cowanls who live to do nothing at all.

'i hen work I work I work I work with a hero-souled
will, etc.

O I : r F li .M T HE N A II K W.

Out from the narrow, friend, into the bi-oad,

Love is the measure of man ;
Out from the narrow, friend, rising to God,

Sympathy lightens His plan ;
! for the heai-t that can feel for another !
O 1 for the voice with the tone of a brother I
O 1 for the hand that can soothe like a mother !
Wliose eye is a token
Of kindness unspoken,
And shows a grand soul in its pitiful scan.

Out from the narrow, friend, into the broad,

Hell is the guerdon of hate ;
Out from the narrow, friend, lessening the load,

Cruelly crowning our state.


Why should we wrap ourselves up in vain dreaming ?
Why should we see but our little selves beaming ?
Karlh with the groans of the weary is teeming,

And sorrows unended

Hink hearts unbefriended ;
Ho ! let us be angels of mercy elate.
Out from the narrow, friend, into the broad.

Actions the man ever prove ;
Out from the narrow, friend, courting the road

Lit with the footprints of love ;
True is our pleasure when others ai'e sharing,
Great is the man who can cheer the dispairiiig ;
See him 1 the crown of the conqueror wearing,

While to him is given

Earth's passport for Heaven,
Wliere garlands immortal around him are wove.
Out from the narrow, friend, into the broad.

Jealousy reigns but to blight ;
(Jut from the narrow, friend, why would ye plod,

liound in Self's prisfni oi night ?
Help — for the poor one in poverty's lodging,
Smiles — for the less-favoured wayfarer trudging,
Prayers — from a heart that can give without grudging,

Brighten life's gloomy way,

(Jive it one happy day.
And spread in death's darkness a soul-cheering light.


Speak kind to the bairnies, the wee toddlin' treasures,

The ingle-neuk angels that banish a' strife ;
Their innocent ploys are t'e source o' their pleasures.

Their lauchin' an" rompin' the soul o" their life.
I wha could be thrawn wi' a bairnie's sweet smilin' '!

Wha, wha to their cuddlin' an' kissin" is blind?
The heart maun be deid to a' beauty beguilin',

That canna thole bairnies, an' speak to them kind.

Our freens may be cauldrife, our toil uuiy be weary.

Our way nuiy be sma' aif the little we earn,
|jut rich in affection, we, joyous an' cheery,

Wad gie our last bannock to comfort our bairn.
O ! what has a man on this earth to be prood o' 7

Were't no' for the nurslin's by Heaven designed
To lichten the life that they show him the good o',

Sae thole wi' their capers, an' speak to them kiud.

Sair, aair are the tears o' the bairnies neglectit.

Their wee hearts are broken aneath a harsh word ;
I'hey love to be loved wi' a love \inrestrictit,

An' joy whan their troubles are couthielie heard.
Hoo happy to ken we hae some that aye love us.

Come age, or come deatii, they will bear us in mind ;
They'll drap a love tear on the green sod above us,

An' Bijjh as fchey say that we ever were kind.

290 .UOUKlt.N SCUITl.SH l'UJSl>.

R WEE, W !•; E WE A N !

Sittin' on her mammy's knee,

Pu'in' mammy's curls,
Lauchin', kickin", fu' o' glee,

IIoo the darlin' skirls !
Croodlin' doon in mammy's breast —

Teetin' oot ayain —
Fu' o' cantrips, love possessed.
Is oor wee, wee wean !

Ae e"e keekin', sleely teetin' —
Twinklin', sparklin', unco fain,
Snigglin', wrig'i^'lin", loupin', coupin"
Sic a wee, wee wean,
Is oor wee wean.

Bendin' noo to grip her feet,

Gooin' wi" delight,
Tryin' wi' her mouthie sweet

Stumpy taes to bite —
Wond'riu" hoo they move themsel',

Thinks they're no her ain,
Lookin' what her tongue wad tell,

Is oor wee, wee wean.

Ae e'e keekin', sleely teetin', etc.

Standin' noo on mammy's lap.

Glowrin' a' aroon' —
Ettlin' noo to tak' a stap,

Jumpin' up an' doon -
Eenie black, an' dainty nose,

Cheeks o" ruddy stain,
Lippies like a buddin" rose,

Is oor wee, wee wean.

Ae e"e keekin', sleely teetin', etc.

JOHN WAX80N. 291


MA8 boru in the village of Lougside, Aberdeen-
shire, in 1856, and is presently engaged as
railway clerk at Banchory Station, Deeside. To
readers of local newspapers, he is known as a writer
of songs a:id rhymes. In many of his pieces there is
shown the true poetic ring of his country.


It" s nae a big hoose that I bide in,

It boasts but a but and a ben ;
I've nae coach nor carriage to ride in,

And yet I'm the blythest o' men.
0' siller I've never been routhy !

Nor pleasures at ony time rife.
Yet my sma' bit hoosie is couthy,

And sae is my canty wee wife.

There is in my wee thackit biggin'

What's nae aften fand i' the ha' —
Contentment hangs ower't like a riggin',

And love throws its glamour o'er a',
I needna for riches be railin'

When Maggie's sae dear unto me ;
I'd raither want siller and mailin',

Than want the sweet glint o' her e'e

A laird may gang hame to his manor,

And welcomed by servants may be.
But though he is rich and gets honour

He ne'er gets a welcome like me.
My Mag at the window is teetin',

Comes to me aye beamin' wi' smiles ;
Oh, sweet is her fond kiss o' greetin'

She banishes care wi' her wiles.

Let ithers gae seek for their pleasure —

Gae look for't where ever they may ;
At hame I aye get it full measure —

To me it's the sun's brightest ray.
Dame Fortune, I courtna your favours,

1 seekna a rich nian to he.
Your freaks I will count them as havers-

But oh, leave my Maggie to me.



CONTRIBUTES occasional natural and tlioajrlit-
ful little poems to the GlasgoAv press. He
was born at a small village near Cromarty, in
1830. Aft( r ser^'ing an apprenticeship to [)!ittern-
making at Inverness, he removed to Glasgow, where
he now resides. Having nivt witli an accident which
deprived him of the use of one of his hands, ho is
at present employed as an iron plainer at the Glasgow
Locomotive Works.


Hark ! is that the voice of Nature,

lioriie Hj'on the passing lireeze ?
Ye< ; I heiir her ;,'ciitle whispers

Ov-irhea'i among the tiees.

What is that she's nlov.ly saying?

Note her accent.* soft and mild,
Gently speaking to her oiispring.

Like a n. other to her child.

Awake from sleep the day is breaking,

See, the Sun lias rearetl his crest ;
Lag not now. for duty calls you —

Kise up from your winter's rest I

Be not like the sluggaid, folding

Idle hands upon your Lreast ;
But of life, and jo}', aiid beauty,

Hpread a universal fuast I

Burst. the fetters that have bound you
Through the dreary winter's night ;

Let tlje germ sown in the branches
Novf assert its real might !

Bud and blossom into beauty,
Spread your leaves, "or summer's nigh ;

Be to weaiied man a shelter
Friim the bright and scorching sky 1

Earth revive, send forth your verdure.

Let the grass and flowers appear ;
Vocal make the groves, ye songsters,

^\'ith your note both loud and clear I

Chime along, thou little streamlet,

Let thy voice join in the throng ;
Glen to glen send back the echoes

Of the merry milk-maid's song 1



I'THOE of "Emblems of Nature," was born
in Leitli, iu 1829. She was married to the
Eev. E. Wallace, E.U. minister, Coupar- Angus, and
■:iter residing there for fully eighteen years, the
uily removed to Glasgow. Her poems breathe a
■l^irli of deep veligiou.s devotion. Aleve of nature,
and a i[)urity of expression are also characteristic of
her verses.


Chasing a butterfly over the green !
Xo crown, no possession, yet gay as a queen ;
What hero or student with Rosie might vie
In her earnest pursuit of that bright butterfly ?

With a shout of delight it is captured at last.
Ami her chubby wee hands hold the j risoner fast*;
But soon through an opening she I'eej s in to see.
And the sight tlius revealed puts an t.nd to her glee,

I'roportinr.s distorted wings bleniishel and torn —
J'ring tears to her eyes, and in tones most forlorn,
She exclaims, her keen di ;api)t)intuieiit to Idde,
'' Just a nuggie old sin;.'," aiul then casts it aside.

Are not we — children grown — alike often deceived

By those treasures whose worth we had onoe well believed ?

Yes, from earliest youth till the day tliat we die.

We are eageily chasing some frail butterfly !

Is it riches or fame '•' is it pleasure or ,ove ?
W'e pursue and admire while it's soaring above
And if Fortune at length to our feet the prize bringi,
Feel as buoyant and proud as if we, too, had wings.

I5ut fairly possessed, and by Reason surveyed.

It fjills so far short of what Fancy portrayed,

That with chastcni-d experience, and hearts like to lireak.

We confess 'tis not worth half the trouble we take !



H DESCENDANT of the ol.l Forfarsliire family
of Leighton of T'^llysshaveii, was born at Dun-
dee, in 1841. Jlis father was the eklest hrotlier of
the well-known Scottish poet, Robert Leighton,
author of the " Bapteesement of tlie Bairn," "Scotcli
Words," &c., a poet to whom r-ontemporaneous oriti-
f.'isni paid the highest tribute of admiration, alike
for tlie f('licity of versifieation and the purity of con-
ception which characterised all the products of his
pen. His mother was a younger sister of tlie subject
of a short biography by the late Dr A. P. Forbes,
Bishop of Brechin, published in 18o4, and entitled
" .\ Memoir of the Pious Life and Holy Death of
Helen Inglis."

In his seventh year William Leighton accom-
panied his family to Liverpool, and after six years'
schooling was placed in a merchant's office there.
From this time forward, till he died, fifteen years
afterwards, without a break, except for much-needed
holiilays, he was busily emploj^ed with office work,
to which he paid such close and con.scientioas attention,
and in the carrying on of the business displayed so
much ability, that he rapidly advanced to the position
of managing and (ionfidential clerk to a wealthy and
important firm engaged in the Brazilian trade. Yet,
although the cares of business engrossed his attention
during the day, his evenings were spent in the
pleasant pasture fields of literature, and under the
direction and tuition of wise and tender parents he
soon became well acquainted with the writings of the
best English aTid foreign authcjrs. Poetry especially
was his delight. He had many favourites, but Long-
fellow, in particular, captivated his childhood,
Shakespeare his boyliood. and Tenn\\son bis maturer
years. With powers kindled by these masters. aTid
spurred by the example of that uncle to whom refer-


ence lias been made, he at an early age began writing
poetry himself. The practice was kept up, but only
occasionally did his productions see the light, in the
Liverjjool newspapers and London magazines, and
oven tlien they were published anonymously, or had
the initials " W. L." appended. Some relatives and
friends, recognising their merits, pressed him to over-
come his modesty and publish a collection of his
poems, and it was while engaged in preparing these
for the press that he was attacked by typhoid fever,
which, in ten days, on 22nd April, 1869, to the great
grief of a large circle of friends, proved fatal. He
was buried in Annfield Cemeterj', near Liverpool,
and a verse of his own composition was inscribed on
the stone which marks the spot : —

Mourn not this earth with its languishing gloom ;

Grieve not to go from its darkness and strife ;
Beauty is brighter beyond the tomb,

And death alone leads to perfect life.

A stained-glass window, " in loving remembrance of
William Leighton." and illustrating two of his poems
(" Peace, be Still," and '• The Night Cometh "), has
been placed in St Anne's f'hurch, Highgate Rise, in
the north-west of London .

A y

Online LibraryDavid Herschell EdwardsOne hundred modern Scottish poets : with biographical and critical notices (Volume 1) → online text (page 22 of 29)