David Herschell Edwards.

One hundred modern Scottish poets : with biographical and critical notices (Volume 2) online

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Nor flattering friends in prosperous hour—

These, more than these, J have in thee.

Whene'er the fickle world wags wrong,
I gently wake the murmuring tune,

And, raptured, sing the visioned song.
Then happy am as day in June.

Oft mingling in cnmraercial marts,

I see and scorn hypocrisy :
Men pay as if they ]>aid their hearts.

And sneer at seedy honesty.

'Tis said, in Athen's market-place
The cynic came with cautious tread.

His lantern lit, peered in each face
In open day, and shook his head.

Ah ! had Diogenes lived now.

No lamp he'd need to aid his sight :

The golden calf upon each brow
He'd find revealed without a light.

Corruption runs through every vein—
The race for riches thick and fast :

Some bear — nor bearing, dare complain ;
Some sink but shattered wrecks at last.



JAMES OALBRAITH. 151

Gold their trod — men the sacrifice ;

T'rash follows craxh in the turmoil :
Struts .Mammon in reli^;i()n'8 truiiie —

Crowds suffer, guiltless of the spoil.

Xor looks the law with scowling eye :

'Tis law — done sanctimoniously.
I turn and heave the «ilent si^di,

And tell it all, old friend, to thee.

Ye, seatecl in the pride of place.

Example show, exalt our times I
Gold — En-Jtlanii's glory and disgrace I

Old Athens pales before our crimes.

Yet, what would T not for England's sake,

Proud of her prowess and her power?
To the red field my lyre I'd take.

And, fighting, fall her troubadour !

Amid the tumult and the toil.

One solace mine, one fond desire :
Freed, lifted high o'er mortal coil.

Far in the night I thrum my lyre.

Xot the enchantment of that dream.

That untold ecstasy divir.e.
Would 1 exchange for power suiirL'uie,

Or all Potosi's wealthy mine.

Away, viln self ! ungainly thing ;

Away, thou fleeting mocker, pelf :
I wipe pollution from my string,

And, wiping, weep— the sins of self.

Now scanuing orhs that hang on high,

Communing with the dread unseen.
The bard, on whirlwind furiously.

Earth compassing, maj' ride serene.

Roused nature, with attentive ear,

-Mute, listens to thj' meloily ;
Heard voices in yon glorious sphere.

Thy soaring sounds their sj'm phony.

Hark ! constant in the crowded street,
Though heeded not, a hymning choir :

In every breast, with measured beat,
God gloryfying, lives a lyre.

P R M E T II E r S .

In form complete, but lifeless, lay
An image, godlike, made from clay ;
Prometheus strictest art ai)plies.
Nor can animate the breast ;



152 • MODERN SCOTTISH POETS.

Long thoughtful on the figure gazed
Minerva, meanwhile, saw amazed,
And choicest hounties of the skies
On the subtle maker pre.st.

Swift to Elysian courts he hies i

The goddess greets him in the skies :

" In heavenly groves," she cried, " thou'lt lire,

If that figure only breathe !
Unfading bays will wreathe thy head,
Celestial roses strew thy bed ;
Create from clay, the task I give —

Fail, and I hurl thee beneath."

Gemmed charioteers, dispersing light.
And pawing steeds, of swiftest flight.
Course round, with meteor flash, the skies :

Mute he saw, and did rejoice.
Quick from the blazing chariot wheels
The flaming torch Prometheus steals —
" Life-giving power be mine," he cries,

" 'Mid those treasures this my choice ! "

Great Jupiter beheld the deed —
Enraged, the Thunderer decreed
To Caucasus he bound would be.

And a vulture knaw his heart.
Pitying, powerful Hercules,
Him from the ravenous vulture frees ;
Defiant of Jove's dread decree.

Fierce his fetters tears apart.

The youthful bard, brain-fancy fraught,
Toils to produce the living thought, —
Incessant toils— awhile in vain.

Is he, then, appalled with fears ;
Let earnest patience nerve his soul ;
'Tis perseverance gains the goal ;
Time, generous Titan ! bursts his chain, —

Gleams his torch to future years.

THE CATAPLASM.

White, peeping over broom and brake,
And looking down on glassy lake,
A cottage stood on mountain slope.
Where dwelt plain, honest Hector Hope : —
A brawny man, home-spun and hale ;
No book-worm, yet could tell a tale ;
Nor young, nor old ; but here and there
Time's frosty fingers flecked his hair
With wavy streaks of silver gray.
Like angry ocean's curling spray ;
His sprinkled beard more like, may be,
The opening buds on hawthorn tree.



JAMES GALBRAITH. 153

No cares disturbed his equal life.

Not so his anxious fretful wife :

She knew ail ills by si^ns, cognomen, —

A falling dish a certain omen.

If in the morning at the dor

Sjie met with some one aged and poor

Ked-haired, or maimed, or out at toes

Hyes looking inward at the nose,

Or odd, or crooked in any way,

No more she sallied forth that day.

One morning Hector, sore distrest,
Lay long a-bed, with aching breast.
His wife beheld with dread surprise, —
He'd die I she saw it in his eyes ;
His lungs were gone — a rending cough.
"Fly, Hector ! — 'tis but three miles ofif —
To Doctor Dozem's for a potion ! "
Not blest with xrial locomotion.
He said he'd walk — he was not ill —
To please her whim, and take a pill.
To Dozem's Hector went that day.
And thumped in his politest way.
The ^■Esculapian, coming down.
Cried, " Why this noise, you moping clown?
Why knock so loud ? some drunken caper ?
Ill ! Ah ! come in — first scrape that scraper —
To my laboratory, please,
While I examine your disease."
Hector entered, stared, surprised,
At diagrams anatomized ;
At phials, powders, lances, cases.
And then at Dozem made wry faces.

"Where do you feel? Oh 1-ah I— yes !— there !—
Pray, strip your garment, take a chair.
The chest ! a very dangerous case ;
Your heart, sir, 's nut in its right place !
But yet, on further diagnosis -
Dear me ! sit still ; John six black doses !
Deep irritation of the pleura.
From mucous membrane of medura
Extending to the vertebne ;
Obstinate, rooted pleurisy.
Entire affected organism,
Internal, threatened cataclysm ; "
(Here Hector felt a sudden spasm ;)
"And then one vast submerging chasm.
To-night apply a cataplasm ;
Call back, say, in a day or two."
" Your fee?" — " A guinea, sir, to you. —
When home, two doses, straight to bed."
This jargon jumbling in his head.



154 MODERN SCOTTISH POETS.

Fast Hector hurried home once more,

Worse ten times than he was before ;

Displayed the doses Dozem sold him,

And blundered o'er what had been told him, —

" That 'twas the doctor's strictest order,

And only cure for his disorder.

To spread the Hhorter Catechism —

'Twould close and heal each seam and nchism —

Across his breast, like ' Bosom Friend,'

Beginning first with 'Man's chief end ; '

Then pile up strata upon strata —

The stronger still the more errata.

The 2)1 ural, too, would make him stronger,

And so he must apply the Longer ;

And if he felt the least fatigue,

The Covenant and the Solemn League

He'd quick apply, layer upon layer :

He'd soon be well, like glass, with care."

His wife, with stretched and woeful face,
Descried a judgment in the case ;
Their sacred duties long forsook —
Scarce now perused that holy book :
'Twas Hector's fault — he'd ne'er take heed,
Nor tract nor Catechism would read.
'Twas, sure, a providential fate ;—
Its contents now would penetrate
His breast, with much divine suggestion :_
A questioned breast might solve the question !

With many a sage advice, correction,
He's plastered, papered, per direction,
And went to bed with resignation.
Well packed, as if for exportation.

The morning dawned, the orb of day
Peeped o'er yon hill-top, faintly gray ;
Then fuller rose upon the sight.
And bathed the purple fields in light, —
Ascending high, with stronger ray.
Now brightened into broader day.
Poor Hector's dreams disturbed liis rest, —
Huge grizzly bears sat on his breast.
He woke, and thought too long he slumbered —
Would move, but felt unwieldy, cumbered ;
Slow fingered all his bosom round :
No plaster ; but quite whole and sound !
Roused by the glare of mid-day beam,
Ah ! now he knew 'twas all a dream !



ALEXANDER ROBERTSON. 165



ALEXANDER ROBERTSON,

MHOSE father was a miner, and mother a
handloom weaver, was born in the village
of Cambuslang, in 1848. He was reared in the
colliery village of Eastheld, and was run into the
mines at ten years of age, to work for his bread,
with an education which embraced little more than
the alphabet. He continued to work by the light
of his oil lamp, far from the sun's rays, imtil a de-
pression in trade forced liim to look for other work.
He is presently employed in the manufacturing
department of the Howe Sewing Macliine Company,
Glasgow. His heart frequently bursts into vigorous
song, which has been said to be "as sturdy and
vigorous as a Scotch thistle."

THORNS AMONGST THE FLOWERS.

The iraa.i^e sweet o' blooming youth

Is geeglin' at the sun ;
The scenes aroun' ai-e fu' o' charms,

Fu' quick the minutes run.
See noo he stoops to pu' a flower,

A thorny jags his han' ;
His innocence has preeJ the sour

That waits the coming man.

Amang the flow'rs are hidden thorns,

Sae posies pu' wi' care ;
In ilka nook a nettle lurks,

An' stings the han' fu' sair.
Infectious weeds in glittering frock,

An' hearts wi' motives vile,
Wi' sleekit movements scour Ihe earth.

Assuming Virtue's smile.

The hedge that leads to evil paths

Is blossom'd wi' decit ;
The polished vice at ilka point

The youthfu' passions heat.
The giddy heids that careless stalk

Across the border line,
Wi' notions false o' noble worth,

They worship a' that shine.



156 MODERN SCOTTISH POETS.

In Eden's yaird a bonnie pair

0' youthfu' lovers met
To pree the fruit an' bouquets pu'

Afore the sun wad set.
The blushing Eve put out her ban',

0' thorns she hadna thocht ;
She served her lad wV goupenfu's,

An' sair destruction wrocht.



AVILLIAM THOMSON,

H TAILOR to trade, and author of several sonnets
showing fine feeling and poetical sensibilities,
was born in Glasgow, in 1860. At the age of nine
years, the famil}' removed to the village of Bellshill.
He afterwards returned to Glasgow to learn his trade.
William Thomson has written numerous pieces —
principally sonnets — to the newspapers and literary
periodicals, and he is about to publish a number of
his effusions in book form.

DEWS.

As the sweet dew descendeth in the night

And resteth on each plant, each branch, each leaf,
Giving the sun-parched foliage relief,

So that at morn they gleam forth fresh and bright ;

Thus falls a gentle dew from heaven above.
When sorrow's night encompasseth the heart —
When sutf' ring causeth tears of pain to start —

The soothing, sacred, blissful dew uf love.

Thus falls upon the soul the dew of fiith

When o'er us steals temptation's murky night :
It keeps us trusting in the coming light —

The morn that breaks beyond the gates of death.
! dew of love, descend upon my breast ;
O ! dew of faith, upon my bosom rest.

LOVE'S SUMMER.

As the sweet rosebud.

With tender hue,
Wakes from its slumber.

Kissed by the dew,
Modestly peeping

At early morn ;
Thus wakes otfection —

Thus love is born.



CORDON FRASER. IS'

And as the roseburl,

In summer hour,
Softly expanfling,

Becomes a flow'r,
Sending,' sweet odours

Through all the grove ;
Thus glows affection —

Thus blossoms love.

But when the summer's

Glad day has fled
The rose is withered —

Its petals spread ;
So when affection

Meets wintry skies,
Fond hearts will sever,

And thus love dies.



_.^^b_,_



GORDON FRASEE,

TTNEUGGIST, Printer, Stationer, Bookseller, &c.,
■i*^ was born at Wifi;town (where he has ever since
resided) in 18.36. His fatlier was one of the bailies
of the royal burgh for thirteen years, and in all
probability the official's narration of the oddities of
municipal rule, and of the eccentricities of burgh
officials in the olden time implanted in the mind of
the son that love of the droll which the pages of his
works reveal. It will be seen that the subject of our
sketch has many "irons in the fire." He carries on
the trades of a cliemist and druggist, printer and
bookseller, in addition to what may be termed the
literary department of liis occupation, consisting of
corresponding and reporting to the local and daily
newspaper, lecturing, and teaching shorthand writ-
ing, and acting as shorthand writer to the Law
Courts of the Lower District of the County of Wig-
town. In reviewing his first book the Galloicai/
Gazette said: — " As a tradesman, he can cither print
a biU, or prepare a prescription ; supply the news-



158 MODERN SCOTTISH POETS.

paper, or report a speech ; provide medicine for your
cattle, or solace your grief by printing you a
memorial card ; and, as tlie result has proved, is
ready to become your historian.

In the midst of so much professional activity, Mr
Fraser, by carefull}- husbanding and improving his
moments of leisure time, lias prepared two very
interesting volumes of legend, anecdote, and poem —
a remarkable instance of mental industry combined
with business pursuit. The work referred to as his
first effort is "Sketches and Anecdotes of Wigtown
and Whithorn," published in 1877. It has been
highly spoken ■ of by the press and literary
authorities, including the late Rep. George Gilfillan,
and was well received by the public. Having had
ready access to municipal records, and other valuable
sources, Mr Fraser has been able to throw much
interesting and authentic light on the state and
manners of society in the past. Besides its historical
design, the book is intended to delineate the racy
wit and pawky humour of the old inhabitants of the
district. The historical portion and sketches may be
designated the substantial part of the rich mental
repast, and the anecdotes the dessert. By those who
delight in collecting works on Scotch humour this
book has been highlj' valued.

In 1880 Mr Fraser published another volume,
entitled " Lowland Lore, or Wigtownshire Long
Ago " — a work consisting of transcripts of old manu-
scripts, anecdote, story, and poem. Like the former
it shows plodding and careful research, a refined
taste, and a mind that can present musty and dry-
looking documents in an attractive and instructive
garb. In the words of the Rev. David Macrae —
"The light it throws, through local record and
tradition, upon the manners and customs and notions
of our forefathers, within the last two or three
hundred j'ears, gives it a more than local interest."

In " Lowland Lore, " Mr Fraser tells us that the



GORDON FKASER. 159

only local ptiliUcations of Whitliorn have been two
volumes of " Poetry. " " It has been said," he adds,
"that every Scotchman is born a poet, and it may be
safely asserted that a large majority of the race, at
some time of their life, essay verse-writing ; with
respect to Whithorn, we might say that the propor-
tion of ' poets ' is about ninety per cent, of the popu-
lation, but, fortunately, perseverance is not a quality
largely possessed by these wooers of the Muse, and
after a few una])preciated plunges, the large majority
' dip ' no more." "We cull from his volume of
" Sketches and Anecdotes,"

A LEGEND OF K Y R K E - M A Y D E N .

'Twas an eerie nicht, an' the storm-cluds lower'd

An' the liclitnin's trlent was keen.
An' the thnnner roll'd, but nane were cower'd

I' the claclian }-ill-hou-;e bien.

Tliey tauld weird tales, as the yill they quafT'd

By the in


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Online LibraryDavid Herschell EdwardsOne hundred modern Scottish poets : with biographical and critical notices (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 28)