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Life and times of the Rev. John Wightman, 1762-1847, late Minister of Kirkmahoe online

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victory, and taken many prisoners. Bonaparte has left
Moscow in haste! The tide is now refluent against the
tyrant, and it will swell with redoubled tempests of hatred
and vengeance till it drive him, on its angry surges, beyond
the limits of the Russian territory, while the hovering spirit
of Peter the Great will blow the trumpet of victory and



summon the oppressed nations of the Continent to raise the
banners of Freedom and chase the wolf to his Parisian den,
howling as he flees, no more to come forth, in prowling
capacity, to drink with impunity in overflowing streams
the life-blood of men!"




To Mr. Wightman's unbounded gratification, the news
arrived that the military career of Bonaparte was seem-
ingly at a close for ever, that he had been hopelessly
defeated in battle, and been sent an exile to the island
of Elba, a residence of his own choice, there to spend
the remainder of his days in bitter rumination over the
past. He had followed the tyrant from one battlefield
to another, loading him with the heaviest imprecations
for the atrocities everywhere perpetrated, till every
denunciatory epithet in his vocabulary was exhausted,
and he now greatly rejoiced at the prospect of peace
being restored to the world. He thus gives expression
to his feelings on the occasion:

"Friday, 8th April, 1814. The bells of Dumfries rang on
account of the news that the Allies have defeated Bonaparte,
and, in consequence, have entered Paris on capitulation!
Where shall the tyrant now find a place of safety? His wife
and son are taken out of town to some asylum, but the
narrow house seems to be the only place which can shelter
him from the vengeance of the Cossacks and the indignation
of the Allies. The white cockade is now flying, I trust, over
France, and the legitimate sovereign of that iinhappy country


will soon put on the crown! Peace will return with the
Lilies of the Bourbons and reign long over the Continent,
undisturbed by the clangour of arms and the din of war ! !
Amen. 1 1th April. The dynasty of Napoleon the scourge
of nations the Goth of Corsica is at an end. He has
resigned the crown, after the Senate had pronounced him
unworthy of reigning, and declared the throne forfeited ! His
conduct on that occasion was as base and pusillanimous as it
was cruel and always tyrannical. He has closed a reign of
unparalleled despotism by a resignation of equal meanness and
abject abasement. He is to be permitted to retire to the island
of Elba, in the Tuscan Sea, celebrated for nothing but its pro-
ductions of marble and iron; and now it receives into its
bosom a composition harder and more untractable than either
of these. May he there find repentance for the blood he has
shed, if so be there is yet hope. The finger, the hand, the
arm, the bare and outstretched arm, of Jehovah was there.
Let the isles be glad, and Britain, in the midst of her success,
rejoice in her God and King!"

In the jubilation which prevailed he burst into song
with the following tribute to the memory of the late
Prime Minister:


' ' Father of verse, lord of the golden lyre,
Give me a patriot's rage, a poet's fire,
To sing of Freedom's laurels bravely won,
And plant them on the grave of Chatham's son.

There shall they grow,

While Thames shall flow

There still be seen,

Wide-spread and green

There Britain's sons shall catch the patriot flame,
And fan the fire with Pitt's immortal name.


"When Gallia's despot swayed his iron rod,
And vanquished nations trembled at his nod,
With lurid smile he looked across the main,
And vowed to bind Britannia in his chain.
The Goddess scorned his vow,
Nor to his will would bow
With dauntless look
Her spear she shook
Then loud her martial shell indignant blew,
And quick to arms insulted Europe flew. "

Serenity now reigns supreme in the minister's study,
and his diary, which had become quite obese with war
bulletins and reflections thereon, is now devoted to the
records of a different character. It tells of sermons
preached by himself and others, books read and criticized;
sick-beds visited, funerals attended, infants baptized,
catechisings held, and, in short, the faithful discharge of
pastoral duty in all its ramifications, betokening peace
on earth and goodwill to men. The serenity, however,
is but short-lived. Elba is not the "narrow house"
above referred to, and there must be more turmoil as
well as bloodshed in the world ere peace is finally estab-
lished. We do not envy the possession of the feelings
with which the following notes must have been written,
after the decided conviction that the power of the despot
had been crushed for ever:

" 10th March, 1815. Heard that Bonaparte has left
Elba, like Satan from hell, and, with 1000 men or Guards,
has landed in France, and penetrated as far as Lyons! He
no doubt has had promises of concurrence, not only from
many active and restless individuals in France, but also from
some State, or States, who are not satisfied with the arrange


ments made at Vienna. Maddison in America, and Murat
in Italy, may also have contributed to raise this Demon of
war, this Fury of blood and massacre. The dogs of war may
be for a little let slip, but confusion terrible and sure awaits
this Corsican prowler. The prisoners who have returned to
France, as well as many idle, ambitious, and discontented
spirits, may wish to join his gonfalon of death; but the mar-
shals in general will find it their interest to adhere to the
present order of things ; and all the well-disposed of the
people will execrate the tyrant who wishes again to embroil
the country in war. The arch Napoleon has chosen indeed
an evil hour for Europe to make this last, and to him, I
trust, fatal attempt. The discontents of some of the nations
at the decision of the Congress have not yet abated and sub-
sided. Britain is agitated by corn-laws ; and to these things
in Europe, America has been successful over the British
troops. Taking all these things together, and the unac-
countable delay of crowning Louis at Paris, it was a bold
and magnanimous plan, hatched in despair, and hazarded in
delirium of mortified ambition, to reverse the order of things
once more, to seat himself on the throne which he had
usurped, and to rule with a rod of iron a people whom he
had insulted. The Supreme Ruler, I trust, will defeat his
schemes, put a hook in his nose, and bring back this chief
of the children of pride by the way which he came, and
bring his counsels to nought."

" 17th April, 1815. The Allied Powers have issued a
declaration that they have no designs to interfere with the
internal affairs of France, but they will not treat on any
terms with the usurper. How matters may go, it is not
veiy easy to presage. It is not unlikely that the French
marshals, with Bonaparte at their head, will muster all the
means of a desperate effort to preserve the tyrant on the
throne of the Louises. But I have little doubt that the


force wliich the Allied Powers will bring against these
desperadoes will be sufficient to discomfit and root up the
military banditti who may follow the standard of the usurper.
Whether even Louis shall regain his throne seems problem-
atical, but I trust that the dynasty of Napoleon is ended
for ever! There is a race under arms in France which, it
would appear, nmst be cut off before either their own
countiy or Europe in general, or the world at large, can
enjoy the blessings of established peace. In the Roman
history there is an opinion that the heads of the tallest
poppies should be cut off. It may be said that the heads of
the most prominent puppies now in France should be taken
off, and immolated to the manes of the innocent victims they
have butchered, and offered in the temple of Peace ! Bloody
and dolorous bulletin !"

" 25th June, 1815. A great battle has taken place on
the 18th, not very far from Mount St. John (Waterloo).
The arch rebel having laid his plans with his hordes of
banditti to cut off the armies of Blucher and Wellington,
before the Russians should come up, made a most desperate
attack on the former at daybreak, upon which they were
obliged to fall back on their reinforcements. The gallant
Duke soon made them repent their temerity in attacking
him. A decisive battle was obtained 150 pieces of cannon,
2 eagles, tc., &c. ! ! Napoleon can now no more blame the
elements, or circumstances. The place, and time, and man-
ner of attack were all of his own choosing he often led on
his soldiers in person but a mightier genius was opposed to
him, the immortal British commander -Wellington! The
consequences of this victory are incalculable the Bourbons
may yet be restored- the Jacobins confounded peace con-
cluded on a solid basis the false philosophy exploded
religion honoiired and God glorified! It has been demon-
strated by experiment on the broadest scale, that among the


excellent advantages of true religion, one is, that it ever pro-
duces order, fidelity, and bravery on the field of battle, as
well as virtue and happiness in the shade of peace. Bas le
tyran ! Vivent les Bourbons ! The Duke of Wellington for
ever ! ! God save the King ! ! ! "

We have no doubt that some of the above epithets
and expressions will be regarded as strong, terribly
strong, and even such as could scarcely be expected from
one professedly a messenger of peace ; but it was because
Mr. Wightman was a lover of peace he used them, and
held in detestation the man who was so recklessly de-
stroying the peace of the world. But the strongest of
these designations, and the most opprobrious, Bonaparte
applied to himself when addressing the fear-stricken
and almost speechless deputies of the Senate on the
subject of his future proceedings. " I have 80,000 men,"
said he ; "I have gunboats ; I will have no more inquisi-
tion, no more Senate; I will be an Attila to Venice"
And who was the great model he thus sought to imitate ?
Attila was a celebrated King of the Huns, who died
about the middle of the fifth century. He assumed the
title of the " Scourge of God," from the savage heroism,
or rather barbarism, with which he attacked, and con-
quered, and devastated almost every province of Europe,
and gloried in dragging at his chariot wheels the kings
whose countries he had subdued. In the reign of
Valentinian he attacked the Koman Empire with
500,000 men, and laid it in ruins. His desire was to
conquer the whole world, but he died suddenly, on the
night of his marriage, in a state of intoxication. Such
was Attila, as described by historians. None but great


warriors whose ambition was insatiable did Bonaparte
set before him as examples of military renown. Like
another Alexander, the world was too small for his soul.
" Your little Europe," he said, " is but a molehill, and
could not supply glory enough; I will go and demand it
of the East, of that land of wonders, which alone has
seen great empires and great revolutions, and is in-
habited by six hundred millions of men." What is to
be thought of the man that makes a bloody attack upon
some helpless outposts for the mere amusement of his
mistress, and that she might have her curiosity gratified
by seeing somewhat of the nature of war ? Yet here
are his own words in communication with' a friend
" Riding with her one day in the middle of our positions
in the environs of the hill of Tenda, whilst reconnoitring
as commandant of the artillery, the notion suddenly
occurred to me of treating her to the spectacle of a little
war, and I ordered an attack of advanced posts. We
were the conquerors, it is true, but there could evidently
be no result. The attack was a pure fancy, and yet
some men fell in it. Later, I have bitterly reproached
myself with this affair whenever it has recurred to me."
But we cease from making further quotations from his
own words, as we deem what has been given sufficient
for our purpose, to vindicate Mr. Wightman in the
epithets and expressions he employed in speaking of
Napoleon Bonaparte.

The rejoicing consequent upon the glorious victory of
Waterloo was universal and unbounded, as it was believed
that the nations of Europe would now enjoy a solid and
lasting peace. But amid the jubilation which agitated
every breast, there was an undertone of sadness at the


thought that there were many weeping in sorrow at the
loss they had sustained, and in the prospect of want, now
that the support of the household was gone. Never was
a picture more truly drawn than that by Mrs. Opie in
her pathetic story of the "Orphan Boy," and especially
in the following stanzas :

" The people's shouts were long and loud;

My mother, shuddering, closed her ears :
'Rejoice! Rejoice!' still cried the crowd
My mother answered with her tears!

'" Oh! why do tears steal down your cheek,'

Cried I, ' while others shout for joy ?'
She kissed me, and in accents weak
She called me her ' poor orphan boy!' "

Contributions were everywhere called for and received
on behalf of the widows and families of the brave men
who had fallen on that memorable field. In the Pres-
bytery of Dumfries it was unanimously resolved and
appointed that a collection should be made in the various
churches within the bounds for this purpose, which was
cordially responded to by the several congregations, the
sum of 178 5s. 2d. being obtained and forwarded to
the Committee of the Waterloo Fund in London. This
was irrespective of public subscriptions received by house-
to-house visitation. But though the tempest was over,
it was a considerable time before the agitation of the
waves subsided all kinds of provisions kept enormously
high, and the labouring classes had the greatest difficulty
in procuring food. In many places it could scarcely be
had at any price, as the war had consumed almost
everything. The prices of oatmeal and grain were not
again equalled for thirty-two years, and butcher-meat was


never thought of by the working poor. Many a child
was put hungry and supperless to bed because there was
nothing to eat, and the mother adopted the ruse of still-
ing the cries that pierced her heart by sticking a crumb
of liquorice or black sugar upon the thumb of each
child, and so, while sucking it, the poor things fell

Mr. Wightman happened to be in Edinburgh during
the following year, when a regiment of Highlanders,
who had greatly distinguished themselves at Waterloo,
passed up the street to their quarters in the Castle. He
was so overcome with patriotic emotion at the sight that
he uncovered his head and walked a considerable way
alongside of them, hat in hand, every now and again
clapping them on the shoulder arid exclaiming, " Brave
fellows! Brave fellows!" while the tears were running
down his cheeks all the time. On the anniversary of
that glorious event, a year or two after its occurrence,
four troops of the Scots Greys, who had gallantly fought
on that memorable field, were quartered for a few days
in Dumfries, on their way to Ireland. Embracing the
opportunity so happily afforded, some of the leading
inhabitants made a liberal subscription for the purpose
of giving these veterans a complimentary dinner on that
auspicious day. On the preceding evening, for that was
all the time they had to prepare, the committee were
consulting what they should do for a chaplain, when one
of them cried out " Here comes the minister of Kirk-
mahoe a better chaplain for such an occasion is not in
all the South." Their request was complied with, and
on the following day nearly 200 non-commissioned
officers and privates sat down to a sumptuous banquet.


After dinner, Mr. Wightman recited the following verses
in honour of the brave men present:


1 ' Old Scotia's sons, whose swords and burnished mail
Flash terror on your foes, we bid you hail!
Warriors of Waterloo, who nobly stood
Like walls of adamant in seas of blood;
Who checked the Tyrant's pride and crushed his power,
By one brave charge in one decisive hour!
We hear Napoleon praise the gallant Greys
We see his pallid look, which fear betrays
We hear your shout, which rent the sulphury air,
And struck his firmest lines with mute despair:
' Scotland for ever!' with electric roll,
Rings on our ear and ruffles up our soul.
As when through Soignies forest zephyrs sweep,
Or curl the expanse of Caledonia's deep,
Our hearts are moved, our spirits wildly play,
In memory of that grand auspicious day,
When Rose and Thistle, aye, and Shamrock joined,
To form the wreath which Victory then entwined;
When Fame's loud trumpet, heard o'er sea and land,
Proclaimed the honours of your noble band.
From your own mountains we fresh garlands bind
Of blooming heath, fanned by our Northern wind;
The humble chaplet you will deign to wear,
And to your graves our warm affections bear.
Safe may you reach old Erin's fertile plains,
To guard her lovely nymphs and guileless swains;
And happy may you be till life's last flow!
May virtue in your dying bosoms glow!
When your cold dust is gathered with the dead,
Soft be the turf that wraps the Soldier's head;
When rest your spirits with the good and brave,
Sweet be the flower that blooms upon your grave ! "

At the conclusion the whole company rose in a body
and returned their hearty acknowledgments to the


reverend author. After they had retired to their
quarters the men requested the officers' permission to
march out on the following Sunday and hear sermon in
Kirkmahoe church, which was granted; but, unfortu-
nately, on that morning, when all had assembled and
were ready to march, a heavy rain came on, which
prevented them from carrying their purpose into effect.
Had it been otherwise, what a memorable day had that
been to pastor and people ! As one after another, to the
number of two hundred, entered with measured pace
the venerable sanctuary, we can imagine the patriotic
man of God involuntarily exclaiming "Warriors of
Waterloo, we bid you hail!"

Old Anacreon found himself unable to cope with more
than one theme when he struck his lyre, and greatly
bewailed his inaptitude when inclination or circum-
stances prompted him to change the nature of his song.
He tells us that, wishing to chant the exploits in battle
of the sons of Atreus, he strung his lyre anew, that he
might do full justice to the subject, and he boldly put
forth his hand in a martial spirit, but, to his great
bewilderment, it sounded love alone! Mr. Wightman
could sing on any theme, his harp being equally adapted
for love and war. But lately we heard him making the
welkin ring with warlike strains; and though his breast
is still heaving with emotion at the late rapacities of
the ambitious Corsican, yet how gently he sings an
epithalamium on the marriage of the Prince of Saxe-
Coburg and her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte
of Wales! The whole kingdom is rejoicing nay,
the whole of Nature, as well as he, at the happy
event :



"'Mid war's red ruins now the olive springs,
Now dove-eyed peace expands her snowy wings,
Hoar Winter's blasts in sullen march retire,
And Spring's soft gales the gentle loves inspire !

Fair Brunswick's flower,

On Hymen's bower,

Sheds perfume sweet

When two hearts meet !
The lovely violets then- petals rear,
And feathered minstrels hail the opening year !

" Old Ocean's billows in hoarse concert swell,
And every sea-green Nereid blows her shell,
While Thames from rustling reeds uplifts his head,
Pleased to perceive the festive gambols spread.

Awake the lyre,

Each muse be fire,

Let discord cease,

And love increase !

On Coburg's Prince bold Wallia's daughter smiles,
And hope's bright star illumes the British Isles !"

This ode was copied into several newspapers, and was
dated "Vale of Nith, May 2, 1816."

Mr. Wightman had a great ambition to write a longish
poem, and composed several pieces in this way, some of
which, however, never saw the light in print. The
following fragment was among his earliest attempts of a
lengthened kind in heroic verse, and whets the desire
for something more of a similar kind:


" From where yon heath-clad mountain props the sky,
And headlong torrents whiten to the eye;
Where sails the eagle through the deep of heaven,
And forest oaks are oft by lightning riven;


Where cheerful shepherds chant the rustic song,

Where peers my natal dome the woods among;

Come, Patriotism, come inspire my lays,

And crown thy votary with a poet's bays.

So shall the herd of censors idly rave,

To merge my song in dark oblivion's wave.

He comes ! He brightens on the Muse's sight,

The Patriot Power, in majesty of light.

An oaken branch adonis his temples fair,

His snow-white robe streams proudly on the air.

An azure zone, wide-circling, binds his waist,

' God, and my country,' sparkles on his breast.

High, in one hand, an ivy wreath he brings,

The other holds a harp with golden strings.

' This diadem, ' he says, ' shall grace thy brow,

This harp the subject soul shall teach to bow.'

Thy mystic harp, sweet power, then let me string,

And what thou deign'st to dictate, dare to sing.

Who can explain great Tully's gentle law,

Which all our heart, in cords of love, can draw,

And, though to earth's far verge we stretch the chain,

Still leads us to our native land again?

' ' The exile's eye hence closes not in sleep,
Or opens but to languish and to weep.
The fettered captive hence is taught to smile,
And all his fears and sorrows to beguile.
The mariner, when cast on foreign strand,
Hence moors his wishes in his native land.
When Israel's captive sons their vigils kept,
By Babel's streams they thought of home and wept.
Their sacred harps they pensively unstrung,
And on the boughs of drooping willows hung ;
Insulting o'er their bleeding country's wrongs,
Their tyrants cried, ' Sing one of Zion's songs !'
They spurned the mandate with supreme disdain,
For there they could not sing Jehovah's strain.
In Fancy's view the heights of Salem rose,
Where still they hoped for freedom and repose,
AVhen like the rivers of the south was turned


The bondage under which they long had mourned

When Zion's hills their sacred summits showed,

Their hearts were full, their eyes with tears o'erflowed,

They stood with one consent mute and amazed,

And on their own green confines fondly gazed.

What moved the loud and universal cry,

Which from mount Teches rent the Colchian sky,

When the retreating myriad, Graecia's pride,

Worn by rude warfare, hailed the Euxine tide ?

'Twas Patriotism's powerful influence all,

The thoughts of home, deep mustering at his call.

" In yon rude hut on wild Kamtschatka's bay
KING and his friends felt patriotic sway
When on the half -worn spoon they fairly traced
The dear word ' London,' not by time effaced,
To home and country their affections turned,
And every heart with British feeling burned.
What means yon hoary pilgrim bent with years,
Whose furrowed cheeks are wet with briny tears ?
Why does yon ivied oak attract his eye,
Or the meandering brook which murmurs by?
Why does he to yon mossy bank repair
And pluck the flowers which scent the desert air?
Why sits he down among yon ruined walls,
And fondly scenes of other years recalls?
Ah! there his eyes first saw the light of day,
There was his ' careless childhood ' wont to ' stray '
Where now the wild bee hums along the green,
And here and there a garden flower is seen,
Where sprigs of eglantine shed sweetness round,
And solitary hawthorn crowns the mound
With brothers, sisters, and companions dear,
When life was new, he summer bowers would rear,
Or ply with little spade the easy toil,
And einulously dig and dress the soil ;
Where'er he walks or turns his glistening eyes,
A thousand forms in wild confusion rise,
In Fancy's sight the soft illusions play,
And mingle in the beam of life's declining day.


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Online LibraryDavid HoggLife and times of the Rev. John Wightman, 1762-1847, late Minister of Kirkmahoe → online text (page 16 of 28)