William Motherwell.

The poetical works of William Motherwell. With memoir by James M'Conechy, esq online

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Online LibraryWilliam MotherwellThe poetical works of William Motherwell. With memoir by James M'Conechy, esq → online text (page 1 of 15)
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WHEN the Second Edition of MOTH KRW ELL'S Poems
was published in 1847, it was stated in the Preface that
the fragments of poetry which he had left behind him in
manuscript, and which were not included in that volume,
might be given to the public at some future day, should
any encouragement be offered for pursuing such a course.
This the Publisher has now determined to do ; but before
taking such a step he resolved to submit the pieces in
question to the critical scrutiny of MOTHERWELL'S old
friend and poetical ally, Mr WILLIAM KENNEDY, who
chanced to be in Scotland at the time. The reader
will, therefore, be good enough to understand that the
Poems added to this Edition have been selected by
Mr KENNEDY, and are published under his express
authority. The Publisher is gratified in being able tc
make this statement, as it relieves him from a responsibility
which he feels that it would not be becoming in him to



THE first and only British edition of MOTHERWELL'S
POEMS appeared fourteen years ago, and has been long
exhausted. Two editions have appeared in the United
States of America, and it may seem remarkable that
strangers should have been so much more alive to his
merits than his countrymen. The publisher of the first
British edition having purchased Mr MOTHERWELL'S
manuscripts, has resolved to issue a new and enlarged
edition of the original work, to which is prefixed a
Memoir of the Author. The additions consist of twenty
pieces, some of which, including the Sonnets, are now
printed for the first time. The others appeared in dif-
ferent local publications during the Author's lifetime,
though they were not embodied by him in his volume.
No alterations upon the original text have been attempted,
but a few various readings, derived from the Author's
manuscripts, have been placed at the bottom of the page.


The Memoir has been compiled from the best, sources
of information that could be reached, and it is hoped
that it will communicate all the knowledge respecting
the Poet's history which the reader will be anxious to

Mr MOTHERWELL left behind him many fragmentary
pieces of poetry, in different stages of advancement, some
being more and some less finished ; and should the present
enterprise hold out any encouragement for the adoption of
such a course, they may be given to the world at some
future time.








The Battle Flag of Sigurd, 1

The Wooing Song of Jarl Egill Skallagrim, 12

The Sword Chant of Thorstein Raudi, 20

Jeanie Morrison, ... ... ... ... - 25

My Heid is like to Rend, Willie, 30

The Madman's Love, 34

Halbert the Grim, 53

True Love's Dirge, 58

The Demon Lady, 63

Zara, 67

Ouglou's Onslaught, 70

ElfinlandWud, 75

Midnight and Moonshine, ... ... ... ... ... 81

The Water! The Water! 88

Three Fanciful Supposes, 92

A Caveat to the Wind, 94

What is Glory? What is Fame? 97

The Solemn Song of a Righteous Hearte, 99

Melancholye, 103

I am not Sad! 107

The Joys of the Wilderness, Ill

A Solemn Conceit, 113

The Expatriated, 116



Facts from Fairyland, 119

Certain Pleasant Verses to the Lady of my Heart, ... 122

Beneath a Placid Brow, 123

The Covenanters' Battle Chant, 127

Tim the Tacket, 130

The Witches' Joys, 135

A Sabbath Summer Noon, 140

A Monody, 146

They come ! the Merry Summer Months, 151

Change Sweepeth over All, 154


OWae be to the Orders! 159

Wearie's Well, 161

V Song of the Danish Sea-King, 164

The Cavalier's Song, 167

The Merry Gallant, 169

The Knight's Song, 171

The Trooper's Ditty, % 173

He is Gone ! He is Gone ! 176

The Forester's Carol, 178

May-Morn Song, 180

The Bloom hath Fled thy Cheek, Mary, 182

In the Quiet and Solemn Night, 1 85

The Voice of Love, 187

Away ! Away ! O, do not Say ! / 189

O, Agony ! keen Agony ! 191

The Serenade, 192

Could Love Impart, 195

The Parting, 197

Love's Diet, 199

The Midnight Wind, 201



Seronti Edition.


The Waithman's Wail, 205

The Troubadour's Lament, 209

When I beneath the Cold Red Earth am Sleeping, . . . 212

Spirits of Light ! Spirits of Shade ! 214

The Crusader's Farewell, 222

The Midnight Lamp, 223

Come Down, ye Spirits ! 225

Ding Dong! 227

Clerke Richard and Maid Margaret, 229

Lord Archibald : A Ballad, 233

And have I Gazed ? 241

She is not Dead, 244

Sweet Earlsburn, Blythe Earlsbura, 247

Begone, Begone, thou Truant Tear, 249

O, Babble not to me, Gray Eild, 251

Sonnet : The Patriot's Death, 253

Sonnet : Pale Daughter of the Night, 254

Sonnet : The Hand's Wild Grasp, 255

Sonnet: Silvery Hairs, 256

Lady Margaret: A Ballad, ... 257





Cruxfcoun Castle, ............... ... 268

Roland and Rosabelle, ............... 276

Song, ........................ 279

For Blyther Fields and Braver Bowers, ......... 280

Hope and Love, .................. 282

SongeoftheSchippe, ............... 283

He stood alone, .................. 286

Cupid's Banishment, .................. 287

The Ship of the Desert, ............... 288

The Poet's Wish, .................. 290

Isabelle, (a Serenade), ............... 291

What is this World to Me? ............... 293

To a Lady's Bonnet, .................. 294

The Wanderer, .................. 295

Song, ........................ 298

The Hunter's Well, .................. 299

It deeply wounds the Trusting Heart, ...... ... 301

The Ettin o' Sillarwood, ............... 303

Like a worn Gray-haired Mariner, ............ 312

Choice of Death, .................. 313

Friendship and Love, ............... 314

The Lay of Geoffroi Rudel, ............ 316

Envie, .................. ... 317

Love's Tokens, .................. 319

O Say not pure Affections Change ! ............ 32 1



The Rose and the Fair LUye, 322

Like Mist on a Mountain Top Broken and Gray, ... 325

Young Love, 327

To the Tempest, 329

Song, 331

And hae ye seen my ain True Luve ? 332

Goe deed wi' Smylis the Cheek ! 334

The Spell-bound Knight, 337

that this weary War of Life ! 339

The Poet's Destiny, 341

1 met wT her I Luved Yestreen, 342

To the Lady of my Heart, 344

The Fause Ladye, 345

My Ain Countrie, 347

To a Friend at Parting, 349

I Plucked the Berry, 352

Song, 353

To * * * * 354

The Knight's Requiem, 356

The Rocky Islet, 359

True Woman, 360

The Past and the Future, 362

Oh ! Turn from me those Radiant Eyes ! ... ... ... 364

O Think nae mair o' Me, Sweet May ! 365

The Love-lorn Knight and the Damsel Pitiless, 367

Love in Worldlynesse, 369

A Night Vision, 372

This is no Solitude, 380

The Lone Thorn, 381

The Slayne Menstrel, 382

The Mermaiden, 386



The Lean Lover, 390

Affectest Thou the Pleasures of the Shade ? 392

Music, 393

The Shipwrecked Lover, 395

Hollo, my Fancy ! 398

Love's Potencie, 411

Life, 413

Superstition, 414

Ye Vernal Hours, 418

Come, Thou Bright Spirit, 419


The Ritters Ride Forth, 422

Lay of the Broken-Hearted and Hope-Bereaved Men, 424

Dream of Life's Early Day, Farewell for Ever, ... 425

The Ritters Ride Home, 428

Lines written on a Visit to the Grave of Motherwell, by




WILLIAM MOTHERWELL was born at Glasgow on the
thirteenth day of October, 1797. * He was the third son
of William Motherwell, a native of Stirlingshire, who
settled in that city about the year 1792 where he fol-
lowed the business of an ironmonger, f His mother's name
was Elizabeth Barnet, the daughter of William Barnet, a
respectable farmer in the parish of Auchterarder, in Perth-
shire, who, at her father's death, inherited a little fortune
of two thousand pounds. Early in the present century his
father removed with his family to Edinburgh where his
son was placed under the charge of Mr William Lennie,
an eminent teaeher of English in that city, and the author
of several useful and popular school-books ; and it
was while attending this school that the boy met
' Jeanie Morrison,' a mild and bashful girl whose name
he afterwards immortalised, and of whose gentle nature

* The house in which this event took place was situated at the
south corner of College Street, fronting High Street.

t Mr Motherwell's family consisted of three sons David, John,
and William, and three daughters Margaret, Amelia, and Elizabeth,
of whom his eldest daughter, Margaret, alone survives.


he retained through Kfe the most pleasing recollections.
The first draught of his poem is said to have been made
at fourteen years of age, and, as he has himself recorded,
they never met after leaving school.* As the reader
cannot fail to be gratified by an account of the poet's
juvenile history, I transcribe the following details which
have been obligingly communicated to the publisher by
Mr Lennie himself:

' AVilliam Motherwell entered iny school, then kept at
No. 8, Crichton Street, in the neighbourhood of George
Square, on the 24th of April, 1805, and left it for the
High School here on the first day of October, 1808. He
was between seven and eight years old when he joined,
an open-faced, firm, and cheerful-looking boy. He began
at the alphabet, and though he did not at first display any
uncommon ability his mind soon opened up, and as he
advanced in his education he speedily manifested a supe-
rior capacity, and ultimately became the best scholar in
the school ; yet he never showed any of that petulant or
supercilious bearing which some children discover who
see themselves taken notice of for the quickness of their
parts ; he was, on the contrary, kind and accommodating,
always ready to help those who applied to him for assist-
ance, and a first-rate hand at carrying on sport during

* ! dear, dear Jeanie Morrison,

Since we were sindered young,
I've never seen your face, nor heard
The music o' your tongue.


the hours of recreation. Besides acquiring a fair know-
ledge of geography, which was taught in the higher
. and becoming well acquainted with the principles
of English grammar, he, during the last twelve or eighteen
months of his attendance at my school, devoted two sepa-
rate hours daily to arithmetic and writing, in the latter of
which especially he excelled. In the course of a single
year he wrote an excellent small distinct hand ; so good,
indeed, was it, that few are able to do anything like it
oven after several years' practice. He also filled up skele-
ton maps so neatly that at first sight they might have
been mistaken for copper-plate engravings. During the
last year he was with me, "Wilson's Sentimental Scenes "
were introduced into the upper classes. The reading of
these sketches delighted him exceedingly, and he entered
so completely into the spirit of the pieces that he made
the characters his own, and appeared to be a Roscius in
miniature, a thing I have never found a boy to do but

4 Jane (Jeanie) Morrison was the daughter of one of the
most respectable brewers and corn-factors then in Alloa.
She came to Edinburgh to finish her education, and was in
my school with William Motherwell during the last
year of his course. She was about the same age with
himself, a pretty girl, and of good capacity. Her hair
was of a lightish brown, approaching to fair; her eyes
were dark, and had a sweet and gentle expression ; her
temper was mild, and her manners unassuming. Her


dress was also neat and tidy. In winter she wore a pale
blue pelisse, then the fashionable colour, and a light -
coloured beaver with a feather. She made a great im-
pression on young Motherwell, and that it was permanent
his beautiful ballad shows. At the end of the season she
returned to her parents at Alloa, with whom she resided
till the time of her marriage. She is now a widow with
a family of three children, all of whom are grown up,
and, I believe, doing well.' *

It would appear from this that Motherwell was entered
in the High School of Edinburgh as early as the year 1808,
but his attendance at that excellent institution could not
have exceeded a few months, as I find that he was placed
early in 1809 at the Grammar School of Paisley, then
superintended by the late Mr John Peddie. His father
had not prospered in Edinburgh, and in consequence of
the embarrassed state of his affairs his son William was
consigned to the care of Jhis brother, Mr John Motherwell,
a respectable ironfounder in Paisley. The curriculum at
the Paisley Grammar School extended over five years, and
if William Motherwell completed it he must have enjoyed

* I had the pleasure of a slight acquaintance with this lady in
after life as Mrs Murdoch. Her husband was a respectable mer-
chant in this city, and died about the year 3828. She was, when
I knew her, a very elegant woman in her personal appearance, and
seemed to have preserved those gentle and agreeable manners for
which she had been distinguished in girlhood ; but it is proper to
remark, that she was wholly unconscious of the ardent interest which
she had excited in the mind of her boyish admirer.


the full measure of elementary classical instruction, includ-
ing in the fifth year the rudiments of Greek, which it was
then customary to give to boys in Scotland. One of his
surviving school companions* informs me that, in con-
junction with the late Mr William Bain, advocate, and a
Mr Lymburn, also deceased, he was a dux boy, and there
seems to be no reason to doubt that he exhibited the same
quickness of apprehension and readiness of parts in the
Paisley Academy which he had displayed in other schools ;
but as his tastes were never scholastic, and as his know-
ledge of the dead tongues was always limited, the presump-
tion is that he followed the prominent bias of his mind,
and devoted to works of imagination the hours that should
have been given to school exercises. I am fortified in
this belief by the recollections of Mr Crawford, who says,
4 What Motherwell was most remarkable for was his gift
of spinning long yarns about castles, and robbers, and
strange out-of-the-way adventures, with which, while Mr
Peddie imagined he was assisting his class-fellows with
their lessons, he would entertain them for hours, day after
day, like some of the famous story-tellers in the Arabian
Nights ; and these stories were retailed at second-hand by
his class-fellows to those who had not the privilege of
hearing them from the author himself.'

In the year 1811, his mother died at Edinburgh, and
after that melancholy event, his father, accompanied by
his daughter Amelia, retired to the village of Kilsyth, in

* Mr John Crawford, writer in Paisley.


Stirlingshire, where he dwelt till his death, which occurred
in February, 1827.

The history of his ancestors possesses considerable inte-
rest. In a letter with which I have been favoured by niy
venerable and accomplished friend, Mr Sheriff Campbell
of Paisley, they are thus spoken of:

1 Of his family I had occasion to learn something, in the
course of a judicial inquiry concerning the succession of
David Motherwell, his uncle, upwards of thirty years ago.
That David Motherwell died possessed of a small estate
on the banks of the Carron, in the Barony of DundafF, in
Stirlingshire, which, according to what I found to be the
tradition of the neighbourhood, supported, to a certain
extent, by the title deeds of the property, which I saw,
had been in the possession of thirteen generations of the
same family, all bearing the same name of David, with
the surname variously spelled, being at one time Moder-
ville, at another Moderell, and latterly Motherwell. His
uncle, Alexander, set aside David's deed of settlement,
and sold the property to his younger brother John, an
extensive ironmonger in Paisley, who left it to trustees for
behoof of his daughter.'

The estate here spoken of was called Muirmill, and the
name at once indicates the calling of the proprietors. They
were the hereditary millers of Dundaif, and are so desig-
nated in a confirmatory charter granted in favour of the
then possessor by James Graham, the celebrated Marquis
of Montrose, in 1642, as will be seen by the following


short extract from that document. It is to be observed
that this extract has reference to ' an instrument of
seizin,' dated 29th June, 1629, in favour of * David Mod-
drell, in Spittal, * and Isabella Small, his wife, proceeding
on a charter granted by James, Earl of Montrose, Lord
Graham and Mugdock, of the lands of all and whole, that
pendicle of land called Spittal,' &c. The deed of 1642,
then, confirms the previous grant of 1629, to

' William Modrcll, miller, at Dundaff, callit the Muir
Mill, , f his spouse, and David Modrcll, their

son, on the other part (of date at Drum-phad, 29th April,
1629 years), whereby, with consent aforesaid, set in feu
farm to the said William Mpdrell, and his spouse above
named, and the langest liver of them twa, in life-rent ;
and to David Modrell, their son, all and haill, the said
mill, mill lands, and multures, &c., and pasturage for eight
ky, all lying within the barony of Dundaff, and shire of
Stirling. 'J

Upon what conditions the lands in question were held
before the year 1629 my ignorance of feudal law disables
me from saying ; but it is plain, both from the tradition
mentioned by Mr Campbell and the charters at present in

* An abbreviation of Hospital, and a common designation of small
farms in certain parts of Scotland. Lands so called had formed
portions of the extensive possessions of the military order of KNIGHTS

t Blank in the original.

J I am indebted for the transcription of this passage to my friend
Dr John Smith, the well-known Secretary to the Maitland Club.


my possession, that this family of Motherwells had been
settled in that locality, and probably, on this very spot,
for at least four hundred years the land and the occupa-
tion descending in regular succession from father to son.
The name itself is obviously a local surname, but it belongs
to the county of Lanark, in the middle ward of which, and
in the parish of Dalziel, there is a considerable village
called Motherwell. The statistical accounts speak of a
well or spring as still existing there, from which the inha-
bitants are supplied with water, and which, in the olden
time, was called the ' Well of our Ladye.' It was probably
believed to possess medicinal virtues, and was, therefore,
placed under the immediate protection of the ' Virgin
Mother' whence the name, Motherwell.* Its antiquity
as a surname must be considerable, since it appears in the
Ragman Rolls f for 1296, and also in the index to a char-
tulary of the Monastery of Paisley in 1490; and from Avhat
has been already stated it will be seen that that branch of
the race from which the poet sprang had been planted in
Stirlingshire as far back as the beginning of the fifteenth
century. The name, however, is an uncommon one.J

* Few towns where there has been an ecclesiastical establishment,
such as Glasgow, for instance, want a LADY WELL.

t The title given to the list of the names of those who swore fealty
to Edward I. which has now something of the character and interest
of a ' Domesday Book.'

J In illustration of the history of the poet's family it may be men-
tioned, that there is extant a deed of ' assignation and disposition,'
by his grandfather, David Motherwell, wherein he bequeaths to each


It having been resolved, I know not why, to devote this
wayward and dreamy boy to the legal profession, he was

of his 'younger sons' (the number is not mentioned) 100 sterling ;
and to each of his daughters, Elizabeth, Janet, and Amelia, 1000
merks Scots, or about 55 sterling.

Janet married . . Henry Bannerman.

Elizabeth " . . David Whyte.

Amelia " . . John Barnet.

The latter was probably the poet's uncle. The descendants of Janet
are now eminent merchants in Manchester, and the line of Mother-
well is represented by the poet's nephew, the son of his elder brother
David, Mr Charles M 'Arthur Motherwell, who is a purser's clerk in
the navy. The name of William Mothenvell's grandmother was
Amelia Monteath, the daughter of an old and respectable family
settled at Dunblane, in Stirlingshire. A sister of his mother's mar-
ried a Mr Ogilvie, who left a son, Major Ogilvie, now resident in

John de Moderwell, chaplain, appears in a deed of 14 GO, as one
of the Procurators of Henry of Livingston, Knight, Commander of the
Temple of St John ; which Sir Henry was son of William, Lord of
Kilsyth, and preceptor of Torphichen. He died in 1463. Edward,
his elder brother, was the direct ancestor of the Viscount Kilsyth,
who was attainted in 1715. There is no evidence of any relationship
between this ancient priest and the poet's family ; but his connection
with Kilsyth, where a branch of the Motherwells has been planted
for many centuries, might justify the suspicion that he was of the
same lineage. This mention of him in so old a document is satis-
factory evidence of the antiquity of the surname, whatever opinion
we may form as to his probable affinity to the ancestors of the sub-
ject of this memoir.

For these details I am indebted chiefly to the diligence and anti-
quarian skill of my late amiable and lamented friend, Mr Philip
Ramsay of Edinburgh, S.S.C., who had collected some materials for
a life of William Motherwell.


placed, at the age of fifteen, in the office of the Sheriff-
Clerk of Paisley, where he remained for many years ; but,
as may be readily conceived, the duties of such a situa-
tion were little congenial to his tastes. Notwithstanding
his dislike to the duties of a writer's clerk he contrived
to turn his new position so far to account by bestowing
great pains on the deciphering of ancient legal documents ;
an art in which he latterly excelled. I am indebted to
Mr Sheriff Campbell for the following interesting par-
ticulars concerning Motherwell at this time :

4 When I first knew William Motherwell he was a very
little boy in the Sheriff- Clerk's office here. I had observed
his talent for sketching figures of men, in armour and other-
wise, and amongst the rest one of myself upon a blotter
which I had occasion to use when sitting in the Sheriff-
Court. I gave him a few ancient documents to copy for
me, and, in place of an ordinary transcript, I received from
him, with surprise and satisfaction, a fac simile so perfect
that, except for the colour and texture of the paper, it
would have been difficult to distinguish it from the origi-
nal manuscript. Finding him a smart and intelligent boy,
I asked him to give me a statement, in writing, of certain
occurrences to which he had been a witness at a period
when the peace of the district was threatened. This ac-
count was not confined to facts, but was interspersed with
observations and reflections of his own, of a nature so un-
expected and so curious, that I wished to preserve it ; but I
am sorry that, in a search made for it some years ago, I


was unable to find it. The notions of the boy were then
what would now be called extremely liberal. In process

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Online LibraryWilliam MotherwellThe poetical works of William Motherwell. With memoir by James M'Conechy, esq → online text (page 1 of 15)