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Poor Tannahill! Paisley truly has good reason to be proud of her hand-loom weaver, who knew to mingle the whir of his busy loom, not with the jarring notes of political fret or atheistic pseudo-philosophy, but with the sweet music of nature in the most melodious season of the year. Sad to think that the author of this song, one of the most lovable, kindly, and human-hearted of mortals, and who, in spite of the deficiencies of his early culture, had achieved a reputation second only to Burns among the song writers of his tuneful fatherland, should have bade farewell to the sweet light of the sun and the fair greenery of his native glens at the early age of thirty-six — drowning himself, poor fel. low! in a pool not far from the place of his birth. "Frail race of mortals, these poets!» some will be quick to exclaim. “Burns and Byron died at thirty-seven, Shelley at thirty, Keats at twentysix, and Kirke White even younger. Let no man envy the gift of song, and seek to batten on the delicious food that is seasoned with poison and sauced with death! But this is a mistake. Many poets live long, and the biggest often the longest. Anacreon lived long, Sophocles lived long, Chaucer lived long, Goethe lived long, Wordsworth lived long, Southey lived long, Wilson lived within a year of the legitimate seventy, and Scott, had it not been for unfortunate and commercial mishaps which caused him to overstrain his powers, with another decade added to his years, had stuff in him to rival that rich union of mellow thought and melodious verse which all men admire in the octogenarian poet-thinker of Weimar. It is not poets, but a particular kind of poets, that die early; they had some unhappy ferment in their blood, that would have made them die early, as men, had they never written a verse. It was not poetry that killed Robert Burns; it was untempered passion: it was not poetry that drowned Tannahill; it was constitutional weakness.
It would be unfair, in recalling the image of the great Paisley songster, not to mention the distinguished musical composer to whose friendly aid he owed no small share of his abiding popu. larity. Robert Archibald Smith, though born in Reading, was of Scotch descent, and restored to his native country in the year 1800, when he was twenty years of age. A native of East Kilbride, his father had followed the profession of silk weaving at Paisley; and on his return from Reading, betook himself to the weaving of muslin in that town. The son, following the father's lines, commenced likewise as a weaver of webs; but he was too often found scratching crotchets and quavers on the framework of the loom, when he ought to have been watching the interlacings or the snappings of the thread. The starvation of his intellectual strivings by the monotony of the loom operated disadvantageously on a constitution not naturally strong; and the depression of spirits into which he was falling acted as a wise warning for his father to let the poor bird out of the cage, and be free to flap his wings in the musical atmosphere for which he was born. He accordingly threw the loom aside, and commenced a distinguished musical career, first as leader of the choir in the Abbey Church, Paisley, and then in St. George's Church, Edinburgh, where he enjoyed the stimulating and influential fellowship of Dr. Andrew Thomson, a theologian distinguished not less for his refined musical taste than for the warmth of his evangelical zeal and the slashing vigor of his polemics. While holding this situation, he sent forth a series of well-known and highly esteemed musical publications, both in the sacred and secular sphere of the noble art which he professed; and, though he had but finished half what might have been prophesied as his destined career, he achieved enough to cause his name to be remembered in the history of Scottish culture as the pioneer of a new era, and the first mover in a necessary reform. The church service of Scotland had suffered too long from the barbarism of a certain Puritanical severity that had no better reason for the neglect of music in religious worship than that it was cherished by the Romanists and the Episcopalians; and the name of R. A. Smith, the friend and fellow-songster of Tannahill, will live in the grateful memory of the Scottish people as the herald of the advent of a wiser age which reconciles devotion to her natural ally music, and removes from Presbytery the reproach of cultivating only the bald prose of the temple service, while the graces of the divinest of the arts are left in the exclusive possession of other churches, whose doctrine may be less sound, and their preaching less effective, but whose attitude is more dignified, and whose dress is more attractive.
We shall content ourselves with three more specimens of this initiatory stage of present sweetness and prospective joy in love, and then pass to songs of wooing and courting, which, while they are more richly marked by dramatic situation and incident, are at the same time seldom free from difficulties and entanglements of various kinds, over which even the persistency that belongs to all strong instincts and noble passions cannot always triumph. The first is the popular Dumfriesshire song of :
The heroine of this song was, as Chambers informs us, a daughter of Sir Robert Laurie, first Baronet of Maxwelton; and the devoted admirer who sang her praises was a Mr. Douglas of Fingland. It may be interesting to compare the above verses, as now commonly sung, with the original verses as given by Chambers:
bloom - in' heather,
There I met
bon - nie
las - sie,
her ewes the - gither.
Owre the muir a- mang the
This song comes to us with a whiff of the mountain heather, particularly grateful and specially salubrious in an age when so much of the best music is condemned to be sung in the hot air of fashionable saloons, where the poetry of nature is utterly ignored and the laws of health systematically violated. The authoress was Jean Glover, a Kilmarnock girl, who had the misfortune to unite her fates in life to a pleasant fellow, a strolling player or mountebank, with whom she traveled over the country frequenting fairs and markets, supporting herself and entertaining the public with show and song in an irregular sort of way. Burns, who picked up the song from her in one of her strolling expeditions, has spoken of her in very disparaging terms (for which, see Chambers, page 49); but his severe judgment, in Miss