|86||LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.|
Few of our Scottish poets have been treated more unkindly or more
unjustly by the critics, than Alexander
Montgomery. [note] Men who have been unbounded in their praise of
| Sae myld lyke and chyld lyke, |
With bow three quarters scant,
Sae moylie and coylie,
He lukit lyk ane sanct.
| * Pinkerton. [note] † See Life of |
|POETS — ALEXANDER MONTGOMERY.||87|
| Ane cleinly crisp, hang oure his eyis, |
His quiver by his nakit thyis,
Hang in ane silver lace;
Of gold betwixt his schoulders grew
Twa pretty wings, quhairwith he flew,
On his left arm ane brace.
* * * * *Amasit, I gaisit,
To see his geir sae gay,
Persaiving myne haveing
He countit me his prey.
The following is the parallel passage of
| A man with aspeck kynd, |
Richt auld lyke, and bauld lyke,
With baird thre quarters skant;
Sae braef lyke, and graif lyke,
He seemt to be a sanct.
Grit daring dartit frae his ee,
A braid sword schogled at his thie,
On his left arm a targe;
A shinnand speir fill'd his richt hand,
Of stalwart mak in bane and brawnd,
Of just proportions large.
* * * * *
| Amaisit, I gaisit, |
To se led at command,
A strampant and rampant
Ferss lyon in his hand.
st. 4 and 5.
|88||LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.|
| My heart ay did start ay |
The fyrie flamis to flie,
Ay howping, throw lowping,
To leap at libertie.
| Quhase mynds zet, inclyndis zet |
To damn the rapid spate;
Devysing and pry sing
Freidom at ony rate.
Nor was it merely while writing a poem on the model of the
| I saw a river rin |
Out owr a steipie rock of stane,
Syne lichtit in a lin.
Every person familiar with the Gentle Shepherd [note] must be ready to repeat the well-known passage:
| Between twa birks, out o'er a little lin, |
The water fa's, and maks a singin din.
Examples might be multiplied, but it is unnecessary; as the comparison is not instituted invidiously,
|POETS — ALEXANDER MONTGOMERY.||89|
| * Not so, surely; unless by “impression” we are to understand
the impression of a day. |
|90||LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.|
| Can golden Titan, shyning bright at morne, |
For light of torchis cast ane greater schaw?
Can thunder reard the heicher for a horne?
Crak cannons louder, though ane cok should craw?
Can our weak breath help Boreas for to blaw?
Can candill low give fyre a greater heit?
Can whytest swans more whyter mak the snaw?
Can virgin's tears augment the winter's weit?
|POETS — ALEXANDER MONTGOMERY.||91|
| Helps pyping Pan, Apollo's music sweit? |
Can fountains small the ocean sea encrease?
No, they augment the greater nocht a quheit:
But they themselves appear to grow the lesse.
So, worthy prince! thy warks sall mak thee knawn,
Our helps, not thyne: we steynzie but our awin.
In Sibbald's [note]
| As bright Apollo staineth every star |
With goldin rayis, when he begins to rise,
Quhais glorious glance yet stoutlie skailles the skyes,
Quhen, with a wink, we wonder quhair they war.
Before his face for feir, they faid so far,
And vanishes away in such a wayis,
That in their spheiris they dar not interpryse
For to appeir lyk planeits as they ar;
Or as the Phœnix, with her fedrum fair,*
Excels all foulis in diverse heavinly hues,
Quhais nature, contrair nature, so renews
As only bot companion, or compair.
So, quintessence of kings! quhen thou compyle,
Thou stainis my verses with thy staitlie style.
The example of the mournful style “for tragicall materis,
complaintis, or testamentis,” which
| * Plumage fair. |
|92||LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.|
| To thee, Echo, and then to me agane, |
In the desert, amang the woods and wells,
Quhair destinie has bound the to remane
Bot companie, within the firths and fells,
Let us complain, with wofull zoutts and zells,
A shaft, a shotter, that our harts hes slane:
To thee, Echo, and then to me againe.
In his selection of the specimen of the “flyting”
| Heretyck, lunatick, purspyck, carlines pet, |
Rotten crok, dirten dok; Cry cock! or I sall quell thee.
|POETS — ALEXANDER MONTGOMERY.||93|
| Picket, wickit, stricket, convickit, lump lullar-dum; |
Defamit, shamit, blamit, primus Paganorum;
Out, out, I schout upon that snout, that snevils,
Tale-teller, rebeller, indweller with the devils;
Spink, sink, with stink art Tartara termagorum.
After these champions had exhausted their strength, there could have
been nothing new to say in the way of “flyting,” had not the lapse of half a
century given calumny time to recruit its stores; and it is only in the greater number of epithets
| In the hinder end of harvest, upon allhallow's eve, |
Quhen our gude neichbors rydis (now gif I reid richt)
Sum bucklit on a benwood, and some on a bene,
Ay trotting into troupes fra the twylicht, &c.
The specimen which James gives from
|94||LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.|
| Quha speids, but sic as heich aspiris? |
Quha triumphs not, but sic as tryes
To win a noble name?
Of schrinking, quhat but schame succeids?
Then do as thou wald haif thy deids
In register of Fame:
I put the case; then not prevail'd;
Sae thou with Honour die,
Thy Lyfe, but not thy Courage fail'd,
Sall poets pen of thee
Thy name than, from fame than,
Sall never be cut aff;
Thy grave ay, sal haif ay
That honest epitaph.
Hope also throws in her incentives in a very lively manner.
|POETS — ALEXANDER MONTGOMERY.||95|
| Allace, man! thy ease, man, |
In ling'ring I lament;
Go to now and do now,
That Courage be content.
Quhat gif Melancholy cum in,
And get ane grip or thou begin,
Than is thy labour lost;
For he will hald thee hard and fast,
Till time, and place, and fruit, be past,
And thou give up the ghost:
Than sall be grav'd upon the stane,
Quhilk on thy grave is laid,
Sum tyme thair lived sic a ane,
But how sall it be said?
| Here lyes now, bot pryse now, |
Into Dishonour's bed,
Ane cowart as thou art,
That from his fortune fled.
Dread, Danger, and Despair, are very happily likened, by Will, to
| ———the cat, |
They wald na weit their feet,
But zit if ony fisch ze gat
They wad be fain to eit.
Experience, intruding her advice, is sharply encountered by Hope.
| Ha! ha: quod Hope, and loudlie leuch, |
Ze are but a prentise at the pleugh,
|96||LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.|
| Experience ye prieve;* |
Suppose all byganes as ze spak,
Ze are nae prophet worth a plak,
Nor I bund to believe;
Ze sold not say, sir, till ye see,
But quhen ye see it, say.
Experience retorts, on Hope, the innumerable instances in which she had only “flattered to betray;” but
| Quhen Hope was gall'd unto the quick, |
Quod Courage, kicking at the prick,
We let ze weill to wit;
Mak he zou welcomer than we,
Then byganes, byganes, farewell he,
Except he seik us yet.
The contest is, at length, determined by an agreement of all the
powers, (Despair, who hangs himself, excepted,) to act in concert, under the generalship of Wit,
in obtaining for the languishing swain the “cherry” of his desire. Success
crowns their efforts, and Disappointment is the lot of the reader alone, who finds one stanza
sufficient for the acting of what eighty-seven stanzas have been occupied in designing. The poem
| * Prieve—try. |
|POETS — ALEXANDER MONTGOMERY.||97|
The only other work, by
The close of his life is involved in the same obscurity as its
commencement. In 1597, he revised an edition of his
| * There is one copy in the possession of Mr. Heber, [note]
and unless it is the same with that which was in Messrs. Longman and Co.'s excellent Collection of English Poetry, [note] in 1815, there is
another. The psalms translated are, 1, 4, 6, 15, 19, 25, 43, 57, 91, 101, 117, 125, and 128.