Lives of
Scottish Poets
edited by

Center for Applied Technologies
in the Humanities

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Literary Chronicle
New Monthly Magazine
Monthly Review
Notes and Queries
Gibson and Laing
Halkett and Laing
Scottish Notes & Queries

Part I. (Volume I.)
James the First
Thomas the Rhymer
John Barbour
Andrew Wyntoun
Gavin Douglas
Allan Ramsay
William Meston
John Home
James Beattie
Robert Burns

Part II. (Volume I.)
James the Fifth
William Dunbar
Sir James Inglis
Henry the Minstrel
Sir David Lyndsay
Alexander Barclay
Alexander Montgomerie
William Alexander
William Drummond
James Thomson
John Oswald

Part III. (Volume II.)
James the Sixth
Sir Richard Maitland
Arthur Johnston
Hamilton of Bangour
Hamilton of Gilbertfield
Samuel Colvil
Alexander Ross
John Armstrong
John Ogilvie
James Macpherson
Charles Salmon

Part IV. (Volume II.)
Alexander Hume
John Bellenden
Mark Alexander Boyd
Ninian Paterson
William Wilkie
Robert Fergusson
William Julius Mickle
Alexander Geddes
James Grahame

Part V. (Volume III.)
Robert Henryson
Alexander Scott
Walter Kennedy
John Ogilby
Alexander Pennecuik
Alexander Cunningham
David Mallet
William Falconer
Francis Garden
Robert Blair
James Moor
James Graeme
Caleb Whitefoord
James Grainger
Hector Macneill
John Wilson

Part VI. (Volume III.)
Robert Kerr
Richard Lord Maitland
Thomas Hamilton
Charles Hamilton
Michael Bruce
Thomas Blacklock
John Logan
Andrew Macdonald
James Mercer

Appendix. (Volume III.)
James I
Allan Ramsay
John Home
Robert Burns
William Drummond
Robert Fergusson
Alexander Scott
John Wilson



Among the staunch royalists of Scotland, just previous to the revolution, Ninian Paterson, [note] minister of Liberton church, holds a prominent station. He styles himself “Glasguensis,” and is supposed, with some appearance of probability, to have been a relation of John Paterson, Bishop of Galloway, [note] afterwards Archbishop of Glasgow, to whom he addressed several poems, in a collection, which he published in 1678, under the title of “Epigrammatum libri octo cum aliquot psalmonum paraphrasi poetica.” The greater number of these epigrams relate to moral or scriptural subjects, and have little of the epigrammatic character beyond the name. Many of them derive an extrinsic interest from commemorating, among other remarkable contemporaries of the author,

“Names once known, now dubious or forgot”

In point of language, they are superior to the general order of tramontane Latinity, and shew frequently considerable energy both in thought and expression. At the end of the collection, there is an English version of a Latin ode, by Florence Wilson, published in his Treatise De Tranquilitate Animæ. The following stanza may serve as a specimen:

Mella absynthia non dabunt
Uvas nec tribulus; sic mala gaudia
Vitæ qui sequitur brevis
In fructum petit ex arbore non sua.

Thus translated by Paterson:

As sure no honey from the wormwood drops,
Nor berries on the prickled thistle grows;
So he, who, from this short life, pleasure hopes,
He seeks the fruit that this tree never knows.

During the troubles which agitated the latter years of the reign of Charles the Second, [note] Paterson appears to have thought, that his majesty followed measures of too indulgent a character, and gave vent to his spleen in a sort of rhyming diary of his opinions, which he published in 1679, under the title of “The Fanatick Indulgence.” Prefixed to it, there was an Epistle to James Duke of Albany, afterwards James II.; [note] and at the close, a Welcome to His Royal Highness, to Scotland. The duke, was a prince whose conduct suited better than that of the easy Charles, with the parson of Liberton's views of public policy; and we need not, therefore, be surprised to find him exclaiming,

All my desire, great sir, is, that I may
Live, like an atom, in the radiant ray
Of your life-giving heart and glorious light,
Whose crisping spires may make me warm and bright.

The “Fanatic Indulgence,” as appears from the preliminary epistle to the Duke of Albany, had remained for a considerable time, in the author's hands, unpublished.

Great sir, this poem still conceal'd have I,
Till time hath christen'd it a prophecy;
Indulgence, now unmask'd, strives to tryst
With John of Leyden
[note] against Antichrist.
This is the Trojan house, wherein there lies
Catsbie [note] and Vaulx, [note] with new conspiracies;
This the Shaftsburian-crocodile [note] his blind,
To lure the Scots rogues to English commons' minds.

The poem itself is a coarse and intemperate production. The author thus rates the king for his attachment to the unkingly virtue of “tame mercie.”

When now my loyal subjects looked for
Some Halcyonian days, the tempests roar;
And to our eyes, on every rising wave,
Death sits in triumph, and presents a grave:
And in the midst of our despaires and fears,
Tears drown our sighs, and sighs dry up our tears.
We are like Job's, these nineteene years perplext,
Betwixt distractions, and destructions vext:
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If antient sages' saws with you have credite;
To spare a vice, it is the way to spread it.
Tame mercie is the breast that suckles vice,
Till, hydra-like, her heads she multiplies.
In sparing thieves and murderers, all see
A private favour's public injurie;
Should pitie spare, and let the gangrene spread,
Until the bodie's wholly putrified?
What surgeon would do this, but he that's mad?
He's cruel to the good, who spares the bad!

Paterson's English poetry is much inferior to his
Latin; and he did well, when bidding adieu to the Muses in the following lines, to return to the language in which he wooed them with most success.

Sat musis nugisque datum, sospendo sacratis
Jam Libertonæ barbita muta tholis,
Musa, Vale! quendam leximen dulce labororum
Posthac nec votis solicitanda meis.

The intolerant spirit manifested by Paterson appears to have provoked the ire of the puritanical party, by whom his character has, more in the spirit of revenge than of truth, been severely assailed. In a work, entitled “An Answer to Scots Presbyterian Eloquence displayed,” he is branded as a hypocrite in religion, and a profligate in manners; but, if we may judge from his works, no calumny could be more unfounded. His sentiments, though mingled with a great deal of prejudice and bad temper, are in the main those of a man of piety and virtue.

T. K.