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She hath brought me by her might
Therefore, thou best earthly bliss,
“ The praises of poetry have been often sung in ancient and modern times ; strange powers have been ascribed to it of influence over animate and inanimate auditors; its force over fascinated crowds has been acknowledged: but before Wither no one had celebrated its power at home; the wealth and strength which this divine gift confers upon its possessor.” This fine criticism, worthy of the poetry which it celebrates, is by Charles Lamb.
JOANNA BAILLIE.* --CATHERINE FANSHAWE.
BELOVED, admired, appreciated by the best spirits of her time, it is with no little triumph that I, who plead guilty to some of that esprit de corps which may be translated into
* Since writing this paper, this gifted authoress and admirable woman has passed from this world to the higher and happier state which was ever in her thoughts. A letter from her to a mutual friend, written a very few days before her death, expresses her satisfaction in having received the sacrament with her sister the Sunday previous. In this letter, for the first time during a long correspondence, she breaks off somewhat suddenly, complaining of bodily fatigue, although no one then thought her ill.
“pride of sex," write the name of our great female dramatist -of the first woman who won high and undisputed honours in the highest class of English poetry. The pleasure of rendering her a faint and imperfect justice is all the greater that I have the honour of claiming acquaintance with this most gifted person, and that she is in her domestic relations the very pattern of what a literary lady should be-quiet, unpretending, generous, kind, admirable in her writings, excellent in her life.
And yet of Mrs. Joanna Baillie, the praised of Scott and of all whose praise is best worth having for half a century, what can I say, but that many an age to come will echo back their applause !
Her tragedies have a boldness and a grasp of mind, a firmness of hand, and resonance of cadence, that scarcely seem within the reach of a female writer; whilst the tenderness and sweetness of her heroines—the grace of the love-scenes -and the trembling outgushings of sensibility, as in Orra, for instance, in the fine tragedy on Fear-would seem exclusively feminine, if we did not know that a true dramatist-as Shakespeare or Fletcher-has the wonderful power of throwing himself, mind and body, into the character that he portrays. That Mrs. Joanna is a true dramatist, as well as a great poet, I, for one, can never doubt, although it has been the fashion to say that her plays do not act.
It must be above fifty years ago that I, then a girl of thirteen, in company with my old and dear friend, Mr. Harness, the bosom friend of Thomas Hope, the friend and correspondent of Lord Byron (and, be it observed, of all his correspondents, the one who seems to have impressed the daring poet with the most sincere respect), then a boy considerably younger than myself, witnessed the representation of “ De Montfort,” by John Kemble and Mrs. Siddons. Forty years after, we had the pleasure of talking over that representation with the authoress, in Lady Dacre's drawing-room, a place where poets “most do congregate," and we both agreed that the impression which the performance had made upon us remained indelible. Now, the qualities in an acted play that fixed themselves upon the minds of children so young, must have been purely dramatic Purely dramatic, too, are many of the finer traits that strike us in reading, as, when De Montfort, with his ear quickened by hatred, announces the approach of Rezenvelt, and Freberg exclaims :
“How quick an ear thou hast for distant sound !
I hear him not”
and many others scattered through the tragedies.
I concede, however, very willingly, that Mrs. Joanna is a most charming lyrical poetess; as witness the beautiful Morning Song in the “Beacon,” which breathes the very spirit of hope :
Up! quit thy bower; late wears the hour;
May bring good fortune ere the night.
THE BLACK COCK,
Good morrow to thy sable beak,
The rarest things, with wayward will,
Thou art already on the wing. This song is distinguished by the same delicious freedom, and was also written to music. Truly, the Muse can dance in fetters :
O welcome bat and owlet grey,
I cannot resist indulging myself by transcribing the following Scottish ballad, a delightful specimen of quaint archness and quiet humour :
FY, LET US A' TO THE WEDDING.
(An Auld Song New Buskit.)
For they will be lilting there;
The lass wi' the gowden hair.
And glancing of bonny dark een,
O' questions baith pawky and keen.
And there will be Bessy the beauty,
Wha raises her cockup sae hie,
Guid grant that she gang na' ajee !
Wha coft a young wife wi' his gowd ; She'll flaunt wi' a silk gown upon her,
But, wow ! he looks dowie and cow'd. And brown Tibbie Fowler the heiress
Will perk at the tap o' the ba', Encircled wi' suitors, wha's care is
To catch up her gloves when they fa', Repeat a' her jokes as they're cleckit,
And haver and glower in her face, While tocherless mays are negleckit,
A crying and scandalous case. And Maysie, wha's clavering aunty
Wad match her wi’ Lowrie the laird,
But neither to spin nor to caird.
To see him a clerical blade,
And cam' back a coof as he gaed.
That ca’s hersel thirty and twa;
Was jilted by Hab o' the Shaw.
A pattern o' havins and sense,
And crack wi' Mess John i' the spence.
That sits on the stane at his door, And tells about bogles, and mair lies
Than tongue ever uttered before. And there will be Bauldie the boaster,
Sae ready wi' hands and wi' tongue; Proud Paty and silly Sam Foster,
Wha quarrel wi' auld and wi' young. And Hugh the town-writer, I'm thinking,
That trades in his lawyerly skill, Will egg on the fighting and drinking,
To bring after-grist to his mill. And Meggie-ha! ha! will be civil,
And let the wee bridie a-be : A vilipend tongue is the devil,
And ne'er was encouraged by me.