« ZurückWeiter »
grew under its auspices—and which, but for it, might have withered away, unnoticed, uncalled for, and unknown. These will confer on it some portion of that value and importance which a volume wholly consisting of original poetry possesses in the eye of the Bibliographer, and of the genuine lover of Song.
In justice to those who have written for the work, and to such as have assisted them in the arrangement of materials and other compilatory parts, the Editors now beg, once for all, to acknowledge this assistance in a public and grateful manner. With pleasure therefore, they mention the names of Mr. John Sim, late of Paisley, and of Mr. Robert Allan of Kilbarchan, as persons for whose numerous favours their warmest thanks and lasting gratitude are deservedly due. To those beneficent but unknown friends, who have aided them in the course of their editorship, they also return their every acknowledgement which a full sense of their unlooked-for kindnesses can dictate. To such of their townsmen as from motives of friendliness, or otherwise, favoured the undertaking, a like return of thanks is due; and the same is now made in downright sin. cerity of heart. All these gentlemen will find their names in the index affixed to their respective compositions; and if the world appreciate them half so highly as we do, their authors will never have occasion to lament its insensibility, or languish beneath its neglect.
One other name will they notice in this preface, and but one, namely, that of Mr. R. A. Smith. To him in many ways have they been deeply indebted in the course of this publication. Several excelleut hints and much miscellaneous information
have been supplied by him. And that gentleman's clear and well defined notions of what are the true constituent and essential parts of good song writing, and rythmical melody, have often been, they candidly confess, of eminent service to them.
No classification of the materials has been attempted, as they considered this would have been a disadvantage rather than the contrary. A short essay on the poets of Renfrewshire is however subjoined. To this essay, a valuable appendix, containing specimens of their poetry, in a regular series downward, with some other interesting matter, is now added.
The Harp of Renfrewshire is now consigned to its fate to sink or swim—to thrive or fail. In bidding it good bye, they comfort themselves by repeating the old Greek distich, thus Englished :
“ Heart, take thine ease, men hard to please thou haply maist offend, Though some speak ill of thee, some will say better ; there's an end."
THE POETS OF RENFREWSHIRE.
Parva nunc civitas, sed gloria ingens; veterisque famae late vestigia manent!
The Poets of Renfrewshire have neither been few, in respect of numbers. nor contemptible, in regard to merit. Although none of them have ever risen far above mediocrity, yet their performances have been such, as to entitle their names to an honourable place amongst the minor bards of Scotland, and to preserve them from the death of total oblivion. As yet nothing like a compendious account, not even so much as a bare catalogue of these Makers has been given, albeit, the same is much wanted to fill up some little chasms in the history as well of our anci. ent, as our modern, stock of national biography and literature. This essay, hastily thrown together though it be, and notwithstanding it pretends as little to give the former, as it does to set aside completely the necessity of the latter, will, in some measure, supply the deficiency complained of, until something more perfect and abounding in minuter detail find its way to the public. Nor will such a work be long desiderated : for if we may trust report, a gentleman whom we know to be thoroughly qualified for the task, has it at present in contemplation, and indeed, is considerably advanced in its progress. The full assurance we have of that gentleman's literary talents, local knowledge of this county, its history and antiquities-intimate acquaintance with the vernacular poetry of Scotland, and other qualifications requisite for such a work, had almost dissuaded us from anticipating in any degree the track of enquiry he has chosen. But as an undertaking of this nature must be the result of time and laborious research, we imagine our desultery
remarks and scattered hints will neither supercede its utility nor materially interfere with the range of its speculations, or the classification and order of its topics.
With regard to the older poets of this county, little can be said, for the best of all possible reasons, because little is known. It is likely that the monastery of Paisley had its metrical, as well as it is known, it had its prose chronielers. However, if there were any such, none of their legends are now extant, unless the fragments printed in the appendix, (No. 1) subjoined to this essay, be considered as genuine. Admitting that they are so, which we believe to be the fact, we will yet be thrown into some perplexity, while attempting to ascertain two points of vital consequence, viz. The name or names of the author or authors, and the precise æra in which he or they flourished. These we now bequeath as two good marrow-bones for the antiquary, to try the soundness of his teeth and the good. natured patience of his temper upon withal.
Prior to the reformation of religion we cannot carry our enquiries far; and even after that event, the dubious light which history affords, is not of itself sufficient, without conjecture, to eke out the meagre and scanty materials on which our narrative must of necessity be raised. In the absence of positive proof, we must therefore be contented with that species of evidence which the nature of circumstances, and the partial and indistinct glimmerings of legitiinate history supply, however unsatisfactory, hypothetical, or fruitful of controversy it may chance to be.
The human mind is so constituted, that in matters wherewith it is interested, a plausible supposition will be gladly embraced, and all the weight and authority of a sterling truth, conceded at once, rather than it should remain longer in a state bordering on absolute ignorance, or be tormented for ever with vague incertitude-ceaseless and inconclusive conjecture.
Of the late poets this Shire has produced, enough in all conscience has been written, but whether much to the purpose or not, is a question easier propounded perhaps than conveniently answered.
Those of what may be called the middle period, are scarcely known at all, except by name and the inimitable pieces they have bequeathed to a forgetful and ungrateful posterity. This will be more obvious and inore regretted, when we consider that
to them we owe Habbie Simpson's Elegy— The Blythsum Bridal-Scho rase and loot me in-Maggy Lawder-Tweedside There's nae luck about the house, &c. &c. pieces of most surpassing excellence in their kind, and some of them the choicest songs in our language.
As closely as possible to chronological order, we nos proceed to give the names, and what little we know, of the poets of Renfrewshire.
Sir Hugh Montgomerie of Eglinton is the first whom we meet with in this enquiry. He was lineally descended from the Montgomeries of Eagleshame, the parent stock of all that name in Scotland, and is therefore justly entitled to be considered a native of the county. According to Crawford, it was in the person of this Sir Hugh, the first foundation was laid of the many honours his posterity have since enjoyed; for in the fourteenth year of the reign of King James the IV, he was, by the favour of that monarch, created Earl of Eglinton, A D. 1503. In the continuation of Crawfurd's History by Robertson, the date of his creation is stated to be in 1507. None of his poems are extant: and were it not for the incidental mention of his name by William Dunbar, in the " Lament for the Death of the Makkaris," the fact of his being a poet would never have been known. That finest of all our Scotish Poets, in the poem alluded to, thus catalogues him as well as many more, whose works have met with the same fate..
The gude Schir Hew of Eglintoun,
Of twenty-three poets mentioned by Dunbar, many of whom were lis contemporaries, in this poem, the works of no less a number than thirteen, with the exception of one or two fragments, have entirely perished.
When the gude Schir Hew departed this life, the Historian of Renfrewshire confesses that he is at a loss to say, but his continuator (Robertson) has fixed that event in 1545. “ His Lordship,” says that writer, “after a life of great activity, and having been in many a rencontre, died quietly in his own bed. in June 1545, in the 85th year of his age." This in sooth is