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Ånd much he wish'd, yet fear'd, to try
Amid the strings his fingers stray'd,
of good Earl Francis, &c. Francis Scott, Earl of Buccleuch, father of the Dutchess.
And of Earl Walter, &c. Walter, Earl of Buccleuch, grandfather to the Dutchess, and a celebrated warrior.
“ Hush'd is the harp—the Minstrel gone.
Oft heard the tale of other days; i - For much he loved to ope his door,
And give the aid he begg'd before.
So pass'd the winter's day; but still,
IMPROVISATORI. From the beginning of the seventeenth century, minstrelsy went out of practice in Britain, but in Italy the recitation of extemporary poetry still constitutes a popular amusement.
About sixty years ago Mr. Benjamin West, a native of America, went to Rome to study the art of painting. His biographer, Mr. Galt, relates the manner in which this celebrated artist was once entertained by an Improvisatore, one of the extemporaneous Italian poets.
"One night, soon after his arrival in Rome, Mr. Gavin Hamilton, the painter, to whom he had been introduced by Mr. Robinson, took bim to a coffee-house, the usual resort of the British travellers. While they were sitting at one of the tables, a venerable old man, with a guitar suspended from his shoulder, entered the room, and coming immediately to their table, Mr. Hamilton addressed him by the name of Homer.. He was the most celebrated improvisatore in all Italy, and the richness of expression, and nobleness of conception which he displayed in his effusions, had obtained for him that distinguished name.
“ Those who once heard his poetry, never ceased to lament that it was lost in the same moment, affirming that it often was so regular and dignified, as to equal the finest compositions of Tasso and Ariosto. It will, perhaps, afford some gratification to the admirers of native genius to learn, that this old man, though led by the fine frenzy of his imagination to prefer a wild and wandering life to the offer of a settled independence, which had been made him in his youth, enjoyed in his old age, by the liberality of several Englishmen, who had raised a subscription for the purpose, a small pension, sufficient to keep him comfortable, in his own way, when he became incapable of amusing the public.
66 After some conversation, Homer requested Mr. Hamilton to give him a subject for a poem. In the meantime, a number of Italians had gathered round them to look at West, who they had heard was an American, and whom, like cardinal Albani,* they imagined to be an Indian. Some of them, on hearing Homer's request, observed, that he had exhausted his vein, and had already said and sung every subject over and over. Mr. Hamilton, however, remarked that he thought he could propose something new to the bard, and pointing to Mr. West, said, that he was an American come to study the fine arts in Rome; and that such an event furnished a new and magnificent theme.
6 Homer took possession of the thought with the ardour of inspiration. He immediately unslung his guitar, and began to draw his fingers rapidly over the strings, swinging his body from side to side, and striking fine and impressive chords. When he had thus brought his motions and his feelings into unison with the instrument, he began an extemporaneous ode in a manner so dignified, so pathetic, and so enthusiastic, that Mr. West was searcely less interested by his appearance than those who enjoyed the subject and melody of his numbers.
* A Spanish Cardinal, who presumed that American signified Indian.
“ He sung the darkness which for so many ages veiled America from the eyes of science. He described the fulness of time, when the purposes for which it had been raised from the deep were to be manifested. He painted the seraph of knowledge descending from heaven, and directing Columbus to undertake the discovery; and he related the leading incidents of the voyage. He invoked the fancy of the auditors to contemplate the wild magnificence of mountain, lake, and wood, in the new world; and he raised, as it were, in vivid perspective, the Indians in the chase, and at their horrible sacrifices. But,' he continued, the beneficent spirit of improvement is ever on the wing, and, like the ray from the throne of God, it has descended on this youth, and the hope which ushered in its new miracle, like the star that guided the magi to Bethlehem, has led him to Rome.
66. Methinks I behold in him an instrument chosen by heaven, to raise in America the taste for those arts which elevate the nature of man-an-assurance that his country will afford a refuge to science and knowledge, when in the old age of Europe they shall have forsaken her shores. But all things of heavenly origin, like the glorious sun, move westward ; and truth and art have their periods of shining, and of night. Rejoice then, O venerable Rome, in thy divine destiny; for though darkness overshadow thy seats, and though thy mitred head inust descend into the dust, as deep as the earth that now covers thy ancient helmet and imperial diadem, thy spirit, immortal and undecayed, already reaches towards a new world, where, like the soul of man in paradise, it will be perfected in virtue and beauty more and more.'
.6 The highest efforts of the greatest actors, even of Garrick himself delivering the poetry of Shakspeare, never produced a more immediate and inspiring effect than this rapid burst of genius. When the applause had abated, Mr. West being the stranger, and the party addressed, according to the common practice, made the bard a present. Mr. Hamilton explained the subject of the ode : though with the weakness of a verbal translation, and the imperfection of an indistinct echo, it was
so connected with the appearance which the author made in the recital, that the incident was never obliterated from Mr. West's recollection."
THE CHILD OF BRANKSOME. Among the inmates of castles and the attendants of the Knights, were the Dwarfs- little deformed persons who made sport for the idle, and who were sometimes favourites of young and beautiful ladies. The old romances describe dwarfs as possessing supernatural powers. In the Lay of the Last Minstrel, a mischievous Dwarf is introduced, who had the power to deceive others, by making objects appear to be different from themselves -so as to make a rider and his horse seem to be a load of hay—a child to be a dog, &c. This dwarf of Sir Walter Scott's enters the castle of Buccleuch, and entices from it a little boy, the heir of Branksome. He leads the child into the woods, and leaves him; here the boy is scented by a blood-hound, and taken by one of the retainers of Lord Dacre, an Englishman, who was an enemy of the Scotts, the boy's father's Clan. Clan signi. fies, a large number of tenants who acknowledge one lord, who live upon his estate, and who, in former times, fought their lord's battles with his neighbours—the application of this word is chiefly to the Scots. The spirit of this little Scott is a fine specimen of the manners of the young chiefs of the Scottish clans, who were trained from their infancy to protect their father's dependents, and to regard his enemies without fear.
" As passed the Dwarf the outer court,