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bigots treat Burns as an infidel, and I have heard them murmur, that Mr. Hogg as a poet is sometimes a little too profane. Their chosen Laureat is Graham, the pious author of the Sabbath, to whom I shall subsequently refer. It is but just to add, that Mr. Hogg has only become sensual in his poetry since the reputation of his first poems attracted him to Edinburgh. His youth was that of a shepherd, living a life of solitude and contemplation with his flock and his muses—that is to say, with the fairies, which no poet of Scotland, from the time of Thomas of Erceldoune, has depicted with so many fascinations. It was this pastoral life, passed upon his native mountains,—a life of tranquillity and reflection, far from the bustle of the world,—whichfamiliarized James Hogg betimes with all the imagery of material nature, the various incidental appearances of which, in the rural landscape before his eyes, varying as they did with the hours of the day and night, and the difference of the seasons, modified the variable form in his imagination. The local spots where he first became a poet, appeared to him like the friends of his solitude, and the remembrance of the stories told to his early infancy, assisted him in peopling them with the invisible beings of popular tradition. At that time he was probably ignorant even of the existence of Oxford and Cambridge; still more of the mythology of Athens and Rome, taught in those colleges. It was, in short, this contemplative life which explains why James Hogg was so long ignorant of men, and succeeded better in depicting simple and tender emotions than the passions, and imaginary beings than historical personages. When he aspired to imitate Sir W. Scott in novel writing, he failed. An allusion to some actual fact, or some historical hero, is not out of place in his poetry; but he is unable to analyse the heart of a Claverhouse or a Burley.
The Ettrick shepherd published his first essay in 1805. It was a volume of ballads. Sir Walter Scott had then published, among his other works, his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, for some of the ballads in which he was indebted to the memory of the young poet who had made him his model. The original ballads of James Hogg had little success. Burns had rendered his countryman fastidious, even for a department of poetry which greatly differed from his own. The poems of James Hogg were therefore considered, in some quarters, diffuse, tame, prosaic, and even trite. Hogg, desirous of pleasing in the drawing-room, abandoned his flock, to establish himself at Edinburgh and grow polite. Neither did his muse become enervated by the change; she retained her originality, while she acquired graces which she did not before possess. Some traces of his primitive rusticity now and then exhibit themselves, and the poet himself sometimes reminds one in his deportment of the rustic air of the peasant of the Danube.
James Hogg contributed, at first, to a periodical journal called the Spy, and has since become one of the contributors to Blackwood's Magazine. His best articles are descriptive pieces in prose, and little sketches of pastoral manners. He has depicted, with great fidelity, a storm on the banks of the Tweed, and a fall of snow; he also enacts occasionally, in that comico-serious publication, the character of a rustic buffoon. He permits his caricatured portrait to be printed in it, with sonnets beneath in his praise, such as that entitled, Sonnet on a Spark from the Pipe of the Ettrick Shepherd.
But the reputation of James Hogg is founded upon a long poem, which Sir Walter Scott might not be ashamed to avow; the Queen's Wake.
The meeting which took place on the eve before the day of the consecration of a church wasformerly called a Wake, in England. This meeting was a festival, and those who attended passed the night in various kinds of games and amusements. In Scotland, which was always a land of song and music, says Mr. Hogg,* song and music were the principal diversions of the wake, and often the only one. These songs were generally religious or serious compositions, adapted to the simple melodies of Scotland. Such is nearly the origin of our old noels in France. The different applications of the word in England and Scotland, sufficiently explain what were the consequences of the wake in the two countries.
In England the wakes have led to the establish
• First note of the poem. VOL. II. D D
ment of fairs or fites of long duration, whence the word wake has become synonymous with fair or festival. In Scotland, the same term is only applicable, at present, to the serenades performed by ambulant and anonymous minstrels, who go round the wealthy quarters of Edinburgh after midnight at Christmas. Such is nearly all that remains of the ancient wakes in Scotland. After having confessed my barbarous taste for the spinnet, I can scarcely be expected to differ in opinion with the Ettrick Shepherd, on the subject of those wandering minstrels, who, in Scotland, as elsewhere, supply such agreeable associations to the dilettanti of all classes. How often have I thought, when delighted by one of these concerts in the open air, that a Mozart or a Rossini, betrayed by their destiny, were condemned to take a part in them. Who is the most interesting person in the Lay of the Last Minstrel? To my view it is the personage, who is scarcely admitted within the doors of the poetical structure,—that old bard, who, poor, humiliated, and vagabond, begged his bread from door to door, and tuned for the ears of the peasant, the harp which the king had formerly been delighted to hear. This very morning I beheld with emotion, on the banks of the Yarrow, that tower of Newark, where the good Duchess of Buccleugh revived with him her hospitalities and compassionate encouragement.
Queen's Wake is the narrative of one of those royal watches
"When royal Mary, blithe of mood,
and commences with an affecting invocation to the poet's harp. It is a natural reversion to the simple pleasures of the country, and the first mysterious commerce with his muse. His little grain of ambition may be pardoned, as we pardon that of Fontaine's shepherd, in Le Roi et le Berger; because he never ceases loving at the bottom of his heart,
"L'habit d'un gardeur de troupeau,
But the shepherd is now about to sing of ambition in others, and of their efforts to deserve the royal favour: it is the beautiful Mary Stuart who holds the sceptre, and adjudges the prize to the most skilful. She has just arrived at Leith, and proceeds to Holyrood-house. The hearts of all her subjects fly to meet her, and the general talk is of her beauty, her youth, and her afflictions. She has been an exile; she has lost, in one year, a father, a husband, and a kingdom, and has not yet attained her eighteenth spring. Who would not devote his life for so young, so beautiful, and so amiable a princess?
She advances with a numerous retinue to Holyrood-house: and though affected and delighted with the universal homage she receives, and with the acclamations of the people, an air of abstraction is occasionally remarked in her countenance.