1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Drummond

Peter L. Courtier, in Lyre of Love (1806) 1:49-50.



William Drummond, the first Scottish poet who wrote with purity and elegance, in English, was born at Hawthornden, in Mid Lothian, his patrimonial seat, December 13, 1585. Sedulously improving the advantages of a liberal education, acquired in Edinburgh, he afterwards repaired to France, where he studied the civil law at Bourges. Devoted, however, to the pleasures of seclusion, he wholly declined the contest of men; and retired, early in life, to Hawthornden. It was thus, that amidst the serenity of nature, ever promotive of the tenderer passions, he became enamoured of the LESBIA whose charms were never obliterated from his heart. This lady was the daughter of a Mr. Cunningham, of Barnes. According to the information respecting her to be gleaned from the praises of her lover, she was not only royally descended, but, with the most animating personal attractions, possessed a highly intelligent mind, a voice of melody, and was constitutionally cheerful. His addresses, fervently offered, being at last accepted, the day was appointed for the celebration of their nuptials; when the expected bride was suddenly seized with a fever, which in a short time terminated her life, in the bloom and "April of her Years!" This shock, that must have seriously affected even an ordinary mind, Drummond never properly recovered. Indeed, he did not at first attempt to escape from scenes which, continually reminding him of his past delights, appeared only to confirm his sorrows. The fields, over which they had strayed; the river, to whose murmurs they had listened; the blooms, they had reciprocally admired; the trees, under which they had been seated; these, for a long time, were the objects of his invariable contemplation, and the sources of his deepest gratification. There is in real grief a solemnity congenial only with solitude; a stillness, which the bustle of mankind would irritate, instead of diverting. From ourselves must be derived the consolation that no sympathy can otherwise impart. It is not till the softness of melancholy has succeeded to the bitterness of anguish, that we are qualified to mingle in the cares and pursuits of others.

Roused, however, from this pensive inactivity, Drummond made the tour of the continent, residing alternately at Rome and Paris; whence, after an absence of nearly eight years, he returned home: and, in 1630, united himself to Elizabeth Logan, grand daughter of Sir Robert Logan, of Restalrig, whom he married chiefly on account of her personal resemblance to LESBIA! Steadily attached to the royal cause, the subversion of the monarchy, which soon after took place, and which he had frequently foreboded, is believed to have contributed in hastening his death. This event happened December 4, 1649, in the 64th year of his age. He had several children, of whom one was knighted by Charles II. His remains were deposited under his own aisle, in the church of Lasswader.

Drummond has with justice been entitled the Scotch Petrarch. While, however, he resembles his Italian predecessor in the mournful catastrophe of his passion, and the polished elegance of his diction, he excels him in that affecting simplicity which constitutes the highest charm of amatory compositions.