1866 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Drummond

John Payne Collier, "Forth Feasting" in Bibliographical and Critical Account of the Rarest Books (1866) 1:290-91.



This is an anonymous publication by W. Drummond of Hawthornden, afterwards included in his works; but in the sale catalogues of various periods we only find a single trace of it. Heber had no copy.

It is a favorable specimen of the versification, rather than of the genius, of Drummond, for the images, like the general subject, are violent, and it opens with one of the most extravagant, where the poet supposes the mountains to stand on tiptoe to witness the arrival of James I. in Scotland. The Forth speaks:—

What blustring noise now interrupts my sleepe?
What echoing shouts thus cleave my chrystal deep?
And call mee hence from out my watrie Court?
What melodie, what sounds of joy and sport,
Bee these heere hurl'd from ev'rie neighbour Spring?
With what lowd rumours doe the mountaines ring?
Which in unusuall pompe on tip-toes stand,
And (full of wonder) over-looke the land?

For the mountains to stand on tiptoe on the occasion was certainly very "unusual pomp." The Forth afterwards addresses the King in these commonplaces of poetry:—

To virgins flowres, to sunne-burnt Earth the raine,
To mariners faire winds amidst the maine:
Coole shades to pilgrimes, which hote glances burne,
Please not so much, to us as thy returne.

The following ends with an absurd and impious piece of flattery:—

Eye of our westerne world, Mars-daunting king,
With whose renowne the Earths seven climats ring,
Thy deedes not only claime these diademes,
To which Thame, Liffy, Taye, subject their streames:
But to thy Vertues rare, and gifts, is due,
All that the planet of the yeare doth view;
Sure if the world above did want a Prince,
The World above to it would take thee hence.

Afterwards the poem proceeds better and more naturally:—

Ah why should Isis onlie see Thee shine?
Is not thy Forth, as well as Isis thine?
Though Isis vaunt shee hath more wealth in store,
Let it suffice thy Forth doth love thee more:
Though shee for beautie may compare with Seine,
For swannes and Sea-Nymphes with Imperiall Rhene,
Yet in the title may bee claim'd in Thee,
Nor shee, nor all the world can match with mee.

It concludes with some of the most pleasing lines in the tract:

O love these Bounds, whereof thy royall Stemme
More then an hundreth were a Diademe.
So ever gold and bayes thy browes adorne,
So never Time may see thy Race out-worne,
So of thine owne still mayst thou bee desir'd,
Of Strangers fear'd, redoubted, and admir'd;
So Memorie the praise, so pretious Houres
May character thy Name in starrie flowres;
So may thy high Exployts at last make even,
With Earth thy empire, Glorie with the Heaven.

We may doubt whether we ought not to read above "So Memorie thy praise": if not, the line is hardly intelligible. This is the poem which Ben Jonson told Drummond, for the sake of pleasing King James, he wished he had written, — "yett that he wished, to please the King, that piece of Forth Feasting had been his owne." — Conv. with Drummond, (Shaksp. Soc. edition, by D. Laing, 1842,) p. 7.

The copy we have used is the more interesting because it has the author's autograph at the end. Perhaps it was a gift to some friend — not to Ben Jonson, or he would also have placed his name upon it.