1803 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Beattie

Alexander Balfour, "To the Memory of James Beattie, L.L.D. Author of the Minstrel" Edinburgh Magazine or Literary Miscellany NS 22 (November 1803) 377-378.



The garish day-star sunk behind the hill,
And matron-like, mild eve stole down the vale;
The mellow moon-light glanc'd along the rill;
The chearful reaper whistled o'er the dale;
In plaintive whispers breath'd the western gale,
As through the weeping birch it gently play'd;
While thus a peasant pour'd his artless wail,
From the deep bosom of a dark'ning shade,
While soft and slow the sad notes echo'd o'er the glade:

"Awake my pipe, pour forth a pensive strain!
Ev'n night's dull ear shall open to your moan;
The sweetest Minstrel of dear Scotia's plain,
To fairer fields, and brighter skies has flown;
And left his EDWIN wand'ring here alone,
Through life's thick tangl'd maze untaught to stray;
To weep for others woes — to feel his own,
Amidst a thoughtless race, for-ever gay,
Who, careless, in the summer sun-beams ceaseless play.

"And must the Muses' darling sink to rest?
—No parting requiem o'er his grave be sung?
No sorrows warm the sympathetic breast,
To see his harp on weeping willows hung?
No more it echoes — silent, and unstrung!
No more his pulse at pity's note shall swell!
Beneath the green-turf sleeps his tuneful tongue,
That all 'the melodies of morn could tell.'
And dimm'd in Death, that eye, whence living lustre fell!

"Come, ye who long by meteor light beguil'd,
Beheld with dread, life's darksome, dreary way;
Or lost in metaphysic's mazy wild,
Were on his boundless shores condemn'd to stray;
To soothe his shade your pious sorrows pay,
Who led you gently from these shades of night;
When Truth display'd her philosophic ray,
That pointed to the sacred source of light,
Where one eternal day shines forth in radiance bright.

"Ye thoughtless train, who, lost in Fancy's dreams,
Now scorn 'the lore that deadens young desire,'
Well pleas'd who wander by Castalian streams,
And swell the song amidst love's joyous choir;
Breathe softer notes — with sadness strike the wire;
In solemn dirges o'er his ashes mourn;
His mould'ring dust shall ev'ry breast inspire,
That sorrowing bends above his sacred urn,
Till the 'rapt soul with virtue's hallow'd ardour burn.

"Oft as I wander forth, to meet the morn,
While wood-notes-wild delight my list'ning ear;
Or ling'ring late beneath the scented thorn,
To mark the gloom of rocks and ruins drear,
Still to my bosom shall his name be dear,
Whose potent song has many a care beguil'd;
Has on my eye restrain'd the starting tear,
And spread delight amidst life's gloomy wild,
Till suns resplendent shone, and all the prospect smil'd.

"Ye heath-clad mountains, tow'ring to the storms,
Whose dark brows o'er the valley rise sublime,
Let wint'ry fogs surround your stately forms,
To mourn the ravage of all-conqu'ring Time:
Ye waters, winding thro' his native clime,
(Dear to his name was each deep-pictur'd shore,)
In murmurs soft as his melodious rhyme,
His absence from your flow'ry banks deplore,
Whose frequent foot shall trace your tufted haunts no more.

"Ye fertile fields, where plenty seems to sing;
Ye summer-breezes breathing rich perfume;
To deck his grave, your varied treasures bring;
Ye verdant vallies, spread your vernal bloom:
Ye twinkling stars, that chear the midnight gloom;
Thou queen of night, slow rising from the wave,
Your brightest beams shed o'er his honour'd tomb,
Pure as the light heav'n to his bosom gave;
'And many an ev'ning sun shine sweetly on his grave!'"
Arbroath.