1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Fergusson

Joseph Robertson, in Lives of the Scottish Poets (1822) 4:88-89.



Dr. Currie, and Dr. Irving after him, consider The Farmer's Ingle as the "happiest of all Fergusson's productions." It possesses indeed superior merit, and acquires an additional interest from having undoubtedly suggested to Burns, the subject of his admirable poem of The Cotter's Saturday Night. The distance between the two poems is, however, great; and one may be excused for seeking a better corner-stone for Fergusson's poetical reputation, than The Farmer's Ingle. Burns has surpassed Fergusson in his delineation of the rural fireside, for one reason among others, that he knew it better. Fergusson, who had lived about town and college from his infancy, was at home in describing the incidents of a town life, such as The Daft Days, The King's Birth Day, The Election, Leith Races, and The Hallow Fair; but he went from it, when he took a ramble in fancy to The Farmer's Ingle, where he had never been but a passing visitor. Perhaps no better proof of this could be adduced than that fact, that Fergusson, in attempting a picture of the incidents which fill up the evening hours under the roof of a Scottish farmer, should have omitted a circumstance so peculiarly characteristic of this walk in life, and of which Burns has made so sublime a use, as the performance of evening worship. This pious and excellent practice had begun to be much neglected in our towns, even in Fergusson's time; but was then, as it is now, very generally observed by the inhabitants of the country, particularly those of the western counties.