1876 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Wilson

Alexander B. Grosart, in Poems and Literary Prose of Alexander Wilson (1876) 2:ix-x.



In the supreme meaning of the somewhat degenerated word, it would be very absurd to claim for Wilson any other recognition as a Poet than as one of the minor stars in the heaven of Scotland's Makers. That there is the real celestial light in him will appear I think before I am done; but in limine it must be understood that if his Poems were all whereon his admirers rested his fame I for one could not be very urgent in any high claim for him. Nevertheless, and indeed all the more because of this, is there a clear call to assert fro him his own distinct niche as a Poet in a lowly unpretentious way — far beneath RAMSAY and BURNS, and ROBERT NICHOL, but certainly beside HAMILTON of GILBERTFIELD, and FERGUSSON, and ROSS, and TANNAHILL, and NICHOLSON, and WILLIAM TENNANT.

I have placed Watty and Meg, or the Wife Reformed: a Tale in the fore-part of the Poems. It is unique in our literature. Christ's Kirk on the Green, and the Midden Fecht have bits perhaps as effective in homely portraiture. But as a whole it stands alone for rough, coarse, realistic painting. It isn't altogether such a scene or incident as many would elect to paint, any more than one would those drinking groups which in Ostade and Teniers give renown to a gallery; but having been chosen I know not where to look for such raciness, vigour, genuineness. Only a native-born Scotchman can take in the flavour of its thoroughly Scotch wording and motif. But he is an emasculated Scot who does not relish it all through. Hector Macneil's Willa and Jean is a thin, vapid, namby-pamby production beside it.