1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Julius Mickle

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 217.



Mickle (1734-1788) was the son of the minister of Langholm, in Dumfrieshire. Not succeeding in trade as a brewer, he went to London in 1764. Here he published The Concubine, a moral poem in the Spenserian stanza. He also translated, though not very faithfully, the Lusiad of Camoens. Mickle's ballad of Cumnor Hall, which suggested to Scott the groundwork of the romance of Kennilworth, is a tame production compared with the charming little poem of The Mariner's Wife, in regard to which doubt has been expressed whether Mickle was really its author. It first appeared as a broad-sheet, sold in the streets of Edinburgh. Mickle did not include it in an edition of his poems, published by himself; but Allan Cunningham claims it for him on the ground that a copy of the poem, with alterations marking the text as in progress of formation, was found among Mickle's papers, and in his handwriting; also, that his widow declared that he said the song was his. Beattie added a stanza, which mars its flow, and is omitted in our version. The poem was claimed by Jane Adams, a poor school-mistress, who died in 1765. Chambers thinks that it must, on the whole, be credited to Mickle. Dean Trench does not feel at liberty to disturb the ascription of this "exquisite domestic lyric" to Mickle. Burns, not too strongly, characterized it as "one of the most beautiful songs in the Scotch or any other language."