1860 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Cunningham

George Gilfillan, in Specimens with Memoirs of the less-known British Poets (1860) 3:205.



We know very little of the history of this pleasing poet. He was born in 1729, the son of a wine-cooper in Dublin. At the age of seventeen he wrote a farce, entitled Love in a Mist, and shortly after came to Britain as an actor, He was for a long time a performer in Digges' company in Edinburgh, and subsequently resided in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Here he seems to have fallen into distressed circumstances, and was supported by a benevolent printer, at whose house he died in 1773. His poetry is distinguished by a charming simplicity. This characterises Kate of Aberdeen, given below, and also his Content a Pastoral, in which he says allegorically—

Her air was so modest, her aspect so meek,
So simple yet sweet were her charms
I kissed the ripe roses that glowed on her cheek,
And locked the dear maid in my arms.

Now jocund together we tend a few sheep,
And if, by yon prattler, the stream,
Reclined on her bosom, I sink into sleep,
Her image still softens my dream.