1860 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Ross

George Gilfillan, in Specimens with Memoirs of the less-known British Poets (1860) 3:233-34.



Of this fine old Scottish poet we regret that we can tell our readers so little. He was born in 1698, became parish schoolmaster at Lochlee in Angusshire, and published, by the advice of Dr. Beattie, in 1768, a volume entitled Helenore; or, The Fortunate Shepherdess; a Pastoral Tale in the Scottish Dialect; along with a few Songs. Some of these latter, such as Woo'd, and Married, and a',' became very popular. Beattie loved the "good-humoured, social, happy old man," who was "passing rich" on twenty pounds a-year, and wrote in the Aberdeen Journal a poetical letter in the Scotch language to promote the sale of his poem. Ross died in 1784, about eighty-six years old, and is buried in a churchyard at the east end of the loch.

Lochlee is a very solitary and romantic spot. The road to it from the low country, or Howe of the Mearns, conducts us through a winding, unequal, but very interesting glen, which, after bearing at its foot many patches of corn, yellowing amidst thick green copsewood and birch trees, fades and darkens gradually into a stern, woodless, and rocky defile, which emerges on a solitary loch, lying "dern and dreary" amidst silent hills. It is one of those lakes which divide the distance between the loch and the tarn, being two miles in length and one in breadth. The hills, which are stony and savage, sink directly down upon its brink. A house or two are all the dwellings in view. The celebrated Thomas Guthrie dearly loves this lake, lives beside it for months at a time, and is often seen rowing his lonely boat in the midst of it, by sunlight and by moonlight too. On the west, one bold, sword-like summit, Craig Macskeldie by name, cuts the air, and relieves the monotony of the other mountains. Fit rest has Ross found in that calm, rural burying-place, beside "the rude forefathers of the hamlet," with short, sweet, flower-sprinkled grass covering his dust, the low voice of the lake sounding a few yards from his cold ear, and a plain gravestone uniting with his native mountains to form his memorial. Fortunate Shepherd, (shall we call him?) to have obtained a grave so intensely characteristic of a Scottish poet!