1829 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Drummond

Anna Brownell Jameson, in Loves of the Poets (1829; 1857) 203-05.



Drummond, of Hawthornden, is yet more celebrated [than Samuel Daniel], and with reason. He has elegance, and sweetness, and tenderness; but not the pathos or the passion we might have expected from the circumstances of his attachment, which was as real and deep, as it was mournful in its issue. He loved a beautiful girl of the noble family of Cunningham, who is the Lesbia of his poetry. After a fervent courtship, he succeeded in securing her affections: but she died, "in the fresh April of her years," and when their marriage-day had been fixed. Drummond has left us a most charming picture of his mistress; of her modesty, her retiring sweetness, her accomplishments, and her tenderness for him.

O sacred blush, empurpling cheeks, pure skies
With crimson wings, which spread thee like the morn;
O bashful look, sent from those shining eyes;
O tongue in which most luscious nectar lies,
That can at once both bless and make forlorn;
Dear coral lip, which beauty beautifies,
That trembling stood before her words were born;
And you her words — words! no, but golden chains,
Which did enslave my ears, ensnare my soul;
Wise image of her mind, — mind that contains
A power, all power of senses to control;
So sweetly you from love dissuade do me,
That I love more, if more my love can be.

The quaint iteration of the same word through this Sonnet has not an ill effect. The lady was in a more relenting mood when he wrote the Sonnet on her lips, "those fruits of Paradise,"—

I die, dear life! unless to me be given
As many kisses as the Spring hath flowers,
Or there be silver drops in Iris' showers,
Or stars there be in all-embracing heaven;
And if displeased ye of the match remain,
Ye shall have leave to take them back again!

He mentions a handkerchief, which, in the days of their first tenderness, she had embroidered for him, unknowing that it was destined to be steeped in tears for her loss! — In fact, the grief of Drummond on this deprivation was so overwhelming, that he sunk at first into a total despondency and inactivity, from which he was with difficulty roused. He left the scene of his happiness, and his regrets—

Are these the flowery banks? is this the mead
Where she was wont to pass the pleasant hours?
Is this the goodly elm did us o'erspread,
Whose tender rind, cut forth in curious flowers
By that white hand, contains those flames of ours?
Is this the murmuring spring, us music made?
Deflourish'd mead, where is your heavenly hue?

He travelled for eight years, seeking, in change of place and scene, some solace for his wounded peace. There was a kind of constancy even in Drummond's inconstancy; for meeting many years afterwards with an amiable girl, who bore the most striking resemblance to his lost mistress, he loved her for that very resemblance, and married her. Her name was Margaret Logan. I am not aware that there are any verses addressed to her.

Drummond has been called the Scottish Petrarch: he tells us himself, that "he was the first in this Isle who did celebrate a dead mistress," — and his resemblance to Petrarch, in elegance and sentiment, has often been observed: he resembles him, it is true — but it is as a professed and palpable imitator resembles the object of his imitation.