1816 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Hogg

George Taylor, "Lines on James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd" British Lady's Magazine 4 (December 1816) 407-08.



James Hogg is tuneful, and James Hogg is clever,
And this praise to James Hogg I'll award ever;
For Kilmeny is lovely, and Mary Scott beautiful,
And splendid the tale of Mackinnon undutiful:
But James Hogg is scornful, and James Hogg is taunting,
And fill'd, in his "Pilgrims," with insolent vaunting;—
His "Pilgrims," forsooth, an uncouth wild farrago,
Which, propp'd by the critics, its course awhile may go.
Now vaunting's a vice that all merit defaces,
The higher the genius the more it debases;
Yet vaunting degrades this poetical shepherd,
No lion of verse, but a dark-spotted leopard;
For, while Scotia he praises, he England defames,
And Dryden and Pope with perversity blames,
And says that, moreover, no harp of her own
Has England to grace her poetical throne;
As tho' he'd forgot the great bards of our clime—
Our Chaucers, our Spensers, our Miltons sublime,
And our wonderful Shakespeares, — a genius-struck throng,
The lords of our verse, and the giants of song!
Each one of which four — and I say it with pride—
Is worth all the poets of Scotland beside,
However high they may boast their poetical lot,
From the days of their nonage to fam'd Walter Scott.

But this Hogg, not contented to tarnish our glory,
By placing above it his Scotch-mountain story,
In prejudiced drivel not to be outdone,
Descends in vulgarity down to a pun,
And talks of a "crabbe" that crawls on the shore
Mid the reptiles of rhyme that write but for ore,
('Tis true that in Scotland no poet delights
In exorbitant sums for the lays that he writes);
Then says, Muse of England, play truant with me,
And forsake the long lanes and dark sinks of the sea.

Could the shepherd of Ettrick but blush for the act
That aught from the merit of Crabbe would detract,
Whose pictures of nature will never decay
Till existence shall change, and the world melt away;
And could he for once but take shame for the strain
That descants on fair England with pride and disdain—
Gifted England, by either Minerva upborne,—
Then the Muse may forgive him his vaunting and scorn.