1820
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Scottish Imitation of a Passage in Tasso's Aminta.

Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany NS 6 (June1820) 536-37.

James Hyslop


An episode in Tasso's pastoral drama is rendered into Scots by James Hyslop, a regular contributor to the Edinburgh Magazine who signs himself "J. H., Greenock, 10th May, 1820. When Eliza suffers a bee-sting on her cheek, Anna has a remedy at hand: "I hae a charm will heal the wound, | An' mak your cheek yet heal an' sound, | I learn'd it frae an' auld wise-woman, | Kent mony a thing that wasna common." The offered cure induces the poet to suffer a sting himself.

James Hyslop was a former Dumfrieshire shepherd who, as readers of the Edinburgh Magazine had been informed the previous October, had "taught himself English, Latin, and French, and has also acquired a knowledge far from contemptible, even of mathematics and algebra." He was presently employed as a schoolmaster in Greenock, where he was betrothed to the real-life Anna, Susan Barker. The school eventually failed, and the poet unable to marry Miss Barker, addressed a number of poems to her from South America, where he was employed as a tutor on H.M.S. "Doris." Hyslop gained considerable attention with "The Cameronian's Dream," published in the Edinburgh Magazine in 1821. A volume of his poems, with an interesting biography was published in 1887 from a manuscript volume Hyslop presented to Susan Barker. It includes several poems in the Spenserian stanza.

In addition to a small clutch of poems in Scots, Hyslop was inspired by the example of James Hogg to contribute to the Edinburgh Magazine several prose accounts of local Scottish superstitions. Also in prose, Hyslop published a noteworthy "Defence of Scottish Poetry" NS 6 (January 1820) 47-49. Hyslop followed up the Tasso poem with a Scots rendition of an ode by Horace, published in August.



DEAR SIR, Since you have been so kind,
I surely cannot be behind;
Accept, I pray, the following story,
Which I have just translated for ye.

The scene is an Italian wood;
The nymphs are fair, the day is good,
The sun shines bright amang the flow'rs,—
Two shepherds meet amang the bow'rs.

But humbly begging Tasso's pardon,
I dinna like to be ty'd hard down,
Besides I think there's no occasion
For a strict literal translation.

I therefore mean to change the scene,
To Crawwick's wuds o' Scottish green;
I'll act Aminta if I can,
And Sylvia shall be lovely Ann.

When I was just a wee wee callan,
Rinnan about my Annie's dwallan,
We aften todlet out thegither,
An' gowans pou't wi' ane anither.

Her saft an' shinan yellow hair
Hang curlin' o'er her white neck bare,
Dancin' upo' the simmer breeze,—
An' I wad climb the leafy trees.

To cull the fruits o' sweetest juice,
Of which my Annie had made choice.
While thus amang the wuds we ran,
An' early friendship soon began:

An' she was gentler far than ony,
An' she was playful, young, and bonny,
An' no ane amang a' the fair,
Wi' my young Annie coul'd compare.

In thae sweet years o' early luve,
The kind an' gentle turtle dove
Was not mair happy wi' its mate,
Than we thegither air an' late.

Our dwallans they were closely join'd,
But closer war our hearts combin'd,
An' though we war exactly yealans,
We nearer were in thoughts an' feelings.

By little an' by little grew,
Up in my heart I kenna how,
Like a wee gowan by its lane,
An unkent love for my sweet Ann,
Which made me always wish to be
In that young lassie's company.

When we were sitting on a bank,
I from her eyes a sweetness drank,
That made me wonder what cou'd be
Sae sweet in a young lassie's ee.

Such draughts of sweetness left a pain,
That never cou'd be heal'd again,
Besides, they often made me sigh,
I could not tell the reason why.

Continuing sighs my heart did move,
And I discover'd it was love;
How this same love of mine did end,
I mean to tell you, — pray, attend.

Beneath a shady green beech-tree,
Ae day Eliza, Ann, an' me,
Playfully past away the hours,—
The bees drank honey 'mang the flow'rs.

Eliza's cheek, vermillion pure,
The bees mistook it for a flow'r;
Ane o' them cam wi' hummin' wing,
An' wae-sucks! pierc'd it wi' his sting.

Eliza's cheek was unco sair,
An' she began a greetin there;
My Annie wi' her voice sae sweet,
Said, Whisht, Eliza! dinna greet.

I hae a charm will heal the wound,
An' mak your cheek yet heal an' sound,
I learn'd it frae an' auld wise-woman,
Kent mony a thing that wasna common.

This said, my Anna did advance
Her swet wee mouth, wi' laughin glance,
Began to try her magic pow'rs,
Wi' lips as soft as honey flow'rs.

She prest them to the bumbee wound,
Wi' sic a sweet an' murmuran sound,
That really, wonnerfu' to say,
Eliza's stang died quite away.
The virtue o' her lips was such,
They heal'd it wi' their vera touch.

An' I, who never had before
Observ'd in Annie any more
Than the soft languor of her eyes;
Her voice that wak'd my softest sighs,—

A voice far sweeter than the burnie,
That plays o'er many a pebbled turnie,
Sweeter than simmer's sigh that heaves
Amang the flow'rs an' rustlan leaves,—

Began to feel a new desire;
Within my heart then burst a fire,
That made me long to press her lips,
And drink the dews a lover sips.

Nae ither plan remain'd for me,
Than to bring back Eliza's bee,
An' make it come wi' hummin' wing,
An' gie my cheek like hers a sting.

Whether my cheek was sting'd or no
It matters not — but I did go
To Anna — who my tale believ'd,
For piteously I grat an' griev'd.

Soon did the simple girl prepare
To mend my cheek was stang'd sae sair;
But ah! the sting her lips did gie
Inflam'd far waur than ony bee!

[pp. 536-37]