by their combination with others of probated, therefore, with a severity an opposite character, and to which proportioned to the mischief they we shall always be glad to do ho- occasion; a mischief that can only mage in spite of any such combina- be measured by the greatness of the tion. But a childish taste, and an excellence they hide, and will alaffected manner, though they cannot ways be stated the highest by those destroy genius, will infallibly de- to whom that excellence is dearest. prive it of its glory; and must be re


Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song: with historical and traditional Notices rela

tive to the Manners and Customs of the Peasantry. Now first published by R. H. Cromek, F. A. S. Ed. Editor of “ The Reliques of Robert Burns.” 1 vol. 8vo. 1810.

TO Mr. Cromck every lover of known: and just when the period Scottish poetry is already deeply had arrived that they would probaindebted for the industry and taste bly have died with their possessors, with which he collected materials for Mr. Cromek has arrested them in an additional volume to the works of their fleeting progress, and has Robert Burns. Of that work our given them “ a local habitation and opinion has been given in our ele- a name.” venth volume, p. 132:* but we are The inquiry which might lead to now called upon to consider a pro- a satisfactory explanation of the duction of a very different nature: causes, whether physical, moral, or a production which characterizes political, that have concurred to the modes of thought and feeling give to the peasantry of Scotland among the peasantry of a sister that superiority of mind which could kingdom, and which, in its compila- produce such exquisite poetry as is tion, reflects no common praise up- contained in this volume, would carry on the enthusiasm with which Mr. us into a discussion too prolix for Cromek must have pursued his la- the pages of our miscellany. We bour, and the judgment with which feel, however, all the importance of it is executed.

the topick, and wish that we had The contents of this volume form space to do it justice. As we cannot, a subject more than usually inter- however, let us pass to a consideracsuing to the philosopher and the tion of the volume itself. critick. They are not the matured The first thing that arrests our cfforts of labour, study, and learn- attention is an “ Introduction” from ing; they are not the offspring of the pen of Mr. Cromek, in which we refinement, nor are they executed find many very pertinent and judifrom any prescribed model: they are cious remarks upon the subject of the simple, natural, and heart-warm Scottish poetry: a subject upon cfusions of rustick feeling: they de- which he can scarcely feel more enscribe those passions which nature thusiasm than we do; but his enthu. plants, nourishes, and expands: they siasm has led to enterprise: it has have been written with no expecta- not been a vague and general feel. tions of renown; they have floated ing of the mind. The manners of upon the breath of tradition: the the peasantry, also their superstivery names of their authors are un- tions, their customs, and their pa

* See Select Revicu's, vol. II. p. 10.

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pular prejudices, come in for a share of his attention.

The introductory paragraphs deserve to be transcribed.

ed the character of the people: by creating new interests and new pursuits, it has weakened that strong attachment to the soil which gives interest to the localities of popular ballads, and has destroyed those cherished remembrances of former times which impart to a rude, an unpolished strain, all the pathos of the most laboured elegy.

"The Scottish poets have raised a glorious fabrick of characteristick lyrick, the fairest, perhaps, any nation can boast. The foundations were laid by various unknown hands, and even of those who raised the superstructure few have attained the honour of renown; but the

whole has been reformed and completed by a man whose fame will be immortal as his genius was transcendant. The name of ROBERT BURNS, let a Scotchman pronounce it with reverence and affection! He produced the most simple and beautiful lyricks himself; he purified and washed from their olden stains many of the most exquisite of past ages. He collected others with all the glowing enthusiasm of an antiquary, and with the keen eye of an exquisite critick and poet. It was on these beautiful old ballads and songs that Burns laid the foundation of his greatness. Their simplicity he copied; he equalled their humour, and excelled their pathos. But that flame which they helped to raise absorbed them in its superiour brightness; so that the more we investigate the sources from which he drew, the more our reverence for his genius is increased. Whatever he transplanted grew up and flourished with a vigour unknown in the parent soil; whatever he imitated sinks almost into insignificance placed by the side of the imitation. He rolls along like a mighty river, in the contemplation of which the scattered streams that contribute to its greatness are forgotten.

"It has been the work of the present collector to redeem some of those fine old ballads and songs, overshadowed by the genius of Barns; such, especially, as have never before been published, and are floating in the breath of popular tradition.

"Many of these are peculiar to certain districts of Scotland, and tracts of finely situated country. Deeply founded in the manners and customs of the peasantry, they keep hold of their minds, and pass from generation to generation by these local ties: their flashes of broad humour, their vivid description render them popular; and their strong touches of native feeling and sensibility make a lasting impression on the heart.

"It is worthy of remark, that in no district of England are to be found specimens of this simple and rustick poetry. The influence of commerce has gradually alter

"We may safely premise, that many of the most valuable traditional songs and ballads perished in those afflicting times of reformation and bloodshed which be

long to queen Mary, to Charles, and to James. A great change then took place in the Scottish character; the glowing vivacity and lightsomeness of the Caledonian muses were quenched in the gloomy severity of sour, fanatick enthusiasm, and ironfeatured bigotry. The profanity of the song was denounced from the pulpit, and the holy lips of Calvinism would not suffer

pollution by its touch: dancing, to which it is nearly allied, was publickly rebuked, attired in fornicator's sackcloth. The innocent simplicity and airiness of song gave way to holier emanations; to spiritualized ditties, and to the edifying cadence of religious, reforming cant. Such seems to have been the state of song when Allan Ramsay arose. His beautiful collection rekindled the smothered embers of lyrick poetry; but he could not redeem the lost treasures of past ages; nor rake from the ashes of the fallen religion the sacred relicks of its songs. A few were redeemed; but they were trimmed anew, and laced with the golden thread of metaphysick foppery, over the coarse and homely hoddingray of rural industry. Their naïveté of feeling, their humour and amiable simplicity now gave way to the gilded and varnished trappings and tasselings of courtly refinement.

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"Scottish humour attempted to smear his thistles with the oil and balm of polite satire, till they lost their native pungency. Love was polished, and boardingschooled, till the rough mint-stamp of nature was furbished off it. The peasantry, however, preserved, in their traditional songs and ballads, a fair portion of the spirit and rough nature of the olden times. To the peasantry the Scotch are indebted for many of their most exquisite compositions. Their judgment in the selection and preservation of song scarcely can be sufficiently appreciated :-Barbour's Bruce; Blind Harry's Sir William Wallace; Ramsay's original works, and his Collection of Songs; Fergusson, and Burns are to be found in every Scot

tish hamlet, and in every hand. Accoming up the ruins of his mighty genius, panying these, there are a multitude of and wondering while he collected them song's, ballads, and fragments, which de- 'in morsels from the remembrance of trascend by tradition, and are early imprint- dition ; nor need it be deemed extrava. ed on every mind ;

gant to assert, that Nithsdale and Gallo.

way have, at some period of fifty years “ Which spinners and the knitters in the back, nourished, among their harvesting sun,

and their pastoral valleys, a rustick bard, And the free maids, that weave their who sung the loves and feelings of his thread with bones,

fellow-peasants, and who bemoaned in Do úse to chant of.”

undying strains, the deplorable ravages

of 1745, and, perhaps, shared in the geMr. Cromek next proceeds to in- neral and desolating ruin.” vestigate some of the causes which may have led to the formation of that

In stating the origin of this vopeculiar character among the pea- lume, we shall prefer to use Mr. santry of Scotland, which has been Cromek's own words: so generally remarked. His arguments are commonly very appro- “ These ballads and songs are gleaned priate ; but, as he does not profess from among the peasantry of Nithsdale, to go deeply into the question, there and the skirts of Galloway, adjoining to yet remains sufficient ground for a it. They were never printed before, and future inquirer. These causes he

are ripe in the sentiments and feelings of considers as declining, and with mixed with their humour. To those who

their forefathers, and often deliciously them the consequent peculiarity of wish to know how the peasantry think


and feel, these Remains will be accepta

ble. They may be considered as so many “So great and rapid, indeed,” says unhewn altars raised to rural love, and Mr. C. "has been the change, that in a local humour and opinion, by the genius few years the songs and ballads here of unlettered rusticity. selected would have been irrecoverably “ In works of compilation like the preforgotten.

sent, the labour of an editor, however “ The old cottars (the trysters of other severe, is least apparent, and as far as year) are mostly dead in good old age; regards the publick, of very inferiour and their children are pursuing the bus. consideration. It may be proper, howtle of commerce frequently in foreign ever, to say a few words respecting the climates. The names of their bards have remarks which are interspersed through been sought after in vain ; they live only the presenť volume. in song, where they have celebrated their “ It has been my purpose to avoid the social attachments.

mistake into which collectors are prone It is affecting to think that poets, to fall, of heaping on their materials a capable, perhaps, of the wild creations mass of extraneous lumber in the shape of Milton; the bewitching landscapes of facts and dates, of minute discussions and tenderness of Thomson ; the faith- and conjectural emendations, equally perful nature of Ramsay; or the sublimity, plexing to themselves and to the reader. elcquent patlios, and humour of Burns ; It is by no means a subject of boast that it is affecting to think that they lie be- I have avoided this reproach, for, cirlow the turf, and all that can now be cumstanced as I was, to have incurred redeemed from the oblivious wreck of it would have been unpardonable. their genius is a few solitary fragments “ In the progress of this collection, it of song! But these remnants show the was necessary to have personal interrichness of the minds which produced course with the peasantry, in whose tra. them ; they impress us with a noble idea ditions these Remains were preserved. of peasant abilities, and a sacred leve. From a race of men so interesting, and rence for their nemory.

so rich in original character, volumes of “ Such might have been the fate eren curious and valuable remark might be of Robert Burns, had not a happy com- gathered; hence, from access to a mine bination of adverse and fortunate cir- so abundant, it was more a business of cumstances brought his works before the selection than of toil, to derive details publick tribuna!. Some stranger might, which might establish what was doubt. a short while licnce, have been gather: ful, and illustrate what was obscure. At




the same time, these Remains, by exhibiting masterly sketches of the popular genius which produced them, naturally excite a curiosity in readers of every taste, to behold the portrait more fully delineated. Presuming on the excitement of this curiosity, I have ventured to describe, at some length, the domestick manners, the rural occupations, the passions, the attachments, the prejudices, and the superstitions, which characterize the peasantry of Nithsdale and Galloway.

"Historical notices on these songs are the most difficult things to be procured imaginable. They are below the dignity of the historian, and tradition has so fabled them that we dare scarcely trust her report. We may justly say they are like wild flower seeds scattered by the winds of heaven. Who can tell the mother which gathered them, or the wind which sowed them? They rise up only to flourish unseen, or to be trodden down and to wither.

"This ballad is said to be written about the time of the reformation, on a daughter of the Laird Maxwell, of Cowhill, on the banks of the Nith, called by the peasantry, The lilie of Nithsdale.' She faded in her place,' at the age of nine


"These details were in part necessary to make the poetry understood, and if they should have exceeded the bounds which a rigid critick might prescribe, they will not, it is hoped, be considered wholly irrelevant to the purpose I have had in view.

"In point of style, they lay no claim to the praise of elegance or refinement; for, as they were dictated by strictly local observation, they were written with a sole regard to fidelity and truth. Should the outline be found correct, the colouring vivid, and the whole likeness striking, it is a matter of very little moment that the picture appear unrecommended by the graces of laborious embellishment."

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Mr. Cromek has divided the ballads into four classes, which he denominates Sentimental Ballads, Humorous Ballads, Jacobite Ballads, and Old Ballads and Fragments. The first class has the most attractions. It is in them that we find all those glowing touches of inspiration, which excite astonishment and delight. The humorous ballads have their merit, and so have the jacobitical ones: but the sentimental have a merit which, in some respects, have never been surpassed by the wit of man. They have that strain of thought and sentiment which is derived immediately from nature herself: not the frigid echoes of former writers, but the warm and glowing language of the heart. There is a strong and marked originality in all of them, which necessarily enhances their value.

Not, however, to dwell any longer upon general qualities, we shall proceed to make some extracts, and our first shall be of a short poem, but one most exquisitely finished:

O what'l she do in heaven, my lassie ?

O what'l she do in heaven?
She'll mix her ain thoughts wi' angels


An' make them mair meet for heaven.

She was beloved by a', my lassie,

But an angel fell in luve wi' her,
She was beloved by a';

An' took her frae us a'.

Low there now lies my lassie,
Low there now lies;

A bonnier form n'er went to the yird,*,
Nor frae it will arise!

Fu' soon I'll follow thee, my lassie,

Fu' soon I'll follow thee;
Thou left me nought to covet ahin',

But took gudeness sel' wi' thee.

I looked on thy death-cold face, my lassie.

I looked on thy death-cold face;
Thou seemed a lilie new cut i' the bud,
An' fading in its place.

I looked on thy death-shut eye, my lassie,

I looked on thy death-shut eye;
An a lovelier light in the brow of heaven
Fell time shall ne'er destroy.

Thy lips were ruddie and calm, my lassie,

Thy lips were ruddie and calm;
But gane was the holie breath o' heaven
To sing the evening psalm.



There's naught but dust now mine lassie, There's naught but dust now mine; My saul's wi' thee i' the cauld grave,

An' why should I stay behin"!

"This ballad was copied from the reci tation of a young country girl. She observ ed that it was a great favourite of her mo ther's, but seldom sung, as its open fami liarity with God made it too daring for presbyterian strictness. These elegiack verses, though in some instances they pass the bounds of the simple and natural pathetick, express strongly the mingled feelings of grief and devotion which follow the loss of some beloved object. There are degrees of affliction corresponding with the degrees of our attachment and regard; and surely the most tender of attachments must be deplored by affliction the most poignant. This may account for, and excuse those expressions in this song, which border on extravagance; but it must be confessed that the first stanza, with every allowance, is reprehensible from its open and daring confidence in the Deity. The rest are written in a strain of solemn and feeling eloquence, which must find an echo in every bosom. The effusion is somewhat too serious for a song: it has all the holiness of a psalm, and would suffer profanation by being set to a com

mon tune."



Surely our readers will us in affirming, that English poetry can scarcely boast any thing superiour to some of the above stanzas.

The beautiful and affecting image in the concluding lines of the third stanza, the melancholy simplicity of the fourth, and the continued pathos of the sixth, seventh, and eighth, will justify the assertion.

We cannot omit the follow stray verse which Mr. Cromek picked up in the course of his search. It is a pious address of a mother to a daughter concerning her lover:

"He disna tak the beuk
Een's the mair pitie!

He says nae grace to his meat,
An' graceless maun he be:
Whan he's nae gratefu' to his God,
He canna be guid to thee."

"A noble sentiment," says the editor," "which ought to be written in letters of gold.”

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