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Responsive to the sprightly pipe, when all
To the pure soul by Fancy's fire refin'd,
Song was his favourite and first pursuit.
The wild harp rang to his advent'rous hand,
For this of time and culture is the fruit;
And Edwin gain'd at last this fruit so rare: As in some future verse I purpose to declare.
The quotation is long, but it is important for the history of poetry. Beattie has gone through the entire series of reveries and melancholy ideas of which a hundred other poets have fancied themselves the discoverers. Beattie proposed to continue his poem: he did in fact write a second canto. Edwin hears one evening a solemn voice rising from the bottom of a valley; it is that of a hermit, who, having experienced the illusions of the world, has buried himself in this retirement, to indulge in pious meditation and to sing the wonderful works of the Creator. This hermit instructs the young minstrel, and reveals to him the secret
of his genius. The idea is a happy one, but the execution is not equally felicitous. The concluding stanzas of the new canto are devoted to the memory of a friend. Beattie was destined to shed tears; the death of his son broke his paternal heart: like Ossian, after the death of his Oscar, he hung his harp upon the branches of an oak. Perhaps Beattie's son was the young minstrel whom his father had sung, and whose footsteps he no longer perceived upon the hill.
IN the earliest compositions of Lord Byron, we meet with striking imitations of the "Minstrel." At the period of my exile in England, Lord Byron was at the school of Harrow, a village about ten miles from London. He was a boy; I was young, and as unknown as he. I was destined to precede him in the career of letters, and to remain in it after him. He had been brought up on the heaths of Scotland, on the sea-shore, as I had been on the heaths of Brittany on the sea-shore. He was at first fond of the Bible and Ossian, as I was fond of them. He sang in Newstead Abbey the recol
* All that follows, to the conclusion, is extracted from my Memoirs. I have merely abridged some passages which relate to myself, as I cannot say in my lifetime all that I shall say in my grave. It is a most convenient thing to be dead, in order to talk without restraint.
lections of childhood, as I sang them in the castle of Combourg.
When I roved, a young highlander, o'er the dark heath, And climb'd thy steep summit, O Morven! of snow; To gaze on the torrent that thunder'd beneath,
Or the mist of the tempest, that gather'd below:
I arose with the dawn, with my dog as my guide,
And heard at a distance the Highlander's song:
No dreams, save of Mary, were spread to my view, And warm to the skies my devotions arose,
For the first of my prayers was a blessing on you.
I left my bleak home and my visions are gone,
The mountains are vanish'd, my youth is no more; As the last of my race I must wither alone,
And delight but in days I have witness'd before; Ah! splendour has rais'd but embitter'd my lot, More dear were the scenes that my infancy knew.
Adieu, then, ye hills, where my
childhood was bred, Thou sweet flowing Dee, to thy waters adieu !
No home in the forest shall shelter my head,
Ah, Mary! what home could be mine without you!"
In my long solitary rambles in the neighbourhood of London, I several times passed through the village of Harrow, without knowing what a genius it contained. I have sat in the churchyard, at the foot of the elm, beneath which, in 1807,
when I was returning from Palestine, Byron wrote
these verses :
Spot of my youth! whose hoary branches sigh,
When fate shall chill, at length, the fever'd breast,
And unremember'd by the world beside.