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This amiable poet of promise, who was so prematurely snatched from the world when he had given hopes of attaining the highest excellence, was born at Eaglesham, a village within a few miles of Glasgow, in 1799. His parents were of humble rank, but he received in his native village that excellent education which the parochial system ensures to the lowliest of the Scottish peasantry, while the picturesque scenery with which his native district abounds, produced an early and indelible impression upon his susceptible mind. As his views were directed to the church, he removed to the University, where, although his shrink. ing modesty kept him aloof from those academic displays in which he was so well qualified to excel, his excellencies were discovered by the professors of the several classes at which he successively studied. One striking proof of his modesty is, that about his twentieth year, when he had commenced his Course of Time, his class-fellows were not aware that he had the slightest pretension to poetical talent, so that on its completion their surprise was allied to merriment when they learned that he had written an epic poem, and was now only seeking for a publisher. He had composed this admirable work during the progress of his studies at the Divinity Hall, and had persevered in it from year to year in silence and obscurity, no doubt finding in the conception and delineation of those beautiful pictures with which the poem so richly abounds, a depth of enjoyment upon which common applause would only have jarred-combined, perhaps with the consciousness that he had produced a work which the world would not willingly let die. On offering The Course of Time to the publishers, he experienced all those difficulties which were to be expected under such cir. cumstances, and the bare offer of a religious poem, in ten books, by a youth whom no one had ever heard of, was enough to make them reject it without examination. Fortunately, however, the work was shown to Professor Wilson, and none who know that distinguished individual will believe that his enthusiasm was not awakened in behalf of a production of such obvious merit. He entered into its success with all his characteristic ardour, so that it was published from the press of Messrs. Blackwood, and on its appearance a powerful and eloquent criticism from the pen of the professor analysed the poem, and pointed out its many excellencies. Few volumes produced so strong a sensation as the Course of Time; in a year four editions were exhausted, and the unknown youth found himself suddenly transported to popular celebrity, as well as the prospect of lasting fame.

The rest of Pollok's history is soon told. He was licensed as a preacher of the United Secession Church, and high hopes were entertained that the spirit which bad been so eloquent in poetry would be equally powerful in prose, and that the usefulness of the preacher would transcend the fame of the poet. But the intense application and excitement which such a lengthened work as that of The Course of Time had produced upon his youthful mind and delicate constitution, had already broken the elasticity of the spring, and it was found that a consumption had made fatal inroads upon his system. Change of climate was then prescribed, and he repaired to England with the purpose of proceeding to Italy, and taking up his abode in Pisa ; but he got no further on his journey than Southampton, where he died on the 15th of September, 1827.

The poetry of Pollok, as might be expected, evinces many symptoms of immaturity. The descriptions and sentiments are, in many instances, expanded to an undue extent, and weakened by over-anxiety to strengthen them. The style of versification is also irregular, sometimes imitating the grandeur of Milton, at others the sombre heaviness of Young, and sometimes the didactic point of Blair, as each author might be supposed to occur to his thoughts. But who would not forgive even greater faults than these in consideration of such great and numerous excellencies. Had Pollok lived, he would probably have formed a style of his own, and become one of the most original, as well as one of the greatest, of English poets.

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Breathe all thy minstrelsy, immortal Harp! Breathe numbers warm with love, while I rehearse, Delighted theme, resembling most the songs Which, day and night, are sung before the LambThy praise, O Charity! thy labours most Divine, thy sympathy with sighs, and tears, And groans; thy great, thy godlike wish, to heal All misery, all fortune's wounds, and make The soul of every living thing rejoice. O thou wast needed much in days of Time! No virtue, half so much!-none half so fair! To all the rest, however fine, thou gavest A finishing and polish, without which No man e'er enter'd heaven. Let me record

many excellencies. Few volumes produced so strong a sensation as the Course of Time; in a year four editions were exhausted, and the unknown youth found himself suddenly transported to popular celebrity, as well as the prospect of lasting fame.

The rest of Pollok's history is soon told. He was licensed as a preacher of the United Secession Church, and high hopes were entertained that the spirit which bad been so eloquent in poetry would be equally powerful in prose, and that the usefulness of the preacher would transcend the fame of the poet. But the intense application and excitement which such a lengthened work as that of The Course of Time had produced upon his youthful mind and delicate constitution, had already broken the elasticity of the spring, and it was found that a consumption had made fatal inroads upon his system. Change of climate was then prescribed, and he repaired to England with the purpose of proceeding to Italy, and taking up his abode in Pisa ; but he got no further on his journey than Southampton, where he died on the 15th of September, 1827.

The poetry of Pollok, as might be expected, evinces many symptoms of immaturity. The descriptions and sentiments are, in many instances, expanded to an undue extent, and weakened by over-anxiety to strengthen them. The style of versification is also irregular, sometimes imitating the grandeur of Milton, at others the sombre heaviness of Young, and sometimes the didactic point of Blair, as each author might be supposed to occur to his thoughts. But who would not forgive even greater faults than these in consideration of such great and nume. rous excellencies. Had Pollok lived, he would probably have formed a style of his own, and become one of the most original, as well as one of the greatest, of English poets.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

Breathe all thy minstrelsy, immortal Harp! Breathe numbers warm with love, while I rehearse, Delighted theme, resembling most the songs Which, day and night, are sung before the Lamb— Thy praise, O Charity! thy labours most Divine, thy sympathy with sighs, and tears, And groans; thy great, thy godlike wish, to heal All misery, all fortune's wounds, and make The soul of every living thing rejoice. O thou wast needed much in days of Time! No virtue, half so much!-none half so fair! To all the rest, however fine, thou gavest A finishing and polish, without which No man e'er enter'd heaven. Let me record

His praise, the man of great benevolence,
Who press’d thee closely to his glowing heart,
And to thy gentle bidding made his feet
Swift ministers. Of all mankind, his soul
Was most in harmony with heaven: as one
Sole family of brothers, sisters, friends;
One in their origin, one in their rights
To all the common gifts of Providence,
And in their hopes, their joys, and sorrows one,
He view'd the universal human race.
He needed not a law of state, to force
Grudging submission to the law of God:
The law of love was in his heart alive;
What he possess'd, he counted not his own;
But, like a faithful steward in a house
Of public alms, what freely he received
He freely gave, distributing to all
The helpless, the last mite beyond his own
Temperate support, and reckoning still the gift
But justice due to want; and so it was,
Although the world, with compliment not ill
Applied, adorn’d it with a fairer name.
Nor did he wait till to his door the voice
Of supplication came, but went abroad,
With foot as silent as the starry dews,
In search of misery that pined unseen,
And would not ask: and who can tell what sights
He saw; what groans he heard, in that cold world
Below! where Sin, in league with gloomy Death,
March'd daily through the length and breadth of all
The land, wasting at will, and making earth,
Fair earth! a lazar-house, a dungeon dark,
Where Disappointment fed on ruin’d Hope;
Where Guilt, worn out, lean'd on the triple edge
Of want, remorse, despair; where Cruelty
Reach'd forth a cup of wormwood to the lips

Of Sorrow, that to deeper Sorrow wail'd;
| Where Mockery, and Disease, and Poverty,

Met miserable Age, erewhile sore bent
With his own burden; where the arrowy winds
Of winter pierced the naked, orphan babe,
And chill'd the mother's heart who had no home;
And where, alas! in mid-time of his day,
The honest man, robb'd by some villain's hand,
Or with long sickness pale, and paler yet
With want and hunger, oft drank bitter draughts
Of his own tears, and had no bread to eat.

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