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HE poets of England
and America, and even those of Germany, Italy, and France, have been grouped together in many a graceful and fragrant wreath, while
those of Scotland hitherto remain ungathered.
The stirring history of Scotland, her struggles for liberty, both civil and religious—her magnificent scenery—the simple manners of her people—their strength of domestic affection, and kindly social feeling—all afford ample themes for poetry.
Hence her poets have always excelled in lyric composition, and no other country can show so large, so varied, or so charming a literature of song.
To the Editor the preparation of this volume has been altogether a labor of love. As he wandered through the gardens of the Scottish bards, gathering a rose here and a lily there, with an occasional mountain daisy or violet, wherewith to form this wreath, every sense has been charmed and delighted. He has been called upon to sympathize with the aspirations of rising genius, and been touched by the pathetic story of many an earnest soul struggling with the breakers of life's stormy sea. Not to speak of the three great poems, "The Grave,” “The Sabbath," and the “Course of Time," compositions which posterity will not willingly let die, he has revelled in the glowing descriptions of nature's beauty with Thomson and Beattie, Leyden and Wilson, and luxuriated in the highest strains of sacred poetry with Montgomery, Logan, and Knox-sympathized in the struggles with poverty and misfortune of a Bruce, a Nicoll, or a Bethune, while he enjoyed the splendid triumphs of the mighty minstrel of Abbotsford—wandered with Hislop and Monteath to the days of the covenant, and with Pringle to the desert sands of Africa— listened to the delineations of the simple habits of the peasantry of his native land by Burns and Ramsay, and to the favorite songs of that same loved isle by Hogg, Tannahill, and Gilfillan -been melted by the touching strains of Delta and
Thom, and the pensive sadness of Motherwell, as well as warmed by the martial strains of Ossian, Campbell, and Aytoun.
Scotsmen are proverbial for a love of country, which neither time nor distance suffices to abate. "Highlanders, shoulder to shoulder!” has been more than once the battle cry. No matter how far removedwhether in China or California—in the jungles of Bengal, or on the frozen heights of Labrador, their hearts yet fondly turn to the land of the Thistle and the Heather. They still glory in the achievements of a Wallace and a Brucea Knox and a Melville and in the heroic sufferings of that long array of martyrs, who testified to the truth with their blood. They are proud to be citizens of a land that has produced Reid, and Stewart, and Brown-Boston, Erskine, and Chalmers—Burns, Campbell, and Scott—James Watt, James Mackintosh, and Francis Jeffrey.
And though they are justly proud of their country's history in the past, and of the great men that have adorned her annals, they have no occasion to blush at her present position, or to mourn that her living sons are unworthy of their departed sires. They can point to Archibald Alison, the historian of Europe, to James McCosh, the philosopher, and Hugh Miller, the Geologist—to John Brown, Thomas Guthrie, and James
Hamilton, of the pulpit and the press—to David Brewster, John Wilson, and Thomas Carlyle.
While we pen these lines, the skilful statesmanship of one of her sons, amid circumstances of peculiar difficulty and danger, guides the helm of that mighty empire on which the sun never sets—an empire whose citizens enjoy a freedom unknown to the other nations of the old world, and whose power and glory instead of growing old and feeble by accumulated ages of possession and exercise, is yearly assuming a brighter and a more enduring lustre. Another, on the banks of his native Clyde, builds the commercial Steam Marine of Britain, that is so justly her pride—while a third is the architect, or perhaps we ought rather to say the inventor of the Crystal Palace, which, for originality, beauty, and utility, exceeds the proudest structures of Babylon or Nineveh, of Greece or Rome.
This love of country has induced the preparation of the following work, and the Editor's desire is that the perusal of the volume may re-enkindle the same delightful passion in many a heart where it now lies dormant. In the general term British, the great men of Scotland in every department are too often engulphed, and it is to give honor to whom honor is due, and to rescue the poets at least, from this mighty maelstrom, that this volume is now sent forth.