Imágenes de página


RESH clad from heaven in robes of white,


A young probationer of light,

Thou wert my soul, an Album bright,

A spotless leaf; but thought, and care,
And friend and foe, in foul or fair,

Have "written strange defeatures" there;

And Time with heaviest hand of all,
Like that fierce writing on the wall,
Hath stamp'd sad dates-he can't recall;

And error gilding worst designs

Like speckled snake that strays and shinesBetrays his path by crooked lines;

And vice hath left his ugly blot;
And good resolves, a moment hot,
Fairly began-but finish'd not;

And fruitless, late remorse doth trace-
Like Hebrew lore, a backward pace-
Her irrecoverable race.

Disjointed numbers; sense unknit ;
Huge reams of folly, shreds of wit;
Compose the mingled mass of it.

My scalded eyes no longer brook
Upon this ink-blurred thing to look-
Go, shut the leaves, and clasp the book.

Thomas Campbell.


THOMAS CAMPBELL, sometimes called the "Bard of Hope," was born on the 27th of July, 1777, in High Street, Glasgow, and was the eleventh and last olive branch to spring from the paternal stem.

His parents were endowed with excellent intellectual and moral qualities, and everything favoured the early and rapid development of the poet's mind. As a child he had a great fondness for songs and ballads, at ten years of age writing verses which evidenced facility in both rhyme and metre. At fourteen he entered Glasgow University, where he made great progress in classical studies. His translation of the "Clouds" of Aristophanes was declared by Professor Young to be the best exercise which had ever been given in by any student of the University.

It was while fulfilling the duties of a private tutor in the Highlands, that the idea of the "Pleasures of Hope" was suggested to him. Feeling dull in his solitude, he had asked his friend, Hamilton Paul, to send him some lines of friendly cheer. This Paul did in the form of a short poem on the "Pleasures of Solitude," saying, as he did so, "We have now three pleasures, by first-rate men of genius: the 'Pleasures of Imagination,' the 'Pleasures of Memory,' and the 'Pleasures of Solitude.' Let us cherish the 'Pleasures of Hope' that we may soon

meet again in old 'Alma Mater!"" The idea thus suggested took possession of the poet's mind, and held it until in due time it was brought forth.

In 1798 the poet was in Edinburgh, teaching Latin and Greek and seeking literary employment. "In this vocation," he says, "I made a comfortable livelihood, so long as I was industrious, but the 'Pleasures of Hope' came over me. I took long walks about Arthur's Seat, conning over my own (as I thought them) magnificent lines, and as my 'Pleasures of Hope' got on, my pupils fell off." The poem was published in the month of April, 1799, when the poet was only twenty-one years of age, and brought him about £50. It was an immediate and great success. Edition after edition was called for, and the poet received further sums for further editions. With the proceeds of his poem Campbell visited the Continent, crossing over to Hamburg and proceeding to Ratisbon, where he witnessed the taking of the town by the French.

At Hamburg he made the acquaintance of Anthony McCann, who was credited with being a leader of the Irish rebellion of 1798, and whose enforced absence from home suggested the poem "The Exile of Erin." Campbell settled at Altona for the winter, but the arrival of the British fleet in the Sound, in March, 1801, determined him to return home. Embarked on board a small trading vessel for Leith, he was chased by a Danish privateer, to escape which the captain sought shelter at Yarmouth, and the poet found his way to London. After a brief stay in the Metropolis, where he was welcomed in the best society, he returned to Edinburgh by sea. "A lady passenger by the same ship," he

writes in 1801, "who has read my poems, but was personally unacquainted with me, told me, to my utter astonishment, that I had been arrested in London for high treason, was confined to the Tower, and expected to be executed. I was equally unconscious of having either deserved or incurred such a sentence." On reaching Edinburgh he found that rumour had preceded him; his luggage was seized, and he had to submit to a strict examination before he could clear himself of the suspicion which his association with French officers and Irish refugees had involved him in.

The poet married his cousin, Matilda Sinclair, at St. Margaret's, Westminster, on September the 10th, 1803, and settled in Pimlico. A fine quarto edition of the "Pleasures of Hope," by which he made a large sum, was now published, and the poet was partially occupied by a regular engagement on the Star newspaper. Shortly afterwards he removed to Sydenham, where he lived for seventeen years. In 1805 he obtained a pension from the Government of £200 per annum, half of which he generously settled on his mother, who had now become a widow. In 1809 "Gertrude of Wyoming" appeared and became a great success, and in the following year the poet commenced a series of five lectures on poetry at the Royal Institution. In 1814 Campbell visited Paris, where he met Wellington, Humboldt, and Madame de Staël. In 1815 he had the good fortune to receive a legacy from a relative in recognition of his generous provision for his mother, and which, as he was also named residuary legatee, brought him over £4,000. "Specimens of the British Poets" was his next literary work, and was published in 1816,

after which, in 1820, he become editor of the New Monthly Magazine, for which he received £500 a year. It was in the pages of this work that "The Last Man" and others of his shorter poems appeared. After another visit to Germany, Campbell conceived the idea of founding the London University, which, furthered by Brougham, Hume, and others, was brought to issue in 1825. In 1824 "Theodoric" was published, but it fell flat after the more brilliant narrative poems of Scott and Byron, which had appeared since Campbell began to write. In 1826, defeating Sir Walter Scott, he was elected Lord Rector of Glasgow University, an honour which was repeated the two following years. Domestic troubles, however, dimmed the splendour of his success. His wife died (1828), and his only surviving son sank into a state of lunacy. He gave

up the New Monthly Magazine, and, later, found relief from private sorrows in public labours on behalf of others. The capture of Warsaw, in 1831, and the distress of Poland fired him with indignant enthusiasm, and he espoused the Polish cause with the warmth that Byron showed for that of the aspiring Greeks.

The poet completed his life of Mrs. Siddons in 1833, and in 1834 visited France and went on to Algiers, where he found the materials for his volume published under the title "Letters from the South." In 1842 the "Pilgrim of Glencoe" appeared, but proved less successful than any of his previous works. In July 1843 he left England, and retired with his niece to Boulogne, where he died June 15th, 1844. The poet's remains were buried in Westminster Abbey, with every mark of honour and

« AnteriorContinuar »