Page images
PDF
EPUB

sufficient to go and see what was the matter, and Joseph was found playing the organ. The next day he was sent for by the dean, who, after reprimanding him for the method he had taken to gratify his curiosity, gave him permission to play whenever he pleased. He now set about building his first organ, and at length completed it, though not altogether to his satisfaction.

Not long after, he went to London on foot, with his mother for his guide. By means of Dr. Brown, he was introduced to Mr. Stanley, who received him with great kindness, and offered to teach him music, if he would stay with him, but he could not bear the thought of entirely leaving his native country. In London, also, he became acquainted with an organ builder, who

gave him some instructions in his art, by the help of which he built a second organ, after his return home, much more complete than the former; after that he constructed a third still more perfect, and sold it to a gentleman in the Isle of Man.

The next piece of mechanism which he produced was a weaver's loom, in which he succeeded so well, that he made weaving his principal employment ever after. His loom differed from those in common use, and had several contrivances, which it is not necessary to notice here. Whenever a thread broke, either in the weft or the woof, he could discover it almost instantly, and set it right again, as expeditiously as any other

He not only could weave plain cloth, but plush, damask, &c. the latter, however, he only did by way

of amusement, the former he applied to as a trade, by which he was enabled to support himself and family respectably,

weaver.

1

He was accustomed to go about the city with no other guide thau a stick, and to frequent several places in the country, where he had many fields to pass through, stiles to go over, and ditches to cross upon narrow planks; which he did without ever losing his way, or meeting with

any

accident. Till within a few months of his death, he was a constant attendant at the cathedral, but not being able to accompany the choir in chanting the psalms, he composed several hymns adapted to the music, which he substituted as an act of private devotion, during the performance of that part of the public service. It is not known whether these effusions were preserved, which certainly possessed some interest on account of the motive by which they were dictated; and for obtaining which, he afforded ample opportunity, as they generally constituted a portion of his musical performances before strangers, and were, indeed, that part in which he seemed to take the greatest pleasure. Mr. Strong was married at the age of twenty-five, and had several children. He died at Carlisle, in March, 1798, in his sixty-sixth year.

AUTHORITIES,

Dr. Alcock's Memoirs.--Eccentric Mirror, vol. 2nd.-Rees' Encyclopædia.

HENRY, THE MINSTREL,

COMMONLY CALLED

BLIND HARRY.”

“What time in God, and freedom's holy cause,
Wallace and Bruce opposed a tyrant's laws.”

HENRY, the minstrel, commonly called “blind Harry," was an ancient Scottish writer distinguished by no particular surname, but well known as the author of an historical poem, in ten books, reciting the achievements of Sir William Wallace. This poem continued for several centuries to be in great repute, but afterwards sunk into neglect, until very lately, when it was recovered from obscurity, and a very neat and correct edition was published at Perth, under the inspection and patronage of the Earl of Buchan. This poet was born in 1361, and lost his sight in infancy. We are entirely ignorant of the family from which Harry was descended; but from his writings, we should be led to suppose that he had received a liberal education, as he displays in them some knowledge of divinity, classical history, and astronomy, as well as of the languages. In one place he boasts of living in a state of celibacy, which seems to indicate that he was connected with some of the religious orders of that age. From what Major says

further of him, we may suppose his profession to have been that of a travelling bard, though it does not appear that he was skilled in music. His having been blind from his birth, makes this circumstance the more probable, which would not be inconsistent with the supposition of his being also a religious mendicant. “The particulars," says Major, “which he heard related by the vulgar, he wrote in vulgar verse, in which he excelled. By reciting his histories before princes and great men, he gained his food and raiment, of which he was worthy." It is thus probable, that he would be a frequent visitor at the Scottish court; and would be made welcome by those great families, who could boast of any alliance with the hero of his song, or took pleasure in hearing related his exploits, and those of his companions. The same inextinguishable thirst of blood, which Homer ascribes to his hero Achilles, is imputed by the author to Wallace; though, in all probability, the mind of Wallace was too much enlightened to have indulged in such cruelties. A great degree of courage and personal strength are also attributed to him, and the glory of the successful exploits of the whole army transferred to him alone ; as long as he is invested with the command, the Scots are victorious and irresistible; when he is deprived of it, they are enslaved and undone. Among the many lively passages descriptive of Wallace's heroism and amor patriae, the “Battle of Biggar," is one of the happiest exainples to be met with in the

“Now Biggar's plains with armed men are crown'd,
And shining lances glitter all around;

poem.

The sounding horn and clarion all conspire
To raise the soldier's breast, and kindle up his fire.
So Triton, when at Neptune's high command,
He heaves the swelling surge above the land;
When with full breath, he bids the tempest roar,
And dash the sounding billows to the shore;
His angry waves the wrinkled seas deform,
They rise, they roar, and blacken to the storm.
Each eager soldier seized his ready shield,
Drew the fierce blade, and strode along the field ;
The blackening wings extend from left to right,
Condense the war and gather to the fight!
Now rose the battle,-there the warriors tend,
A thousand deaths on thousand wings ascend;
Swords, spears, and shields, in mixed confusion glow,
The field is swept, and lessens at each blow.
Wallace's helm, distinguished from afar,
Tempests the field, and floats amid the war;
Imperious death attends upon the sword,
And certain conquest waits her destined Lord !
Fierce in another quarter, Kent employs
The wrathful spear, nor fewer foes destroys.
Where'er he conquering turns, recedes the foe,
Aud thicken’d troops fly open to his blow;
His bounding courser thund'ring o'er the plain,
Bears his fierce, rapid Lord o'er hills of slain!
Scarce can the weak retreating Scots withstand
The mighty sweep of the invader's hand.
Wallace beheld his fainting squadron yield,
And various slaughter spread along the field ;)
Furious he hastes and heaves his orbed shield,
Resolv'd in arms to meet his enemy ;
Before his spear they run, they rush, they fly!
And now in equal battle met the foes,
Long lasts the combat, and resound their blows;
Their dreadful faulchions brandishing on high,
In wary circles heighten to the sky.
Now all is death and wounds;—the crimson plain
Floats round in blood, and groans beneath its slain;

« PreviousContinue »