« PreviousContinue »
MEMOIR OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, E8Q. Author of “ The West Indies, "-" The Wanderer of Switzerland," "The
World before the Flood,” &c. &c.
(WITH A PORTRAIT.)
MONTGOMERY'S Pilloro. IT is natural to wish to know some- interest, but the productions of his gething of an author whose writings have nius are the entailed property of his given birth to mental pleasure, and ex- country: for, as he who is the subject panded the vision of the soul. Stimu- of the present memoir has happily exlated by grateful curiosity, we look from pressed it, in his “World before the the history to the historian, from the Flood," poetry to the poet. But this curiosity - There is a living spirit in the lyre, is not always to be gratified; for, during A breath of music, and a soul of fire; the life of an author; there is more dif- It speaks a language to the world unknown, ficnlty in collecting materials for a bio- It speaks that language to the bard alone; graphical sketch, than if he was an object Whilst warbled symphonies entrance his of public interest belonging to any other ears, class. Much of the life of a statesman That spirit's voice in every tone he hears; may be found in the history of the times Tis his the magie meaning to rehearse, in which he lives; and of a soldier in To utter oracles in glowing verse, the records of the battles in which he Heroic themes from age to age prolong,
And make the dead in nature, live in song. has been engaged: but* the life of a poet is the history of his heart, of his Though 'graven rocks the warrior's deede
proclaim, feelings, of his secret soul; and nothing And mountains hewn to statues wear his less will fully gratify the curiosity of his name; admirers. But such a history, cren if Though shrined in adamant his relics lie a biographer could he found, who would Beneath a pyramid that scales the sky, exercise bis talents in recording, with All that the hand has fashioned shall decay, impartiality,' the result of the closest All that the eye admires shall pass away; intimacy, ougiit not to be written whilst The moudering rocks, the hero's hope
shall fail, the poet lives, lest that sensibility shonld be wounded which bas breathed with Earthquakes shall heave the mountain to magie effect, thoughts which have found The shrine of adamant betray its trust,
the vale; responding chords of the truest harmony And the proud pyramid resolve to dust; in kindred hearts. Still, whilst he conti- The lyre, alone, immortal' fame secures, nues to wituess the delight he has given, For song, alone, through nature's change by what he already has written, and to endures; generate hope, anticipation, and expect- Transfus'd, like life, from breast to breast ancy, in the wishes of his admirers,
it glows, surely a faithful outline of the man may From sire to son by sure succession flows ; be given, though the more delicate tints Speeds its increasing flight from cime to of praise, the deeper marking shadows of clime, character, and the concentrating light Outstripping Death upon the wings of
Time." be with held. If the picture cannot be completely finished during the life-time Mr. MONTGOMERY was the eldest son of the subject, the pencil-sketch may of a Moravian minister; he was born afford some gratification. Such sketches November 4, 1771, at Irvine, a small are sure to be taken of characters so sea-port in Ayrshire, North Britain, interesting as popular living poets; and He was not, however, fated, for any if the objects of cur admiration du mot length of time, to inhale the same air sit to first-rate artists, the mere pento as his countryman, Robert Burns; for graphical outline of their minds will be at four years of age he accompanied his eagerly sought for by the world; for a parents to Ireland, where for a short poet is not only a public character, in period they resided at Gracehill, in the which his cotemporaries have a present county of Antrim. In the course of New MONTHLY MAG.-No. 60.
VOL. X. 3 U
[ [Jan, 1
Memoir of James Montgomery, Esq. the following year he was brought over in the religious tone and peculiar exto England, and placed, for the purpose pression of the days he spent at Fulof Education, us deprived in his in- nick; for there, every thing that he fancy of a father's care and a mother's did, he was instructed to do for the love tenderness,) at Fulnick, a Moravian se- of Jesus Christ, the second person in minary, in Yorkshire, in order, as it the Trinity, whom the Moravians al. appears, to enable his mother to accom- ways address as if he were the first : pany his father, about to preach the offering up their prayers to, and not gospel to the poor benighted 'negroes in through him, whose sufferings in the the West Indies, where they both fell flesh are their constant and everlasting sacrifices to the malignity of the climate, theme, and whom the pupils are taught (the one in the island of Barbadoes, and to regard in the amiable and endearing the other in Tobago,) leaving three in- light of a friend and a brother. fant, orphan children to the protection "This system must have had peculiar of the God to whose service their lives charms to an ardent and feeling mind had been devoted. To the place of his like that of Montgomery: and as the birth, and the sacrifice to faith and seeds of poesy which nature had sown, duty which his parents made, Mont- began to germinate, it is no wonder gomery has thus alluded in his “ De- that the hymns peculiarly used by the parted Days:"
Moravians, so full of warm and ani. The loud Atlantic Ocean
mated expressions, of tender complaints, On Scotland's rugged breast
of unbounded love, and such lofty asRocks with harmonious motion
pirations should be his delight; or that, His weary waves to rest;
as soon as his preceptors had taught And gleaming round her emerald isles, him to write and to spell, he should try In all the pomp of sunset smiles :
to imitate them; and indeed, such was On that romantic shore My parents hailed their first-born boy: causes, that before he was ten years of
the effect produced by these overbearing A mother's pangs my mother bore, My father felt a father's joy :
age he had filled a little volume with saMy father!-mother !-parents!.
cred poems of his own composing. more!
That these juvenile verses were simiBeneath the Lion star, they sleep
lar in style and construction to the Beyond the western deep;
hymns he daily read and heard, may be And when the Sun's noon glory crests the well imagined, when it is considered, waves,
that, at the time he wrete them, he was He shines without a shadow on their unacquainted with any of the great Eng. graves.”
lish poets: for so careful were the In the peaceful walls of Fulnick, he teachers to preserve the minds of their passed the following ten years. During pupils from any possible contagion, that that period he was instructed in Latin, on the father of one of the boys sending Greek, German, and French; and (like a volume of poems, selected as the the rest of his schoolfellows) was as choicest, for their moral and religious carefully secluded from all commerce sentiments, from Milton, Thomson, and with the world, as if he had been im- Young, the book was carefully examured in a cloister; and perhaps he mined by one of the masters, and pruned never once conversed for ten minutes of its unprofitable passages. When the with any person whatever, except his paternal present came to the boy's hand, schoolmates and masters, or occasional he had the mortification to find it muti: Moravian visitors! To a mind so ex. lated and imperfect, many leaves chipt quisitely tender as that Montgomery out, and many more in a mangled state ! possesses from nature, a life so monas- Notwithstanding this extreme care, our tic and monotonous was dangerous; and youthful Tyro contrived, by degrees, by it is not at all unlikely that the peculiar secretly borrowing, and reading books views which these good people take of by stealth, to add to his stock of poetical the Christian revelation, have added ideas : for before he was twelve years much to the indulged melancholy of his old, he had filled two more volumes with imagination. Of the domestic econo his verses; and before he was fourteen, my of the seminary, of the exercise he had composed a mock-heroic poem, and amusements in which the children in three books, which contained more were indulged, or the plan pursued in than a thousand lines in imitation of giving them scholastic information, it is Homer's Frogs and Mice. not necessary to enlarge; but the key- The praises which his efforts called note to which the muse of Montgomery forth from those of his friends to whom has adapted her harmony may bc found he showed the effusións of his muso
515 fired his imagination. He saw in its ney, disguised as a peasant, and the perspective the banner of fame which first ode opened with a description of posterity would willingly wave over his the Almighty seated upon his throne incmory; and he planned and began looking down and commiserating the many an epic poem, in which his ruins of England, when a host of the youthful fancy, whilst he was employed spirits of Englishmen, who had just pein writing its exordium, would discern rished in a battle with the Danes, apimmortality. These, however, in their peared in his presence to receive their turn, were all discarded for newly eternal doom! These spirits described presented and more perfect subjects. the state of their country, and implored At length he stumbled upon one the Sovereign of the Universe to interwhich lie thought worthy of all the pose and deliver it from despotism. energies of his sanguine mind, at fifteen Such was the opening of the juvenile years of age-the wars in the reign of epic! It was a fearless flight! And ALPRED THB Great. His ambition, though it fell abortive, the boldness of and the temerity of childhood, (for with the conception must have convinced the all his aspirations after fame, he was a conductors of the Fulnick Academy, that child in years, and still more in simpli- their pupil was of no common fashion; city of manners and ignorance of the and that the “ Heaven-born flights” of world,) prevented the mighty subject his imagination, would, at some future from appalling him; and his want of period, when it was tempered by judgeexperie ice producing temerity, he de- ment, reflect no little lustre on the chatermined upon quitting the beaten track racter of a Christian minister of their of heroic poetry, and pursuing his dis- peculiar faith, for which, at that time, covery of a new and original path. The he was designed: but, like his own Javan, books of his poem were to consist of Pin- in the “World before the flood," daric odes, in which the story was to be conveyed; conceiving it possible to
“ Meanwhile, excursive fancy long'd to view unite all the magnificene and sublimity
The world, which yet by fame alone he
knew; of the epic with the glowing enthusiasm The joys of freedom were his daily themes, of the Pindaric. This was truly boyish Glory the secret of his midnight dreams ;daring; but it was the daring of a boy That dream he told not, tho’ his heart would of genius.
ache:"However, like many of the preceding plans which had floated in the fertile For, like the Spartan boy, who having
stolen a fox, and hidden it under his brain of the nestling poet, Alfred was Dever matured, though he persevered cloak, rather chose to let the animal tear in it till he had completed two books, he kept his anxious aspirations after
out his bowels, than discover his theft, which contained about twenty Pindaric odes. It is not probable that any of fame a secret, till the change which bethem are now in existence. The ma
came visible in his health and disposition tured taste of their author, has, in all betrayed it. In vain the worthy supeprobability, long ago consigned them to
riors 'strove to bring back their pupil to oblivion : but the spirit which imagined the train of thought, and placidity of them will command admiration from mind most proper for a divinity student, every one capable of entering with recol- Every mean was tried to bring him back lected feelings into the conceptions of a
to that serious sense which would best youthful enthusiast. The first scintil- resist the love of fame, and repress lis lations of yenins are valuable to those incessant longings after the world; of best able to estimate the gem, when it which, at this time, (to use his owu. has attained the polish of experience ;
words, when, many years afterwards, an intellect as that of Montgomery, of the mysteries beyond the grave." and even the still-born progeny of such he was speaking on this subject) be
“ almost as ignorant as he was, which were conceived before his strength Yet his thoughts were constantly fixed was able to bring them to maturity, must be interesting. To prove that upon the picture which his imagination they were so, the writer of this brief had drawn; and except in contemplat memoir feels happy in recollecting what ing the air-built castles which he was he was once told, on undoubted autho. continually erocting in his mind, rity, was the subject of the first and ....“ No delight the midstrel's bosorns second odes of the contemplated poem knew, already mentioned. It commenced None, save the tones that from his harp he whilst Alfred was in the Isle of Athel. drew,