AN EXTRACT FROM
No. 1459, Oct. 13, 1855 [p. 1183]
........ we may
receive with welcome City Songs, and other Poetical Pieces, by
James Macfarlan, (Murray & Son, Glasgow). A self-taught man, this
author, an operative by circumstance, becomes a workman in a higher form,
as the greatest of all doers, a true poet, by dint of persevering
practice. We recognize in him already a fine taste and a musical
appreciation of beauty in the choice of his diction and the lilt of his
verse. He has an excellent ear, and has cultivated it with
diligence. An ambitions mind has been in him taught humility; and by
reverence of the bards of old, as well as by the stern teaching of the
world, he has been made submissive to the necessities of his position,
without surrendering his desire for the Beautiful and the True. Such
feelings he has expressed in a free and flowing lyric called 'The
Aspirant,' some stanzas of which have much beauty. 'A Summer Song'
is not without its delicious passages.—
Past the broil of the town, past the long stony
Past the suburbs that sink to a dim smoky haze;
O now, the sweet grass groweth green at my feet,
And I see the glad waters with light all a-blaze;
The town is behind, with its traffic and din,
Shrouded deep in its smoke, like a soul in its sin.
Morn climbs tip the sky with her burden of gold,
And the leaves and the blossoms are dipt in the dew;
And the joy of the Earth in rich music is told,
As she looks to the heaven with a smile ever new.
The sun, golden-armoured, comes up in his might,
And the lark is afloat in an ocean of light.
Deep joy in the woods that are throbbing with song;
And a green light is glancing where rivulets run;
There's a wild leafy thrill the glad branches among,
And the waters leap up to the kiss of the sun;
The dew-drops are dancing on flowers as I pass,
Then leap from their couches and die in the grass.
animation and joyousness in these I verses; such as, after having been
long immured in town, we all feel at the sight of green fields and the
country. Reminiscences of similar stray pleasures, similar chance
opportunities, abound, showing in what degree the poet, born to labour and
bred to commerce, still loved Nature by a wise and original instinct of
the heart. Other experiences of the good in man and woman likewise
dwell with him, and find enduring memorials in such high-sounding lines as
those which compose the "portrait" of one,
In whose rich presence poverty had wealth,
And saw the angel thoughts serenely move
Within the grand Elysium of her eyes.
We may also
refer with satisfaction to those melodies "long-drawn out" that so fitly
describe "The Syren Isle"; and, with still more emphasis, to those quaint
fancies which celebrate "An Angel's Visit" to "the green-haired Earth,"
alighting so happily—
Where Summer sat 'mong flowers, like drops of gold
Spilt from the sunset,
but soon to
meet with much of wrong and suffering, until the celestial messenger came
to the chamber of the meditating scribe, despairing of his work and crying
hungrily for power, whom, compassionating, she touched as she passed,—
and his nerves at once were strung
Into a mighty lyre, on which his heart
Beat out a glorious marching tune for time.
with these bright pictures are traces of sorrow and melancholy reflection,
together with repinings of sin and punishment; —the outcast dying on the
doorstep, and the guilty slain by the public executioner:—still the figure
of Hope is ever visible, even in the gloomiest background, soaring upward
in lines of light. Images and golden words lake those we have cited
or referred to, bear witness for Mr. Macfarlan, that he is no inarticulate
or stammering poet, but one to whom the muse has imparted a gift of
language, to be cautiously and fruitfully employed; not recklessly wasted
on unworthy themes or in profuse description.