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ON THIS DAY I COMPLETE MY THIRTY-SIXTH YEAR.
Missolonghi, Jan. 22, 1824.
'Tis time this heart should be unmoved,
Since others it hath ceased to move:
My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of love are gone ;
The fire that on my bosom preys
The hope, the fear, the jealous care,
But 'tis not thus-and 'tis not here
Such thoughts should shake my soul, nor now, Where glory decks the hero's bier,
Or binds his brow.
The sword, the banner, and the field,
Awake! (not Greece-she is awake!)
Tread those reviving passions down,
If thou regrett'st thy youth, why live?
Seek out-less often sought than found-
[TENNANT, born at Anstruther, Fifeshire, in 1786, was in early life a schoolmaster, and later on Professor of Oriental Languages at St. Andrew's. Anster Fair, by which he is known to poetry, was written in 1811 and published in 1812. The Thane of Fife, a long narrative poem, published in 1822, was a failure, and the same may be said of his Hebrew Dramas and his tragedies of Cardinal Bethune and John Balliol. He died in 1848.]
The author of Anster Fair is an extraordinary instance of a single-poem poet. When Byron translated the first Canto of Pulci's Morgante Maggiore, he spoke of the Italian poet as 'the founder of a new style of poetry lately sprung up in England,' explaining that he 'alluded to that of the ingenious Whistlecraft.' Tennant, however, anticipated the ingenious Whistlecraft in the introduction of this new style into the English poetry of the nineteenth century. He was the first to use with masterly effect the style which Byron associated for all time with Don Juan. After taking rank at an early age among the masters of mock-heroic, he abandoned this field, essayed the true-heroic, and failed, but never returned to his first love.
Whether Tennant's poetic vein was exhausted, or crushed beneath his weight of learning, or simply abandoned as out of keeping with his grave and reverend professorial character, we have no means of knowing. The abundance and freshness of the vein almost negatives the hypothesis of exhaustion. Even when read after Don Juan, Anster Fair must excite admiration by the flexibility and rapid freedom of its verse. There is no trace of poverty in the ornaments embroidered on the fantastically cut garment; the artist runs riot in the wealth of his fantastic imagination, spending prodigally as if from an inexhaustible purse. Tennant has told us himself that it was in laughing over Peebles to the Play the humorous extravaganza ascribed to James I of Scotland, that
the first thought of Anster Fair occurred to him, and his dictionshows that he was a delighted student of Spenser and Shakespeare. It was probably from these native sources and not from the Italian masters that he drew his in-piration. His discipleship to Spenser is proclaimed in the Alexandrine with which he closes his eightrhyme stanza. But he was no mere imitator and copyist; home grown popular legends and popular sports supplied him with his materials, and he handled them boldly in his own fashion, transporting them into a many-coloured atmosphere of humorous imagination. The specimen here quoted will give some idea of his powers of imaginative description.
RAB THE RANTER'S BAG-PIPE PLAYING.
[From Anster Fair.]
Nodded his liege assent, and straightway bade
To all the crowd that shouted far and wide;
His pipes to play adjusted and applied;
Each finger rested on its proper bore,
His arm appeared half-raised to wake the bag's uproar.
A space he silent stood, and cast his eye
As if he prayed some fairy power in sky
To guide his fingers right o'er bore and hole;
Then pressing down his arm, he gracefully
Awaked the merry bag-pipes' slumbering soul,
And piped and blew, and played so sweet a tune
His every finger, to its place assigned,
Moved quivering like the leaf of aspen tree,
As from his lungs into the bag was blown
And such a potent tune did never greet
So merry, that from dancing on his feet