« PředchozíPokračovat »
IN Scotland, of late years, a very laudable anxiety has been shown to collect and preserve every relic of past times, connected in any shape with the literary or political history of the country. Much skill, industry, and perseverance have been displayed in pursuit of this object; and in several departments the efforts of individuals have been eminently useful. In no instance, however, do these appear to have been exerted to better purpose, or with greater success, than in collecting the ballads, songs, and legends of the Jacobites,—the productions of those nameless bards who so long sung the Stuarts and their cause, and who were wont, with irresistible effect, to rouse and inflame the partizans of that family. So keen, indeed, has been the zeal or the patriotism of those who undertook the task of gathering together the widely scattered remains of the Jacobite muse, that they may almost be said to have done her more than justice. All sorts of collections have been anxiously sought after and procured; manuscripts innumerable have been examined and collated; every stray verse or fragment
has been treasured with enthusiasm ; and hardly any thing worth perpetuating appears to have escaped their indefatigable search. These, again, have been embodied in various laborious publications; and, at length, we have only to turn to the volumes of the collectors, particularly those of Ritson, Cromek, Cunningham, and the Ettrick Shepherd, in order to find that the Minstrelsy of the Jacobite times forms one of the most valuable and interesting portions of our national song.
Most of the productions which have been thus carefully collected, enjoyed at one time a very extensive popularity; but it is a peculiar feature in their character, that the interest which they were originally written to inspire, is little diminished, either by change of circumstances or the lapse of time. They are still read with enthusiasm by all ranks in Scotland, and admired as the very best compositions we possess of the lyrical kind. Several causes concur to produce this general partiality in their favour; but none, perhaps, more strongly conduces to it than the decided excellence of the pieces them. selves. The efforts of the Jacobite muse seem, in almost every instance, to have been faithful transcripts of the feelings of their authors the results of genuine passion working on heated imaginations, or the overflowing bitterness of exasperated, indignant, and disappointed minds. They were always the bursts, too, of temporary and spontaneous excitement. Hence, whether they pourtray the animated details of a battle, satirize the character of a state measure, ridicule the personal qualities of an enemy, or bewail the calamities of a friend, it is done with a