Графични страници
PDF файл


[blocks in formation]

DAVID MACBETH Moir was born at Musselburgh on the 5th of January 1798. His parents were respectable citizens. He was the second of four children. His father died in 1817, and his mother in 1842. It is a very common belief that intellectual qualities come by the mother's side. Whether or not the belief be well founded, it is a fact that our poet's mother was a woman of good understanding and general refinement, and of sound taste in matters of literature ; so much so, that, in the earlier part of his poetical course, young Moir was in the habit of consulting her about his pieces in manuscript, and had confidence in her judgment to the last. As she encouraged him in all his studies, it is pleasing to know that she lived to enjoy what is dearest to a mother's heart-the fame of her


Our poet got the first rudiments of his education at a school of minor note in Musselburgh. He was then



[blocks in formation]

entered at the Grammar School, which at that time was taught by Mr Taylor, and had a high character. During his attendance of about six years at this seminary, young Moir learned the Latin, Greek, and French languages, and the elements of geometry and algebra. He was a cheerful, active, and diligent scholar, and always stood high in his classes. In after years, however, he used to say that his scholarship was but shallow, and that the disadvantage of his own deficiency made him all the more careful in giving his children a better education. Taylor was a perfect model of the old Tory and Loyalist, Moir was a favourite and admiring disciple; and so, perhaps, the boy insensibly caught from his master's well-known political character notions which gradually strengthened into that Conservatism of Church and State which was one of the steadfast principles of his manhood.

Attentive scholar though he was, we may be sure that a nature such as Moir's, simple and healthy, would rejoice in all manner of innocent sports. Gardening, and painting in water-colours, were the private recreations that he loved most ; but in all the games of gregarious boyhood he took a robust and hearty share. Skating was his special delight, and bold and graceful was he at that beautiful play. In reference to his early amusements he writes thus, in a little essay entitled School Recollections, published in Friendship's Offering of 1829 :-“What delight in life have we ever experienced more exquisite than that which flowed in upon us from the teacher’s ‘bene, bene, our own self-approbation, and release from the tasks of the day—the green fields around us wherein to ramble, the stream beside us wherein to angle, the world of games and pastimes 'before us, where to choose ?' Words are inadequate to express the thrill of transport with which, on the rush made from the school-house door, the hat is waved in air, and the shout sent forth. With these and similar thoughts in my mind, I strayed down to the banks of the river, and came upon a favourite scene of our boyish sports. Some of the very bushes I recognised as our old lurking-places of hunt-the-hare ; and on the old fantastic beech-tree I discovered the very bough from which we were accustomed to suspend our swings. The fresh green plat by the bank of the stream lay before me. It was there that we played at leap-frog, or gathered dandelions for our tame rabbits ; and at its western extremity were still extant the relics of the deal-seat, at which we used to assemble on autumn evenings to have our round of stories. Many a witching tale and wondrous tradition has there been told ; many a marvel of figures that “revisited the glimpses of the moon ;' many a recital of heroic and chivalrous enterprise, accomplished ere warriors dwindled down to the mere pigmy strength of mortals. Sapped by the wind and rain, the planks lay in a sorely decayed and rotten state, looking in their mossiness like signposts of desolation, mementoes of terrestrial instability. Traces of the knife were still here and there visible upon the trunks of the supporting trees ; and with little difficulty I could decipher some wellremembered initials.

Cold were the hands that carved them there.'

We see, in these circumstances of Moir's free and happy boyhood, the very best food on which the poetic spirit within him could be feeding; and the locality in which he grew up, so rich in picturesque old character, beauties of scenery, and historic associations, was full

« ПредишнаНапред »