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Life and Work of Joanna Baillie
Chapter 5 - Non Dramatic Poetry


From time to time Joanna Baillie published non-dramatic poetry, some of which compares favorably with her dramas. In fact, the Cambridge History of English Literature says that 'it is probably mainly by her songs that she will be remembered.' This opinion is borne out by the statement that Bums considered Saw ye Johnny Comin unparalleled for 'genuine humour in the verses and lively originality in the air.' After such unqualified praise, it is not surprising to find the Dictionary of National Biography saying that ‘some of her songs . . . will doubtless always live.' The shorter lyrics of her later writing abound in faithful descriptions of simple life; they show quiet humor and an unusual penetration into the feelings and purposes of the classes of men with whom she was familiar.

Among Joanna’s early poems appears the Address to the Muses, in which she defines the true muse of poetry as she sees her:

Ye are the spirits who preside
In earth and air and ocean wide,
In rushing flood and crackling fire,
In horror dread and tumult dire,
In stilly calm and stormy wind,
And rule the answering changes in the human mind!
Ye kindle up the inward glow,
Ye strengthen every outward show,
Ye overleap the strongest bar
And join what nature sunders far,
And visit oft, in fancies wild,
The breast of learned sage and simple child.
From him who wears a monarch's crown
To the unletter’d simple clown,
All in some fitful, lonely hour
Have felt, unsought, your secret power,
And loved your inward visions well;
You add but to the bard the art to tell.

Joanna Baillie was too honest to have an exaggerated opinion of her poetical ability, and was much surprised at the sweeping praise bestowed upon her poems. She realized that her work was uneven in value, and confessed to Scott that she could write lyrics only on a * fine, warm day/ Her sense of failure to reach her ideal is expressed in the following stanzas :

O lovely Sisters! well it shows
How wide and far your bounty flows.
Then why from me withhold your beams?
Unvisited of vision’d dreams,
Whenever I aim at heights sublime,
Still downward am I call’d to seek some stubborn rhyme.
No hasty lightning breaks my gloom,
Nor flashing thoughts unsought for come,
Nor fancies wake in time of need;
Llabor much with little speed,
And when my studied task is done,
Too well, alas! I mark it for my own.
Yet should you never smile on me,
And rugged still my verses be,
Unpleasing to the tuneful train,
Who only prize a flowing strain,
And still the learned scorn my lays,
I’ll lift my heart to you and sing your praise.

These non-dramatic poems fall into three groups: the early Fugitive Verses, the Metrical Legends, and the verse published in her old age. The songs in the dramas may be regarded as a fourth group.

Joanna Baillie’s nephew says that in 1784 she does not appear to have attempted any composition beyond a humorous poem or song,- thrown off in mirth and thought of no more.' Tytler and Hamilton, on the other hand, agree that during the years at Long Calderwood she had begun to write clever Scotch ballads and adaptations of old songs, which were sung round the ingle hearths of the neighborhood.2 Mr. Baillie describes the awakening of her poetical instinct after her removal to London: 'In that gloomy house, in that dark and narrow street, the genius of Joanna first wakened into life and energy. The daily sight of her native land and its romantic beauty, the companions of her youth, and the fresh impulses derived from the study of our best authors, had hitherto sufficiently occupied her feelings; but amid scenes, the reverse of those in which she had rejoiced, her heart yearned, her imagination kindled, and poetical feeling took its appropriate form.'

In 1790 these early poems were, published anonymously under the title of Fugitive Verses. The book was an absolute failure, as it had a small circulation, and was ignored by all the critics except one. This one review spoke of it encouragingly; 'the chief commendation bestowed was, that it contained true unsophisticated representations_of nature.' Joanna Baillie’s nephew praises this book on account of 'the knowledge of human feeling, the acquaintance with external nature, the capacity of delineation.’ No copy of Fugitive Verses is available, so that we can judge of it only by the sixteen poems that she herself chose to preserve in the edition of 1851.

A careful analysis of passion is the dominant feature of most these of poems. Love is treated here more fully and analytically than in her dramas. The seven poems on the subject run the whole gamut of feeling from the caustic tone of the proud lover,

No woman e’er shall give me pain,
Or ever break my rest again,
to the somewhat pastoral tone of the poetical lover,
In foreign plains my tears shall flow;
By murmuring stream and shady grove
Shall other echoes tell my love;
And richer flowers of vivid hue
Upon my grave shall other maidens strew.

These poems are merely a mental exercise, and the lovers are, to say the least, cool-blooded. Basil and Harwood in the dramas are more nearly flesh and blood.

Ambition also is treated here. In A Fragment of a Poem, Allener is an understudy for Ethwald, as both are ruled entirely by this passion. Miss Baillie's habit of thought here closely resembles that of her later years; evidently her interest in the emotions as shown under unusual conditions was not an acquirement of her maturity.

The best lines in this collection deal with nature. The invocation to Thunder is dignified and in some lines effective:

Spirit of Strength! to whom in wrath tis given,
To mar the earth and shake its vasty dome,
Behold the sombre robes whose gathering folds
Thy secret majesty conceal
Spirit of Strength! it is thy awful hour;
The wind of every hill is laid to rest,
And far o’er sea and land deep silence reigns.
In calmer mood is the description of the sunrise in
A Summer's Day, when the lights of night .
AH die away.
For now the sun, slow moving in his glory,
Above the eastern mountains lifts his head;
The webs of dew spread o’er the hoary lawn,
The smooth, clear bosom of the settled pool,
The polish’d ploughshare on the distant field,
Catch fire from him, and dart their new-gain’d beams
Upon the gazing rustic’s dazzled sight.

A Summer's Day and A Winter's Day are filled with references to animals and birds, a characteristic which deepens the autobiographic interest.

Both of these poems reflect, 'with truth in every tint' her life at Long Calderwood. The scene of each is the simple Scotch country which she knew, and the characters are the people whom she observed either at her uncle's or her father’s house. The reader feels that both these poems were produced under the direct influence of Burns. The characters, the settings, the effect are strikingly like those in A Cotter's Saturday Night. Before the second publication of A Winter's Day in 1840, Joanna Baillie added a long stanza on the devotional exercise of the home with a footnote, in which she confesses that she should ‘justly take shame' to herself for so great an omission. Humor is noticeably lacking throughout.

Childhood is the theme of several poems, one of which, A Mother to her Waking Infant„ long remained popular. This is the earliest expression of her lifelong affection for children, and is filled with simple natural emotion, conveyed in a straightforward manner. A Child to his Sick Grandfather is disappointing, because it pretends to be a child’s thought, but is in reality an adult’s expression. In A Winter's Day, on the other hand, the descriptions are full of real children, who play real tricks and have real projects.

The Metrical Legends of Exalted Characters, published in 1821, were introduced by a preface in which she discussed her theory, and described in some detail the effect which she hoped to produce. She defined metrical legends as chronicles ‘of those noble beings, whose existence has honoured human nature and benefited mankind.’ History, biography, and romance have dealt, each in its own way, with these same characters, but some traits of each are included in the ideal metrical legend. As a consequence, she has closely followed fact in dealing with the life of ‘the departed great.’ She has, however, at the same time, allowed her reason and imagination to determine the details to be presented. The three legends deal with the lives of William Wallace, Christopher Columbus, and Lady Griseld Baillie. William Wallace was the subject of her first legend, probably because of her pride in her Scotch ancestry. In addition to the patriotic motive, she felt that ‘his character and story are in every point of view particularly fitted either for poetry or romance.’

A brief analysis of the contents of this poem will illustrate her idea of a metrical legend as a chronicle. It falls readily into three sections, a patriotic introduction (stanzas I—II), the story of the patriotic deeds of William Wallace (stanzas III—C), and an estimate of his position in Scotch history (stanzas Cl—CX). The opening and closing sections have a didactic tone, telling the reader what his attitude toward the hero should be. The chronicle is contained in the central section. The main theme is Wallace’s struggle to free Scotland from the tyranny of Edward; all details of Wallace’s life which do not bear on this subject are omitted. The soul of a man under difficulties is not pictured as in the dramas; only his deeds are recounted.

The Ghost of Fadon, a ballad founded upon a story in the Blind Minstrel’s Life of Wallace, throws light upon her choice of material for the metrical legends. Miss Baillie did not deny that ' under the influence of compunction for a hasty deed,’ Wallace might have had a vision or dream, but such a fantastic story could not ‘with propriety find a place in a legend which rejects fiction. Yet, thinking it peculiarly fitted for the subject of a mysterious ballad and being loath to lose it entirely, she says, 'I have ventured to introduce it to the reader in its present form.’ The story follows the defeat of Wallace by the ‘ Southron,’ and precedes his capture by the English. The ghostly light, the howling dog, the headless spectre that guards all the doors, the fire in which the ghost of Fadon vanishes, all emphasize the legendary character of the story.

Christopher Columbus was chosen as a man ‘who, to the unfettered reach of thought belonging to a philosopher, the sagacious intrepidity of a chieftain or leader, and the adventurous boldness of a discoverer, added the gentleness and humanity of a Christian.’

The chronicle, in this case, differs somewhat in form from the preceding. William Wallace grew in power until he seemed invincible, and was overcome only by guile.

On the other hand, 'the greatest event in the history of Columbus takes place at the beginning, occasioning so strong an excitement, that what follows after, as immediately connected with him (his persecution and sufferings excepted), is comparatively flat and uninteresting; and then it is our curiosity regarding the inhabitants and productions of the New World that chiefly occupy our attention.'

As a result, the narrative is interrupted by stanzas of two types, the philosophical and the descriptive. The philosophical passages reveal the emotion of the hero at the given point in the story, as in the discussion of ambition in stanza IV. Descriptive lines are scattered throughout the poem, but stanzas XXXVI to XXXIX are purely pictorial. In them Miss Baillie emphasizes the vastness and sublimity of the new world, in order to explain the envy which Columbus’ success had inspired.

The third and last metrical legend deals with the life of Lady Griseld Baillie. In the Preface the author said : ‘ It appears to me that a more perfect female character could scarcely be imagined; for while she is daily exercised in all that is useful, enlivening and endearing, her wisdom and courage, on every extraordinary and difficult occasion, give a full assurance to the mind, that the devoted daughter of Sir Patrick Hume, and the tender helpmate of Baillie, would have made a most able and magnanimous queen.’

In the course of this legend, Miss Baillie explains fully her position on the woman-question. Lady Griseld is her ideal heroine, because of her courage, gentleness, and intelligence. 'I wished to exhibit a perfection of character which is peculiar to woman' the author said, ‘and makes her, in the family that is blessed with such an inmate, through every vicissitude of prosperity and distress, something which man can never be.’ In her opinion, ‘valour in woman’ is ‘sublime,’ and fully worthy of celebration in a poem. Lady Griseld’s gentleness and helpfulness are entirely praiseworthy, for “It is more blessed to minister than be ministered unto,” said the most perfect character that ever appeared in human form.’

On the question of education for women, Joanna Baillie’s statement is specific. In her opinion, women are criticized not because they are learned, but because in order to acquire ‘abstruse or difficult’ knowledge, they neglect useful and appropriate occupations.‘ But if a woman possess that strong natural bent for learning which enables her to acquire it quickly, without prejudice to what is more necessary; or if her fortune be so ample that the greater part of her time reasonably remains at her own disposal, there are few men, I believe, who will be disposed to find fault with her for all that she may know, provided she make no vain display of her acquirements; and amongst those few, I will venture to say, there will not be one truly learned man to be found.’ Miss Baillie’s understanding of the English women of her time is shown in the concluding stanzas of the legend. She describes first the superficiality of the society-woman, then the ‘cultured, high-strain’d talents’ of the blue-stocking, and finally her ideal English gentlewoman, who closely resembles the picture she gives in the introduction:

But she of gentler nature, softer, dearer,
Of daily life the active, kindly cheerer;
With generous bosom, age or childhood shielding,
And in the storms of life, though moved, unyielding:
Strength in her gentleness, hope in her sorrow,
Whose darkest hours some ray of brightness borrow
From better days to come, whose meek devotion
Calms every wayward passion’s wild commotion;
In want and suff’ring, soothing, useful, sprightly,
Bearing the press of evil hap so lightly,
Till evil’s self seems its strong hold betraying
To the sweet witch’ry of such winsome playing;
Bold from affection, if by nature fearful,
With varying brow, sad, tender, anxious, cheerful,
This is meet partner for the loftiest mind,
With crown or helmet graced,—yea, this is womankind!

All of these legends relate experiences of sufficient intensity to hold the reader’s attention, but in none of them does Joanna Baillie reach the high-water mark of her poetry. In Lady Griseld Baillie the author professed an especial interest, and used a more personal tone. In spite of this fact, the legend concerning William Wallace is the most interesting and convincing.

The remaining poems of this group are in ballad-form, and are less successful than the legends. They consist of Lord John of the East, Malcolm’s Heir, The Elden Tree, and The Ghost of Fadon. ‘The first two were originally written very rapidly for the amusement of a young friend, who was fond of frightful stories’; they were revised later. Lord John of the East makes good use of the stock mystery-themes—the reveling in the banquet-hall of the great castle, midnight, the spectral guest in bloody sheet, the three knocks on the door, and the wailing blast which ceased as soon as the baron disappeared. An element of witchcraft is introduced in the sandals blessed by the Pope, which were left untouched by the spectre. The ballad-story of Malcolm’s Heir is more human, and its conclusion suggests the headsman of the Ancient Mariner. Sound is used very effectively throughout.

The Elden Tree is 'taken from a true, or at least traditional story. It was told to me by Sir George Beaumont' says Miss Baillie, ‘as one which he had heard from his mother, . . . who said it was a tradition belonging to the castle of some baron in the north of England, where it was believed to have happened. It was recommended by him as a good subject for a ballad, and, with such a recommendation, I was easily tempted to endeavour, at least, to preserve its simple and striking circumstances, in that popular form. I have altered nothing of the story, nor have I added any thing but the founding of the abbey and the baron's becoming a monk, in imitation of the ending of that exquisite ballad, The Eve of St. John, where so much is implied in so few words.’ It is a simple story of human penitence, and lacks a supernatural element.

As in the criticism of the dramas, opinion of these poems differs widely. According to the critic in the Athenceum: ‘The ballads which this volume contains are not Miss Baillie’s happiest efforts. Strange to say, in spite of all her old-world simplicity, and her fine musical ear, she has been far exceeded in this class of composition by her younger contemporaries: we need but name Mary Howitt, Alfred Tennyson, and Miss Barrett.' The Quarterly Review takes the other side: 'Mrs. Joanna Baillie has, we think, succeeded very well in her ballads in a romantic and supernatural vein. They are all, more or less, good; especially the “Elden Tree” and “Lord John of the East.” “Sir Maurice” is not so clearly narrated as it should be—but it is still a very striking poem; and there is great power of the same kind shown in “Malcolm's Heir". The effect lies so much in the whole piece, that we should do the author injustice by giving an extract only.’ The following statement from the Eclectic Review sums up the criticism very satisfactorily:

In her metrical legends, she likes best the weird and the terrible element, and wields it with a potent hand. Yet the grace and elegance are such that we feel her to be a witch, not a sorceress; one who loves the Terrible, but whom the Beautiful loves. We prefer “Lord John of the East” to all the rest put together; perhaps partly for the reason that we met with it in childhood, and that it haunted us like a veritable ghost, and has often since made the opening of an outer door, in a dark evening, a somewhat tremulous experiment, as we asked ourselves Who or What may be standing behind it between us and the stars? “Malcolm’s Heir,” and the “Elden Tree,” are too manifestly imitations of “Lord John of the East” far and faint echoes of that tremendous knocking which shook the castle, and made even fierce “Donald the Red” aghast.

For the metrical form of the legends, Joanna Baillie is directly indebted to Sir Walter Scott. After admitting this debt, she continues: Yet when I say that I have borrowed, let it not be supposed I have attempted to imitate his particular expressions; I have only attempted to write a certain free irregular measure, which, but for him, I should probably never have known or admired.'

'In her opinion, metre should give clearness and scope' to an idea, and should not limit the powers of the writer.

As a result of this theory, she allowed herself the greatest liberties with length of stanza and line, and with rhymes. The stanzas vary in length from four to thirty-five lines, the majority having about fifteen lines. This arrangement.resembles closely that of Scott, although she mses shorter and more varied stanzas than he. In metre and rhyme she follows his example more closely. The iambic foot is used throughout, and the lines vary in length from three to six feet. The normal line, like Scott’s, has four feet, and is sometimes used for many lines without variation. On the other hand, lines of three, four, five, or six feet are often used irregularly to produce unusual effects. For example, stanza LXXVI of William Wallace increases from four feet in the first to six in the last, and has a cumulative effect; stanza IX in Chrostopher Columbus has the reverse form, beginning with a five-foot line and ending with one of three feet, an arrangement' that produces the effect of the running down of a clock.

The variation in the rhyme is as great as that in the stanza and line-length. The rhymed couplet is frequently used, but the scheme often includes as many as %ix lines. One favorite trick was to end a stanza with a three-line rhyme, irrespective of the arrangement of preceding lines. In Christopher Columbus Joanna Baillie ‘has used in three stanzas (VII, XVI, XXIX) a series of lines ending in -ing. They are all descriptive passages, in which regularity and continuity of effect are desired. The first describes the coming of dawn, the second and longest the occupations of the Indians when Columbus first saw them, and the third the preparations in Spain for the second voyage of discovery. All of these rhyme-yanations occur in both The Lay of the Last Minsirel and Marmion. Marmion, however, contains a larger number of regular couplets than do the Legends, so that, on the whole, the versification more closely resembles that of The Lay.

The poems written after 1790 remain to be considered.

Most of these are collected in the volume of Fugitive Verses, but the poems which are preserved in the various anthologies of the period will also be considered. Many types of poems are included in the list, the most numerous of which are the familiar poems to personal friends, the songs, and the Verses on Sacred Subjects.

At one time or another Miss Baillie addressed verses to most of the members of her immediate family. The Lines to Agnes Baillie on her Birthday, already quoted, receive frequent commendation. The Quarterly Review says:

It is very gratifying to us to feel that the happiest composition in this volume, is that which we dare say cost the authoress the least effort,—the following very elegant and affecting address to her excellent sister, Mrs. Agnes Baillie, on her birthday. It is not necessary that the reader of this poem—to appreciate its beauty—should have enjoyed the privilege of seeing these two admirable ladies, . . . dignifying the simplest life, and rendering lovely the unconcealed touches of a sacred old age. But we believe these lines are not more beautiful in themselves than they are precisely true in fact.

A similar high opinion is expressed by the A then (Bum:

That she can be affectionately familiar, the following more deeply-toned verses show: verses to be placed among the poetry ol the affections, next Cowper’s exquisite Lines to his Mother’s Picture.' In the course of the poem occurs one of her most effective figures of speech. Her sister performed many daify tasks:

Ay, e’en o’er things like these, soothed age has thrown A sober charm they did not always own:

As winter-hoarfrost makes minutest spray
Of bush or hedge-weed sparkle to the day,
In magnitude and beauty, which bereaved
Of such investment, eye had ne’er perceived.

Among the poems addressed to friends occur those to Lady Byron and Mrs. Siddons, and those on the death of Scott and Sotheby. The biographical interest of these poems has already been noted; the poetical interest in them is small.

Among the songs are the poems which have made the deepest impression upon the public. Most of them are Scotch in dialect, simple in thought and expression. These were her most popular songs, and are the ones by which she is best known. The Eclectic Review rates them as ‘only inferior to those of Burns—superior to those of Haynes Bayly, and Moore, and quite equal to those of Sir W. Scott and Campbell. Need we speak of The Gowan Glitters on the Sward, Saw ye Johnny Comin?, Tam o’ the Lin, or the Weary fiund o’tow? Every Scotchman in the world, worthy of the name, knows these by heart—while, perhaps, thousands are ignorant that they are by Joanna Baillie.'

These songs ‘immediately obtained an honorable place in the minstrelsy of her native kingdom. Simple and graceful, animated by warm affections, Fy, let us a’ to the Wedding, Saw ye Johnny, It fell on a morning, Woo’d and Married maintain popularity among all classes of Scotsmen through the world.' Equally high praise is given them by the Athenceum, as 'the freshest and sweetest of their kind in any language. ... It is something to have . . . enriched her own country’s song-book with songs which have been given to the greatest of our male minstrels one after the other because of the mastery and vigour of their music.’ On the other hand, Mrs. Jameson lamented that Miss Baillie was ‘so little of a stock-poet,’ and that so few of her stanzas were 'sewn in samplers and written in albums.' The Quarterly Review criticizes them severely:

We should say that they have a forced air, as if the writer had set about inditing them with no genius but that of patriotism to aid her. They are not so much Scotch—as we understand Burns, Hogg, Ramsay, Ferguson, and the inestimable, unowned minstrelsy of the elder day—as mere English verses purposely dashed here and there with words only in use beyond the Tweed. They appear to us as stiff and uncouth as Burns' attempts in serious English. Indeed it would have been little less than a miracle if the writer of De Monfort had preserved or attained the spirit—the knack—of the genuine Scotch song;—a species of poetry unique, and not admitting exportation, having a simple point, a pathetic terseness, and a musical brilliancy of phrase, not imitable by dint of talent, and of which we see no traces in the attempts before us.

As a test of the Scotch songs according to this standard, examine The Gowan Glitters on the Sward. The entire 'point’ of the poem is indicated by the first stanza:

The gowan glitters on the sward,
The lavrock's in the sky,
The collie on my plaid keeps ward,
And time is passing by.
Oh no! sad and slow
And lengthen’d on the ground,
The shadow of our trysting bush,
It wears so slowly round.

The disappointment of the lover reaches its height in the fifth stanza, in which an entire pathetic episode is condensed:

O now I see her on the way,
She’s past the witch’s knowe,
She’s climbing up the Browny’s brae,
My heart is in a lowe!
Oh no! tis no so,
It is glam’rie I have seen;
The shadow of that hawthorne bush,
Will move na’ mair till e’en.

The humor that impressed Bums in Saw Ye Johnny Comin occurs in all of her best known poems. It is in most cases essentially Scotch, and a careful reading will show that usually the tone is as truly Scotch as are the words. The following stanza is typical:

I’ the kirk sic commotion last Sabbath she made,
Wi’ babs o’ red roses and breast-knots o’erlaid !
The Dominie stickit the psalm very nearly:
O, gin my wife wad dress hooly and fairly!
Hooly and fairly, hooly and fairly,
O, gin my wife wad dress hooly and fairly I

The majority of these songs were new words for familiar Scotch, Irish, or Welsh melodies, or were adaptations of old songs. To the former class belongs The Wee Pickle Tow; to the latter Woo’d and Married and a’ and Fy, let us a’ to the Wedding, both of which were freed from all coarseness.

Several songs were composed especially for definite books, as It was on a morning for Struther’s The Harp of Caledonia, and A Sailor’s Song for Galt’s Musical Selections. Most of the anthologies of the Victorian era and several contemporary collections contain specimens of her best songs. The Maid of Llanwellyn was set to music by Charles H. Purday, and sung by Mrs. E. Sheppard. It was published in New York City.1 0 swiftly glides the bonnie boat was arranged for the Piano forte by J. C. Greene,’ and was printed and sold in New York in 1827.

Of the Verses on Sacred Subjects little need be said, as in them Miss Baillie is least successful. They were written at the request of an eminent member of the Scotch Church, at a time when it was in contemplation to compile by authority a new collection of hymns and sacred poetry for the general use of parochial congregations. ... I was proud to be so occupied; my heart and my duty went along with it; but the General Assembly, when afterwards applied to, refused their sanction to any new compilation.' There remain to be mentioned a few scattered poems on general subjects, some of which occur in Fugitive Verses, and others in anthologies. The Traveller by Night in November is, in fact, a study in contrast of day-and night-travel. If the descriptions of the imaginary terrors of a night-journey were written by any but an unmarried woman of the early nineteenth century, they would seem overdrawn. It is easy, however, to imagine the sisters taking a journey by coach, and experiencing all these terrors of the night. Every detail of the glimmer thrown by the carriage-lights and of the hallucinations is so definitely described as to indicate personal experience. Joanna Baillie’s idea of humor is also evident here. The tipsy artisan issuing from the alehouse door,

The dame demure, from visit late,
Her lantern borne before in state

By sloven footboy, paces slow With patten’d feet and hooded brow, and the eavesdropper, all furnish amusement for the traveler by night! The diction is sometimes sufficiently poetic to be effective, as in the lines quoted above; often, on the other hand, it is really prose, as in the lines,

Night, loneliness, and motion are Agents of power to distance care; To distance, not discard.

Two poems depicting country life in Scotland are published in The Casquet of Gems. The first, a Female Picture of a Country Life, is a remembrance of life in her ‘native vale' undoubtedly idealized by her mature interest in philanthropy. One stanza shows the best of the poem:

I’ll gather round my board

All that Heaven sends to me of way-worn folks, And noble travellers, and neighboring friends, Both young and old. Within my ample hall, The worn-out man of arms shall o' tip toe tread, Tossing his gray locks from his wrinkled brow With cheerful freedom, as he boasts his feats Of days gone by. Music we'll have; and oft The bickering dance upon our oaken floors Shall, thundering loud, strike on the distant ear

Of ’nighted travellers, who shall gladly bend Their doubtful footsteps towards the cheering din. Solemn, and grave, and cloistered and demure We shall not be. Will this content ye, Damsels?

The companion-poem, Hay-making, shows, in simple, homely language, man's life on a farm. These poems belong in general type of subject-matter to the early poems, but in versification to the poems after 1790.

Before leaving this group, we should note Ahalya Baee, which forms the conclusion of the metrical legends. The poem is controlled by the same principles of ohoice of material and of form as are the other legends. The author's use of history is noteworthy. None of the more prominent events is omitted, so that at the end of the poem the reader feels that he has found a poetic version of Malcolm's story. The poem contains many strong passages, and illustrates the rather remarkable degree in which Joanna Baillie was able to identify herself with her favorite female characters, and consequently to describe their emotion. The immolation of Indian widows is not an unusual theme. The emotion, however, of a mother who sees her only child sacrifice herself for love of her husband, furnishes material for a vivid picture.

The songs included in the dramas should be briefly considered in this connection. Joanna Baillie had a definite theory regarding the use of song, to which she adhered closely. First, the songs should be sung by those who have little part in the action, never by the principal actors, as most good actors cannot sing. Secondly, they should be introduced at a time when nothing very important is occurring on the stage, and be generally applicable to the occasion. In real life, song is usually not the spontaneous expression of the singer; hence, thirdly, in the dramas the songs should be written by other people, and should have been sung before. Most of the songs occur in the tragedies, where they are used for relief; only two comedies, The Election and The Country Inn, contain any songs. In both The Phantom and The Beacon occur a number, from which fact The Beacon received its name of * a serious musical drama.’ It is evident that the principles enunciated in the preface to The Beacon have led Joanna Baillie throughout, as the songs are consistently put in the mouths of inferior characters, and usually occur at the beginning or the end of a scene. In every case they are reproduced songs, never extemporaneous; as a result, the stage is set for them as an additional source of pleasure to the audience. The critic in the Edinburgh Review for February, 1812, says of The Beacon:

The songs have all a great deal of beauty, . . . and are thick set with images and ideas. Indeed, the whole style is more richly adorned with figures of thought and of speech than in any of her other performances. . . . We must make room now for some of the songs, . . . which she has contrived to introduce

Martyr, The kind heart speaks with words so kindly sweet,’ sung by Portia in the middle of the scene in such a way as to avoid the common objection of making people sing in situations where such an operation is obviously unnatural. All her songs are introduced (as Shakespeare’s are) as being sung by the inferior persons of the drama for the entertainment of the superior, . . . not as the extemporaneous productions of the chief characters themselves. The following is sung to Aurora by one of her female attendants, and we think has very considerable beauty, . . . tho the concluding line of the stanza is both weak and unmelodious:

Wish’d-for gales the light vane veering, etc.

There is the same crowd and condensation of images in the following reveillee with which the piece opens:

Up, quit thy bower, etc.

We shall quote but one more, which possesses greater unity of subject, tho the description in the latter part is equally brief and beautiful

Where distant billows meet the sky, etc.

We do not know that these pieces are very lyrical; but they have undoubtedly very great merit, and are more uniformly good, than any passages of equal length in the blank verse of the same writer. We should guess that Miss Baillie writes slowly, and with considerable labour; and the trouble which it probably occasions her to find rhymes, may perhaps be one cause of the goodness of her rhymed poetry. It leads obviously to the great merit of brevity and condensation of sentiment, as well as to the rejection of weak or ordinary images; —for it is only upon precious materials that a prudent artist will ever bestow his most costly and laborious workmanship. But whatever be the causes of their excellence, it affords us great pleasure to bear testimony to the fact.

In these dramas occur some of her best lyrics. The opening song from The Beacon, Up, quit thyf bower, is quoted, in a current anthology. In older collections there are several of these songs: Though richer swains thy love pursue, from The Country Inn, is quoted by Cunningham, Struthers, and Taylor; Wish'd-for gales, from The Beacon, by Taylor; Open wide the frontal gate, from the Bride, by Taylor.

Throughout these non-dramatic poems is a simplicity jl which is characteristic of the woman herself. Carlyle ! recognized this ‘unpretendingness, this utter want of affectation' and spoke of the 'frank and vigorous air about her poetry' He is right in attributing to Joanna Baillie an 'actual relish for the simple affections of humanity, and the simple aspects of nature'; 'and occasionally' he continued, 'there are thrills of wild sublimity.' These poems are pictures of the daily life of the people whom she knew. They range from the simple songs addressed to children and those about the family pets, to the dignified poemsdealing with nature and religion. Nowhere does Joanna Baillie make a pretense of knowledge of high life; princes and nobles interest her less than fyer friends, her relatives, and her countrymen.


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