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Scottish Poets in America
Sturoc, Hon. William Cant


The general voice Sounds him for courtesy, behavior, language,
And every fair demeanor, an example ;
Titles of honor add not to his worth,
Who is himself an honor to his title.

William Cant Sturoc was born in the old town of Arbroath in the year 1822. He was the twelfth child of a family of thirteen, and as his parents’ circumstances in life were not of the best, it became necessary to put him to work at a comparatively early age. His education therefore while not altogether neglected, can truly be said to have been of a limited description. During the short time however that he remained at school it is interesting to note that he was credited with being “ a persistent, dogged, unconquerable boy, with a sharp, inquisitive turn of mind, bold and self-reliant, and a leader among his schoolmates.” He learned the trade of a wheel-wright with his father, but so determined was he during those early years of his life to better his education and to push himself forward in the world, that before he had reached the age of twenty he had read through and studied as carefully as possible nearly all of the English classics. To-day he can pause and look back with complacent satisfaction on the heroic and laudable struggles of his youth, and he may feel proud of the fact that apart from the honors which his merits have won for him in various fields, he now stands prominently before the world as one of the finest specimens of the self-made men of the present century. In 1846 he resolved to emigrate to Canada. He arrived in Montreal in May of that year, and while supporting himself during the succeeding four years by his trade, eagerly embraced every opportunity that presented itself whereby he could add to the knowledge which he had already acquired. He became a frequent contributor to Canadian newspapers and magazines, and many of his articles written at this date show that he possessed considerable literary ability, besides a sound discriminating judgment.

Life in Canada however soon failed to please him. In 1850 he crossed over to the United States and took up his abode in Sunapee, N. H. Here he became acquainted with the late Hon. Edmund Burke, and by him was induced to commence the study of law. Zealously applying himself to his new task he was rewarded in 1855 by being admitted to practice as an attorney in the courts of New Hampshire. Since that time he has made Sunapee his home, and while attaining the highest degree of eminence in his profession, has also acquired an honorable reputation as an orator, a poet and one of the ablest statesmen in New Hampshire. By his gentle demeanor, his genial disposition and his numerous acts of Christian kindness he has gained the respect and the love of all classes. His home and surroundings are thus described in a recent issue of the Granite Monthly “Along the banks of Sugar River, on the shore of the lake, and crowning surrounding hillsides cluster fifty or sixty dwelling-houses, interspersed among which rise the spires of three church edifices, the roofs of a hotel, post-office, five stores, school-house, and the town hall. Some of the residences are elegant and commodious and compare favorably with the same class of structures in larger villages. The oldest and one of the best-looking dwelling-houses is the one owned by the Hon. William Cant Sturoc, in the heart of the village. We found that gentleman at home in his library, a man fifty-seven years of age, looking what he is, the educated, hospitable, ardent Scotchman. The blood of Bruce and Wallace is in his veins, the fire of Burns and Scott in his brain. Next to his adopted country he loves Scotland, and he has often breathed that affection in exquisite verse. It is a pleasure to hear him read Burns and other Scotch poets. As a lawyer and politician, he has no little distinction. He was the democratic candidate for State Senator in district number ten in 1876. His proudest title, however, is that of the ‘Bard of Sunapee.’” The following is his well-known descriptive poem entitled

LAKE SUNAPEE

Once more, my muse! from rest of many a year,
Come forth again and sing, as oft of yore;
Now lead my steps to where the crags appear
In silent grandeur, by the rugged shore,
That skirts the margin of thy waters free,
Lake of my mountain home, loved Sunapee!

Meet invocation! to the pregnant scene,
Where long ere yet the white man’s foot did roam,
Strode wild and free the daring Algonquin;
And where, perchance the stately Metacom
Inspired his braves, with that poetic strain
Which cheer’d the Wampanoags, but cheer’d in vain.

Clear mountain mirror! who can tell but thou
Hast borne the red man, in his light canoe
As fleetly on thy bosom as e’en now
Thou bear’st the pale face o’er thy waters blue;
And who can tell but nature’s children then
Were rich and happy as the mass of men?

Sweet Granite “Katrine” of this mountain land!
Oh jewel set amid a scene so fair!
Kearsage, Ascutney, rise on either hand,
While Grantham watches with a lover’s care,
And our dark “Ben” to Croydon sends in glee,
A greeting o’er thy silvery breast, Lake Sunapee!

How grand, upon a moonlit eve, to glide
Upon thy waters, twixt the mountains high
And gaze within thy azure crystal tide,
On trembling shadows of the earth and sky;
While all is silent, save when trusty oar
Awakes an echo from thy slumbering shore.

Oh, lovely lake, I would commune with thee!
For in thy presence naught of ill is found;
That cares which wed the weary world to me,
May cease to harass with their carking round.
And I a while ’midst Nature’s grandeur stand,
On mount of rapture ’twixt the sea and land.

For where shall mortals holier ground espy,
From which to look where hope doth point and gaze,
Than from the spot that speaks a Diety,
In hoary accents of primeval praise?
And where shall man a purer altar find,
From which to worship the Almighty Mind ?

Thy past is curtained by as deep a veil
As shrouds the secrets which we may not reach;
And then, ’twere wisdom, when our quest doth fail,
To read the lessons which thou
now dost teach ;
And in thy face, on which we look to-day,
See hopes to cheer us on our onward way.

Roll on, sweet lake ! and if perchance thy form
Laves less of earth than floods of Western fame;
Yet still we love thee, in the calm or storm,
And call thee
ours by many a kindly name.
No patriot heart but loves the scenes that come,
O’er memory’s sea to breathe a tale of “Home.”

And when the winter in its frozen thrall
Binds up thy locks in braids of icy wreath,
Forget we not thy cherish’d name to call,
In fitting shadow of the sleep of death!
But morn shall dawn upon our sleep, and we,
As thou in spring-time wake, sweet “Sunapee!”

Mr. Sturoc has been an ardent and successful wooer of the muses since his earliest years. He has given to the world many excellent poems and lyrical pieces, which have been awarded the highest praise from the press and literary men in general, but his extreme modesty and unwillingness to exhibit his talents in this respect before the public, has in a great measure retarded his popularity as a poet, both in America and in Great Britain. “The little fugitive crumbs,” he says, “which I have cast carelessly upon the waters have been received on both sides of the Atlantic with more favor than they really deserve, yet, though ‘owre the seas an’ far awa’, I always take a warm and hearty interest in all that concerns Scotland.” There is however, a notable difference between his early poems and those of a more matured period of his life. Take for instance one cf his pieces which appeared in the Glasgow Citizen in 1845. begins,

My Katie is a winsome flower,
As ever bloomed in cot or ha’,
An’ heaven forbid its dewy leaves,
Should ere untimely fade or fa,’ etc.

There is hardly a line in this production that is in any way worthy to stand beside the beautiful lines which he gave to the world later on under the title of “Mary” and which we herewith append. An American paper noticing this poem at the time of its first publication very justly remarked that “ It stamped its author, not only as a ripe scholar, but as possessing rare poetic gifts.”

MARY.

I saw a vision in my boyish days,
So bright, so pure, that in my raptur’d dreaming,
Its tints of emerald and its golden rays
Had more of heavenly than of earthly seeming;
The roseate valley and the sun-light mountain
Alike, enchanted as by wand of fairy,
Breathed out as from a high and holy fountain,
On flower and breeze, the lovely name of Mary.

That youthful vision, time has not effaced,
But year by year the cherish’d dream grew deeper,
And memory’s hand, at midnight hour oft traced,
Once more, the faithful vision of the sleeper;
No chance or change could ever chase away
This idol thought, that o’er my life would tarry,
And lead me, in the darkest hours, to say—
“My better angel is my hoped-for Mary.”

The name was fix'd—a fact of fate’s recording—
And swayed by magic all this single heart;
The strange decree disdained a novel wording,
And would not from my happy future part ;
As bright ’twas writ, as is the milky way—
The bow of promise is a sky unstarry—
That sheds its light and shone with purest ray
Through cloud and tempest round the name of Mar}-.

Burns hymn’d his “Mary” when her soul had pass’d
Away from earth, and all its sin and sorrow;
But mine has been the spirit that hath cast
A gleam of sunshine on each blessed morrow;
And crown’d at last, this trusting heart hath been,
With fruits of faith, that nought on earth could vary,
For I have lived until my eyes have seen
The vision real, in the form of Mary.

A special feature of Mr. Sturoc’s poetry is the simplicity of language used by him. He places his thoughts before us in a clear and concise style, and his words, beautiful and appropriate in each instance, seem to flow as naturally from him as do the streams and rills down the sides of the mountains and the glens of his native land. Take the following “song ” as a specimen of this:

I ken’na gin the lanesome birds,
When winter’s snaws fa’ dreary, O.
Forget their canty summer hames
In woods and glens sae cheery, O.

But weel I ken this heart'o’ mine,
Tho’ fortune gars me wander O,
Beats leal to ilka youthfu’ scene
An’ distance makes me fonder, O.

For in my dreams, by day or nicht,
Tho’ wealth and beauty bind me O,
I’m wafted far owre sea an’ land,
To friends I left behind me O,

An’ there I see ilk weel-kent face,
An’ hear sweet voices many O.
But dearest'still the smile and word
O’ charming, winsome Jenny O

In nearly all of our author’s poetry we find an underlying reference and unquestionable love for the land of his boyhood.

This is more to be wondered at when we take into consideration the fact that it is now more than forty years since he left Scotland. Time however has in no way changed her to him; and her history, traditions, scenery and people are ever before his mind. In some cases his enthusiasm for the fatherland becomes uncontrollable, and his muse bursts forth into patriotic strains as noble and as grand as those which emanated from Henry Scott Riddell and others. The following poem, for instance, written not very long since, will always be accorded a prominent place in Scottish minstrelsy :

MY NATIVE SCOTTISH HILLS.

Though cold and bleak my native land,
Thoughjwint’ry are its looks,
The mountains towering, dim and grand,
Though “ice-bound” are its brooks;
Yet still my heart with fondest pride,
And deepest passions thrills,
As, gazing round
tne, far and wide,
I miss my native hills !

The spreading prairies of the West
May field their richest store;
And other tongues may call them blest,
And chant their praises o’er;
But I shall sing, in humble song, .
Of mountains, lochs and rills—
The scenes my childhood dwelt among—
My native Scottish hills.

Oh native land ! Oh cherished home,
I’ve sailed across the sea,
And, though my wandering steps may roam,
My heart still turns to thee!
My thoughts and dreams are sweet and bright
With dew which loves distills;
While every gleam of golden light
Falls on the Scottish hills.

And, when my mortal race is run,
And earth’s vain dreams are o’er,
And, far beyond the setting sun,
I see the other shore—
Oh, may my resting place be found
Secure from all life’s ills,
Some cheerful spot of hallow’d ground
Among the Scottish hills.

A sincere religious sentiment, well worthy of note, also pervades many of Mr. Sturoc’s musings. However much his public career may have brought him in contact with the world there is no misdoubting the Christianity of the heart that can sing

So what we have of gifts and graces given,
Are only lent us for life’s little day;
Nor shall we do the high behest of heaven
If gifts are hidden, or be cast away;
And whom the hand of.destiny hath sealed,
As seer and singer for his fellows all,
’Tis his to scatter o’er earth’s fertile field '
The seeds that drop at inspiration’s call'

* ' * * * “

Then let me sing! O. worldlings, let me sing!
Mayhap my warblings with their notes of-cheer
Will heal some heart that cherishes, a sting
Or wake the hopeless from their sleep of fear!
And thus I give what first to me is given; .
My heart still grasping at the good and true,
And trust the rest to high and holy heaven,
Which measures doing by the power to do.

The Manchester Daily Mirror and American, in an article describing our author says: “ He has many of the elements of the genuine orator. He is one of the best debaters in the legislature—better than a majority in Congress whose names appear daily in the papers during the sessions of that body. He is deliberate in utterance, makes himself heard by all the house, and speaks with earnestness and to the point. In July, 1867, he received from Dartmouth College the honorary degree of Master of Arts. He holds & commission as Justice of the Peace and as Notary Public from the Governor of N. H. His democracy is of the Jeffersonian type and his faith in constitutional liberty as firm as the granite hills.” Mr. Sturoc keeps up a regular correspondence with his many literary friends, both in this country and Scotland, and frequently receives a rhyming epistle from some of his poetical contemporaries. The following brief but complimentary one is by Mr. Duncan MacGregor Crerar, and is addressed

“TO WILLIAM CANT STUROC, ON RECEIVING HIS PORTRAIT.”

My wishes warm I waft to thee,
Beloved bard of Sunapee!
I prize, and will as years roll on,
Perhaps, dear friend, when thou art gone,
This welcome gift, this portrait true
Of thee, ta’en at three score and two;
Those kindly eyes and locks of gray
Will call up many a byegone day
Made glad by letters charmed from thee,
Beloved bard of Sunapee!
Heaven grant thee strength and spare thee long
To sing thy tunesome woodland song,
Till dell and dingle, lake and corrie,
Join in the strain and sound thy glory!

Mr. Sturoc, while getting on in years, is still hale and hearty. His intellect is as clear to-day as it has been in years gone by, and we trust as he gradually lays aside the cares of public life that he will continue to charm us with more of that genuine poetry which he has already produced, and which he is still capable of producing.


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