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Scottish Poets in America
Taylor, Malcolm, Jr.


I’ve scanned the actions of his daily life
With all the industrious malice of a foe ;
And nothing meets mine eyes but deeds of honor.

Malcolm Taylor, Jr., poet and dramatist, is a native of Dundee, where he was born in 1850. Coining to this country with the other members of his family in his tenth year, he was given a careful education, and his boyhood glided peacefully into manhood surrounded by all the pleasures and comforts of a happy and moral home. On completing his studies he was sent to learn the plumbing trade, but this proving distasteful to him, he abandoned it and entered into commercial engagements which suited him better.

There are few Scotsmen in this city better known or more respected than Malcolm Taylor, senior, the father of our poet. He is blessed with very fine musical qualities, and his singing of many of the old Scotch songs is a rare treat even to those persons who do not hail from the land of the mountain and the flood. Previous to his selecting a home for his family in the new world he was precenter of one of the principal churches in Dundee, besides being leader for many years of the Dundee Choral Union.

Our author at an early age gave ample evidence of possessing true poetic gifts. His mind, even at school, was completely wrapped up in poetical matters, and his sole ambition at one time was to become a great poet. We have had the pleasure of reading a number of his early musings, and there is no doubt that they display genuine talent, not only in their versification, but also in their ideas and general construction. They are bright and musical, and always of a pleasing character. Take the following one, for instance. It was written in his fourteenth year and published in a well-known New York weekly newspaper:

LOVE’S QUESTIONING.

Do you love me? Tell—
Does your heart swift beat
And your bosom swell
When I talk so sweet?
Does a sudden thrill
Of estatic bliss
Your whole body fill
When our lips they kiss?

Do you love me? Tell—
In your memory
Does there always dwell
Pleasant thoughts of me?
Do hours like days seem
When I am not nigh?
Of me do you dream
When in sleep you lie?

Do you love me? Tell—
Do you love sighs heave
When I say farewell?
And then when I leave,
Do you linger still
The doorstep upon,
Watching me until
From sight I am gone?

Do you love me? Tell —
When you hear the chime
Of a marriage bell,
Long you for the time
When we too shall stand
At the altar’s side,
Linking hand in hand;
Having love’s knot tied?

Do you love me? Tell—
Love me fond and true?
In your looks I spell,
What tells me you do;
But, just to be heard,
Whisper in my ear
That one simple word
I so long to hear.

Do you love me? Tell—
Why still arc you dumb?
Known the answer well,
But yet let it come.
Do you love me? Speak—
Darling now confess!
Ah! that blushing cheek!
Your reply is—“Yes.”

Nor was it in his English compositions alone that Mr. Taylor, through his early efforts, gave promise of one day attaining a prominent position among the poets. He seems to have written many pieces in his mother tongue which obtained considerable popularity for him among his countrymen. Here is a little Scottish lyric which he composed in his fifteenth year and which proves that even at that age he possessed an intimate knowledge of the Doric :

BONNIE GIRZIE O’ GLENBRAE.

Leeze me, lassie, but I lo’e thee,
And my thochts run like a sang,
As the burn adoon the corrie,
Louping wi’ sheer joy alang.
Gin ye knew their sang by hairt, love,
And would lilt the simple lay,
Oh, how happy wad it mak’ me,
Bonnie Girzie o’ Glenbrae.

’Mang the lave thee only lo’e I,
And my hairt is like a bloom,
As a gowan on the haugh-side,
Bursting wi' love’s pure perfume;
Wad ye wear my modest posy
On thy bosom, blest for aye,
It would yield its inmost spirit,
Bonnie Girzie o’ Glenbrae.

Wad ye sing my thochts, my dawtie,
Yours wad lilt fond symphony;
Wad ye wear my hairt-bloom ever,
Yours wad fellow-blossom be;
Sweet wi’ joy and love enduring,
Song and bloom wad blend alway,
Livin’ melody and fragrance—
Bonnie Girzie O’ Glenbrae.

On comparing the above pieces with any of our author’s more recent productions we will at once notice the advancement which he has made. He has certainly cultivated his talents very carefully and the result is that his muse is now vigorous, inspiring and scholarly. In addition to this there is a love of nature and a purity of feeling embodied in and adding a lustre to all of his later work that is not to be found in any of his earlier compositions. Take a poem entitled “Hyacinth,” which he composed a few years ago and we will readily note the difference:

In the body-bulb buried low, and hid
From the glint of human eye, and sun,
Like a lifeless corse ’neath a coffin-lid,
Longing to rise, with freedom won,
Lies the Hyacinth, awaiting the birth
From a dormant state, which is as death,
Till Nature’s Christ comes on the earth,
And resurrects it with living breath.

As a vague, dim hint of a day to come,
In time now looms, from the dark, dank mold,
A tip of green, striving, slow and dumb,
With feeble force its powers to unfold;
And soon on the surface spread vernal arms,
That embrace the air and caress the light,
Till the centre stalk feels life’s fond charms,
And rises in majestic might.

Then a cluster of stars shoot into view,
Petaled Pleiades to gem the ground,
And lend their sheen of tender hue
To illume the varied scene around;
Whilst the eyes and lips of the budding head
The smiles and breath of love give free,
On the air the wealth of its soul to shed,
To live in the mind eternally.

Thus the poet’s soul, innate and cold,
Awaits the call of Nature’s God
To burst from its gyves of human mold,
And peer above the insensate sod.
First, looming up, one struggling thought
Finds expression, as the hint of green;
Then his mind, with ardent feelings fraught,
Aspires to reach to heaven serene.

Soon his fancies teem to a budding head,
And crown his brain, as a group of stars,
Their lustre rare around to shed,
To charm the sense in rhythmic bars;
While his thoughts, like arms, stretch wide apart,
The sum of love and life to embrace,
And his lips and tongue give voice to his heart
In a song that time cannot efface.

Mr. Taylor revisited Scotland in 1874, and while there contributed numerous articles and poems to the New York Scotsman. One of the latter, a lengthy poem, entitled “Mountain Musings,” appeared in serial form and was universally admired. Another lengthy descriptive poem which he composed in the Highlands, entitled “ In the Wilderness/' was published in Human Nature, a well-known London literary magazine, and commanded a great deal of praise from the critics of the English metropolis. A brief excursion through Ayrshire further inspired his muse and called forth a very fine poem on Robert Burns, from which we make two extracts :

Now let me, with my pen’s weird wand, forsooth,
Waive by the windings of his young life path,
The petty trials he had, as each child hath,
Till soon we see him as a reaper youth;
When, bending low beside some winsome
Ruth To bind with wheaten gyves the levelled swath,
Or gathering up the golden aftermath.
He tried to sing the love he felt in truth;
Then woke the poet’s spirit in his form,
Moved was his hand to touch the latent chords
That longed to give expression fair in words
To what his heart felt in affection warm;
And as he told his love in lilted line
He wooed the willing Coila, muse divine.

* * * * *

And now behold him, Fashion's pampered child!
The Pet of wealth! The social board around
His favored friends did reverence profound,
While he, with his own songs, the time beguiled
Till, with that Circe, Pleasure’s draught grown wild
Our laverock Rab soon had his sad rebound
And, faulty, fell back to the common ground,
To sink from sight, in poverty exiled;
But though was smirched with shame in touching dross
The form that housed his soul, above mere pelf;
Yet crushed not was the better part of self;
From human failings suffering no loss
His songs lived on and lingered, still sublime,
Throuh all the echoing corridors of Time.

In 1878 Mr. Taylor was united in marriage to Mrs. R. E, Scher-merhorn, an accomplished lady who had already won distinction for herself as the first lady attorney of the city of Rochester. During the following five years he resided at their magnificent house, Cascade, on the beautiful shore of Owasco Lake, in central New York. While located here he ventured into the dramatic field, and many of the plays which he has since written have met with phenomenal success. His “Auld Robin Gray,” a dramatization of the celebrated ballad of that name, was pronounced by Mr. James H. Stoddart, the eminent actor, to be one of the finest Scotch pastoral plays that he had ever read. The above, with some of his other dramas, such as “ The Afflicted Family,” “Rags and Bottles,” and “Aar-u-a-goos ” have been published, and are played with great success throughout the United States each season. Through the channel of his dramatic writings our author gradually drifted into the theatrical profession, and he now holds a prominent and resposible position in one of the best paying theatres in central New York. While cultivating the good graces of Thalia and Melpomene, however, he did not altogether forget his old love. While he may have neglected his muse for the time being, yet the following recently composed sonnets will prove that she still lingers within his reach willing to be wooed by him at all times:

LOVE’S SUMMER.

You ask me am I lonely? Not at all
Though thick the dun October clouds may loom
And wild winds cry around the wail of doom
That summer’s vernal foliage finds its fall,
I mourn not, having thee. If, like a pall,
The storm does gather close about, in gloom
To shroud me, livened by the June-like bloom
That seems to spring up at thy cheery call,
The earth, that otherwise would serve to load
My heart with heaviness, at prospects sad,
Now seems a very paradise, so glad
My spirit is. With thee to walk the road,
Though knowing that it led to regions dark,
Still would I on such journey fain embark.
And why? Because the light from out thine eyes
Makes shining bright the scene with sunny smiles,
And thy rich laugh, like bird-trill, still beguiles
The passing hour with music, while fast flies
Each feathery warbler unto warmer skies,
Each blush-rose that my word-warmth without wiles
Brings into bloom upon thy cheek, denials
To no great purpose, as fair flowers apprize
Me that my love finds soil within thy breast;
Hence in thy presence summer ever stays,
Since smile, and laugh, and blush, always
Are sun, and bird, and flower to me most blest,
And this is why, in seasons dark or bright,
I in thy company still find delight.

Among Mr. Taylor’s poems not already referred to, “A Four-Leaf Clover,” “Six Kisses,” and “The Violet’s Death ” are worthy of special mention on account of their meritorious character. The two latter are poems of considerable length, but they contain many noble passages, together with numerous lines of genuine poetry. His verses addressed to “Auld Kirk Alloway” are in excellent taste and will always be kindly remembered by Scotsmen in connection with this illustrious old ruin. We quote a few verses:

The wild rose decks your broo in spring,
Aroun’ your form the ivies cling
Like memories dear, while linties sing
Their leal love’s praise,
As Rab did his, meandering
On Doon’s green braes.

* * * *

Your wa’s still stan’, though roofless lang,
And wi’ carse, crumblin’ cild nae strang,
in’ syne your bell in peal has rang,
Fu’ mony a wight
Has joined the dust frae whence he sprang,
An’ gane frae sight.

* * * *

As lang’s the lays the ploughman sung
To chords o’ Coila’s lyre, love-strung,
Repeated are by human tongue,
Fame to prolong,
Ye will be known foremaist among
The kirks o’ song.

When time is done, the poem divine,
Ilk age a verse, ilk year a line,
In nae ae stanza will there shine
A brichter name,
Than his, wha gied ye, ruined shrine
Your storied fame.

Sae fear nae, though you’re failin’ fast
Ye will be to oblivion cast,
For while the mind o’ man does last,
In cornin’ day
Ye’ll live in glory o’ the past,
Kirk Alloway!

It will readily be seen from these specimens of the poetical writings of Mr. Taylor that he possesses all the qualifications of a very fine poet. He is just entering upon the prime of manhood, and we feel confident that if he would concentrate his powers upon some one subject he would yet produce a poem worthy of his youthful ambition, and which would entitle him to rank among the most eminent of Scottish poets.


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