Sunday, September 5, 2010

Robert Fergusson

The poet Robert Fergusson was born on September 5, 1750.  Fergusson, led a raucous life and short life, dying three years after Walter Scott was born (died Oct 16, 1774), at the age of 24.  The circumstances of his death are unfortunate.  He died while under medical care after receiving a head injury. Nonetheless, Fergusson, who wrote in both Scottish and English dialects, left a mark on Scottish life and literature, notably influencing Robert Burns' work.

Fergusson's works are collected in  "The Works of Robert Fergusson", by Robert Fergusson and Alexander Balloch Grosart, which was published in 1857.  Brosart includes several references to Walter Scott in this collection, as in the following from a poem titled "Mutual Complaint of Plainstanes and Causey" (Scottish dialect):


I dinna care a single jot,
Tho' summon'd by a shelly-coat,
Sac leally I'll propone defences,
As get ye flung for my expcnces;
Your libel I'll impugn verbatim,
And hae a magnum damnum datum;
For tho' frae Arthur's seat I sprang,
And am in constitution strang,
Wad it no fret the hardest stane
Beneath the Luckenbooths l to grane ?
Tho' magistrates the Cross 2 discard,
It makes na whan they leave the Guard, 3

1 Where Ramsay had his 'Shop' in which the first circulating library was established, and from which issued his peerless Pastoral and subsequently Burns's Poems, and many of the most celebrated works of the last century, from the press of Creech. The Luckenbooths consisted of a series of tenements which rose nearly to the height of the adjacent houses, built within a few yards of the church of St. Giles headed at their western extremity by the Old Tolbooth of Edinburgh.— Vide Arnot—Wilson—Cliambers.

2 The market-cross had been removed in 1752, as touchingly and with levin-fire lamented by Sir Walter Scott, at whose seat of Abbotsford the ornamental stones of it are still preserved.

Dun Edin's Cross, a pillar'd stone,
Rose on a turret octagon ;
But now is razed that monument,
Whence royal edict rang,
And voice of Scotland's law was sent
In glorious trumpet clang.
0 ! be his tomb as lead to lead,
Upon its dull destroyer's head!—
A minstrel's malison is said.

Marmion, Canto V. v. 25.

3 " The Guard-house was a long, low, ugly building (removed in 1787-8) which to a fanciful imagination might have suggested the idea of a long black snail crawling up the middle of the High Street, and deforming its beautiful esplanade."—Scott:—Heart of Midlothian, c. vi. A portrait of the Guard-house forms one of the curious Collection by Kay, No. CLXX. Edin. 2 vols. 4to.

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