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Scottish Poets in America
Murray, William

I live not like the many of my kind;
Mine is a world of feelings and of fancies;
Fancies, whose rainbow-empire is the mind—
Feelings, that realize their own romances.

William Murray was born on the twenty-fifth of May, 1834, at Finlarig, Breadalbane, Perthshire, in an old-fashioned house close by the old castle of Finlarig, built by Black Duncan, head of the then house of Breadalbane. His father, Peter Murray, held the position of head gardener to the Breadalbane estates for a period extending over thirty-five years. He was an intelligent, straightforward, God-fearing man, and to this day is kindly remembered by all who knew him. He early noticed the bright faculties with which his son was endowed, and he spared no expense in providing him with as careful and as complete an education as was to be procured in the Highlands of Scotland at the time. Shortly after finishing his studies our author resolved to strike out in the world on his own account, and emigrating to Canada found himself occupying a subordinate position in a mercantile establishment in Toronto just as he was entering upon the twenty-first year of his age. He has always been industrious and earnest, and fortune has showered her favors on him, as he is now well to do in every sense which that term implies. He has been connected for a great many years with the well-known and extensive dry goods house of Messrs. A. Murray & Co., Hamilton, Ontario. Mr. Murray's birthplace is situated in one of the most picturesque positions in the Highlands, and his muse takes a special delight in winging her way back and describing the magnificent and historical scenes amid which he first saw the light. In this connection his poem entitled “My Birthplace,” and inscribed to Mr. Even MacColl, is perhaps the finest of all his productions. It contains numerous lines of true poetry, together with many beautiful similes, the diction is good and pure, while as a descriptive poem it will compare favorably with the work of many of the author’s brother bards. We make the following extracts from it:

When first my eyes awoke to light,
The Grampian hills were full in sight;
The Dochart and the Lochay joined,
Repose in deep Loch Tay to find.

* * * *

Not far beyond lies Fortingall
The scene of many a bloody brawl;
But chiefly, here the Roman shield
Was driven shattered from the field:

Here Caesar’s chivalry first felt
The metal of the Highland celt,
And with his finger in his mouth
Enquired the shortest passage south!

Now, rise with me to yonder hill,
Watered by many a crystal rill,
Covered by Scotia’s darling heather,
With here and there a hill bird’s feather,

And fox glove’s mazy tangled knots,
Holding its own until it rots,
And, to the sportsman ever dear,
The grouse and blackcock crouching near,

The lark rejoicing up on high,
The eagle swooping through the sky.
But best of all to grazier’s eye,
The hardy black sheep passing by,

Nibbling away with sharp white teeth
Their perfumed provender, the heath,
And never deem their journey high
Till hidden in the misty sky.

* * * *

But worse than blameful would I be,
Were human friends forgot by me—
Those friends who cheered my early years,
Increased my joys and soothed my fears,

Who nursed me, taught me and caressed me,
And when I left them, sighed and blessed me!
However primitive their talk,
Unstudied and untrained their walk—

Altho’ they wore the simple plaid
Which their own thrifty hands had made,
And were content with Highland bonnets,
Highland whiskey, Highland sonnets—

They were a noble race of men
Whose like we ne’er shall see again—
Their faults I hardly wish to hide,
Their virtues I admire with pride.

* * * *

Yes, while I here, far^from these scenes,
May value all that money means,
A something says, with thrilling tones,
“In Scotland you must lay your bones.”

Another very fine poem by Mr. Murray is the one entitled “Rob Roy,” written for the New York Scotsman some years ago. This is a composition of considerable length, but it is well written, the interest is sustained throughout, and it conveys to us a graphic picture of the life and times of this celebrated Highland chieftain :

As he proudly stood arrayed
In his graceful kilt and plaid,
With a power to be obeyed
In his kingly face,
The MacGregor looked the head
Of a noble race.

Noble race it truly was,
Notwithstanding Saxon laws,
And the chief who leads its cause
Rules it heart and soul.
See him! every breath he draws
Claims supreme control.

True, bold Rob, in hours of sleep,
Sometimes captured Lowland sheep
Which the owners couldn’t keep,
Lacking strength and skill;
Or some cattle he might sweep
From some Lowland hill.

He believed that sheep and cattle
Gave a kind of charm to battle,
Which improved a hero’s mettle
And (which wasn’t worse)
While they helped his nerves to settle,
They improved his purse.

’Twas the simple ancient plan
Taught by every genuine clan,
To recover from each man
What the other lost;
Nor did one or other scan
Closely what it cost.

* * * *

Clansmen all, the story’s told,
Many years have come and lolled
Since we first in Scotland old,
With a boyish joy,
Heard of all the doings bold
Of the brave Rob Roy.

Thank the Lord the times are changed;
Every wrong has been avenged;
On the side of right are ranged
People, Crown and Law—
All from each, no more estranged,
Strength and glory draw.

Celt and Saxon now are one,
Fights and feuds are past and gone,
And o’er Scotia’s mountains lone
Shedding peace and joy,
Queen Victoria fills the throne
Of the bold Rob Roy.

Although frequently pressed by his friends to publish a collection of his poems in book form our author, thus far, has refrained from doing so. 'l'his is not the result of a want of confidence in himself or a fear as to what the verdict of the public might be at such a step. It is simply because he lacks ambition, or more properly speaking perhaps, is too unassuming in regard to his own merits. While he admits in a recent poetic epistle addressed to the writer that—

“We rhymers richly relish praise,
And when a nurse like you displays
In such attire,
The bairns which from our brains we raise,
We go on fire—’’

still it is a well-known fact that, while he is the author of a sufficient number of poems to fill two good-sized volumes, many of his pieces have appeared in magazines and newspapers without his name or even his initials being attached to them. He has been actively engaged in business for many years, but in the midst of this busy portion of his life he has had moments of genuine inspiration, moments in which an irresistible force has compelled him to lay bare his heart and feelings in poems, epistles and lyrical pieces of acknowledged merit. He writes in a graceful and easy style and his muse generally alights on subjects which are interesting as well as instructive. His poems are skillfully worked out and contain thoughts and expressions which prove that he possesses a fine literary taste. His “Caledonians and the Romans,” ‘‘Epistle from St. Andrew,” “Our Ain Snug Little House,” “Canada to Uncle Sam ” and “The Scottish Plaid” are very creditable productions in all respects and will always be accorded a loyal welcome by admirers of the Scottish muse. The last-named piece contains no less than forty-six verses and illustrates the mastery which our author still retains over his native Doric : -

The plaid amang our auld forbears
Was lo’ed owre a’ their precious wares,
Their dearest joys wad be but cares
Withoot the plaid.

And when the auld guidman was deid,
’Twas aye by a’ the hoose agreed,
That to his auldest son was fee’d
His faither’s plaid.

Ah! gin auld plaids could speak or sing,
Our heids and hearts wad reel and ring
To hear the thrillin’ tales that cling
To Scotia’s plaid.

To hear hoo Scottish men and maids,
’Mang Scotland's hills and glens and glades,
Baith wrocht and focht wi’ brains and blades
In thae auld plaids.

The star o’ Scotland ne’er will set,
If we will only ne’er forget
The virtues in our sires, that met
Aneath the plaid.

Amang the Scottish sichts I’ve seen
Was ane that touched baith heart and een;
A shepherd cornin’ oure the green
Wi' crook and plaid,

And i’ the plaid a limpin’ lamb,
That on the hill had lost its dam,
And, like some trustfu’ bairnie, cam,
Row’d i’ the plaid

Anither sicht I think I see,
The saddest o’ them a’ to me—
The Scottish martyrs gaun to dee
I’ their auld plaids.

But let’s rejoice, the times are changed,
The martyrs hae been a’ avenged—
An English princess has arranged
To wear the plaid.

In addition to the poems referred to, Mr. Murray has written many pieces which gives us a glimpse of himself and his daily life. These evince true poetic talent and can be read with pleasure and profit by all. We can readily trace his own disposition and character, for instance, in the following verses :


Reserve for me on earth
The man to call my friend;
In whom both mental worth
And heavenly wisdom blend.

The man who has a heart
To sympathize with grief,
And break misfortune’s dart
With counsel and relief.

The man whose voice will never
Unrighteousness defend,
But scorneth to discover
The weakness of a friend.

The man who stamps to dust
Vile slander ere it grows,
And who is true and just
Alike to friend and foes.

The man who worlds can trace,
And yet in whom we find,
Combined with cultured grace,
Humility of mind.

The man who’s not ashamed,
Though lord of every school,
However wise and famed,
To own himself a fool.

Or, in a word, the man,
Beneath affliction’s rod,
Or, high in fortune’s van,
Who glorifies his God.

Standing apart, so to speak, from his other pieces, and beautiful in their workmanship and design, are the numerous religious poems and paraphrases which our author has composed from time to time. These form a cluster of fine spiritual thoughts, and serve to show that the seeds of piety which were implanted in his heart in youth-time have retained their possession and are now bearing good fruit. We quote as a specimen of these religious musings the one entitled:


“A soft answer turneth away wrath.”—Proverbs.

“Return not ill for ill,” be thine
To imitate thy Lord divine;
Though wrathful lips provoke, let mine
Return a gentle answer.

The world may sneer: “perchancc,” it says,
“Such softness suited earlier days.
We now must study ‘manlier’ ways—”
Return a scornful answer.

Receive not lessons from the world,
Its wrath but rises to be hurled
Where baffled pride’s dark champion gnarled
Receives his awful answer.

The Master’s lessons are the best,
And they alone will stand the test
When death, each mortal’s final guest,
Demands his solemn answer.

“Reviled, He ne’er reviled again,”
Not even from dread Calvary’s pain,
Where innocence for guilt was slain,
Escaped a vengeful answer.

Is thy reward of little worth?
Grasp if thou canst its glorious girth;
Who are the heirs of this wide earth?
“The meek?” is Christ’s own answer.

And “ Blessed-God’s own children!” those
Who barter benefits for blows,
And peace establish among foes:
Their actions are their answer.

When angry words arise, forbear
To fan the flame of fury there,
And show the scorner that you dare
Return a gentle answer.

Withhold the fuel from the flame,
And soon its fierceness will turn tame;
So wrath unfed by angry blame
Will soon to reason answer.

And haply he who was thy foe,
Receiving winsome words for woe,
Ashamed, with gratitude may glow
To thee for thy kind answer.

Meek, mild, yet manly in thy life,
Assist to lessen sin and strife,
Allay contention’s tumults rife
With tli’ oil of a soft answer.

And on thy happy head shall fall
The joy which shall belong to all
Who at the blessed Master’s call
Are ready with their answer.

Acrostics, as a general rule, are of little value to anyone, but our author who seems to have a particular liking for this fantastic style of composition, has written a few which are worthy of perservation. Such, for instance, is the one


On the occasion of his visit to the Earl and Countess of Breadalbane, at Taymouth Castle, Oct. 1883.

Welcome to Taymouth, grandest of grand men!
I liken thee to a Breadalbane ben,
Leaving the hillocks at thy feet below,
Looking abroad beneath a crown of snow.
In thee Breadalbane honors all who claim,
A share in thine and Britain’s matchless fame.
Monarchs their merits still may faintly plead.
England’s great Gladstone is a king indeed.
William the Norman conquered with the sword,
A greater William conquers with a word,
Resistless as the thunderbolt that cleaves
The storm cloud which around Schihallion heaves.

God bless thee, noble champion of right!
Lions nor Launcelots can withstand thy might.
Angels in legions are upon thy side,
Demons and dastards from thy halberd hide.
Scotland remembers whence thy brilliant blood,
The Highlands claim thee from before the flood.
O’er all the rolling world thy fame resounds,
Nor even can the bards define its bounds,
Enjoy Breadalbane’s famous house and grounds.

Mr. Murray has been elected for a succession of years as one of the Bards of the Hamilton St. Andrew’s Society, and is now senior Bard of the Caledonian Society. As such it becomes his pleasant duty each year to present to those associations original poems in connection with the anniversary of the birthday of Robert Burns, St. Andrew’s day, etc. These compositions, of course, contain a great deal of what is merely of local interest, but there are also embodied in their lines many happy and patriotic allusions to Scotland which are especially pleasing to those who hail from the “Land of Cakes.” Among the smallest po^ms which we have met with on the Ayrshire Bard is the following :


His like we ne’er again will fin’d,
Such kings have no successors;
But of the treasures of his mind
All nations are possessors;
And while the vault of heaven glows
And earth endures below it,
So long resplendent lives and grows
The fame of Scotland’s poet.

On December 1, 1888, Mr. Murray addressed the following words of welcome to His Excellency, The Right Honorable Lord Stanley of Preston, Governor-General of Canada, on the occasion of his first visit to Hamilton, Ontario;


Welcome to Hamilton, Lord Stanley! First,
Because you represent our Gracious Queen—
The first and best of sovereigns—who has nursed,
What Earth’s old orb till now has never seen,
A family of free nations, blest with all
That loyal hearts can ask or love bestow;
Ready to rally round her throne at call,
And guard her empire ’gainst its fiercest foe.

And, secondly, we welcome you because
You are yourself entitled to esteem,
As one of that great race whose lives were laws
To knights and nobles, and whose glories gleam
Not only in old England’s mightiest wars,
But also ’mong her Senate’s brightest stars.

In conclusion, we would state that while Mr. Murray has never tasted of matrimonial joys his lot in life is by no means an unhappy one. He enjoys a large circle of friends, is respected by all, and is ever ready to lend assistance wherever and whenever required. He is the author of many poems which deserve to be better known than they now are, and we hope that he will yet be induced to place a collection of his writings in a permanent form before the public.

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