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Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 9.djvu/318

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310


NOTES AND QUERIES. P* s. ix. APRIL 19, 1902.


what he asserted, and have done all in mj power to prevent the discussion from qiverg ing into a quest after irrelevant conclusions The authorship, then, of the ' Ode to the Cuckoo' is the theme under consideration and of that theme alone will anything be said now.

It is sometimes averred that Micnae Bruce lacked the genius for striking out i lyric of such dainty and winning simplicity as the * Ode to the Cuckoo.' But the caret u student of his unquestioned poems will hav< little hesitation in deciding that the achieve ment was not beyond his powers. Th< 'Elegy written in Spring' would alone suffice to prove his possession of the kind of poetic gift requisite for the purpose. This poem_ is more ambitious in character, and not in frequently more rhetorical in manner, thar the 'Ode,' but it displays the same direcl and candid love of natural beauty, a similar delight in birds and flowers, and an alliec pensiveness with melancholy note deepenec in accordance with the subject. The same spirit moves in the descriptive blank verse poem ' Lochleven.' In reading this remark able, if somewhat immature study, it is impossible not to be struck with points o1 resemblance to passages in the 'Ode.' One may be selected for illustration. The fourtl stanza of the 'Ode to the Cuckoo,' as issuec in 1770, reads thus :

The schoolboy wand'ring in the wood

To pull the flow'rs so gay, Starts, thy curious voice to hear,

And imitates thy lay.

The heroine of ' Lochleven,' at an early stage in her career, is delineated in these terms :

Left by her school-companions at their play, She'd often wander in the wood, or roam The wilderness, in quest of curious flow'r Or nest of bird unknown.

There is a striking similarity between these two extracts, not only in idea, but in rhythm phrase, and diction. A long and exquisite passage on flowers follows immediately in m Lochleven'; the heroine at a further stage s apostrophized as "fair wanderer of the wood "; arid in another place we learn that Rfr ,, , . . the bride an <* bridal-maids

uest W and ' 6r the vales ' in

_)f flow'rs, and garlands, and sweet-smelling herbs. Little tricks of phrase and characteristic mannerisms of diction are always significant and one cannot fail to notice in the ' Ode 'and ' first passage from ' Lochleven ' the special use of the word curious, "while the atten- tion is arrested by the reiterated statement


as to wandering in the wood and the refer- ences to "flow'r" and "flow'rs." Again, in the memorial poem * Daphnis,' Bruce tells of the days

When o'er the flow'ry green we ran, we play'd With blooms bedropt by youthful Summer's hand.

No reader of the famous stanza of the 'Ode' which declares that the cuckoo's "bow'r is ever green " will fail to be struck with some of the expressions in Bruce's imitation of Ramsay's 'Yellow-haired Laddie.' Here we find not only "sweets of the flow'rs," but "blackbirds that warbled on blossoming bow'rs "; and we also learn that " Mary sings sweet as the bird in her bower." The stanza of the ' Ode ' that should follow that on the green bower complementary to it, and charged with suggestive and haunting pathos was not printed by Logan, though found by his executors among his MSS. It runs thus :

Alas ! sweet bird ! not so my fate, Dark scowling skies I see

Fast gathering round, and fraught with woe And wintry years to me.

It is inevitable that this should be compared with the following stanza of Bruce's ' Elegy written in Spring': Now Spring returns : but not to me returns

The vernal joy my better years have known ; Dim in my breast life's dying taper burns, And all the joys of life with health are flown.

Altogether, internal evidence supports the assumption that Bruce was the author of the ' Ode to the Cuckoo.' The wandering in the wood, the delight in "curious flow'r" and ;i curious voice" of bird upon the bower, while not germane to Logan's outlook, are specially characteristic of Bruce ; and the dark scowling skies," painfully imminent, in the sense used, in the case of Bruce, suffered editorial suppression at the hands of Logan, who did not discover them among his pressing anticipations.

The external proofs of Bruce's authorship are too numerous to be detailed here, but the conclusive evidence of one important witness must be mentioned. The primeval story of pastoral song, as set forth for all time in the account of Bion and Moschus,is recalled on the very threshold of this investigation. Bruce and his friend David Pearson are inseparably associated, just as is the case with Milton and King, Tennyson and Hallam, Arnold and "lough. In Pearson, Bruce had a comrade who was more than a brother, who climbed with him the selfsame hill, and to whom he inbosomed himself with implicit confidence. Of the few letters from the poet that were not finally disposed of by Logan, several are