1824 Poem, George Dugall, ‘Epistle to Mr. J. McG—, Londonderry’

Author: George Dugall

Date: 1824

Source: Poem: ‘Epistle to Mr. J. McG—, Londonderry’, from The Northern Cottage and other poems; written partly in the Dialect of the North of Ireland by George Dugall (Londonderry: William McCorkell, 1824)

Comments: George Dugall (c.1790-1855) was the son of Rev. George Dugall, Presbyterian minister of Magherafelt from 1786-1810, and lived most of his life near Newtowncunningham in Donegal. He was a schoolteacher in north Donegal, and his only book of poems The Northern Cottage contains an extensive glossary of Ulster-Scots words. The vocabulary and cultural context of his poems are rich in Ulster-Scots reference.

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Poetry/1800-1899/049


To Mr. J. M’G—, Londonderry.

Written August 1815.

While new-fleg’d broods the fields hae taen,

And summer mourns her cuckoo gane;

While corn-craiks dauner through the grain,

At hide an’ seek;

Your deep-learn’d books, my trusty frien’,

A wee while steek.

My muse, wi’ care scarce fit to cope,

The dupe o’ mony a lying hope;

Wide o’er her bleak horizon’s scope,

One pathless flood

Beholds, amaist turn’d misanthrope,

In girning mood.

Mark yonder rich — yon happy clown,

Whose soul ne’er felt the care-fraught stoun

Of love, or woe, in thought profound,

By beech or willow;

Whom stupor daily fences round,

And guards his pillow.

No dream refines his savage sleep,

O’ fairy hall, or flow’ry steep:

Save Colly’s o’ some worried sheep,

Or licket pot;

Nought else disturbs his slumbers deep,

Poor senseless sot.

Popp’d into life, he knows not how:

By instinct taught to live and chow;

Rives till each appetite is fu’,

Then cloits him down;

And frowns with supercilious brow

On all around.

Unknown to social feelings warm;

Blest if himsel, be clear o’ harm;

Till led by ev’ry worldling’s charm,

The greed o’ gear,

He weds: and like Poor Mag[1] by form,

Can utter — Dear!

A week, or may be twa, at hame,

The carle, new-fangled wi’ the dame,

Will mope, an’ glowr, and steeve his wame

Wi’ a’ she gi’es him;

Till neathing new poor Miss can frame

To coax or please him.

Mock love now sick maun die in fashion;

Owr night they’ll sit wi’ neighbours clashing;

Truth comes at last — an awful lesson;

He’d live without her!

Nae doubt the honey-moon decreasing,

May see him clout her.

When grousome age an’ youth sae fair,

That nature never meant to pair,

Wi’ minds ill-match’d that only gear,

Would dare to souther,

Are join’d; they mak’ a’ compound queer,

When clauted thro’ther.

From hence (perhaps a theory new,)

Springs frailty with her num’rous crew;

Pride, idiocy, their offspring true,

Invite our study;

And grim deformity we view,

In mind and body.

But mark the vale, that for gay dies,

Wi’ heav’n in varied glory vies;

A meek descendant o’ the skies,

Dwells nigh yon grove,

In that sweet cot: — Yes there it lies,

Thy hame, O Love!

No dupe of gold, or boasted birth,

But native charms, and native worth,

Peace, innocence, and harmless mirth,

Crown Edwin’s life;

Blest wi’ the dearest gem on earth,

A virtuous wife.

For love that knew no sordid ends,

His dear Matilda makes amends;

For him, he cares not wha commends,

Or disapproves her;

Nor reason gies officious friends,

But just, he loves her.[2]

Through many an hour o’ needfu’ toil,

A thousand sweets their cares beguile:

That seraph has its mother’s smile,

An’ this wee laddie,

Aul’ gossips tell, (and bless the while,)

He’s like the daddie.

They live to please, nay as it were,

A common soul informs the pair;

While mutual love maks ev’n care,

A kind o’ pleasure;

Time seems, throughout the placid year,

Enjoyment’s measure.

Quit, foe to virtue, quit this grove,

Hence thy unhallow’d steps remove!

Pure joys like these be’t mine to prove;

But fates deny;

And turn the warmest wish of love,

To a sad sigh.

Fain would I seek the blissful shade,

By love and Hymen sacred made;

Fain fly from fortune, fickle jade!

To some lone cell,

Where humblest independence stray’d,

There ever dwell.

Above black want’s unsightly sphere;

No fash’d wi’ hoarding useless gear;

Next, sense the medium course to steer,

Ye Powers! and then

A cottage, that my Sylvia dear

Might ca’ her ain.

Yes, blest wi’ these, no longer vain,

I’d live unheard of on the plain,

And teach the lowly rural train,

My Doric art;

A hallow’d spell, whose silken rein

Commands the heart.

Give me the lone sequester’d dell,

Where Nature’s God is Principal;

Each flow’r a volume — Nature’s sel’

The chief Professor;

Here let my untaught numbers swell,

In hours of leisure.

* * * * * * thou dearest rural name!

Whom mem’ry yet mistakes for hame;

From thy lov’d scenes spontaneous came,

My early knowledge;

Thy thrush and I may jointly claim

A common college.

What signify such bungling tools,

As critics ca’ poetic rules;

For nought but making fops o’ fools,

For weel they know it,

Not all the patch-work o’ the schools

Would mak’ a poet.

Though humble merit’s often blate;

And fortune whiles a common cheat;

They’re surely in a hopeless state,

But yet may rise;

And mak’ a stair-case o’ their fate,

To scale the skies.

Long may Urania, curious maid,

Your scientific labors aid;

While many a fop and loggerhead,

That wish to shine,

May gull the half o’ Erin braid,

Wi’ works o’ thine.

[1] A name given to a domesticated magpie.

[2] In one of the most masterly pieces of description in the English language, with respect to style, that of “Palemon and Lavinia,” in Thomson’s Autumn, that great writer appears to have committed a radical mistake. The lovely, but hitherto unfortunate Lavinia, notwithstanding her virtues and attractions, might have pined away her life in the hopeless solitude of indigence, had it not been for her own high birth, and Palemon’s gratitude to her deceased father. What a pity that disinterested love should be laid prostrate, and a lasting triumph given to the absurd and worse than Jewish prejudices of the world, by one blow of his matchless hand!

“But, thanks to Heav’n! that’s no the gate

We learn our creed.”

Other poems from ‘The Northern Cottage’


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