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MEMOIR BY JAMES MCONECHY, Esq.
A NEW EDITION, WITH LARGE ADDITIONS.
PAISLEY: ALEXANDER GARDNER.
GLASGOW: D. ROBERTSON AND CO.
This edition is published with the full permission and approbation of the proprietors of the copyright, Messrs. David Robertson & Co.
The Poems of WILLIAM MOTHERWELL are well entitled to a place in the series of reprints already enriched by his Minstrelsy and by the Harp of Renfrewshire. Although not to be ranked in the first class of British poets, he must always stand very high among the minor minstrels of his native Scotland. MOTHERWELL's mind was strongly imbued with the love of poetry. His Minstrelsy shows how dearly he loved a ballad ; and those pieces it contains which are now, on good authority, believed to have been the products of his own muse, prove that he was not only a diligent collector and editor, but an able imitator of the old bards. In his poems, this sympathy, with the admiration which loved to enshrine the doughty deeds of old world warriors in song, finds frequent expression. The minstrel fire burns in the “Battle Flag of Sigurd,” the “Sword Chant of Thorstein Raudi,” and in the “Wooing Song of Jarl Egill Scallagrim.” MOTHERWELL'S muse must have been sadly cribbed in the Sheriff-Clerk's office at Paisley, where dry legal forms and musty parchments called him froin indulging flights of fancy to the most prosaic of all employments. Yet even here he wooed her persistently and successfully, and when he was appointed Sheriff-Clerk Depute of Renfrewshire his more abundant leisure was diligently consecrated to her service. His poems are nearly all of a ballad character. It was a mark of his wisdom that he knew the field which he could most successfully cultivate, and seldom passed beyond it. He is, perhaps, at his best in his martial pieces, which are instinct with life and action ; and yet, in" Jeanie Morrison” and “My Heid is like to rend, Willie," plaintive chords are touched by a master hand, and it would be hard to find lyrics of similar character, in the pages of any writer, more full of simple pathos than these poems.
The greater part of MOTHERWELL'S verse appeared in ephemeral provincial serials, and it was not until after his death that his poems were published in a collected form. The selection made in 1846 by his friend, Dr. M‘Conechy, who succeeded him in the editor's chair of the Glasgow Courier, was most judicious ; and the Memoir attached to the volume by that gentleman, retained in the present edition, is marked by good taste and critical acumen. The first and second issues of the Poems were speedily exhausted, and a third edition, containing additional pieces, was published in 1848, under the supervision of the author's friend and brother poet, William Kennedy. The selections of Messrs. M'Conechy and Kennedy form the basis of the present edition of MOTHERWELL'S Works. The bulk of the volume might have been increased by additional unpublished poems which have come under observation at this time. With the judgment, however, which led preceding editors to reject these, we heartily concur. It is not desirable that every piece written by an author should be published. Even Burns has suffered at the hands of injudicious editors who have failed to respect his own desire that certain of his writings should pass into oblivion.