Robert F. Murray - his poems with a memoir by Andrew Lang
by Robert F. Murray
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Transcribed from the 1894 Longmans, Green, and Co. edition by David Price, email





Edinburgh: T. AND A. CONSTABLE, Printers to Her Majesty


R. F. MURRAY—1863-1893

Much is written about success and failure in the career of literature, about the reasons which enable one man to reach the front, and another to earn his livelihood, while a third, in appearance as likely as either of them, fails and, perhaps, faints by the way. Mr. R. F. Murray, the author of The Scarlet Gown, was among those who do not attain success, in spite of qualities which seem destined to ensure it, and who fall out of the ranks. To him, indeed, success and the rewards of this world, money, and praise, did by no means seem things to be snatched at. To him success meant earning by his pen the very modest sum which sufficed for his wants, and the leisure necessary for serious essays in poetry. Fate denied him even this, in spite of his charming natural endowment of humour, of tenderness, of delight in good letters, and in nature. He died young; he was one of those whose talent matures slowly, and he died before he came into the full possession of his intellectual kingdom. He had the ambition to excel, [Greek text], as the Homeric motto of his University runs, and he was on the way to excellence when his health broke down. He lingered for two years and passed away.

It is a familiar story, the story of lettered youth; of an ambition, or rather of an ideal; of poverty; of struggles in the 'dusty and stony ways'; of intellectual task-work; of a true love consoling the last months of weakness and pain. The tale is not repeated here because it is novel, nor even because in its hero we have to regret an 'inheritor of unfulfilled renown.' It is not the genius so much as the character of this St. Andrews student which has won the sympathy of his biographer, and may win, he hopes, the sympathy of others. In Mr. Murray I feel that I have lost that rare thing, a friend; a friend whom the chances of life threw in my way, and withdrew again ere we had time and opportunity for perfect recognition. Those who read his Letters and Remains may also feel this emotion of sympathy and regret.

He was young in years, and younger in heart, a lover of youth; and youth, if it could learn and could be warned, might win a lesson from his life. Many of us have trod in his path, and, by some kindness of fate, have found from it a sunnier exit into longer days and more fortunate conditions. Others have followed this well-beaten road to the same early and quiet end as his.

The life and the letters of Murray remind one strongly of Thomas Davidson's, as published in that admirable and touching biography, A Scottish Probationer. It was my own chance to be almost in touch with both these gentle, tuneful, and kindly humorists. Davidson was a Borderer, born on the skirts of 'stormy Ruberslaw,' in the country of James Thomson, of Leyden, of the old Ballad minstrels. The son of a Scottish peasant line of the old sort, honourable, refined, devout, he was educated in Edinburgh for the ministry of the United Presbyterian Church. Some beautiful verses of his appeared in the St. Andrews University Magazine about 1863, at the time when I first 'saw myself in print' in the same periodical. Davidson's poem delighted me: another of his, 'Ariadne in Naxos,' appeared in the Cornhill Magazine about the same time. Mr. Thackeray, who was then editor, no doubt remembered Pen's prize poem on the same subject. I did not succeed in learning anything about the author, did not know that he lived within a drive of my own home. When next I heard of him, it was in his biography. As a 'Probationer,' or unplaced minister, he, somehow, was not successful. A humorist, a poet, a delightful companion, he never became 'a placed minister.' It was the old story of an imprudence, a journey made in damp clothes, of consumption, of the end of his earthly life and love. His letters to his betrothed, his poems, his career, constantly remind one of Murray's, who must often have joined in singing Davidson's song, so popular with St. Andrews students, The Banks of the Yang-tse-kiang. Love of the Border, love of Murray's 'dear St. Andrews Bay,' love of letters, make one akin to both of these friends who were lost before their friendship was won. Why did not Murray succeed to the measure of his most modest desire? If we examine the records of literary success, we find it won, in the highest fields, by what, for want of a better word, we call genius; in the lower paths, by an energy which can take pleasure in all and every exercise of pen and ink, and can communicate its pleasure to others. Now for Murray one does not venture, in face of his still not wholly developed talent, and of his checked career, to claim genius. He was not a Keats, a Burns, a Shelley: he was not, if one may choose modern examples, a Kipling or a Stevenson. On the other hand, his was a high ideal; he believed, with Andre Chenier, that he had 'something there,' something worthy of reverence and of careful training within him. Consequently, as we shall see, the drudgery of the pressman was excessively repulsive to him. He could take no delight in making the best of it. We learn that Mr. Kipling's early tales were written as part of hard daily journalistic work in India; written in torrid newspaper offices, to fill columns. Yet they were written with the delight of the artist, and are masterpieces in their genre. Murray could not make the best of ordinary pen-work in this manner. Again, he was incapable of 'transactions,' of compromises; most honourably incapable of earning his bread by agreeing, or seeming to agree with opinions which were not his. He could not endure (here I think he was wrong) to have his pieces of light and mirthful verse touched in any way by an editor. Even where no opinions were concerned, even where an editor has (to my mind) a perfect right to alter anonymous contributions, Murray declined to be edited. I ventured to remonstrate with him, to say non est tanti, but I spoke too late, or spoke in vain. He carried independence too far, or carried it into the wrong field, for a piece of humorous verse, say in Punch, is not an original masterpiece and immaculate work of art, but more or less of a joint-stock product between the editor, the author, and the public. Macaulay, and Carlyle, and Sir Walter Scott suffered editors gladly or with indifference, and who are we that we should complain? This extreme sensitiveness would always have stood in Murray's way.

Once more, Murray's interest in letters was much more energetic than his zeal in the ordinary industry of a student. As a general rule, men of original literary bent are not exemplary students at college. 'The common curricoolum,' as the Scottish laird called academic studies generally, rather repels them. Macaulay took no honours at Cambridge; mathematics defied him. Scott was 'the Greek dunce,' at Edinburgh. Thackeray, Shelley, Gibbon, did not cover themselves with college laurels; they read what pleased them, they did not read 'for the schools.' In short, this behaviour at college is the rule among men who are to be distinguished in literature, not the exception. The honours attained at Oxford by Mr. Swinburne, whose Greek verses are no less poetical than his English poetry, were inconspicuous. At St. Andrews, Murray read only 'for human pleasure,' like Scott, Thackeray, Shelley, and the rest, at Edinburgh, Oxford, and Cambridge. In this matter, I think, he made an error, and one which affected his whole career. He was not a man of private fortune, like some of those whom we have mentioned. He had not a business ready for him to step into. He had to force his own way in life, had to make himself 'self-supporting.' This was all the more essential to a man of his honourable independence of character, a man who not only would not ask a favour, but who actually shrunk back from such chances as were offered to him, if these chances seemed to be connected with the least discernible shadow of an obligation. At St. Andrews, had he chosen to work hard in certain branches of study, he might probably have gained an exhibition, gone to Oxford or elsewhere, and, by winning a fellowship, secured the leisure which was necessary for the development of his powers. I confess to believing in strenuous work at the classics, as offering, apart from all material reward, the best and most solid basis, especially where there is no exuberant original genius, for the career of a man of letters. The mental discipline is invaluable, the training in accuracy is invaluable, and invaluable is the life led in the society of the greatest minds, the noblest poets, the most faultless artists of the world. To descend to ordinary truths, scholarship is, at lowest, an honourable gagne-pain. But Murray, like the majority of students endowed with literary originality, did not share these rather old-fashioned ideas. The clever Scottish student is apt to work only too hard, and, perhaps, is frequently in danger of exhausting his powers before they are mature, and of injuring his health before it is confirmed. His ambitions, to lookers-on, may seem narrow and school- boyish, as if he were merely emulous, and eager for a high place in his 'class,' as lectures are called in Scotland. This was Murray's own view, and he certainly avoided the dangers of academic over-work. He read abundantly, but, as Fitzgerald says, he read 'for human pleasure.' He never was a Greek scholar, he disliked Philosophy, as presented to him in class-work; the gods had made him poetical, not metaphysical.

There was one other cause of his lack of even such slender commercial success in letters as was really necessary to a man who liked 'plain living and high thinking.' He fell early in love with a city, with a place—he lost his heart to St. Andrews. Here, at all events, his critic can sympathise with him. His 'dear St. Andrews Bay,' beautiful alike in winter mists and in the crystal days of still winter sunshine; the quiet brown streets brightened by the scarlet gowns; the long limitless sands; the dark blue distant hills, and far-off snowy peaks of the Grampians; the majestic melancholy towers, monuments of old religion overthrown; the deep dusky porch of the college chapel, with Kennedy's arms in wrought iron on the oaken door; the solid houses with their crow steps and gables, all the forlorn memories of civil and religious feud, of inhabitants saintly, royal, heroic, endeared St. Andrews to Murray. He could not say, like our other poet to Oxford, 'Farewell, dear city of youth and dream!' His whole nature needed the air, 'like wine.' He found, as he remarks, 'health and happiness in the German Ocean,' swimming out beyond the 'lake' where the witches were dipped; walking to the grey little coast-towns, with their wealth of historic documents, their ancient kirks and graves; dreaming in the vernal woods of Mount Melville or Strathtyrum; rambling (without a fishing-rod) in the charmed 'dens' of the Kenley burn, a place like Tempe in miniature: these things were Murray's usual enjoyments, and they became his indispensable needs. His peculiarly shy and, as it were, silvan nature, made it physically impossible for him to live in crowded streets and push his way through throngs of indifferent men. He could not live even in Edinburgh; he made the effort, and his health, at no time strong, seems never to have recovered from the effects of a few months spent under a roof in a large town. He hurried back to St. Andrews: her fascination was too powerful. Hence it is that, dying with his work scarcely begun, he will always be best remembered as the poet of The Scarlet Gown, the Calverley or J. K. S. of Kilrymont; endowed with their humour, their skill in parody, their love of youth, but (if I am not prejudiced) with more than the tenderness and natural magic of these regretted writers. Not to be able to endure crowds and towns, (a matter of physical health and constitution, as well as of temperament) was, of course, fatal to an ordinary success in journalism. On the other hand, Murray's name is inseparably connected with the life of youth in the little old college, in the University of the Admirable Crichton and Claverhouse, of the great Montrose and of Ferguson,—the harmless Villon of Scotland,—the University of almost all the famous Covenanters, and of all the valiant poet-Cavaliers. Murray has sung of the life and pleasures of its students, of examinations and Gaudeamuses—supper parties—he has sung of the sands, the links, the sea, the towers, and his name and fame are for ever blended with the air of his city of youth and dream. It is not a wide name or a great fame, but it is what he would have desired, and we trust that it may be long- lived and enduring. We are not to wax elegiac, and adopt a tearful tone over one so gallant and so uncomplaining. He failed, but he was undefeated.

In the following sketch of Murray's life and work use is made of his letters, chiefly of letters to his mother. They always illustrate his own ideas and attempts; frequently they throw the light of an impartial and critical mind on the distinguished people whom Murray observed from without. It is worth remarking that among many remarks on persons, I have found not one of a censorious, cynical, envious, or unfriendly nature. Youth is often captious and keenly critical; partly because youth generally has an ideal, partly, perhaps chiefly, from mere intellectual high spirits and sense of the incongruous; occasionally the motive is jealousy or spite. Murray's sense of fun was keen, his ideal was lofty; of envy, of an injured sense of being neglected, he does not show one trace. To make fun of their masters and pastors, tutors, professors, is the general and not necessarily unkind tendency of pupils. Murray rarely mentions any of the professors in St. Andrews except in terms of praise, which is often enthusiastic. Now, as he was by no means a prize student, or pattern young man for a story-book, this generosity is a high proof of an admirable nature. If he chances to speak to his mother about a bore, and he did not suffer bores gladly, he not only does not name the person, but gives no hint by which he might be identified. He had much to embitter him, for he had a keen consciousness of 'the something within him,' of the powers which never found full expression; and he saw others advancing and prospering while he seemed to be standing still, or losing ground in all ways. But no word of bitterness ever escapes him in the correspondence which I have seen. In one case he has to speak of a disagreeable and disappointing interview with a man from whom he had been led to expect sympathy and encouragement. He told me about this affair in conversation; 'There were tears in my eyes as I turned from the house,' he said, and he was not effusive. In a letter to Mrs. Murray he describes this unlucky interview,—a discouragement caused by a manner which was strange to Murray, rather than by real unkindness,—and he describes it with a delicacy, with a reserve, with a toleration, beyond all praise. These are traits of a character which was greater and more rare than his literary talent: a character quite developed, while his talent was only beginning to unfold itself, and to justify his belief in his powers.

Robert Murray was the eldest child of John and Emmeline Murray: the father a Scot, the mother of American birth. He was born at Roxbury, in Massachusetts, on December 26th, 1863. It may be fancy, but, in his shy reserve, his almost farouche independence, one seems to recognise the Scot; while in his cast of literary talent, in his natural 'culture,' we observe the son of a refined American lady. To his mother he could always write about the books which were interesting him, with full reliance on her sympathy, though indeed, he does not often say very much about literature.

Till 1869 he lived in various parts of New England, his father being a Unitarian minister. 'He was a remarkably cheerful and affectionate child, and seldom seemed to find anything to trouble him.' In 1869 his father carried him to England, Mrs. Murray and a child remaining in America. For more than a year the boy lived with kinsfolk near Kelso, the beautiful old town on the Tweed where Scott passed some of his childish days. In 1871 the family were reunited at York, where he was fond of attending the services in the Cathedral. Mr. Murray then took charge of the small Unitarian chapel of Blackfriars, at Canterbury. Thus Murray's early youth was passed in the mingled influences of Unitarianism at home, and of Cathedral services at York, and in the church where Becket suffered martyrdom. A not unnatural result was a somewhat eclectic and unconstrained religion. He thought but little of the differences of creed, believing that all good men held, in essentials, much the same faith. His view of essentials was generous, as he admitted. He occasionally spoke of himself as 'sceptical,' that is, in contrast with those whose faith was more definite, more dogmatic, more securely based on 'articles.' To illustrate Murray's religious attitude, at least as it was in 1887, one may quote from a letter of that year (April 17).

'There was a University sermon, and I thought I would go and hear it. So I donned my old cap and gown and felt quite proud of them. The preacher was Bishop Wordsworth. He goes in for the union of the Presbyterian and Episcopalian Churches, and is glad to preach in a Presbyterian Church, as he did this morning. How the aforesaid Union is to be brought about, I'm sure I don't know, for I am pretty certain that the Episcopalians won't give up their bishops, and the Presbyterians won't have them on any account. However, that's neither here nor there—at least it does not affect the fact that Wordsworth is a first-rate man, and a fine preacher. I dare say you know he is a nephew or grand-nephew of the Poet. He is a most venerable old man, and worth looking at, merely for his exterior. He is so feeble with age that he can with difficulty climb the three short steps that lead into the pulpit; but, once in the pulpit, it is another thing. There is no feebleness when he begins to preach. He is one of the last voices of the old orthodox school, and I wish there were hundreds like him. If ever a man believed in his message, Wordsworth does. And though I cannot follow him in his veneration for the Thirty-nine Articles, the way in which he does makes me half wish I could. . . . It was full of wisdom and the beauty of holiness, which even I, poor sceptic and outcast, could recognise and appreciate. After all, he didn't get it from the Articles, but from his own human heart, which, he told us, was deceitful and desperately wicked.

'Confound it, how stupid we all are! Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Unitarians, Agnostics; the whole lot of us. We all believe the same things, to a great extent; but we must keep wrangling about the data from which we infer these beliefs . . . I believe a great deal that he does, but I certainly don't act up to my belief as he does to his.'

The belief 'up to' which Murray lived was, if it may be judged by its fruits, that of a Christian man. But, in this age, we do find the most exemplary Christian conduct in some who have discarded dogma and resigned hope. Probably Murray would not the less have regarded these persons as Christians. If we must make a choice, it is better to have love and charity without belief, than belief of the most intense kind, accompanied by such love and charity as John Knox bore to all who differed from him about a mass or a chasuble, a priest or a presbyter. This letter, illustrative of the effect of cathedral services on a young Unitarian, is taken out of its proper chronological place.

From Canterbury Mr. Murray went to Ilminster in Somerset. Here Robert attended the Grammar School; in 1879 he went to the Grammar School of Crewkerne. In 1881 he entered at the University of St. Andrews, with a scholarship won as an external student of Manchester New College. This he resigned not long after, as he had abandoned the idea of becoming a Unitarian minister.

No longer a schoolboy, he was now a Bejant (bec jaune?), to use the old Scotch term for 'freshman.' He liked the picturesque word, and opposed the introduction of 'freshman.' Indeed he liked all things old, and, as a senior man, was a supporter of ancient customs and of esprit de corps in college. He fell in love for life with that old and grey enchantress, the city of St. Margaret, of Cardinal Beaton, of Knox and Andrew Melville, of Archbishop Sharp, and Samuel Rutherford. The nature of life and education in a Scottish university is now, probably, better understood in England than it used to be. Of the Scottish universities, St. Andrews varies least, though it varies much, from Oxford and Cambridge. Unlike the others, Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, the United College of St. Leonard and St. Salvator is not lost in a large town. The College and the Divinity Hall of St. Mary's are a survival from the Middle Ages. The University itself arose from a voluntary association of the learned in 1410. Privileges were conferred on this association by Bishop Wardlaw in 1411. It was intended as a bulwark against Lollard ideas. In 1413 the Antipope Benedict XIII., to whom Scotland then adhered, granted six bulls of confirmation to the new University. Not till 1430 did Bishop Wardlaw give a building in South Street, the Paedagogium. St. Salvator's College was founded by Bishop Kennedy (1440-1466): it was confirmed by Pius II. in 1458. Kennedy endowed his foundation richly with plate (a silver mace is still extant) and with gorgeous furniture and cloth of gold. St. Leonard's was founded by Prior Hepburn in 1512. Of St. Salvator's the ancient chapel still remains, and is in use. St. Leonard's was merged with St. Salvator's in the last century: its chapel is now roofless, some of the old buildings remain, much modernised, but on the south side fronting the gardens they are still picturesque. Both Colleges were, originally, places of residence for the students, as at Oxford and Cambridge, and the discipline, especially at St. Leonard's, was rather monastic. The Reformation caused violent changes; all through these troubled ages the new doctrines, and then the violent Presbyterian pretensions to clerical influence in politics, and the Covenant and the Restoration and Revolution, kept busy the dwellers in what should have been 'quiet collegiate cloisters.' St. Leonard's was more extreme, on Knox's side, than St. Salvator's, but was also more devoted to King James in 1715. From St. Andrews Simon Lovat went to lead his abominable old father's clan, on the Prince Regent's side, in 1745. Golf and archery, since the Reformation at least, were the chief recreations of the students, and the archery medals bear all the noblest names of the North, including those of Argyll and the great Marquis of Montrose. Early in the present century the old ruinous college buildings of St. Salvator's ceased to be habitable, except by a ghost! There is another spectre of a noisy sort in St. Leonard's. The new buildings are mere sets of class-rooms, the students live where they please, generally in lodgings, which they modestly call bunks. There is a hall for dinners in common; it is part of the buildings of the Union, a new hall added to an ancient house.

It was thus to a university with ancient associations, with a religio loci, and with more united and harmonious student-life than is customary in Scotland, that Murray came in 1881. How clearly his biographer remembers coming to the same place, twenty years earlier! how vivid is his memory of quaint streets, grey towers, and the North Sea breaking in heavy rollers on the little pier!

Though, like a descendant of Archbishop Sharp, and a winner of the archery medal, I boast myself Sancti Leonardi alumnus addictissimus, I am unable to give a description, at first hand, of student life in St. Andrews. In my time, a small set of 'men' lived together in what was then St. Leonard's Hall. The buildings that remain on the site of Prior Hepburn's foundation, or some of them, were turned into a hall, where we lived together, not scattered in bunks. The existence was mainly like that of pupils of a private tutor; seven-eighths of private tutor to one- eighth of a college in the English universities. We attended the lectures in the University, we distinguished ourselves no more than Murray would have approved of, and many of us have remained united by friendship through half a lifetime.

It was a pleasant existence, and the perfume of buds and flowers in the old gardens, hard by those where John Knox sat and talked with James Melville and our other predecessors at St. Leonard's, is fragrant in our memories. It was pleasant, but St. Leonard's Hall has ceased to be, and the life there was not the life of the free and hardy bunk-dwellers. Whoso pined for such dissipated pleasures as the chill and dark streets of St. Andrews offer to the gay and rousing blade, was not encouraged. We were very strictly 'gated,' though the whole society once got out of window, and, by way of protest, made a moonlight march into the country. We attended 'gaudeamuses' and solatia—University suppers—but little; indeed, he who writes does not remember any such diversions of boys who beat the floor, and break the glass. To plant the standard of cricket in the remoter gardens of our country, in a region devastated by golf, was our ambition, and here we had no assistance at all from the University. It was chiefly at lecture, at football on the links, and in the debating societies that we met our fellow-students; like the celebrated starling, 'we could not get out,' except to permitted dinners and evening parties. Consequently one could only sketch student life with a hand faltering and untrained. It was very different with Murray and his friends. They were their own masters, could sit up to all hours, smoking, talking, and, I dare say, drinking. As I gather from his letters, Murray drank nothing stronger than water. There was a certain kind of humour in drink, he said, but he thought it was chiefly obvious to the sober spectator. As the sober spectator, he sang of violent delights which have violent ends. He may best be left to illustrate student life for himself. The 'waster' of whom he chants is the slang name borne by the local fast man.


Loud he sang the song Ta Phershon For his personal diversion, Sang the chorus U-pi-dee, Sang about the Barley Bree.

In that hour when all is quiet Sang he songs of noise and riot, In a voice so loud and queer That I wakened up to hear.

Songs that distantly resembled Those one hears from men assembled In the old Cross Keys Hotel, Only sung not half so well.

For the time of this ecstatic Amateur was most erratic, And he only hit the key Once in every melody.

If "he wot prigs wot isn't his'n Ven he's cotched is sent to prison," He who murders sleep might well Adorn a solitary cell.

But, if no obliging peeler Will arrest this midnight squealer, My own peculiar arm of might Must undertake the job to-night.

The following fragment is but doubtfully autobiographical. 'The swift four-wheeler' seldom devastates the streets where, of old, the Archbishop's jackmen sliced Presbyterian professors with the claymore, as James Melville tells us:—


Beloved Peeler! friend and guide And guard of many a midnight reeler, None worthier, though the world is wide, Beloved Peeler.

Thou from before the swift four-wheeler Didst pluck me, and didst thrust aside A strongly built provision-dealer

Who menaced me with blows, and cried 'Come on! come on!' O Paian, Healer, Then but for thee I must have died, Beloved Peeler!

The following presentiment, though he was no 'waster,' may very well have been his own. He was only half Scotch, and not at all metaphysical:—


I shall be spun. There is a voice within Which tells me plainly I am all undone; For though I toil not, neither do I spin, I shall be spun.

April approaches. I have not begun Schwegler or Mackintosh, nor will begin Those lucid works till April 21.

So my degree I do not hope to win, For not by ways like mine degrees are won; And though, to please my uncle, I go in, I shall be spun.

Here we must quote, from The Scarlet Gown, one of his most tender pieces of affectionate praise bestowed on his favourite city:—


Blue, blue is the sea to-day, Warmly the light Sleeps on St. Andrews Bay— Blue, fringed with white.

That's no December sky! Surely 'tis June Holds now her state on high, Queen of the noon.

Only the tree-tops bare Crowning the hill, Clear-cut in perfect air, Warn us that still

Winter, the aged chief, Mighty in power, Exiles the tender leaf, Exiles the flower.

Is there a heart to-day, A heart that grieves For flowers that fade away, For fallen leaves?

Oh, not in leaves or flowers Endures the charm That clothes those naked towers With love-light warm.

O dear St. Andrews Bay, Winter or Spring Gives not nor takes away Memories that cling

All round thy girdling reefs, That walk thy shore, Memories of joys and griefs Ours evermore.

'I have not worked for my classes this session,' he writes (1884), 'and shall not take any places.' The five or six most distinguished pupils used, at least in my time, to receive prize-books decorated with the University's arms. These prize-men, no doubt, held the 'places' alluded to by Murray. If he was idle, 'I speak of him but brotherly,' having never held any 'place' but that of second to Mr. Wallace, now Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford, in the Greek Class (Mr. Sellar's). Why was one so idle, in Latin (Mr. Shairp), in Morals (Mr. Ferrier), in Logic (Mr. Veitch)? but Logic was unintelligible.

'I must confess,' remarks Murray, in a similar spirit of pensive regret, 'that I have not had any ambition to distinguish myself either in Knight's (Moral Philosophy) or in Butler's.' {1}

Murray then speaks with some acrimony about earnest students, whose motive, he thinks, is a small ambition. But surely a man may be fond of metaphysics for the sweet sake of Queen Entelechy, and, moreover, these students looked forward to days in which real work would bear fruit.

'You must grind up the opinions of Plato, Aristotle, and a lot of other men, concerning things about which they knew nothing, and we know nothing, taking these opinions at second or third hand, and never looking into the works of these men; for to a man who wants to take a place, there is no time for anything of that sort.'

Why not? The philosophers ought to be read in their own language, as they are now read. The remarks on the most fairy of philosophers—Plato; on the greatest of all minds, that of Aristotle, are boyish. Again 'I speak but brotherly,' remembering an old St. Leonard's essay in which Virgil was called 'the furtive Mantuan,' and another, devoted to ridicule of Euripides. But Plato and Aristotle we never blasphemed.

Murray adds that he thinks, next year, of taking the highest Greek Class, and English Literature. In the latter, under Mr. Baynes, he took the first place, which he mentions casually to Mrs. Murray about a year after date:—

'A sweet life and an idle He lives from year to year, Unknowing bit or bridle, There are no Proctors here.'

In Greek, despite his enthusiastic admiration of the professor, Mr. Campbell, he did not much enjoy himself:—

'Thrice happy are those Who ne'er heard of Greek Prose— Or Greek Poetry either, as far as that goes; For Liddell and Scott Shall cumber them not, Nor Sargent nor Sidgwick shall break their repose.

But I, late at night, By the very bad light Of very bad gas, must painfully write Some stuff that a Greek With his delicate cheek Would smile at as 'barbarous'—faith, he well might.

* * * * *

So away with Greek Prose, The source of my woes! (This metre's too tough, I must draw to a close.) May Sargent be drowned In the ocean profound, And Sidgwick be food for the carrion crows!'

Greek prose is a stubborn thing, and the biographer remembers being told that his was 'the best, with the worst mistakes'; also frequently by Mr. Sellar, that it was 'bald.' But Greek prose is splendid practice, and no less good practice is Greek and Latin verse. These exercises, so much sneered at, are the Dwellers on the Threshold of the life of letters. They are haunting forms of fear, but they have to be wrestled with, like the Angel (to change the figure), till they bless you, and make words become, in your hands, like the clay of the modeller. Could we write Greek like Mr. Jebb, we would never write anything else.

Murray had naturally, it seems, certainly not by dint of wrestling with Greek prose, the mastery of language. His light verse is wonderfully handled, quaint, fluent, right. Modest as he was, he was ambitious, as we said, but not ambitious of any gain; merely eager, in his own way, to excel. His ideal is plainly stated in the following verses:—


Ever to be the best. To lead In whatsoever things are true; Not stand among the halting crew, The faint of heart, the feeble-kneed, Who tarry for a certain sign To make them follow with the rest— Oh, let not their reproach be thine! But ever be the best.

For want of this aspiring soul, Great deeds on earth remain undone, But, sharpened by the sight of one, Many shall press toward the goal. Thou running foremost of the throng, The fire of striving in thy breast, Shalt win, although the race be long, And ever be the best.

And wilt thou question of the prize? 'Tis not of silver or of gold, Nor in applauses manifold, But hidden in the heart it lies: To know that but for thee not one Had run the race or sought the quest, To know that thou hast ever done And ever been the best.

Murray was never a great athlete: his ambition did not lead him to desire a place in the Scottish Fifteen at Football. Probably he was more likely to be found matched against 'The Man from Inversnaid.'


He brought a team from Inversnaid To play our Third Fifteen, A man whom none of us had played And very few had seen.

He weighed not less than eighteen stone, And to a practised eye He seemed as little fit to run As he was fit to fly.

He looked so clumsy and so slow, And made so little fuss; But he got in behind—and oh, The difference to us!

He was never a golfer; one of his best light pieces, published later in the Saturday Review, dealt in kindly ridicule of The City of Golf.

'Would you like to see a city given over, Soul and body, to a tyrannising game? If you would, there's little need to be a rover, For St. Andrews is the abject city's name.'

He was fond, too fond, of long midnight walks, for in these he overtasked his strength, and he had all a young man's contempt for maxims about not sitting in wet clothes and wet boots. Early in his letters he speaks of bad colds, and it is matter of tradition that he despised flannel. Most of us have been like him, and have found pleasure in wading Tweed, for example, when chill with snaw-bree. In brief, while reading about Murray's youth most men must feel that they are reading, with slight differences, about their own. He writes thus of his long darkling tramps, in a rhymed epistle to his friend C. C. C.

'And I fear we never again shall go, The cold and weariness scorning, For a ten mile walk through the frozen snow At one o'clock in the morning:

Out by Cameron, in by the Grange, And to bed as the moon descended . . . To you and to me there has come a change, And the days of our youth are ended.'

One fancies him roaming solitary, after midnight, in the dark deserted streets. He passes the deep porch of the College Church, and the spot where Patrick Hamilton was burned. He goes down to the Castle by the sea, where, some say, the murdered Cardinal may now and again be seen, in his red hat. In South Street he hears the roll and rattle of the viewless carriage which sounds in that thoroughfare. He loiters under the haunted tower on Hepburn's precinct wall, the tower where the lady of the bright locks lies, with white gloves on her hands. Might he not share, in the desolate Cathedral, La Messe des Morts, when all the lost souls of true lovers are allowed to meet once a year. Here be they who were too fond when Culdees ruled, or who loved young monks of the Priory; here be ladies of Queen Mary's Court, and the fair inscrutable Queen herself, with Chastelard, that died at St. Andrews for desire of her; and poor lassies and lads who were over gay for Andrew Melville and Mr. Blair; and Miss Pett, who tended young Montrose, and may have had a tenderness for his love-locks. They are a triste good company, tender and true, as the lovers of whom M. Anatole France has written (La Messe des Morts). Above the witches' lake come shadows of the women who suffered under Knox and the Bastard of Scotland, poor creatures burned to ashes with none to help or pity. The shades of Dominicans flit by the Black Friars wall—verily the place is haunted, and among Murray's pleasures was this of pacing alone, by night, in that airy press and throng of those who lived and loved and suffered so long ago—

'The mist hangs round the College tower, The ghostly street Is silent at this midnight hour, Save for my feet.

With none to see, with none to hear, Downward I go To where, beside the rugged pier, The sea sings low.

It sings a tune well loved and known In days gone by, When often here, and not alone, I watched the sky.'

But he was not always, nor often, lonely. He was fond of making his speech at the Debating Societies, and his speeches are remembered as good. If he declined the whisky and water, he did not flee the weed. I borrow from College Echoes


So in the village inn the poet dwelt. His honey-dew was gone; only the pouch, His cousin's work, her empty labour, left. But still he sniffed it, still a fragrance clung And lingered all about the broidered flowers. Then came his landlord, saying in broad Scotch, 'Smoke plug, mon,' whom he looked at doubtfully. Then came the grocer saying, 'Hae some twist At tippence,' whom he answered with a qualm. But when they left him to himself again, Twist, like a fiend's breath from a distant room Diffusing through the passage, crept; the smell Deepening had power upon him, and he mixt His fancies with the billow-lifted bay Of Biscay, and the rollings of a ship.

And on that night he made a little song, And called his song 'The Song of Twist and Plug,' And sang it; scarcely could he make or sing.

'Rank is black plug, though smoked in wind and rain; And rank is twist, which gives no end of pain; I know not which is ranker, no, not I.

'Plug, art thou rank? then milder twist must be; Plug, thou art milder: rank is twist to me. O twist, if plug be milder, let me buy.

'Rank twist, that seems to make me fade away, Rank plug, that navvies smoke in loveless clay, I know not which is ranker, no, not I.

'I fain would purchase flake, if that could be; I needs must purchase plug, ah, woe is me! Plug and a cutty, a cutty, let me buy.

His was the best good thing of the night's talk, and the thing that was remembered. He excited himself a good deal over Rectorial Elections. The duties of the Lord Rector and the mode of his election have varied frequently in near five hundred years. In Murray's day, as in my own, the students elected their own Rector, and before Lord Bute's energetic reign, the Rector had little to do, but to make a speech, and give a prize. I vaguely remember proposing the author of Tom Brown long ago: he was not, however, in the running.

Politics often inspire the electors; occasionally (I have heard) grave seniors use their influence, mainly for reasons of academic policy.

In December 1887 Murray writes about an election in which Mr. Lowell was a candidate. 'A pitiful protest was entered by an' (epithets followed by a proper name) 'against Lowell, on the score of his being an alien. Mallock, as you learn, was withdrawn, for which I am truly thankful.' Unlucky Mr. Mallock! 'Lowell polled 100 and Gibson 92 . . . The intrigues and corruption appear to be almost worthy of an American Presidential election.' Mr. Lowell could not accept a compliment which pleased him, because of his official position, and the misfortune of his birth!

Murray was already doing a very little 'miniature journalism,' in the form of University Notes for a local paper. He complains of the ultra Caledonian frankness with which men told him that they were very bad. A needless, if friendly, outspokenness was a feature in Scottish character which he did not easily endure. He wrote a good deal of verse in the little University paper, now called College Echoes.

If Murray ever had any definite idea of being ordained for the ministry in any 'denomination,' he abandoned it. His 'bursaries' (scholarships or exhibitions), on which he had been passing rich, expired, and he had to earn a livelihood. It seems plain to myself that he might easily have done so with his pen. A young friend of my own (who will excuse me for thinking that his bright verses are not better than Murray's) promptly made, by these alone, an income which to Murray would have been affluence. But this could not be done at St. Andrews. Again, Murray was not in contact with people in the centre of newspapers and magazines. He went very little into general society, even at St. Andrews, and thus failed, perhaps, to make acquaintances who might have been 'useful.' He would have scorned the idea of making useful acquaintances. But without seeking them, why should we reject any friendliness when it offers itself? We are all members one of another. Murray speaks of his experience of human beings, as rich in examples of kindness and good-will. His shyness, his reserve, his extreme unselfishness,—carried to the point of diffidence,—made him rather shun than seek older people who were dangerously likely to be serviceable. His manner, when once he could be induced to meet strangers, was extremely frank and pleasant, but from meeting strangers he shrunk, in his inveterate modesty.

In 1886 Murray had the misfortune to lose is father, and it became, perhaps, more prominently needful that he should find a profession. He now assisted Professor Meiklejohn of St. Andrews in various kinds of literary and academic work, and in him found a friend, with whom he remained in close intercourse to the last. He began the weary path, which all literary beginners must tread, of sending contributions to magazines. He seldom read magazine articles. 'I do not greatly care for "Problems" and "vexed questions." I am so much of a problem and a vexed question that I have quite enough to do in searching for a solution of my own personality.' He tried a story, based on 'a midnight experience' of his own; unluckily he does not tell us what that experience was. Had he encountered one of the local ghosts?

'My blood-curdling romance I offered to the editor of Longman's Magazine, but that misguided person was so ill-advised as to return it, accompanied with one of these abominable lithographed forms conveying his hypocritical regrets.' Murray sent a directed envelope with a twopenny- halfpenny stamp. The paper came back for three-halfpence by book-post. 'I have serious thoughts of sueing him for the odd penny!' 'Why should people be fools enough to read my rot when they have twenty volumes of Scott at their command?' He confesses to 'a Scott-mania almost as intense as if he were the last new sensation.' 'I was always fond of him, but I am fonder than ever now.' This plunge into the immortal romances seems really to have discouraged Murray; at all events he says very little more about attempts in fiction of his own. 'I am a barren rascal,' he writes, quoting Johnson on Fielding. Like other men, Murray felt extreme difficulty in writing articles or tales which have an infinitesimal chance of being accepted. It needs a stout heart to face this almost fixed certainty of rejection: a man is weakened by his apprehensions of a lithographed form, and of his old manuscript coming home to roost, like the Graces of Theocritus, to pine in the dusty chest where is their chill abode. If the Alexandrian poets knew this ill-fortune, so do all beginners in letters. There is nothing for it but 'putting a stout heart to a stey brae,' as the Scotch proverb says. Editors want good work, and on finding a new man who is good, they greatly rejoice. But it is so difficult to do vigorous and spontaneous work, as it were, in the dark. Murray had not, it is probable, the qualities of the novelist, the narrator. An excellent critic he might have been if he had 'descended to criticism,' but he had, at this time, no introductions, and probably did not address reviews at random to editors. As to poetry, these much-vexed men receive such enormous quantities of poetry that they usually reject it at a venture, and obtain the small necessary supplies from agreeable young ladies. Had Murray been in London, with a few literary friends, he might soon have been a thriving writer of light prose and light verse. But the enchantress held him; he hated London, he had no literary friends, he could write gaily for pleasure, not for gain. So, like the Scholar Gypsy, he remained contemplative,

'Waiting for the spark from heaven to fall.'

About this time the present writer was in St. Andrews as Gifford Lecturer in Natural Theology. To say that an enthusiasm for totems and taboos, ghosts and gods of savage men, was aroused by these lectures, would be to exaggerate unpardonably. Efforts to make the students write essays or ask questions were so entire a failure that only one question was received—as to the proper pronunciation of 'Myth.' Had one been fortunate enough to interest Murray, it must have led to some discussion of his literary attempts. He mentions having attended a lecture given by myself to the Literary Society on 'Literature as a Profession,' and he found the lecturer 'far more at home in such a subject than in the Gifford Lectures.' Possibly the hearer was 'more at home' in literature than in discussions as to the origin of Huitzilopochtli. 'Literature,' he says, 'never was, is not, and never will be, in the ordinary sense of the term, a profession. You can't teach it as you can the professions, you can't succeed in it as you can in the professions, by dint of mere diligence and without special aptitude . . . I think all this chatter about the technical and pecuniary sides of literature is extremely foolish and worse than useless. It only serves to glut the idle curiosity of the general public about matters with which they have no concern, a curiosity which (thanks partly to American methods of journalism) has become simply outrageous.'

Into chatter about the pecuniary aspect of literature the Lecturer need hardly say that he did not meander. It is absolutely true that literature cannot be taught. Maupassant could have dispensed with the instructions of Flaubert. But an 'aptitude' is needed in all professions, and in such arts as music, and painting, and sculpture, teaching is necessary. In literature, teaching can only come from general education in letters, from experience, from friendly private criticism. But if you cannot succeed in literature 'by dint of mere diligence,' mere diligence is absolutely essential. Men must read, must observe, must practise. Diligence is as necessary to the author as to the grocer, the solicitor, the dentist, the barrister, the soldier. Nothing but nature can give the aptitude; diligence must improve it, and experience may direct it. It is not enough to wait for the spark from heaven to fall; the spark must be caught, and tended, and cherished. A man must labour till he finds his vein, and himself. Again, if literature is an art, it is also a profession. A man's very first duty is to support himself and those, if any, who are dependent on him. If he cannot do it by epics, tragedies, lyrics, he must do it by articles, essays, tales, or how he honestly can. He must win his leisure by his labour, and give his leisure to his art. Murray, at this time, was diligent in helping to compile and correct educational works. He might, but for the various conditions of reserve, hatred of towns, and the rest, have been earning his leisure by work more brilliant and more congenial to most men. But his theory of literature was so lofty that he probably found the other, the harder, the less remunerative, the less attractive work, more congenial to his tastes.

He describes, to Mrs. Murray, various notable visitors to St. Andrews: Professor Butcher, who lectured on Lucian, and is 'very handsome,' Mr. Arthur Balfour, the Lord Rector, who is 'rather handsome,' and delights the listener by his eloquence; Mr. Chamberlain, who pleases him too, though he finds Mr. Chamberlain rather acrimonious in his political reflections. About Lucian, the subject of Mr. Butcher's lecture, Murray says nothing. That brilliant man of letters in general, the Alcibiades of literature, the wittiest, and, rarely, the most tender, and, always, the most graceful, was a model who does not seem to have attracted Murray. Lucian amused, and amuses, and lived by amusing: the vein of romance and poetry that was his he worked but rarely: perhaps the Samosatene did not take himself too seriously, yet he lives through the ages, an example, in many ways to be followed, of a man who obviously delighted in all that he wrought. He was no model to Murray, who only delighted in his moments of inspiration, and could not make himself happy even in the trifles which are demanded from the professional pen.

He did, at last, endeavour to ply that servile engine of which Pendennis conceived so exalted an opinion. Certainly a false pride did not stand in his way when, on May 5, 1889, he announced that he was about to leave St. Andrews, and attempt to get work at proof-correcting and in the humblest sorts of journalism in Edinburgh. The chapter is honourable to his resolution, but most melancholy. There were competence and ease waiting for him, probably, in London, if he would but let his pen have its way in bright comment and occasional verse. But he chose the other course. With letters of introduction from Mr. Meiklejohn, he consulted the houses of Messrs. Clark and Messrs. Constable in Edinburgh. He did not find that his knowledge of Greek was adequate to the higher and more remunerative branches of proof-reading, that weary meticulous toil, so fatiguing to the eyesight. The hours, too, were very long; he could do more and better work in fewer hours. No time, no strength, were left for reading and writing. He did, while in Edinburgh, send a few things to magazines, but he did not actually 'bombard' editors. He is 'to live in one room, and dine, if not on a red herring, on the next cheapest article of diet.' These months of privation, at which he laughed, and some weeks of reading proofs, appear to have quite undermined health which was never strong, and which had been sorely tried by 'the wind of a cursed to-day, the curse of a windy to-morrow,' at St. Andrews. If a reader observes in Murray a lack of strenuous diligence, he must attribute it less to lack of resolution, than to defect of physical force and energy. The many bad colds of which he speaks were warnings of the end, which came in the form of consumption. This lurking malady it was that made him wait, and dally with his talent. He hit on the idea of translating some of Bossuet's orations for a Scotch theological publisher. Alas! the publisher did not anticipate a demand, among Scotch ministers, for the Eagle of Meaux. Murray, in his innocence, was startled by the caution of the publisher, who certainly would have been a heavy loser. 'I honestly believe that, if Charles Dickens were now alive and unknown, and were to offer the MS. of Pickwick to an Edinburgh publisher, that sagacious old individual would shake his prudent old head, and refuse (with the utmost politeness) to publish it!' There is a good deal of difference between Pickwick and a translation of old French sermons about Madame, and Conde, and people of whom few modern readers ever heard.

Alone, in Edinburgh, Murray was saddened by the 'unregarding' irresponsive faces of the people as they passed. In St. Andrews he probably knew every face; even in Edinburgh (a visitor from London thinks) there is a friendly look among the passers. Murray did not find it so. He approached a newspaper office: 'he [the Editor whom he met] was extremely frank, and told me that the tone of my article on—was underbred, while the verses I had sent him had nothing in them. Very pleasant for the feelings of a young author, was it not? . . . Unfavourable criticism is an excellent tonic, but it should be a little diluted . . . I must, however, do him the justice to say that he did me a good turn by introducing me to —-, . . . who was kind and encouraging in the extreme.'

Murray now called on the Editor of the Scottish Leader, the Gladstonian organ, whom he found very courteous. He was asked to write some 'leader- notes' as they are called, paragraphs which appear in the same columns as the leading articles. These were published, to his astonishment, and he was 'to be taken on at a salary of—a week.' Let us avoid pecuniary chatter, and merely say that the sum, while he was on trial, was not likely to tempt many young men into the career of journalism. Yet 'the work will be very exacting, and almost preclude the possibility of my doing anything else.' Now, as four leader notes, or, say, six, can be written in an hour, it is difficult to see the necessity for this fatigue. Probably there were many duties more exacting, and less agreeable, than the turning out of epigrams. Indeed there was other work of some more or less mechanical kind, and the manufacture of 'leader notes' was the least part of Murray's industry. At the end of two years there was 'the prospect of a very fair salary.' But there was 'night- work and everlasting hurry.' 'The interviewing of a half-bred Town-Councillor on the subject of gas and paving' did not exhilarate Murray. Again, he had to compile a column of Literary News, from the Athenaeum, the Academy, and so on, 'with comments and enlargements where possible.' This might have been made extremely amusing, it sounds like a delightful task,—the making of comments on 'Mr. —- has finished a sonnet:' 'Mr. —-'s poems are in their fiftieth thousand:' 'Miss —- has gone on a tour of health to the banks of the Yang-tse-kiang:' 'Mrs. —- is engaged on a novel about the Pilchard Fishery.' One could make comments (if permitted) on these topics for love, and they might not be unpopular. But perhaps Murray was shackled a little by human respect, or the prejudices of his editor. At all events he calls it 'not very inspiring employment.' The bare idea, I confess, inspirits me extremely.

But the literary follet, who delights in mild mischief, did not haunt Murray. He found an opportunity to write on the Canongate Churchyard, where Fergusson lies, under the monument erected by Burns to the boy of genius whom he called his master. Of course the part of the article which dealt with Fergusson, himself a poet of the Scarlet Gown, was cut out. The Scotch do not care to hear about Fergusson, in spite of their 'myriad mutchkined enthusiasm' for his more illustrious imitator and successor, Burns.

At this time Edinburgh was honouring itself, and Mr. Parnell, by conferring its citizenship on that patriot. Murray was actually told off 'to stand at a given point of the line on which the hero marched,' and to write some lines of 'picturesque description.' This kind of thing could not go on. It was at Nelson's Monument that he stood: his enthusiasm was more for Nelson than for Mr. Parnell; and he caught a severe cold on this noble occasion. Murray's opinions clashed with those of the Scottish Leader, and he withdrew from its service.

Just a week passed between the Parnellian triumph and Murray's retreat from daily journalism. 'On a newspaper one must have no opinions except those which are favourable to the sale of the paper and the filling of its advertisement columns.' That is not precisely an accurate theory. Without knowing anything of the circumstances, one may imagine that Murray was rather impracticable. Of course he could not write against his own opinions, but it is unusual to expect any one to do that, or to find any one who will do it. 'Incompatibility of temper' probably caused this secession from the newspaper.

After various attempts to find occupation, he did some proof-reading for Messrs. Constable. Among other things he 'read' the journal of Lady Mary Coke, privately printed for Lord Home. Lady Mary, who appears as a lively child in The Heart of Midlothian, 'had a taste for loo, gossip, and gardening, but the greatest of these is gossip.' The best part of the book is Lady Louisa Stuart's inimitable introduction. Early in October he decided to give up proof-reading: the confinement had already told on his health. In the letter which announces this determination he describes a sermon of Principal Caird: 'Voice, gesture, language, thought—all in the highest degree,—combined to make it the most moving and exalted speech of a man to men that I ever listened to.' 'The world is too much with me,' he adds, as if he and the world were ever friends, or ever likely to be friendly.

October 27th found him dating from St. Andrews again. 'St. Andrews after Edinburgh is Paradise.' His Dalilah had called him home to her, and he was never again unfaithful. He worked for his firm friend, Professor Meiklejohn, he undertook some teaching, and he wrote a little. It was at this time that his biographer made Murray's acquaintance. I had been delighted with his verses in College Echoes, and I asked him to bring me some of his more serious work. But he never brought them: his old enemy, reserve, overcame him. A few of his pieces were published 'At the Sign of the Ship' in Longman's Magazine, to which he contributed occasionally.

From this point there is little in Murray's life to be chronicled. In 1890 his health broke down entirely, and consumption declared itself. Very early in 1891 he visited Egypt, where it was thought that some educational work might be found for him. But he found Egypt cold, wet, and windy; of Alexandria and the Mediterranean he says little: indeed he was almost too weak and ill to see what is delightful either in nature or art.

'To aching eyes each landscape lowers, To feverish pulse each gale blows chill, And Araby's or Eden's bowers Were barren as this moorland hill,'

says the least self-conscious of poets. Even so barren were the rich Nile and so bleak the blue Mediterranean waters. Though received by the kindest and most hospitable friends, Murray was homesick, and pined to be in England, now that spring was there. He made the great mistake of coming home too early. At Ilminster, in his mother's home, he slowly faded out of life. I have not the heart to quote his descriptions of brief yet laborious saunters in the coppices, from the letters which he wrote to the lady of his heart. He was calm, cheerful, even buoyant. His letters to his college friends are all concerned with literature, or with happy old times, and are full of interest in them and in their happiness.

He was not wholly idle. He wrote a number of short pieces of verse in Punch, and two or three in the St. James's Gazette. Other work, no doubt, he planned, but his strength was gone. In 1891 his book, The Scarlet Gown, was published by his friend, Mr. A. M. Holden. The little volume, despite its local character, was kindly received by the Reviews. Here, it was plain, we had a poet who was to St. Andrews what the regretted J. K. S. was to Eton and Cambridge. This measure of success was not calculated to displease our alumnus addictissimus.

Friendship and love, he said, made the summer of 1892 very happy to him. I last heard from him in the summer of 1893, when he sent me some of his most pleasing verses. He was in Scotland; he had wandered back, a shadow of himself, to his dear St. Andrews. I conceived that he was better; he said nothing about his health. It is not easy to quote from his letters to his friend, Mr. Wallace, still written in his beautiful firm hand. They are too full of affectionate banter: they also contain criticisms on living poets: he shows an admiration, discriminating and not wholesale, of Mr. Kipling's verse: he censures Mr. Swinburne, whose Jacobite song (as he wrote to myself) did not precisely strike him as the kind of thing that Jacobites used to sing.

They certainly celebrated

'The faith our fathers fought for, The kings our fathers knew,'

in a different tone in the North.

The perfect health of mind, in these letters of a dying man, is admirable. Reading old letters over, he writes to Miss —-, 'I have known a wonderful number of wonderfully kind-hearted people.' That is his criticism of a world which had given him but a scanty welcome, and a life of foiled endeavour, of disappointed hope. Even now there was a disappointment. His poems did not find a publisher: what publisher can take the risk of adding another volume of poetry to the enormous stock of verse brought out at the author's expense? This did not sour or sadden him: he took Montaigne's advice, 'not to make too much marvel of our own fortunes.' His biographer, hearing in the winter of 1893 that Murray's illness was now considered hopeless, though its rapid close was not expected, began, with Professor Meiklejohn, to make arrangements for the publication of the poems. But the poet did not live to have this poor gratification. He died in the early hours of 1894.

Of the merits of his more serious poetry others must speak. To the Editor it seems that he is always at his best when he is inspired by the Northern Sea, and the long sands and grey sea grasses. Then he is most himself. He was improving in his art with every year: his development, indeed, was somewhat late.

It is less of the writer than the man that we prefer to think. His letters display, in passages which he would not have desired to see quoted, the depth and tenderness and thoughtfulness of his affections. He must have been a delightful friend: illness could not make him peevish, and his correspondence with old college companions could never be taken for that of a consciously dying man. He had perfect courage, and resolution even in his seeming irresoluteness. He was resolved to be, and continued to be, himself. 'He had kept the bird in his bosom.' We, who regret him, may wish that he had been granted a longer life, and a secure success. Happier fortunes might have mellowed him, no fortunes could have altered for the worse his admirable nature. He lives in the hearts of his friends, and in the pride and sympathy of those who, after him, have worn and shall wear the scarlet gown.

The following examples of his poetry were selected by Murray's biographer from a considerable mass, and have been seen through the press by Professor Meiklejohn, who possesses the original manuscript, beautifully written.


Love, we have heard together The North Sea sing his tune, And felt the wind's wild feather Brush past our cheeks at noon, And seen the cloudy weather Made wondrous with the moon.

Where loveliness is rarest, 'Tis also prized the most: The moonlight shone her fairest Along that level coast Where sands and dunes the barest, Of beauty seldom boast,

Far from that bleak and rude land An exile I remain Fixed in a fair and good land, A valley and a plain Rich in fat fields and woodland, And watered well with rain.

Last night the full moon's splendour Shone down on Taunton Dene, And pasture fresh and tender, And coppice dusky green, The heavenly light did render In one enchanted scene,

One fair unearthly vision. Yet soon mine eyes were cloyed, And found those fields Elysian Too rich to be enjoyed. Or was it our division Made all my pleasure void?

Across the window glasses The curtain then I drew, And, as a sea-bird passes, In sleep my spirit flew To grey and windswept grasses And moonlit sands—and you.


The city once again doth wear Her wonted dress of winter's bride, Her mantle woven of misty air, With saffron sunlight faintly dyed. She sits above the seething tide, Of all her summer robes forlorn— And dead is all her summer pride— The leaves are off Queen Mary's Thorn.

All round, the landscape stretches bare, The bleak fields lying far and wide, Monotonous, with here and there A lone tree on a lone hillside. No more the land is glorified With golden gleams of ripening corn, Scarce is a cheerful hue descried— The leaves are off Queen Mary's Thorn.

For me, I do not greatly care Though leaves be dead, and mists abide. To me the place is thrice as fair In winter as in summer-tide: With kindlier memories allied Of pleasure past and pain o'erworn. What care I, though the earth may hide The leaves from off Queen Mary's Thorn?

Thus I unto my friend replied, When, on a chill late autumn morn, He pointed to the tree, and cried, 'The leaves are off Queen Mary's Thorn!'


There was a time when it was counted high To be a patriot—whether by the zeal Of peaceful labour for the country's weal, Or by the courage in her cause to die:

For King and Country was a rallying cry That turned men's hearts to fire, their nerves to steel; Not to unheeding ears did it appeal, A pulpit formula, a platform lie.

Only a fool will wantonly desire That war should come, outpouring blood and fire, And bringing grief and hunger in her train. And yet, if there be found no other way, God send us war, and with it send the day When love of country shall be real again!


Sleep flies me like a lover Too eagerly pursued, Or like a bird to cover Within some distant wood, Where thickest boughs roof over Her secret solitude.

The nets I spread to snare her, Although with cunning wrought, Have only served to scare her, And now she'll not be caught. To those who best could spare her, She ever comes unsought.

She lights upon their pillows; She gives them pleasant dreams, Grey-green with leaves of willows, And cool with sound of streams, Or big with tranquil billows, On which the starlight gleams.

No vision fair entrances My weary open eye, No marvellous romances Make night go swiftly by; But only feverish fancies Beset me where I lie.

The black midnight is steeping The hillside and the lawn, But still I lie unsleeping, With curtains backward drawn, To catch the earliest peeping Of the desired dawn.

Perhaps, when day is breaking; When birds their song begin, And, worn with all night waking, I call their music din, Sweet sleep, some pity taking, At last may enter in.


Whene'er I try to read a book, Across the page your face will look, And then I neither know nor care What sense the printed words may bear.

At night when I would go to sleep, Thinking of you, awake I keep, And still repeat the words you said, Like sick men murmuring prayers in bed.

And when, with weariness oppressed, I sink in spite of you to rest, Your image, like a lovely sprite, Haunts me in dreams through half the night.

I wake upon the autumn morn To find the sunrise hardly born, And in the sky a soft pale blue, And in my heart your image true.

When out I walk to take the air, Your image is for ever there, Among the woods that lose their leaves, Or where the North Sea sadly heaves.

By what enchantment shall be laid This ghost, which does not make afraid, But vexes with dim loveliness And many a shadowy caress?

There is no other way I know But unto you forthwith to go, That I may look upon the maid Whereof that other is the shade.

As the strong sun puts out the moon, Whose borrowed rays are all his own, So, in your living presence, dies The phantom kindled at your eyes.

By this most blessed spell, each day The vexing ghost awhile I lay. Yet am I glad to know that when I leave you it will rise again.


Come back to St. Andrews! Before you went away You said you would be wretched where you could not see the Bay, The East sands and the West sands and the castle in the sea Come back to St. Andrews—St. Andrews and me.

Oh, it's dreary along South Street when the rain is coming down, And the east wind makes the student draw more close his warm red gown, As I often saw you do, when I watched you going by On the stormy days to College, from my window up on high.

I wander on the Lade Braes, where I used to walk with you, And purple are the woods of Mount Melville, budding new, But I cannot bear to look, for the tears keep coming so, And the Spring has lost the freshness which it had a year ago.

Yet often I could fancy, where the pathway takes a turn, I shall see you in a moment, coming round beside the burn, Coming round beside the burn, with your swinging step and free, And your face lit up with pleasure at the sudden sight of me.

Beyond the Rock and Spindle, where we watched the water clear In the happy April sunshine, with a happy sound to hear, There I sat this afternoon, but no hand was holding mine, And the water sounded eerie, though the April sun did shine.

Oh, why should I complain of what I know was bound to be? For you had your way to make, and you must not think of me. But a woman's heart is weak, and a woman's joys are few— There are times when I could die for a moment's sight of you.

It may be you will come again, before my hair is grey As the sea is in the twilight of a weary winter's day. When success is grown a burden, and your heart would fain be free, Come back to St. Andrews—St. Andrews and me.


I have been lonely all my days on earth, Living a life within my secret soul, With mine own springs of sorrow and of mirth, Beyond the world's control.

Though sometimes with vain longing I have sought To walk the paths where other mortals tread, To wear the clothes for other mortals wrought, And eat the selfsame bread—

Yet have I ever found, when thus I strove To mould my life upon the common plan, That I was furthest from all truth and love, And least a living man.

Truth frowned upon my poor hypocrisy, Life left my soul, and dwelt but in my sense; No man could love me, for all men could see The hollow vain pretence.

Their clothes sat on me with outlandish air, Upon their easy road I tripped and fell, And still I sickened of the wholesome fare On which they nourished well.

I was a stranger in that company, A Galilean whom his speech bewrayed, And when they lifted up their songs of glee, My voice sad discord made.

Peace for mine own self I could never find, And still my presence marred the general peace, And when I parted, leaving them behind, They felt, and I, release.

So will I follow now my spirit's bent, Not scorning those who walk the beaten track, Yet not despising mine own banishment, Nor often looking back.

Their way is best for them, but mine for me. And there is comfort for my lonely heart, To think perhaps our journeys' ends may be Not very far apart.


Familiar with thy melody, We go debating of its power, As churls, who hear it hour by hour, Contemn the skylark's minstrelsy—

As shepherds on a Highland lea Think lightly of the heather flower Which makes the moorland's purple dower, As far away as eye can see.

Let churl or shepherd change his sky, And labour in the city dark, Where there is neither air nor room— How often will the exile sigh To hear again the unwearied lark, And see the heather's lavish bloom!


Gone is the glory from the hills, The autumn sunshine from the mere, Which mourns for the declining year In all her tributary rills.

A sense of change obscurely chills The misty twilight atmosphere, In which familiar things appear Like alien ghosts, foreboding ills.

The twilight hour a month ago Was full of pleasant warmth and ease, The pearl of all the twenty-four. Erelong the winter gales shall blow, Erelong the winter frosts shall freeze— And oh, that it were June once more!


Not the proudest damsel here Looks so well as doth my dear. All the borrowed light of dress Outshining not her loveliness,

A loveliness not born of art, But growing outwards from her heart, Illuminating all her face, And filling all her form with grace.

Said I, of dress the borrowed light Could rival not her beauty bright? Yet, looking round, 'tis truth to tell, No damsel here is dressed so well.

Only in them the dress one sees, Because more greatly it doth please Than any other charm that's theirs, Than all their manners, all their airs.

But dress in her, although indeed It perfect be, we do not heed, Because the face, the form, the air Are all so gentle and so rare.


Another day let slip! Its hours have run, Its golden hours, with prodigal excess, All run to waste. A day of life the less; Of many wasted days, alas, but one!

Through my west window streams the setting sun. I kneel within my chamber, and confess My sin and sorrow, filled with vain distress, In place of honest joy for work well done.

At noon I passed some labourers in a field. The sweat ran down upon each sunburnt face, Which shone like copper in the ardent glow. And one looked up, with envy unconcealed, Beholding my cool cheeks and listless pace, Yet he was happier, though he did not know.


Fain would I shake thee off, but weak am I Thy strong solicitations to withstand. Plenty of work lies ready to my hand, Which rests irresolute, and lets it lie.

How can I work, when that seductive sky Smiles through the window, beautiful and bland, And seems to half entreat and half command My presence out of doors beneath its eye?

Will not the air be fresh, the water blue, The smell of beanfields, blowing to the shore, Better than these poor drooping purchased flowers? Good-bye, dull books! Hot room, good-bye to you! And think it strange if I return before The sea grows purple in the evening hours.


I hear a twittering of birds, And now they burst in song. How sweet, although it wants the words! It shall not want them long, For I will set some to the note Which bubbles from the thrush's throat.

O jewelled night, that reign'st on high, Where is thy crescent moon? Thy stars have faded from the sky, The sun is coming soon. The summer night is passed away, Sing welcome to the summer day.


As I, with hopeless love o'erthrown, With love o'erthrown, with love o'erthrown, And this is truth I tell, As I, with hopeless love o'erthrown, Was sadly walking all alone,

I met my love one morning In Cairnsmill Den. One morning, one morning, One blue and blowy morning, I met my love one morning In Cairnsmill Den.

A dead bough broke within the wood Within the wood, within the wood, And this is truth I tell. A dead bough broke within the wood, And I looked up, and there she stood.

I asked what was it brought her there, What brought her there, what brought her there, And this is truth I tell. I asked what was it brought her there. Says she, 'To pull the primrose fair.'

Says I, 'Come, let me pull with you, Along with you, along with you,' And this is truth I tell. Says I, 'Come let me pull with you, For one is not so good as two.'

But when at noon we climbed the hill, We climbed the hill, we climbed the hill, And this is truth I tell. But when at noon we climbed the hill, Her hands and mine were empty still.

And when we reached the top so high, The top so high, the top so high, And this is truth I tell. And when we reached the top so high Says I, 'I'll kiss you, if I die!'

I kissed my love in Cairnsmill Den, In Cairnsmill Den, in Cairnsmill Den, And this is truth I tell. I kissed my love in Cairnsmill Den, And my love kissed me back again.

I met my love one morning In Cairnsmill Den. One morning, one morning, One blue and blowy morning, I met my love one morning In Cairnsmill Den.


One dark, dark night—it was long ago, The air was heavy and still and warm— It fell to me and a man I know, To see two girls to their father's farm.

There was little seeing, that I recall: We seemed to grope in a cave profound. They might have come by a painful fall, Had we not helped them over the ground.

The girls were sisters. Both were fair, But mine was the fairer (so I say). The dark soon severed us, pair from pair, And not long after we lost our way.

We wandered over the country-side, And we frightened most of the sheep about, And I do not think that we greatly tried, Having lost our way, to find it out.

The night being fine, it was not worth while. We strayed through furrow and corn and grass We met with many a fence and stile, And a quickset hedge, which we failed to pass.

At last we came on a road she knew; She said we were near her father's place. I heard the steps of the other two, And my heart stood still for a moment's space.

Then I pleaded, 'Give me a good-night kiss.' I have learned, but I did not know in time, The fruits that hang on the tree of bliss Are not for cravens who will not climb.

We met all four by the farmyard gate, We parted laughing, with half a sigh, And home we went, at a quicker rate, A shorter journey, my friend and I.

When we reached the house, it was late enough, And many impertinent things were said, Of time and distance, and such dull stuff, But we said little, and went to bed.

We went to bed, but one at least Went not to sleep till the black turned grey, And the sun rose up, and the light increased, And the birds awoke to a summer day.

And sometimes now, when the nights are mild, And the moon is away, and no stars shine, I wander out, and I go half-wild, To think of the kiss which was not mine.

Let great minds laugh at a grief so small, Let small minds laugh at a fool so great. Kind maidens, pity me, one and all. Shy youths, take warning by this my fate.


Alas for the bird who was born to sing! They have made him a cage; they have clipped his wing; They have shut him up in a dingy street, And they praise his singing and call it sweet. But his heart and his song are saddened and filled With the woods, and the nest he never will build, And the wild young dawn coming into the tree, And the mate that never his mate will be. And day by day, when his notes are heard They freshen the street—but alas for the bird


The air is dark and fragrant With memories of a shower, And sanctified with stillness By this most holy hour.

The leaves forget to whisper Of soft and secret things, And every bird is silent, With folded eyes and wings.

O blessed hour of midnight, Of sleep and of release, Thou yieldest to the toiler The wages of thy peace.

And I, who have not laboured, Nor borne the heat of noon, Receive thy tranquil quiet— An undeserved boon.

Yes, truly God is gracious, Who makes His sun to shine Upon the good and evil, And idle lives like mine.

Upon the just and unjust He sends His rain to fall, And gives this hour of blessing Freely alike to all.


Oh, where's the use of having gifts that can't be turned to money? And where's the use of singing, when there's no one wants to hear? It may be one or two will say your songs are sweet as honey, But where's the use of honey, when the loaf of bread is dear?


The sun shines fair on Tweedside, the river flowing bright, Your heart is full of pleasure, your eyes are full of light, Your cheeks are like the morning, your pearls are like the dew, Or morning and her dew-drops are like your pearls and you.

Because you are a princess, a princess of the land, You will not turn your lightsome eyes a moment where I stand, A poor unnoticed poet, a-making of his rhymes; But I have found a mistress, more fair a thousand times.

'Tis May, the elfish maiden, the daughter of the Spring, Upon whose birthday morning the birds delight to sing. They would not sing one note for you, if you should so command, Although you are a princess, a princess of the land.


Song is not dead, although to-day Men tell us everything is said. There yet is something left to say, Song is not dead.

While still the evening sky is red, While still the morning gold and grey, While still the autumn leaves are shed,

While still the heart of youth is gay, And honour crowns the hoary head, While men and women love and pray Song is not dead.


Till the tread of marching feet Through the quiet grass-grown street Of the little town shall come, Soldier, rest awhile at home.

While the banners idly hang, While the bugles do not clang, While is hushed the clamorous drum, Soldier, rest awhile at home.

In the breathing-time of Death, While the sword is in its sheath, While the cannon's mouth is dumb, Soldier, rest awhile at home.

Not too long the rest shall be. Soon enough, to Death and thee, The assembly call shall come. Soldier, rest awhile at home.


Last night, when at parting Awhile we did stand, Suddenly starting, There fell on my hand

Something that burned it, Something that shone In the moon as I turned it, And then it was gone.

One bright stray jewel— What made it stray? Was I cold or cruel, At the close of day?

Oh, do not cry, lass! What is crying worth? There is no lass like my lass In the whole wide earth.


When people tell me they have loved But once in youth, I wonder, are they always moved To speak the truth?

Not that they wilfully deceive: They fondly cherish A constancy which they would grieve To think might perish.

They cherish it until they think 'Twas always theirs. So, if the truth they sometimes blink, 'Tis unawares.

Yet unawares, I must profess, They do deceive Themselves, and those who questionless Their tale believe.

For I have loved, I freely own, A score of times, And woven, out of love alone, A hundred rhymes.

Boys will be fickle. Yet, when all Is said and done, I was not one whom you could call A flirt—not one

Of those who into three or four Their hearts divide. My queens came singly to the door, Not side by side.

Each, while she reigned, possessed alone My spirit loyal, Then left an undisputed throne To one more royal,

To one more fair in form and face Sweeter and stronger, Who filled the throne with truer grace, And filled it longer.

So, love by love, they came and passed, These loves of mine, And each one brighter than the last Their lights did shine.

Until—but am I not too free, Most courteous stranger, With secrets which belong to me? There is a danger.

Until, I say, the perfect love, The last, the best, Like flame descending from above, Kindled my breast,

Kindled my breast like ardent flame, With quenchless glow. I knew not love until it came, But now I know.

You smile. The twenty loves before Were each in turn, You say, the final flame that o'er My soul should burn.

Smile on, my friend. I will not say You have no reason; But if the love I feel to-day Depart, 'tis treason!

If this depart, not once again Will I on paper Declare the loves that waste and wane, Like some poor taper.

No, no! This flame, I cannot doubt, Despite your laughter, Will burn till Death shall put it out, And may be after.


These verses have I pilfered like a bee Out of a letter from my C. C. C. In London, showing what befell him there, With other things, of interest to me.

One page described a night in open air He spent last summer in Trafalgar Square, With men and women who by want are driven Thither for lodging, when the nights are fair.

No roof there is between their heads and heaven, No warmth but what by ragged clothes is given, No comfort but the company of those Who with despair, like them, have vainly striven.

On benches there uneasily they doze, Snatching brief morsels of a poor repose, And if through weariness they might sleep sound, Their eyes must open almost ere they close.

With even tramp upon the paven ground, Twice every hour the night patrol comes round To clear these wretches off, who may not keep The miserable couches they have found.

Yet the stern shepherds of the poor black sheep Will soften when they see a woman weep. There was a mother there who strove in vain, With sobs, to hush a starving child to sleep.

And through the night which took so long to wane, He saw sad sufferers relieving pain, And daughters of iniquity and scorn Performing deeds which God will not disdain.

There was a girl, forlorn of the forlorn, Whose dress was white, but draggled, soiled, and torn, Who wandered like a ghost without a home. She spoke to him before the day was born.

She, who all night, when spoken to, was dumb, Earning dislike from most, abuse from some, Now asked the hour, and when he told her 'Two,' Wailed, 'O my God, will daylight never come?'

Yes, it will come, and change the sky anew From star-besprinkled black to sunlit blue, And bring sweet thoughts and innocent desires To countless girls. What will it bring to you?


Never was sun so bright before, No matin of the lark so sweet, No grass so green beneath my feet, Nor with such dewdrops jewelled o'er.

I stand with thee outside the door, The air not yet is close with heat, And far across the yellowing wheat The waves are breaking on the shore.

A lovely day! Yet many such, Each like to each, this month have passed, And none did so supremely shine. One thing they lacked: the perfect touch Of thee—and thou art come at last, And half this loveliness is thine.


The fire burns bright And the hearth is clean swept, As she likes it kept, And the lamp is alight. She is coming to-night.

The wind's east of late. When she comes, she'll be cold, So the big chair is rolled Close up to the grate, And I listen and wait.

The shutters are fast, And the red curtains hide Every hint of outside. But hark, how the blast Whistled then as it passed!

Or was it the train? How long shall I stand, With my watch in my hand, And listen in vain For the wheels in the lane?

Hark! A rumble I hear (Will the wind not be still?), And it comes down the hill, And it grows on the ear, And now it is near.

Quick, a fresh log to burn! Run and open the door, Hold a lamp out before To light up the turn, And bring in the urn.

You are come, then, at last! O my dear, is it you? I can scarce think it true I am holding you fast, And sorrow is past.


Dear Ritchie, I am waiting for the signal word to fly, And tell me that the visit which has suffered such belating Is to be a thing of now, and no more of by-and-by. Dear Ritchie, I am waiting.

The sea is at its bluest, and the Spring is new creating The woods and dens we know of, and the fields rejoicing lie, And the air is soft as summer, and the hedge-birds all are mating.

The Links are full of larks' nests, and the larks possess the sky, Like a choir of happy spirits, melodiously debating, All is ready for your coming, dear Ritchie—yes, and I, Dear Ritchie, I am waiting.


Fickle Summer's fled away, Shall we see her face again? Hearken to the weeping rain, Never sunbeam greets the day.

More inconstant than the May, She cares nothing for our pain, Nor will hear the birds complain In their bowers that once were gay.

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