Posts Tagged ‘Jamaica’

Today we feature our second installment for our romantic 18th century poetry week from a special guest author at Hidden Dirk Mercantile 18th Century Reproduction Clothing – Carolyn Smith.  View yesterday’s post on My Handsome Nell. 

In this post, Ms. Smith looks at Highland Mary by Robert Burns.

Eighteenth century Scottish poet Robert Burns had already met and conceived a child with Jean Armour, his future wife, before he met Mary Campbell, the subject of the poem Highland Mary.

Because he was in trouble with the law and rejected by Jean Armour’s family, Burns had decided to move to Jamaica. Evidence suggests that Mary Campbell, a dairy maid, planned to go with him. Burns’ own writing implies the two were married, perhaps in the Scottish tradition of exchanging personal vows. On her way to the coast to meet Burns for passage to Jamaica, Mary came down with a fever and died.

In a letter to John Arnot, after Mary Campbell’s death, Burns calls himself “a poor heart-crushed devil” who would have killed himself for sorrow except for his obligation to poetry. Here, he describes his loss:

I have lost, Sir, that dearest earthly treasure, that greatest blessing here below, that last, best gift which completed Adam’s happiness in the garden of bliss; I have lost, I have lost—my trembling hand refuses its office, the frighted ink recoils up the quill,–I have lost a, a, a wife.
Fairest of God’s creation, last and best,
Now art thou lost!

April, 1786

Highland Mary

Ye banks and braes, and streams around
            The castle o’ Montgomery,
Green be your woods and fair your flowers,
            Your waters never drumlie!
There Summer first unfald her robes,
            And there the langest tarry;
For there I took the last fareweel,
            O’ my sweet Highland Mary.

How sweetly bloomed the gay, green birk,
            How rich the hawthorn’s blossom,
As underneath their fragrant shade
             I clasped her to my bosom!
The golden hours on angel wings
             Flew o’er me and my dearie;
For dear to me as light and life
             Was my sweet Highland Mary.

Wi’ monie a vow and locked embrace
              Our parting was fu’ tender’
And, pledging aft to meet again,
              We tore oursels asunder,
But O, fell Death’s untimely frost,
              That nipt my flower sae early!
Now green’s the sod and cauld’s the clay,
              That wraps my Highland Mary!

O pale, pale now, those rosy lips,
               I aft hae kissed sae fondly;
And closed for ay, the sparkling glance
              That dwalt on me sae kindly;
And moldering now in silent dust
              That heart that lo’ed me dearly!
But still within my bosom’s core
              Shall live my Highland Mary.



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