Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

R. F. Murray: His Poems with a Memoir by Andrew Lang by R. F. Murray/Andrew Lang

Part 1 out of 2

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.


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

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

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

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

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


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

`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:-

[Greek text]

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

`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

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

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

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
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

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest