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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
James Hogg (1770–1835)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
ONE of the great names in modern Scottish Border poetry is James Hogg, better known as the Ettrick Shepherd; a child of nature, nourished in the Border glens and beside Border streams, on the stories and traditions of Scotland. Born in 1770 in Ettrick, which is situated in one of the most mountainous and picturesque districts in the South of Scotland, when he was thirty he had had but half a year’s schooling; for he was sent to fold the sheep when but seven years old, and at sixteen attained to the dignity of shepherd, in which capacity he remained until he met Sir Walter Scott (1801), who felt that in him he had found “a true son of nature and genius, hardly conscious of his power,” and advised him to publish his poems.  1
  At this time Hogg is described by the son of his master as
        “above middle height, of faultless symmetry of form; his face was round and full, and of a ruddy complexion, with bright blue eyes that beamed with gayety, glee, and good-humor. His head was covered with a singular profusion of light-brown hair, which he was obliged to wear coiled up under his hat. On entering church on a Sunday, he used, on lifting his hat, to raise his right hand to assist a graceful shake of his head in laying back his long hair, which rolled down his back and fell almost to his loins. And every female eye was upon him, as with light step he ascended the stair to the gallery where he sat.”
  2
  From 1810 to 1816 he lived in Edinburgh, but then went back to Eltrive Lake in Yarrow, where his best verse was inspired. Of his early work, which was done in Blackhouse Glen, far from human life, alone with his lambs and dogs, the poet says: “For several years my compositions consisted wholly of songs and ballads, made up for the lasses to sing in chorus; and a proud man I was when I first heard the rosy nymphs chanting my uncouth strains, and jeering me by the still clear appellation of ‘Jamie the Poeter.’” Hogg’s poetry, which is happiest when it has a strong flavor of dialect, is notable for its fanciful humor or rollicking spirit of song, its love of the weird and wonderful, its pictures of brownies, fairies, and country life; but his ambition to rival in their own way the greatest poets of his time was curiously egotistic. ‘The Queen’s Wake,’ his most ambitious effort, was written in imitation of Scott’s historical romances, and he boasted that he had “beaten him in his own line.” Though a most prolific writer, the greater part of his verse is charming. He died at Eltrive Lake, November 21st, 1835, aged sixty-five.  3
 
 
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