Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/252

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46 ALEXANDER MONTGOMERY.

vigorated, by the presence of one, in whose ample skill and unwearied pains they could so implicitly confide."

MONTGOMERY, ALEXANDER, an early poet of considerable fame, appears to have been a younger son of Montgomery of Hazelhead Castle, in Ayrshire, a branch of the noble family of Eglintoune. He flourished in the reign of James VI., but probably wrote verses at an antecedent period, as some of his composi- tions are transcribed in the Bannatyne Manuscript, which was written in 1568. The date of his birth further than that it was upon an Easter-day the place and nature of his education, and the pursuits of his early years, are all involved in obscurity. He is said to have been brought up in the county of Argyle ; a fact which seems to gather some confirmation from a passage in Dempster " eques Montanus vulgo vocatus," as if he had acquired some common nick- name, such as " the Highland trooper ;" for Montgomery never was knighted. There is some reason to suppose that he was at one time a domestic or com- mander in the guard of the regent Morton. His most familiar title, " Captain Alexander Montgomery," renders it probable that the latter was the nature of his office, for the word Captain seems to have been first used in Scotland, in reference to officers in the immediate service of the sovereign. Melville, in his Diary, mentions that when Patrick Adamson was promoted to the archbishopric of St Andrews, (an event which occurred in the year 1577,) there was then at court " captain Montgomery, a good honest man, and the regent's domestic, who, recollecting a phrase which the new primate had been accustomed to use in his sermons, remarked to some of his companions, " for as often as it was reported by Mr Patrick, the prophet would mean this, I never understood what the prophet meant till now."

Montgomery appears afterwards to have been in the service of king James, who, in his Rewles and Cautelis, published in 1582, quotes some of the poems of the subject of this memoir. His services were acknowledged by a pension of five hundred merks, chargeable upon certain rents of the arch- bishopric of Glasgow, which was confirmed in 1583, and again in 1589. Vari- ous places throughout Scotland are pointed out by tradition, as having been the residence of Montgomery, particularly the ruins of Compston Castle, near Kirkcudbright, now involved in the pleasure grounds connected with the modern mansion-house of Dundrennan. In 1586, the poet commenced a tour of the Continent. After his return, he was involved in a tedious and vexatious lawsuit respecting his pension, which drew from him some severe remarks upon the lawyers and judges of that time. Of his principal poem, " The Cherry and the Slae," the first known edition was printed by Robert Waldegrave, in 1607. The poet appears, from a passage in a memoir of Mure of Rowallan, 1 his nephew, to have died between this date and 1611.

" The poems of Montgomery," says Dr Irving, " display an elegant and lively fancy ; and his versification is often distinguished by a degree of har- mony, which most of his contemporaries were incapable of attaining. He has attempted a great variety of subjects, as well as of measures, but his chief beau- ties seem to be of the lyric kind. It is highly probable that his taste was formed by the study of the Italian poets : he has left many sonnets constructed on the regular model, and his quaint conceits seem not unfrequently to betray their Italian origin. The subject of love, which has afforded so fertile a theme to the poets of every age and nation, has furnished Montgomery with the" most

common and favourite topic for the exercise of his talents His

most serious effort is, ' The Cherry and the Slae,' a poem of considerable length,

and certainly of very considerable ingenuity. The images are

1 Lyle's Ballads, London, 1827.