Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage

By Michael Thorpe | Go to book overview

9.

‘English Hexameters’, an unsigned review, Literary Gazette

18 August 1849, lxvi, 606-7

A journal which boasts of its Horae Celticae cannot pass this most extraordinary title-page withont observing that the author ought to have been more guarded against the malicious Gael who imposed it on the inquisitive Sassenach.


But as the doorway they quitted, a thin man clad as the Saxon,
Trouser and cap and jacket of home-spun blue, hand-woven,
Singled out, and said with determined accent to Hewson,
Resting his hand on his shoulder, while each with eyes dilating
Firmly scanned each: Young man, if ye pass through the Braes o’
Lochaber,
See by the loch-side ye come to the Bothie of Toper-na-fuosich.

It is a vile jest, and it is lucky that it can only be understood by a few Highland worthies, who will no doubt enjoy a hearty guffaw over poor deluded Mr. Clough and his long-vacation pastoral near Lochaber, and (when rightly spelled) the Bothie of Tobair na Feosag, so well known in that country.1

The poem itself is a curiosity of irregular hexameters, whose spondaic lines run into each other like grooves. The poet sings of his vacation in the North, whither he retired with half-a-dozen of his pupils from Oxford (if we include Adam), to read and seek healthful recreation. These young gentlemen are described, and figure in the lay as Mr. Hope, a relation of the Earl of Hay’s, a white-tied neighbour, nick-

1 Elsewhere, to heighten the fun, we read—


Finally too, from the Kilt and the sofa, said Hobbes in conclusion,
Finally Philip must hunt for that home of the probable poacher,
Hid in the braes of Lochaber, the bothie of What-did-he-call-it.
Hopeless of you and of us, of gillies and marquisses hopeless,
Weary of Ethic and Logic, of Rhetoric yet more weary,
There shall he, smit by the charm of a lovely potato-uprooter,
Study the question of sex in the Bothie of What-did-he-call-it.

[Reviewer’s note]. This seems to have been the first published suggestion that the title was open to embarrassing interpretation—though she makes no reference to this review, see Katharine Chorley’s otherwise full discussion, op. cit. 168-9.

-49-

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