[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol2 #4 1926]
10th February, 1925.
It is not my object to give any account of the life and work of Professor Edward Forbes.
They have already been recorded in the worthy Biography by Sir Archibald Geikie and Professor George Wilson, and in the published works of very many scientists during the last 70 years. Not Manxmen alone, but scientists all the world over revere the name of Edward Forbes. I wish to refer to some verses which he wrote when he was comparatively young, and, as a preliminary, I will give a few particulars which are not very generally known.
Edward Forbes was born in Lord Street, in this town, on the 12th February, 1815, one hundred and ten years ago last Thursday. He died in 1854 in his 39th year. His great grandfather was a Scot, who settled in Man about the year 1730, and who married a. Miss Quirk, of Patrick. His grandfather and father were born in the Island. His mother was Jane Teare, one of the well known Corvalley family in Ballaugh. He spent his young life at the home of his mother at Corvalley, overlooking the sea, and it was there where he first developed that taste for the investigation of nature which he afterwards cultivated.
She was a superior woman who had a love for nature, and her son seems to have taken after her in his early pursuits. At the age of thirteen he came to Douglas, and was educated at the Athol Academy of Mr. Garvin, on the Crescent. The house stood until quite recently on the Promenade just beyond Broadway, with a long garden in front. It was the best school in the town at the time. The proprietor afterwards took Oakhill, which belonged to Forbes' father, and kept school there, young Forbes continuing with him.
As a boy there are stories told by his mistress, Miss Stowell of Ballaugh, and by his school-mates in the Athol Academy, that he was a diligent student with a sweet temper and a loveable disposition; with an early display of unusual intellectual power; and with a more than average delight in fun.
I have given these purely local particulars in order to accentuate the Manx influences which helped to build up his wonderful career; for the childhood of every great man, and the influence of his home, are powerful forces in moulding character. Now, with reference to his early verses.
Wilson and Geikie, in their excellent Biography of Forbes, published in 1861, refer to a paper in the handwriting of Forbes, marked ' A list of compositions yet remaining,' prefaced ' I had written some poems, etc,, before this year, but they were all lost.'
The list extends from 1825 to 1831, so that he began to rhyme before he was ten years old, and it chronicles 85 productions, the majority of which are poetical, Many of the verses are on religious subjects, and as Professor Wilson points out, were probably- written at his mother's suggestion, such as ' Ebenezer, a Poem,' ' The Descent of Nebuchadnezzar, ' The Prophecy of Huldab,' ' David's Prayer and J'hanksgiving,' ' The Temptation of Abraham,' ' Psalm XCIX,' ' Psalm CXX.' He also wrote a tragedy.
Other poems are on the most diversified subjects, such as ' Ode to lt.Mercy,' ' The Falling Star,' ' Whilst in Ida's leafy grove ' (a. valentine written when he was 15), ' Tommy's Ghost, a Ballad,' ' An Ode on Apple Dumpling, Many of the verses refer to Manx legends. ' The World of Affright,' ' The Spirit and the Flower, a dream of the first world,' ' Amelek, his sleep and the Wanderings of his Soul.' These titles, Mr, Wilson points out, make one wish that the verses had been preserved; but it appears they were all lost.
The titles are all we have left to us, and as then must have amounted to many thousands of lines, they constitute a notable record of industry on the part of a youth.
Edward Forbes had two brothers, David and James Grellier. David became one of the foremost geologists of his day, but spent most of his time abroad in an official capacity. James Grellier died when he was 28 years old, but was such an accomplished artist that he had -at least three of his pictures hung in the Royal Academy. He is buried in St. George's Churchyard, We have one of his studies in the Museum,
I mention James Grellier Forbes for this reason. The name Grellier is an unusual one in the Isle of Man, and I often wondered why this name was given him, The only Grellier I have come across was James Grellier, who owned and edited the ' Manx Sun ' for a long while in the early part of the 19th century. The thought struck me that James Grellier Forbes was named after the editor of the ' Sun.' I came to the conclusion that the two families were on intimate terms, and that if the early poems of young Edward would be printed at all, they would appear in Grellier's newspaper.
My presumption was correct. After going patiently through the files of the 'Sun', I came across the following paragraph, under the heading :
This aged gentleman, whose decease appears in our issue to-day, was in early and middle life an army surgeon, and served in India under the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley. On returning home he lived in London, and subsequently settled in the Island, when for a long, protracted period,'his conversational powers and anecdotal reminiscences were well known and highly appreciated in our foremost social circles. He was the first, if not the only one to discern the early genius of Professor Edward Forbes, whose singular abilities it was his pride to foster. Mr Grellier was for a long time proprietor and editor of this Journal, but having sold his right therein to the late Mr. Peter Curphey, he retired to the enjoyment of private life.In the evening of his days a cloud came over him, for loss of sight and loss of hearing poured their joint afflictions on his aged head.He is now gone to his repose at the advanced age of 83
After meeting that paragraph I felt sure that I would come across some of Forbes' early verses, and I was not disappointed. I found five which were signed ' E. F.', and there were others, unsigned, which I believe were from his pen, but cannot be sure. One, unsigned, entitled, ' A Pint of Wine,' is mentioned in Wilson and Geikie's biography as having been written in 1837. This I found in the ' Manx Sun.' So that, altogether, I have found six certainly by him, all of which were printed before he was twenty-three, but probably written much earlier,
THE PINT OF WINE.
I'm by no means a lonely man,
Nor of a melancholy mood,
Yet there are hours when no man can
Find friends to break his solitude,
When books grow dull, and thoughts grow sad,
And one begins to mope and pine;
Take my advice, your spirits glad,
By ringing for a pint of wine !
I'm not o'er fond of politics,
Yet like to know how goes the sport,
And read both sides to see the licks
Of court at mob, and mob at court.
No part I take but have my fling
At each,-an easy creed is mine,
Content to drink to ' Church and King '
In the first glass of my pint of wine !
There's my good mistress, Emelline,
(I like fine names for maidens fair),
Now that I'm not behind the scene
May kiss my friends nor for me care;
She says she's true,--why should I grieve
Myself with doubts and scruples fine?
Her faithfulness I'd best believe,
And pledge her in my pint of wine !
Of skirmishes and bloody fight
' Tis, interesting oft to read,
But that's a species of delight
Much pleasanter in word than deed;
For though I'm up to carte and tierce,
As hero I long not to shine,
I'd rather fight those battles fierce
In fancy o'er my pint of wine.
If poverty and dire distress
Have in the news too large a share,
I breathe a prayer to God to bless,
And count how much I have to spare;
Too glad from such cares to be free,
And thankful for such lot as mine,
I wish each poor man sate like me,
In comfort o'er his pint of wine !
Manx Sun, 12th Jan., 1838.
Oh, where is he who'd say
That Freedom lives-that Freedom lives !
As long as Heaven the sway
To Beauty gives-to Beauty gives !
Since forms so tempting fair,
And eyes so bright were made--were made,
And Lips with hues so rare,
The rose to cast in shade-in shade !
Oh! bid me not be free
I'd rather be Love's slave----Love's slave,
Than in cold liberty
Go lingering to my grave!
Ere Woman was, indeed,
Man might be free-man might be free!
But all the world's agreed,
'Twas misery ! 'twas misery !
Where is the wretch who'd say
He longed to see the chain--the chain
Of beauty rent away,
His freedom to regain-regain!
Then bid me not be free,
I'd rather be Love's slave---l.ove's slave,
Than in cold liberty
Go lingering to my grave !
Manx Sun, 23rd Feb., 1838
THREE WORDS OF ADVICE TO FAIR LADIES,
O, why should fair ones ever fling
Their loveliness aside,
Since beaity might as well take wing
As all its brightness hide;
Their glances might as well be hid
As of their light be shorn;
Love never comes where Love's forbid
Then Bright Eyes, do not scorn !
Than honeyed words from lady fair
What sound more sweet to hear?
Ye would-be cold ones, have a care
Of whispers in your ear!
For coral lips like eyes can light
Love's fire in bosom cold;
But angry words can quench it quite,
Then Sweet Lips, do not scold !
Though beauty bright can make a fire
In heart of ice to burn,
Yet beauty bright can quench desire
If mixed with too much scorn.
One loving look all words above
A suitor's joy may crown;
Rut angry glances strangle love,
Then Fairhrow, do not frown
Manx Sun, 2nd March,1838.
Fair Girl, that now in childhood's spring
Like a rosebud art blossoming,
Seeming in thy sylph-like grace
I'he spirit of this lovely place;
So innocent that not a thought
Of passion clouds that snowy brow,
As yet in worldly ways untaught
How long wilt thou remain as now
How long, indeed ! for fleet and fast
Will childhood speed-its spring be past;
And woman's passions, like serpents, brood
In the warm summer of womanhood.
A year and a day shall pass away,
A year and a day shall follow after,
And gone will be thy childhood gay,
Its thoughtless wiles and merry laughter.
That which is now a bud-the nest
Of cradled loveliness unconfessed,
Shall open forth as a queenly flower,
The pearl and the pride of a radiant bower,
But though the bud with its charms unblown
Mav rest in peace and innocence,
Will the blooming flower be left alone?
And what will be that flower's defence?
Upon that bosom full soon Love's tide
Its snowy billows will heave in pride,
Respondent to wishes, and hopes and sighs,
The echo of Love's intensities.
And though the heart within, as yet,
Unconscious be of care and sorrow,
We know the sun may calmly set
To-day, and rise in storm to-morrow.
Time flies-thy childhood pass will soon
f\nd thou shalt revel in beauty's noon,
When many a lover shall bend his knee,
And worship thee as a divinity
And everywhere shall many a glance
(Too plainly read) thine eye be seeking,
And visions vain shall round thee dance
Of dying swains, and hearts a-breaking.
But time will fly-and thou shalt find
(Heaven grant the thought come soon to mind)
That beauty's visions and pageantry
Are vanity-all are vanity
And vet what boots it me to tell
The truth in time but few can see
Then may God guard thee, lovely girl,
Amid this world of vanity.
Manx Sun, 10th Nov., 1837.
THF MINSTREL AND THE LADYE.
'O h ! tell me what to sing about,'
A troubadour replied
To a courtly dame who sought a song,
And would not. be denied,-
' Oh, tell me what to sing about,
Wilt have a gallant strain,
I low a gallant knight shone forth in fight
Upon the battle plain?'
' Oh, troubadour, wake not thy lyre
To warlike deeds and war,
For it is good that steel and blood
From ladies should be far!'
' Then tell me what to sing about,
Wilt have a hol, song,
Of rnartyr braving fire and stake,
With soul unstained by wrong!'
' Oh, sing me not such dismal tale,
I would not now be sad,
Far sooner should'st thou strike the chord,
To merry chaunt and glad!'
' Shall I then tell what luck befell
That gallant Ir(tle page,
Who roamed for sport from Court to Court,
On wanton pilgrimage?'
' Oh, no, Sir Bard, I am not quite
So full of revelry.'
' Then tell me, ladye beautiful!
What must I sing for thee?
' Methinks I've thought of every theme
1_hy sympathy could move !'
The ladee smiled--' Art thou a child
"Chat could'st not think of Love,'
Manxi Sun, 24th Nov., 1837.
The most serious of his early verses, and, to my mind the most worthy of the man himself is that entitled ' A Night Scene.' It is printed in a little monograph by his friend Professor Bennett; but I find in the ' Manx Sun ' of a much earlier date another version which is interesting :
A night-sky overhead
One solitary star
A little track of blue--for dark clouds hid
Its sister sunsets; on its azure bed
It seemed a sun, for there
No jealous planet shone with which it to compare.
The dark clouds rolled away,
And all heaven's shining train
Of suns and stars,
With the great moon, beamed forth their gorgeous light.
Where then was that fair star that shone so bright?
Where was it ? none could say,
For there it doubtless was, although it seemed away.
So lustrous shall we find
Each living soul
When seen alone;
And though when brighter spirits round it press
\Ve lose its form and doubt its loveliness,
Still should we bear in mind
That it is not less bright although it be outshined.
| Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received MNB
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2008