Born in Glasgow, Thomas Campbell was the youngest son of Alexander Campbell, of the Campbells of Kirnan, Argyll. His father belonged to a Glasgow firm trading in Virginia, and lost his money in consequence of the American Revolutionary War. Campbell, who was educated at the Glasgow High School and University of Glasgow, won prizes for classics and for verse-writing. He spent the holidays as a tutor in the western Highlands. His poem Glenara and the ballad of Lord Ullin's Daughter owe their origin to a visit to Mull. In May 1797 he went to Edinburgh to attend lectures on law. He supported himself by private teaching and by writing, towards which he was helped by Dr Robert Anderson, the editor of the British Poets. Among his contemporaries in Edinburgh were Sir Walter Scott, Henry Brougham, ...
Lord Ullin's Daughter
A chieftain, to the Highlands bound,
Cries, ``Boatman, do not tarry!
And I'll give thee a silver pound
To row us o'er the ferry!''--
``Now, who be ye, would cross Lochgyle,
This dark and stormy weather?''
``O, I'm the chief of Ulva's isle,
And this, Lord Ullin's daughter.--
``And fast before her father's men
Three days we've fled together,
For should he find us in the glen,
My blood would stain the heather.
``His horsemen hard behind us ride;
Should they our steps discover,
Then who will cheer my bonny bride
When they have slain her lover?''--
Out spoke the hardy Highland wight,--
``I'll go, my chief--I'm ready:--
It is not for your silver bright;
But for your winsome lady:
``And by my word! the bonny bird
In danger shall not tarry;
So, though the waves are raging white,
I'll row you o'er the ferry.''--
By this the storm grew loud apace,
The water-wraith was shrieking;
And in the scowl of heaven each face
Grew dark as they were speaking.
But still as wilder blew the wind,
And as the night grew drearer,
Adown the glen rode armèd men,
Their trampling sounded nearer.--
``O haste thee, haste!'' the lady cries,
``Though tempests round us gather;
I'll meet the raging of the skies,
But not an angry father.''--
The boat has left a stormy land,
A stormy sea before her,--
When, O! too strong for human hand,
The tempest gather'd o'er her.
And still they row'd amidst the roar
Of waters fast prevailing:
Lord Ullin reach'd that fatal shore,--
His wrath was changed to wailing.
For, sore dismay'd through storm and shade,
His child he did discover:--
One lovely hand she stretch'd for aid,
And one was round her lover.
``Come back! come back!'' he cried in grief
``Across this stormy water:
And I'll forgive your Highland chief,
My daughter!--O my daughter!''
'Twas vain: the loud waves lash'd the shore,
Return or aid preventing:
The waters wild went o'er his child,
And he was left lamenting.
The popularity of that baby-faced boy, who possessed not even the elements of a good actor, was a hallucination in the public mind, and a disgrace to our theatrical history.