William Julius Mickle

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William Julius Mickle (29 September 173428 October 1788) was a Scottish poet.


  • The dews of summer night did fall,
    The moon, sweet regent of the sky,
    Silvered the walls of Cumnor Hall
    And many an oak that grew thereby.
    • Cumnor Hall (1784), st. 1. Compare: "Jove, thou regent of the skies", Alexander Pope, The Odyssey, book ii, line 42; "Now Cynthia, named fair regent of the night", John Gay, Trivia, book iii; "And hail their queen, fair regent of the night", Charles Darwin, The Botanic Garden, part i, canto ii, line 90.
    • This ballad was the inspiration for Walter Scott's Kenilworth.
  • But are ye sure the news is true—
    And are ye sure he's weel?
    Is this a time to think o' wark?—
    Ye jades, fling by your wheel!
    • The Mariner's Wife (1769), st. 1.
  • For there's nae luck about the house,
    There's nae luck at a';
    There's little pleasure in the house
    When our gudeman's awa'.
    • The Mariner's Wife (1769).
  • His very foot has music in't
    As he comes up the stairs.
    • The Mariner's Wife (1769), st. 5.
  • And will I see his face again!
    And will I hear him speak!
    • The Mariner's Wife (1769), st. 5.
  • The present moment is our ain,
    The neist we never saw!
    • The Mariner's Wife (1769), st. 6.
  • Nor let the critic, if he find the meaning of Camoens in some instances altered, imagine that he has found a blunder in the Translator. ... It was not to gratify the dull few, whose greatest pleasure in reading a translation is to see what the author exactly says; it was to give a poem that might live in the English language which was the ambition of the Translator. ... And the original is in the hands of the world.
    • The Lusiad; Or, The Discovery of India: an Epic Poem (1776), Introduction, p. cli.
The Moon, full orb'd, forsakes her watery cave,
And lifts her lovely head above the wave...
  • The Moon, full orb'd, forsakes her watery cave,
    And lifts her lovely head above the wave.
    The snowy splendors of her modest ray
    Stream o'er the glist'ning waves, and quivering play:
    Around her, glittering on the heav'ns arch'd brow,
    Unnumber'd stars, enclos'd in azure, glow,
    Thick as the dew-drops of the rosy dawn,
    Or May-flowers crouding o'er the daisy-lawn:
    The canvas whitens in the silvery beam,
    And with a paler red the pendants gleam:
    The masts' tall shadows tremble o'er the deep;
    The peaceful winds an holy silence keep;
    The watchman's carol echo'd from the prows,
    Alone, at times, awakes the still repose.
    • The Lusiad (1776), Book I, pp. 23–24.

Quotes about Mickle[edit]

  • [There's nae luck about the house] is positively the finest love ballad in that style in the Scottish or perhaps any other language.
    • Robert Burns, in The Works of Robert Burns (1831), p. 213.
  • I am glad, Sir, it has fallen into your hands.
    • Samuel Johnson, reply to Mickle when told of his plans to translate The Lusiads into English. (Dr. Johnson "had much earlier proposed to translate the work himself".) Vide The Samuel Johnson Encyclopedia (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996), p. 264.
  • I have had occasion lately to look into Mickle's translation of the Lusiad. It is easily and gracefully versified, but properly speaking is not a translation, but a very free paraphrase, or rifacimento of the original. I have been amazed to find what long passages of his own the writer has interpolated into the work. He does not even follow the division into stanzas, but recasts the whole into English couplets. This, to me, is a fatal error.
  • 'But how we boom through the billows!' cried Jack, gazing over the top-rail; then, flinging forth his arm, recited:
    ' "Aslope, and gliding on the leeward side,
    The bounding vessel cuts the roaring tide."
    Camoens! White Jacket, Camoens! Did you ever read him? The Lusiad, I mean? It's the man-of-war epic of the world, my lad. Give me Gama for a commodore, say I—noble Gama! And Mickle, White Jacket, did you ever read of him? William Julius Mickle? Camoens's translator? A disappointed man, though, White Jacket. Besides his version of The Lusiad, he wrote many forgotten things. Did you ever see his ballad of "Cumnor Hall"?—No?—Why, it gave Sir Walter Scott the hint of Kenilworth. My father knew Mickle when he went to sea on board the old Romney man-of-war...'
  • Mickle, with a vein of great facility, united a power of verbal melody which might have been envied by bards of much greater renown.
    • Walter Scott, "Introductory Remarks on Popular Poetry", in Historical Ballads (1807), p. 69.
  • Mickle's facility of versification was so great, that, being a printer by profession, he frequently put his verses into types without taking the trouble previously to put them into writing; thus uniting the composition of the author with the mechanical operation which typographers call by the same name.
    • Walter Scott, "Introductory Remarks on Popular Poetry", in Historical Ballads (1807), p. 69.
  • However I may detract from Mr. Mickle's merits as a faithful translator, I would give him all due praise as a poet; and a complete statement of what belongs to him, what to Camoens, would increase his reputation instead of impairing it. I never read a rhyme poem of any considerable length, that wearied me so little as the English Lusiad; the versification has the ease of Dryden without his negligence, and the harmony of Pope without his cloying sweetness.
    • Robert Southey, "Remarks on Mickle's Translation of the Lusiad", in The Monthly Magazine Vol. IV (August, 1797), p. 99.
  • A man of genius, whose memory is without a spot, and whose name will live among the English poets.
  • Mr. Mickle's translation [Lusiad] promises well to stand in competition with any made in the English language. His characters are well preserved and strongly marked; his speeches have great force and spirit, his descriptions are masterly and sublime; his verse is written in a nervous and lofty diction, and in a fine harmony of numbers.
    • D. Z., "An Essay on Translation" in Gentleman's Magazine (August 1771).

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