A biographical notice, taken from Poems, from College and Country, by "three brothers".
A Scandinavian legend tells of a precious mead, brewed after a peculiar fashion, which had the power of conferring upon all who drank of it the gift of song. It would almost seem as if the secret of the delicious beverage must have been known in the home of the Cullybackey Givens. Three of the inmates at least warbled their "native wood-notes wild" from boyhood's days. Thomas, the author of the poems which close this volume, is the youngest of the three, and happily survives the brothers whose efforts here precede, as they do in point of time, his own. In poetic talent, however, he is in no way behind either of them, and yet he has had none, or almost none, of the opportunities in the way of leisure and education which it was theirs to have as students or teachers. The life of a farmer is at the best arduous, exacting, and burdensome, having little time for mental cultivation, often indeed destroying the very desire for it by the unceasing and imperative demands it makes on the physical powers; and, with the exception of a year of two spent in America, this life has been his from childhood. That in these circumstances he had been able to do so much literary work, and to do it so well, attests at once his ability and his perseverance. The fact, too, that he has not allowed his commonplace surroundings, or the monotony and toilsomeness of his life-work, to unduly depress his spirit, or turn him from the belief that poetry is its own exceeding great reward, entitles him to the respect and admiration of all who value genuine worth or the many qualities which go to constitute true nobility of character.
Of his poetry readers can judge for themselves. It is simple and homely in its cast, dealing for the most part with the ordinary incidents of country life, and knowing little or nothing of "magic casements opening on the foam of perilous seas in fairyland forlorn," but born of real emotion, and surcharged alike with human interest and high-toned moral aspirations. He is specially happy when using the Doric of his native district as the vehicle of expression.
Here his muse seems most at home, becoming at once more natural and forcible, and employing, with spontaneity and freshness, language which is decidedly more idiomatic and picturesque than when he contents himself with dipping into "the well of English undefiled," whilst his rhythm is felt to be more crisp and sparkling, more instinct with subtle power, and more unmistakably melodious. He evidently loves nature, and rests in her love; hates everything that savours of cant and injustice, sympathises intensely with the oppressed, has an intimate knowledge of the world, is well acquainted with the various springs of human conduct, and withal carries about with him, wherever he goes and whatever he does, a keen eye for those little, unobtrusive, much neglected rills of love and loveliness which "give bloom and beauty to the wide, wide wastes where mortals live." He has one farther merit too which must not be overlooked, it is by no means a small one: he is always clear and intelligible.
Personally, Mr. Given is unassuming, genial, and most companionable; a man of fine feeling and high principle, greatly beloved by those who know him intimately, and much esteemed and respected (witness the list of Guarantors and Subscribers appended to this volume which he has ventured to issue from the Press) by all ranks and classes in his own immediate neighbourhood. He has been for years an honoured member of the Masonic Order, and it was mainly through his exertions that the present neat little hall in the village was erected for the use of the brethren belonging to the Cullybackey Lodge.
May he have many years of health and strength and happy enjoyment in which to sing his songs and "master the steep ascent," and afterwards an abundant entrance into the everlasting lodge above.
GEO. R. BUICK.