Robert Blair was a Scottish poet and minister who was educated in Edinburgh and in Holland.
Ordained in 1731, he published The Grave in 1743. This work was about a graveyard school, and consists of 800 lines of blank verse.
Blair’s poem notes the horrors of death, the pain of bereavement and thoughts on Resurrection. Later, this poem would be illustrated by William Blake.
In part, The Grave reads
Oft, in the lone church-yard at night I’ve
The schoolboy with a satchel in his hand,
Whistling aloud to keep his courage up…
Sudden he starts! and hears, or thinks he
The sound of something purring at his heels;
Full fast he flies, and dares not look behind
Till out of breath, he overtakes his fellow
Blair, like Scottish poets Robert L. Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott, used standard English instead of Scots in their work.
Blair died on February 4, 1846.
I wonder if his Scottish contemporaries would have been familiar with his poetry.
According to legend, Myra Maybelle Shirley—better known as Belle Starr—was larger than life. She supposedly married bandit Jim Reed while on horseback, (the ceremony performed by a gang member), bore Cole Younger’s illegitimate child, and robbed from the rich to give to the poor. However, in reality, her life was far less glamorous.
Myra was born in 1848, near Carthage, Jasper County, Missouri. Her father, John Shirley, was the black sheep of a distinguished Virginia family. After his third marriage he moved to Missouri where he prospered. In fact, with holdings of nearly $10,000, he was one of the wealthiest men in the County.
Myra attended the Carthage Female Academy, and witnessed first-hand the see-saw battle between North and South to win the border state. During the war, Myra gleaned Northern intelligence from her social contacts, and passed them on to her brother, a “bushwacker” working for the South.
After the war, the family moved to Texas where Myra met and married Jim Reed, and became involved with the outlaw Cole Younger. Although many stories are told of Belle’s strapping on guns and riding with the gang, it’s likely that all she ever did was provide a hide-out for her husband and his bandit friends.
Myra’s life ended in violence, when she was shot by an unknown assailant. Although it was never proven, it’s believed she was killed as the result of a financial dispute.
Cole Younger is buried in the historical cemetery in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. Belle was buried in Muskogee County, Oklahoma, near where she was killed. I’ve been to Younger’s gravesite – have you ever been to Belle’s?