In 1857, Andrew Park, author of Egypt and the East, Or, Travels On Sea and Land (Glasgow, 1857) saw “the famous Isles of Greece”, the Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser notes (“Literature”, December 19, 1857), “with a very different vision to that of Byron, preferring infinitely, his own luxuriantly waving isles of the Highlands of Scotland” and offering the verse
The Isles Greece—the Isles of Greece,
Which Byron has so sweetly sung—
Where sheep and goat are only fleece,
And women are quite old when young:
Eternal winter clothes them yet,
And all look herbless I have met
Even though, we read, the voyager felt “the spirit of poetry swelling in his mind as he land[ed] on her classic shores”, he was disappointed at what he saw:
With the Isles of Greece, however, where burning Sappho loved, and of whose beauty Byron sung in his Immortal ode in Don Juan, our author feels much disappointed and expresses it strongly. “They rose,” he says, “like uncultivated rocks from the sea, and looked cold, barren, and unfruitful.”
Park’s poem, ending with the lines “The Highland mountains in the west, / I tell you are by far the best!” and “A band of Celtic warriors mine, / And heather red as Samian wine!”, was not received well. The article writer found Park’s rhyme honest but “prosaic”.
Like a true Scotchman, the author of Hurrah for the Highlands, finds nothing among all those classic isles to compare with those of his father-land, saying in an honest but most prosaic couplet, that
The Highland mountains in the west,
I tell you are by far the best!
and closing with the patriotic stanza:
Place me on proud Benlomond’s steep,
Where every thing around I see
Reflects its glories in the deep,
Or blashes round in majesty!
A band of Celtic warriors mine,
And heather red as wine!
Featured Image: “Non-Commissioned Officers of the Seaforth Highlanders, sent from Malta to Crete”. Photo by W. Gregory, Strand. The Penny Illustrated Paper. March 27, 1897.