Lives of
Scottish Poets
edited by
DAVID HILL RADCLIFFE

Center for Applied Technologies
in the Humanities


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Part I. (Volume I.)
Front-matter
James the First
Thomas the Rhymer
John Barbour
Andrew Wyntoun
Gavin Douglas
Allan Ramsay
William Meston
John Home
James Beattie
Robert Burns

Part II. (Volume I.)
Front-matter
James the Fifth
William Dunbar
Sir James Inglis
Henry the Minstrel
Sir David Lyndsay
Alexander Barclay
Alexander Montgomerie
William Alexander
William Drummond
James Thomson
John Oswald

Part III. (Volume II.)
Front-matter
James the Sixth
Sir Richard Maitland
Arthur Johnston
Hamilton of Bangour
Hamilton of Gilbertfield
Samuel Colvil
Alexander Ross
John Armstrong
John Ogilvie
James Macpherson
Charles Salmon

Part IV. (Volume II.)
Front-matter
Alexander Hume
John Bellenden
Mark Alexander Boyd
Ninian Paterson
William Wilkie
Robert Fergusson
William Julius Mickle
Alexander Geddes
James Grahame

Part V. (Volume III.)
Front-matter
Robert Henryson
Alexander Scott
Walter Kennedy
John Ogilby
Alexander Pennecuik
Alexander Cunningham
David Mallet
William Falconer
Francis Garden
Robert Blair
James Moor
James Graeme
Caleb Whitefoord
James Grainger
Hector Macneill
John Wilson

Part VI. (Volume III.)
Front-matter
Robert Kerr
Richard Lord Maitland
Thomas Hamilton
Charles Hamilton
Michael Bruce
Thomas Blacklock
John Logan
Andrew Macdonald
James Mercer

Appendix. (Volume III.)
James I
Allan Ramsay
John Home
Robert Burns
William Drummond
Robert Fergusson
Alexander Scott
John Wilson
Index
Corrections

Part  I:
ALLAN RAMSAY
70LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
ALLAN RAMSAY.

1

The restorer of Scottish poetry, Allan Ramsay, [note] was born on the 15th October, 1686, at Leadhills, in the parish of Crawfordmuir in Lanarkshire;
Where min'ral springs Glengoner* fill,
Which joins sweet flowing Clyde,
Between auld Crawford Lindsay's towers.
And where Deneetne rapid pours
His stream thro' Glotta's tide.
He was descended by the father's side† from the Ramsays of Dalhousie, a genealogy of which he speaks, in one of his pieces, with conscious pride.

Dalhousie of an auld descent
My chief, my stoupe, and ornament.

* The name of a small river, which takes its rise from the Leadhills, and enters Clyde between the castle of Crawford and the mouth of Deneetne, another of the branches of Clyde. A. S.
“It is said, that the ruins of the cottage where Ramsay was born are still pointed out to the inquisitive traveller.”
Beauties of Scotland, vol. 3. [note]
† He was great grandson of Capt. John Ramsay, a son of Ramsay of Cockpen, who was brother of Ramsay of Dalhousie. A. S.
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.71
2

His father, John Ramsay, was superintendent of Lord Hopetoun's mines at Leadhills, and his mother, Alice Bower, was the daughter of a gentleman of Derbyshire. who had been invited to Leadhills, to assist, by his skill, in the introduction of some improvements in the art of mining.

3

Allan, while yet an infant, lost his father, who died at the early age of twenty-five. His mother, soon after, married a Mr. Crichton, an inconsiderable landholder of Lanarkshire, by whom she had several children. For fourteen years, Allan remained in the house of his step-father; and, at the parish school of Crawfordmoor, he received all the education which it was to be his lot in life ever to obtain. The instruction of even a parish school in Scotland, however, extends far; and there is reason to believe, that Ramsay had commenced the study of the classics before he left it. In the preface to his works, he says, “I understand Horace [note] but faintly in the original.” The events of his life make it improbable that he could have acquired this knowledge during his maturer years; and the faintness with which he says he understands the Roman poet, corresponds well with that degree of information which a boy, who had only advanced the first steps in the study of the language, might be afterwards supposed to preserve.*


* The view taken by this writer is at variance with other biographies of the poet, in which the scantiness of his education is invariably lamented; but it is a view which every one who knows any thing of Scottish education, and how common it is for even parish
72LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
4

About the year 1700, Allan lost his mother, and his step-father was not long in discovering that he was now of an age when he ought to shift for himself. The profession to which his own inclinations strongly tended, was that of a painter; but his step-father, with the keen-sightedness alike natural to the niggardly and the needy, gave no encouragement to a propensity which he saw could only lead to the means of subsistence, by a way long, circuitous, and deceitful. He took Allan with him to Edinburgh; and, among the various handicrafts which then flourished in the Scottish metropolis, selected that of a wigmaker, as the likeliest to provide the youth speedily with a livelihood, and therefore the fittest to which to bind him in the hard fetters of an apprenticeship.

5

Most of the biographers of Ramsay have evinced great anxiety to impress on their readers, that Ramsay, though a wig-maker, was no barber, as “some London publications have ungenerously insinuated.” Where the real distinction, in point of respectability, lies between these kindred occupations, it is difficult to perceive; neither of them have been very productive of great men, and a Ramsay can scarcely have given more dignity to the one, than an Arkwright [note] has to the other.* However little inclination Ramsay


school-boys of fourteen to have Horace [note] in their hand, must allow to rest on very strong probability. A. S.
* The writer of this Memoir had evidently not read the celebrated case of the Perruquiers and Coiffuers of Paris, where have found the art of dressing had out only demonstrated to be a liberal
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.73
may have originally had to the occupation of a wig-maker or “skull-thacker” as he humourously calls it, it is certain, that he did not abandon it when his apprenticeship had ceased; but followed it for many years after. In the parish registers, he is called a wig-maker, down to the year 1716.

6

In 1712, Ramsay married Christian Ross, daughter of a writer in Edinburgh.

7

About the same period that he paid a visit to the temple of Hymen, he appears to have made his first offering at that of the Muses. The earliest poem of his composition of which there is any trace, is an Address, in 1712, “To the most Happy Members of the Easy Club,” of which he was then elected a member. It was a society, he tells us, which originated “in the general antipathy we all seemed to have at the ill


art, but equal in rank to those of the poet, the painter, and the statuary. Who has ever attempted to say as much for “subterranean shaving at one half penny,” even though honored by the name of an Arkwright? “By those talents,” say the dressers of hair, “which are peculiar to ourselves, we give new graces to the beauty song by the poet; it is when she comes from under our hands, that the painter and statuary represent her; and, if the locks of Berenice have been placed among the stars, who will deny, that to attain this superior glory she was first in want of our aid. A forehead more or less open, a face more or less oval, require very different modes; every where we must embellish nature, or correct her deficiencies. It is also necessary to conciliate with the
74LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
humour and contradictions which arise from trifles, especially those which constitute Whig and Tory, without having the grand reason for it. ” The members were all devoted friends to the Stuart family; and, in a wish for its restoration, we may doubtless trace “the grand reason” to which he here alludes. By one of the rules of the club, each member assumed the name of some celebrated writer; Ramsay chose that of Isaac Bickerstaff.
[note] After some time, a sentiment of national pride, cherished by their jacobite attachments, led them to discard all but Scottish appellations, when Ramsay changed the name of Bickerstaff for the more poetical one of Gavin Douglas. It was another of the rules of the club,

———that easy he
Who should three years a social fellow be,

colour of the flesh that of the dress which is to beautify it; sometimes the whiteness of the skin will be heightened by the auburn tint of the locks, and the too lively splendour of the fair will be softened by the greyish cast with which we tinge the tresses.” “Some rigid censurers may perhaps say, that they could do very well without us; and that if there were less art and ornament at the toilettes of the ladies, things would be all for the better. It is not for us to judge, whether the manners of Sparta were preferable to those of Athens; and whether the shepherdess, who gazes on herself in the glassy fountain, interweaves some flowers in her tresses, and adorns herself with natural graces, merits a greater homage than those brilliant citizens who skilfully employ the re-
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.75
And to our Easy Club give no offence
After triennial trial, should commence
A gentleman; which gives as just a claim
To that great title, as the blast of fame
Can give to them who trade in human gore,
Or those who heap up hoards of coined ore;
Since in our social friendship nought's design'd
But what may raise and brighten up the mind;
We, aiming close to walk by virtue's rules,
To find true honour's self, and leave her shade to fools.
8

In due season, Ramsay reaped the benefit of this regulation. In 1715, there is an entry in the Minutes of the club, declaring, that “ Dr. Pitcairn and Gavin


finements of a fashionable dress. We must take the age in the state we find it. We feel a congenial disposition to the living manners to which we owe our existence, and while they subsist we must subsist with them.” All this, to be sure, is of female locks; but ladies of old wore wigs as well as gentlemen, and where is the proof that Allan was not a maker of wigs to both sexes? Some passages of his poems seem to favour the supposition, that he was equally skilled in the decoration of both; thus,
Her cockernony* snooded up fu sleek,
Her haffet-locks hung waving on her cheek.
Gentle Shepherd, scene 1. [note]
A. S.
* The gathering of a woman's hair when wrapt up in a band or snood.
76LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
Douglas having behaved themselves three years as good members of this club, were adjudged to be gentlemen.” Nearly about the same time, he was raised still higher in the scale of honour, by having the additional title conferred on him, of poet-laureate to the Free and Easy Club.

9

To this jovial fraternity, Ramsay, while yet unknown to fame, was in the habit of reciting the infant productions of his muse; but scarcely had he been appointed their poet-laureate, when the civil discords which led to the rebellion of 1715, and unhappily survived it, put an end to their meetings.

10

Ramsay appears to have quickly withdrawn himself from the little eddy of party politics in which he had for a moment become carelessly involved. After the suppression of the rebellion of 1715, he exerted himself, with commendable discretion, to gain a name and interest in the world, by shunning all party distinctions—writing pieces which should offend no one, please every body, and make stedfast friends of many. He was diligent to win by panegyric, and attentive not to lose by satire; odes, elegies, and epithalamiums, were now the chief offerings of his Muse. He was careful, too, to avoid the cause,
“That mony a thriftless poet's poor:”
His flattery was discerning in its objects, and did not “for patrons, blockheads chuse.”

Lucky for me I never sang
Fause praises to a worthless wight,
And still took pleasure in the thrang
Of them wha in good sense delight.
On the Poverty of Poets.

POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.77
11

As his pieces were successively written, he sent them to the world in the form of single sheets, or half sheets, at the price of a penny each. His name became thus celebrated among the good people of Edinburgh, who were accustomed to send out their children, with a penny, to buy “ Allan Ramsay's last piece.”

12

In 1716, (while still a wig-maker,) he published an edition of James the First's poem of “Christ's Kirk on the Green,” [note] with a second canto by himself; in which the “hubbleshaw” of the country fair is succeeded by the festivities of a bridal scene. The public thought so well of this sequel to the admirable sketch of the royal bard, that, in two years after, another edition was called for, when Ramsay, “curious,” as he says, “to know how his bridal folks would look next day after the marriage,” added a third canto, which describes the congratulatory visits to the married pair, and makes an end of an old tale by “deep drinking and bloodless quarrels.”

13

From the imprint of this second edition of Christ's Kirk on the Green, it appears, that Ramsay had shortly before abandoned his original occupation of wig-making, and commenced the more congenial pursuit of book-making and selling of books. It bears, to be “printed for the Author, at the Mercury opposite to Niddry's Wynd.” Very probably it was his first adventure in trade; and with a better he could scarcely have commenced. It continued a selling work for many years, and, as early as 1722, had reached a fifth edition.

14

In 1720, Ramsay opened a subscription for a collection of his poems in one volume quarto; and the
78LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
liberal manner in which it was immediately filled up, affords a striking proof of the general esteem in which he was now held. The list of subscribers is said to have comprehended “all who were either eminent or fair in Scotland.” He is supposed to have cleared, by this publication, four hundred guineas, a large sum at that time, and sufficient to purchase as much land in Scotland as would now produce a respectable income. The volume was preceded by several copies of recommendatory verses, from persons of eminence and taste; and closed with an address by the author to his book, after the manner of Horace,
[note] in which he speaks thus flauntingly of his hopes:

———Gae spread my fame,
And fix me an immortal name;
Ages to come shall thee revive,
And gar thee with new honours live.
The future critics, I foresee,
Shall have their notes on notes on thee;
The wits unborn shall beauties find,
That never entered in my mind.
15

In 1724, he published the first volume of the Tea Table Miscellany, [note] a collection of Songs, Scottish and English, which was speedily followed by a second and third, under the same title. The publication acquired him more profit than lasting fame. It went through no less than twelve editions in a few years. The want of taste and fidelity which it displays has, however, deprived it of all estimation in later times. Ramsay lived at a period when a great many of the
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.79
old Scottish words, to the most admired of our native airs, were still floating on the memories of the people; and, by a very little industry and research, they might have been rescued from the oblivion which has since swept them for ever from our grasp. But, instead of bestowing any thought on the importance of such an undertaking—important in a historical point of view, as giving perpetuity to so many monuments of change in the character of the people, and equally so in a poetical one, as preserving that native freshness and individuality which no modern imitation can expect to rival— Ramsay made it his boast to give new words to every old air he could meet with! “My being well assured,” he says, in his Preface to the Miscellany, “how acceptable new words to known good tunes would prove, engaged me to the making of verses for above sixty of them in this (the first) and the second volume (both of which consist almost entirely of Scottish songs); about thirty more were done by some ingenious young gentlemen.” How mortifying to reflect, that for these ninety substitutions by Ramsay and his “ingenious young gentlemen,” very few of them worth preserving, (for Ramsay, however great in other respects, was but a poor song writer,) we have, in all probability, lost as many of those genuine effusions which made the minstrels of the “north countrie” so celebrated in former times! Leyden mentions a MS. collection of airs, written soon after the Revolution, and not long before the time when Ramsay flourished, in which we meet with the following titles of songs, of most of which, though then well known, we have now scarcely any authentic remnant.— “O'er the Mure to Maggie.” “Robin and Jannet.” “My dearie, if thou dye.” “Money in both the pockets.” “The Lady's goune.” “Bonie Nanie.”* “Maggie, I must love thee.”


* The “new words,” by Ramsay, to this air, present a characteristic example of what has been gained by modern adaptation. They are too vulgar to be repeated, and could only have been popular among such a knot of “ingenious young gentlemen” as embellished the Tea Table Miscellany. [note] The original words which, notwithstanding Ramsay's neglect, are fortunately not lost, are simple and touching enough. I am indebted for the following copy of them to a member of the society, who procured them from John Mayne, Esq. [note] author of the “Siller Gun,“ “Glasgow,” and other poems, whose words, to the air of “Logan Water,” shew, that of all modern bards, he is among the last who is likely to do injury to his recollections of the songs familiar to his infancy. “I believe them,” says Mr. Mayne, speaking of this copy of verses, “to be the very words that gave birth, or were first adapted, to that beautiful air, with the exception of the first four lines of the third stanza, which are mine. I never heard the others but in my father's family, and there, at first, in infancy.” On more particular inquiry, I find, that the lines are traced back in Mr. M.'s family, to a period quite as remote as the MS. quoted by Leyden.

Original words to the Scotch Air of “My Nanny, O!”
Never before printed.
As I cam in by Embro' town,
By the back o' the bonny city, O!
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.81
“Strick upon a strogin.” “Hallo even.” “Happie man is he.” “Woman's work will never be done.” “Jocke the laird's brother.” “Bonie lassie.”
I heard a young man mak his moan,
And, O! it was a pity, O!
For aye, he cried, his Nanny, O!
His handsome, charming Nanny, O!
Nor friend, nor foe, can tell, oho!
How dearly I loo Nanny, O!
Father, your counsel I wou'd tak,
But ye maun not be angry, O!
I'd rather ha'e Nanny, but a plack,
Than the laird's daughter and her hundred mark!
My bonny, bonny Nanny, O!
My handsome, charming Nanny, O!
Nor friend, nor foe, can tell, oho!
How dearly I loo Nanny, O
Then dinna mock our want o' gear,
Nor lightlify my Nanny, O!
For Heav'n will smile on ane sae dear,
With a' that's gude and canny, O!
My bonny, bonny Nanny, O!
My handsome, charming Nanny, O!
Come weal, come woe, the warld shall know
How dearly I loo Nanny, O!
Burns has also supplied us with a set of words to this tune; but, though not among his worst effusions, they are much inferior to this original version.
Mrs. Brooks [note] has adapted to the same air one of the
82LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
“Jenny, I told you.” “The Gilliflouer.” “The bony brow.” “The New Kirk gavell.” “The Nightingale.” “Jockie went to the wood.” “Where Helen lays.” “Sweet Willie.” “Bonny roaring
sweetest songs in her musical entertainment of Rosina, beginning, “When hidden to the wake or fair.“
A. S.

*
“Helen of Kirkconnel”
I wish I were where Helen lies,
Where night and day on me she cries
I wish I were where Helen lies,
On fair Kirkconnell lee.
Old Song.
“In the burying ground of Kirkconnel are still to be seen the tombstones of fair Helen and her favorite lover Adam Fleming. She was a daughter of the family of Kirkconnel, and fell a victim to the jealousy of a lover. Being courted by two young gentlemen at the same time, the one of them, thinking himself slighted, vowed to sacrifice the other to his resentment when he again discovered him in her company. An opportunity soon presented itself, when the faithful pair, walking along the romantic banks of the Kirtle, were discovered from the opposite banks by the assassin. Helen, perceiving him lurking among the bushes, and dreading the fatal resolution, rushed to her lover's bosom, to rescue him from the danger; and, thus receiving the wound intended for another, sunk and expired in her lover's arms. He immedi-
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.83
Willie.”
“Tweedside.” “When she cam ben she bobbit.” “Fule fa my een.” “When the bryd cam ben she becked.” “The Colleyr's daughter.” “Foul tak the wars.” “The milkein pell.” “The bonie brookit lassie blew beneath“ the e'en. —Several of these airs, “O'er the mure to Maggie,” “The Colleyr's daughter,“ &c. are among those to which the perverse conceit of Ramsay induced him to write new words, instead of preserving those which were probably coeval with the airs themselves.

16

“The MS. collection,” says Leyden, “which I have quoted, is not indeed of great antiquity; but


ately revenged her death by slaying the murderer. The inconsolable Adam Fleming, now sinking under the pressure of grief, wont abroad, and served under the banners of Spain against the Infidels. The impression, however, in that age of romance and chivalry, when it was accounted honorable permanently to indulge the tender passions, was not obliterated. He returned to Scotland, and tradition reports, that stretching himself on the grave of Helen, he expired, and was buried by her side. Upon his tombstone are engraved a cross and a sword, with this inscription.—
“Hic jacet Adamus Fleming.”
Statistical Account. [note]
The old ballad, said to have been written by Adam Fleming himself, is still preserved in an imperfect state; but the story has recently awakened a nobler strain from the pen of a modern bard. In the Edinburgh Annual Register there is a ballad by
84LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
as it approaches the æra of the Revolution, it enables us to advance a step beyond Ramsay; and as it shows that these songs were popular at the time of the Revolution, it renders it probable that their origin is of a much older date. Indeed, the æra of the Revolution seems to be that of the decline of Scottish music and song. Until that period, the remains of the bards or minstrels existed in almost every quarter of the Scottish lowlands; but, after that æra, scarcely any vestige of them can be traced. They (the minstrels) do not appear to have been branded on the

Mr. Mayne, [note] entitled “Fair Helen,” of which the following beautiful stanzas are the first and last.
I wish I were where Helen lies,
For night and day on me she cries,
And, like an angel, to the skies
Still seems to beckon me!
For me she liv'd, for me she sigh'd,
For me she wish'd to be a bride,
For me, in life's sweet morn, she died
On fair Kirkconnel lee!
*    *    *    *    *
O! when I'm sleeping in my grave,
And o'er my head the rank weeds wave,
May He, who life and spirit gave,
Unite my love and me!
Then, from this world of doubts and sighs,
My soul, on wings of peace, shall rise,
And, joining Helen in the skies,
Forget Kirkconnel lee.
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.85
cheek with a hot iron, according to an ancient law; neither were they yoked in the plough, instead of the a according to a law of Macbeth, but they sunk under the silent and slow pressure of neglect and contempt.”

17

While venturing to censure the system which Ramsay pursued in the editing of our ancient songs, it is but just to mention one historical theory respecting them, which, if correct, may afford, in the minds of some, a sufficient apology for the liberties Ramsay has taken. The theory, it is believed, is new; the present notice of it, at least, comes from no published source, having been derived from a conversation with the late learned and ingenious Dr. Geddes, whose knowledge of the antiquities of his country was profound, and who was himself a writer of song of no ordinary merit. The singular superiority of the Scottish airs over those of every other nation being the theme of observation, Dr. G. threw out an opinion, that the major part of them ought to be ranked among the spoils of which the Reformation had robbed the ancient religious institutions of the country. Many centuries, it was remarked, before the Reformation was accomplished, church music had attained in Scotland to a very high degree of refinement; but, if not more of a profane than a sacred character, stood, at least, in that indefinite relation, that it might be turned, with equal ease, either to mirth or melancholy. In Mackenzie's [note] Lives, [note] there is a passage which is strongly corroborative of this view of its merits. It occurs in the Life of Elred, who died in 1166, and who, speaking of our church music, is said, by Mackenzie, to have thus expressed himself:
86LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
“Since all types and figures are now ceased, why so many organs and cymbals in our churches? Why, I say, that terrible blowing of bellows, that rather imitates the frightsomeness of thunder, than the sweet harmony of the voice? For what end is this contraction and dilatation of the voice? One restrains his breath; another breaks his breath; and a third unaccountably dilates his voice; and sometimes, which I am ashamed to say, they fall a quivering like the neighing of horses. Then they lay down their manly vigour; and, with their voices, endeavour to imitate the softness of women. Then, by an artificial circumvolution, they have a variety of outrunnings. Sometimes you shall see them with open mouths, and their breath restrained as if they were expiring and not singing; and, by a ridiculous interruption of their breath, seem as if they were altogether silent. At other times, they appear like persons in the agonies of death; then, with a variety of gestures, they personate comedians; their lips are contracted; their eyes roll; their shoulders are moved upwards and downwards; their fingers move and dance to every note. And this ridiculous behaviour is called religion and when these things are most frequently done, then God is said to be more honorably worshipped.” Such, it was argued, being unfortunately the character of the sacred music of the Catholic establishment, it presented an inviting point of attack to such dissolute wits as Dunbar, Lindsay, and other poets of that period; who, judging shrewdly of human nature, thought they could, by few things, more effectually promote that ecclesiastical change for which they were striving, than by
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.87
adapting to the most well known cathedral tunes, profane songs of every description and degree of levity, or, in other words, making ludicrous parodies on what the people had been hitherto accustomed to regard with some share of devotional feeling. A great many fine airs thus stole their way from the sanctuary of the church, to the gayer scenes of the baronial hall and cottage ingle cheek; while the words with which they were in gaiety associated were of such a complexion, that, though in no danger of bring traditionally forgotten for want of repetition, there might be a reluctance to commit them to the press, more especially on the part of those, who, having designed them only for a temporary purpose, might have no wish to make a permanent evil of what was, perhaps, a partial good. That this is no strained supposition is proved by the acknowledged writings of some of the poets alluded to, in which there are several palpable burlesques on the ritual of the church; but still more convincingly, by the fact, with which every one, who knows any thing of Scottish social life, must be familiar, that we are not so much in want of old words to many favorite airs, as in want of words, which our improved sense of delicacy will allow us to repeat in the face of day. It was not intended, it was said, to account, by this theory, for the origin of our native airs universally; for every nation must have its portion of poetry and music, independently of all such peculiar circumstances, and there are many relics of Scottish song of a date long prior to the most distant contemplation of any change in the religion of the country. All that was meant to he suggested was, that, subsequently
88LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
to the period of the Reformation, there may have been many airs afloat among the people, which were actually borrowed from the music of the fallen church, and many verses extremely popular, which being, in fact, parodies of hymns once regarded as sacred, it was yet fitter to leave to oblivion, than to rescue from it.*

18

Might not this have been the very line of discretion which Ramsay pursued in his collection? And was he to blame, for an effort which, however unsuccessful, had so good a motive?

19

The supposition, though plausible, admits of a very satisfactory answer. The theory, out of which it arises, is of itself reasonable and consistent; but to found upon it a vindication of Ramsay, we must, at the same time, suppose, that he was what he was not—an editor, disposed to be scrupulous in the revival of antiquated impurity. Of ancient poems, he has republished not a few, which shew that no man could have looser notions in this respect; take, for example, the “Bytand Ballet on warlo wives,” more especially the very learned notes appended to it; the “Defens of Grissel Sandylands,” a “Brash of Wooing,” &c. Can it be supposed, that an editor who took delight in doing honour to such pieces as these, could have cared much about what he published? If


* Should this theory be esteemed correct, it will follow as another curious result, that the church musicians of recent times, in adapting many godly hymns to what are called profane tunes, may have only been taking back their own. A. S.
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.89
he had sought after worse, could he have found them? Two or three he possibly might, but the plea, in justification, which is offered for him, supposes, that be might have found nearly a hundred worse—a thing which no man can ever believe.

20

Encouraged by the great popularity which the Tea Table Miscellany [note] acquired, notwithstanding all its imperfections, Ramsay published, in 1724, “ The Evergreen, being a Collection of Scots' Poems, wrote by the ingenious before 1600.” [note] It professed to be chiefly gathered from the Bannatyne MS. [note] As an editor, however, Ramsay was careful that he should add nothing to his laurels; the Evergreen did him less credit than even the Tea Table Miscellany. Lord Hailes [note] says, with truth, that he took “great liberty with the originals, omitting some stanzas, and adding others; modernizing, at the same time, the versification, and varying the ancient manner of spelling.” While taking such liberty, too, it was seldomer to conceal deformity than to expose it. It was a garland, moreover, selected without either taste or care; the holly and the eglantine entwined with all sorts of withered refuse.

21

Ramsay availed himself of the opportunity to concealment, afforded by this publication, to give vent, in a poem of affected antiquity, and with a feigned signature, to those jacobite feelings, of which prudence still induced him to avoid all open demonstration. It was entitled “The Vision,” [note] and said to be “compylit in Latin be a most lernit Clerk, in tyme of our Hairship and Opression, anno 1300, and translatit in 1524.” The pretended subject was the “history of the Scots’ sufferings by the unworthy con-
90LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
descension of Baliol [note] to Edward I of England, [note] till they recovered their independence by the conduct and valour of the Great Bruce. [note] ” For the period of “Edward I.” let us substitute that of George the First, [note] and for “the Great Bruce,” the Pretender, [note] and the real object of the poem will stand revealed. Ramsay, in common with many worthy men and sincere friends of their country in those days, looked on the alienation of the crown from the house of Stuart, as an event not more fatal to the interests of the dethroned family, than to those of the country at large; and hence, in his Vision, he makes the Genius of Scotland exult in the prospect of yet

———gracing and placing
Arright the Scottis throne.
22

Although the real design of the poem was, at the time, very generally perceived, it does not appear, that public suspicion ever pointed to Ramsay himself as the author. The fact was first announced to the world by his son, Allan the Painter; [note] and then all the world wondered, that they had not before discovered that the signature which is attached to the poem of “AR. SCOT,” was, in fact, no more than the initials of Ramsay, with the addition of his nativity.

23

In 1725, Ramsay produced what is usually esteemed his master piece, and forms the chief foundation of his fame, “the Gentle Shepherd,” [note] a pastoral comedy in five acts. In 1721, he had published an eclogue, under the title of “Patie and Roger;” and, in 1723, a sequel, under that of “Jennie and Maggie.” The reputation which he gained by these
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.91
detached scenes, induced him to make them the ground-work of that complete drama, which we now admire under the title of “the Gentle Shepherd.”
[note] It had no sooner appeared, than it rose into great and fast spreading popularity. Edition after edition was speedily called for; and, in a few years, there was no person of poetic taste, either at home or abroad, to whom the merits of “the Gentle Shepherd” were unknown.

24

So much superior was this work to the greater part of Ramsay's shorter productions, that, for some time, the fact was eagerly contested, whether it was possible that he could he the author. Suspicion, never at a loss to embody the phantoms of its own creation, immediately fixed on Sir John Clerk of Pennycuik, [note] one of the most zealous patrons of Ramsay, and in whose neighbourhood the scene of the piece is supposed to have been laid, as his coadjutor in its production. But it has been well observed by Lord Hailes, [note] that those “who attempt to depreciate his fame by insinuating, that his friends and patrons composed the works which pass under his name, ought first to prove that his friends and patrons were capable of composing the Gentle Shepherd.

25

Not long after the publication of this genuine pastoral, Gay [note] produced his Newgate pastoral of “the Beggars’ Opera.” Among the singular effects which this admirable piece of irony produced, the delusion into which it led a poet of Ramsay's judgment is not the least remarkable. While the public were, through an odd misconception of the players, shedding tears over scenes designed in a style of the broadest burlesque, Ramsay fell into quite as great a blunder in
92LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
conceiving that the
Beggars’ Opera owed its singular success to nothing so much as the songs with which it is ludicrously enriched. From such ornaments, the Gentle Shepherd was, in its original state, wholly free; and, to give it an equal chance with Gay's production in the race for popularity, Ramsay thought he had only to fill up this imaginary deficiency. He accordingly printed a new edition of his pastoral, interspersed abundantly with songs, adapted to popular Scotch airs. Among these, there are not more than two above mediocrity; and the whole were super-added in so extraneous a manner, as to deprive the pastoral of much of that natural simplicity which formed originally its greatest merit. Ramsay became soon sensible of his error, and would gladly have repaired it, but it was too late; the public were already familiar with the songs; and, as the number of singers is always greater than that of sound critics, the many editions, since printed of the Gentle Shepherd, have been almost uniformly in this vitiated taste.

26

The Gentle Shepherd, though adapted to the stage, did not make its appearance upon it till several years after its publication. The people of Scotland had not as yet thrown off those prejudices with which ages of stern Presbyterianism had filled them, against all sorts of theatrical representations; there were, therefore, no native actors, and, of course, none who could represent a piece so entirely Scottish.* It was


* In a prologue to the university of Oxford, written by Dryden, [note] he makes the following apology for the absence of several performers from England:
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.93
the comedy of the
Gentle Shepherd, however, which was destined to strike the first blow at this popular aversion to the drama; and the manner in which this came about, affords a striking illustration of the truth, that every attempt to enslave the minds of men is only productive of an ultimate increase in liberality of sentiment.

27

A printer in Edinburgh, of the name of Robert Drummond, [note] who had been employed to print one of the editions of the Gentle Shepherd, having, after the rebellion of 1745, published a satirical poem, called the “Town Council,” containing a smart attack on Mr. Drummund, [note] the provost of Edinburgh; Dr. Wishart, [note] principal of the university; Dr. Webster, [note] one of the ministers of the city;* and several other eminent whig characters;—a


“Our brethren have from Thames to Tweed departed,
And of our sisters, all the kinder hearted,
To Edinborough gone, or coacht or carted.”
A. S.

* All of them very estimable men; a circumstance which makes it the more surprising, that they should have countenanced the singularly oppressive proceedings which were adopted against the printer of this mere jeu d'esprit. One of the severest things in it was, an insinuation that Dr. Webster, [note] who was much in the confidence of the town council, and its right hand in all the public improvements then going on, had cost the city more claret than would float a seventy-four! There might be some exaggeration in the estimate, but as no one ever doubted this reverend doctor's love for claret, of which, even to this day, the
94LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
prosecution was instituted against him before the magistrates, that is, before the very individuals who were themselves among the parties satirized and complaining. The judgement was such as might be expected from irritated men deciding in their own cause. They found that “the poem contained many scandalous, seditious, calumnious, and malicious expressions;” and they therefore ordered the printer, Robert Drummond,
[note] “to be carried to prison, and thence, on the 25th of November, betwixt the hours of twelve and one, to the cross of Edinburgh, there to stand bareheaded with a label on his breast, inscribed thus: ‘ For printing and publishing a false, scandalous, and defamatory libel; ’ till all the copies seized of the poem should be burnt by the hangman; then to lie in prison till he should give bond to remove out of the city and liberties, and not return for a year on pain of
people of Edinburgh preserve many amusing recollections, it was rather too bad to take a poor satirist to task for a mere over-measurement.
Let us hope, that the reverend doctor himself had no active share in this inglorious prosecution; he was himself a poet of no mean pretensions; and, at his death, in the 76th year of his age, left behind him a character, distinguished for liberality and benevolence. Hitherto, Dr. Webster [note] has been little, if at all, known in the light of a poet, and his claims to that character rest, it is believed, on a single piece, which Pinkerton [note] has printed in his Select Scotish Ballads, vol. ii. No. 33, without being aware of the name of the author. It is a piece, however, of rare merit; in elegance and
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.95
£100 sterling, and suffering imprisonment till the remainder of the year was run, and to be deprived of the priveledges of a freeman for a year.” An application was made to the Court of Justiciary for alteration of this unjust and cruel sentence, but without effect. Poor Drummond underwent the whole punishment awarded; his printing office was shut up; and his workmen, of whom he had employed a considerable number, were thrown idle on the town.

28

Among the works which Drummond [note] had most recently printed, was the edition of the Gentle Shepherd. [note] While it was passing through the hands of his compositors, they had committed to memory some of its most striking scenes, which they used to take pleasure


warmth, it rivals even the effusions of Catullus. [note] It was written in allusion to a real event; his own marriage to a lady of noble family. The following is the initiatory stanza:
Oh! how could I venture to luve ane like thee,
And you not despise a poor conquest like me?
On lords, thy admirers, could look wi' disdain,
And knew I was naething, yet pitied my pain?
You said, while they teas'd you with nonsense and dress,
“When real the passion the vanity's less.”
You saw through that silence which others despise,
And, while beaus were a-tauking, read luve in my eyes.
A. S.

96LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
in reciting among themselves; and now that they were deprived of employment by the ruin of their master, the idea happily struck them of attempting a public representation of the comedy for their common benefit. The manager of the theatre, then situated in the Canongate, readily agreed to give them the use of his stage; and the great body of the public, comprehending especially the middling and lower classes, hitherto the most adverse to theatrical representations, were induced, from compassion for the fate of Drummond and his men, the victims of power, to suspend their prejudices for a moment, and to regard the humble attempt with that silent acquiescence, which, by leaving the young and gay-hearted to follow their inclinations, had all the effect of a more open encouragement. On the first performance of the opera, the house was crowded in every part; and it was repeated several successive nights to such numerous audiences, that tiers of benches were erected upon the stage to accommodate the overflow. The distresses of the suffering printers were thus, in a great measure, relieved; but a more general and lasting advantage, derived from these representations, was the cessation of that rooted antipathy which a religious people, still warm with convert zeal, had, till now, persisted in maintaining towards the entertainments of the stage. The multitude being thus dragged, as it were, by sympathy for oppressed merit, to the interdicted regions of pleasure, were induced “to taste the forbidden fruit, and, pleased with the relish, they fed plenteously. Finding themselves not poisoned by the sweets, they returned to the feast with an increased
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.97
appetite, and brought with them fresh guests to partake of the enticing fare.*”

29

In 1726, Ramsay removed from his original dwelling, opposite Niddry Street, to a house at the east end of the Luckenbooths, afterwards occupied by another bookseller and author, (the late) Provost Creech. [note] With this shop, he changed his sign, and, instead of the witty heathen Mercury, put up the heads of two modern sons of the Muses, Drummond of Hawthornden, and Ben Jonson. [note] “Here,” says one of his biographers, “he sold and lent books to a


* Scarcely a season has since passed at Edinburgh without a representation of the Gentle Shepherd; [note] but the assistance of the town's people has constantly been called in for some character or other, as it is almost an impossibility for a company of comedians, chiefly selected from England, to fill up the parts with propriety before a Scotch audience. Some years ago, the Gentle Shepherd was converted into modern English by Richard Tickle, Esq.; [note] and, according to Jackson, “was ably executed, strongly cast, and excellently performed at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.” It experienced, notwithstanding, but an indifferent reception, and was never able to obtain a place in the acted drama of England. If both the version and the acting were good, the fault must of course have lain with the intrinsic merits of the piece; but is it not more likely that both were indifferent, than that a whole people, so intelligent as the Scotch, should mistake mere nationality for genius? A. S.
98LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
late period of his life; here, the wits of Edinburgh used to meet for their amusement and for information; and here Gay,
[note] a congenial poet, (“a little pleasant man,” says Mr. Tytler, [note] “with a tye wig,”) was wont to look out upon the exchange in Edinburgh, in order to know persons and ascertain characters.”* Ramsay is said to have been the first bookseller in Scotland who “lent books,” or established what is called a circulating library. After his death, the collection, which he had made for this purpose, passed into the hands of Mr. Sibbald, [note] and subsequently into those of Mr. Mackay, [note] by whose respective additions to it, it has been rendered the first establishment of the kind in Edinburgh, and perhaps in Great Britain.

30

In 1728, Ramsay published a second quarto volume of poems; and, in the following year, an edition of the same in octavo. In 1730, appeared his “Thirty Fables,” and, with these, his poetic labours appear to have ceased. His conduct, in this respect, presents another striking instance of his characteristic prudence. In a letter to Smibert, the painter, [note] he says, “I e'en gave over in good time, before the coolness of fancy that attends advanced years should make me risk the reputation I had acquired.


* “Of this house no vestiges now remain; for, as the beauty and magnificence of the High Street had been long disfigured by the cumbrous and gloomy buildings, called the Luckenbooths, they were a few years ago completely removed.” Life of Ramsay, by Tennant. [note]
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.99
“Frae twenty-four to five and forty
My muse was neither sweer nor dorty,
My Pegasus wad break his tether
E'en at the shagging of a feather,
And through ideas scour, like drift
Streaching his wings up to the lift:
Then, then my soul was in a low,
That gart my numbers safely row,
But eild and judgment 'gin to say,
Let be your sangs and learn to pray.“
31

In 1736, his attachment to the drama led him to take a principal part in the erection of a new theatre in Carubber's Close; but it had scarcely been erected, when the act for licensing the stage was passed, and the magistrates, taking advantage of it, ordered the house to be shut up. Ramsay is said to have sustained considerable pecuniary loss by this unfortunate project,—the only rash one, perhaps, in which he ever engaged.

32

Ramsay now withdrew entirely from the sphere of new hopes and speculations, and sought, in the circle of his family and the society of a few chosen friends, these consolations which are best fitted to smooth the declining path of life. In a letter which he wrote about this period to Smibert, he gives the following pleasing picture of his latter years.

33

“Half a century of years have now rowed o'er my pow that begins now to be lyart; yet, thanks to my Author, I eat, drink, and sleep, as sound as I did twenty years syne. Yes, I laugh heartily too, and find as many subjects to employ that faculty upon as ever. Fools, fops, and knaves, grow as rank as for-
100LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
merly; yet here and there are to be found good and worthy men, who are an honour to human life. We have small hopes of seeing you again in our auld world; then let us be virtuous and hope to meet in heaven. My good auld wife is still my bed-fellow. My son, Allan,
[note] has been pursuing your science since he was a dozen years auld; was with Mr. Hyffidge, at London, for some time, about two years ago; has been since at home, painting here like a Raphael; sets out for the seat of the Beast, beyond the Alps, within a month hence, to be away about two years. I'm swear to part with him, but canna stem the current which flows from the advice of his patrons and his own inclination. I have three daughters, one of seventeen, one of sixteen, and one of twelve years old; and no one wally draggle among them—all fine girls. These six or seven years, I have not written a line of poetry.” &c.

34

Among the few “good and worthy men who were an honour to human life,” and with whom Ramsay cultivated habits of familiar intercourse, the principal were Sir John Clerk of Pennycuik, [note] and Sir Alexander Dick of Preston-field, [note] between whose country residences the poet generally divided the greater part of his summer months. With most of the contemporary poets, he kept up a friendly correspondence—with Gay, [note] who had visited Edinburgh partly on purpose to see him—with Pope, [note] to whom Gay used to read and interpret the works of the Scottish bard—with Somervile, [note] the author of the Chace, who has returned his poetical salutations in two epistles—with Mallet,
———he that cou'd in tender strains
Raise Margaret's plaining shade,
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.101
An' paint distress that chills the veins
While William's crimes are red;*
and with both the Hamiltons, of Bangour and Gilbertfield.

35

Although he had no desire of adding to his claims on the public esteem by new productions, he still continued occasionally to write epistles in verse, and other short pieces, for the entertainment of his private friends. When urged by one of them to give same more of his works to the press, he said, that he was “more inclined, if it were in his power, to recall much of what he had already given, and that, if half his printed works were burnt, the other half, like the Sybil's books, would become more valuable by it.”

36

In 1743, he lost his wife, who was buried in the cemetery of the Greyfriars.

37

It was probably soon after this period, and in the view of relinquishing his shop, the business of which still went on prosperously under his superintendence, that he resolved on erecting a house, in which he might spend the remainder of his days in dignified retirement. The spot which he chose was on the northern side of that high ridge, which terminates in the precipitous eminence on which the castle of Edinburgh is built, and almost immediately under the castle walls; commanding a noble reach of scenery, from the mouth of the Forth on the east, to the swelling Grampians on the west, and stretching far across


* Address, by Ramsay, to Mallet, previous to his leaving Scotland.
102LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
to the green hills of Fife; embracing, in the included space, every variety of beauty, elegance, and grandeur. The situation did more credit to the poet's taste than the structure he reared upon it, the whimsical style of which became the derision of the town. Ramsay, however, thought it a chef d'oeuvre in architecture. On one occasion, he was shewing it, with some exultation, to Lord Elibank;
[note] but remarked, at the same time, that the wags of the town likened it to a “goose pye.” “Indeed, Allan,” replied his lordship, “now that I see you in it, I think the name is very appropriate.”

38

Here Ramsay past the last twelve years of his life, in an enviable state of philosophic ease. He did not, however, give up his shop till the year 1753, an event which he did not long survive. On the 7th of January, 1758, he died, in the seventy-second year of his age. He was buried beside his wife in the Greyfriars Church-yard; and, in the record of that cemetery, stands thus simply enrolled:
“Allan Ramsay, poet, who died of old age.”

39

As yet, however, there is “no storied urn” to mark the spot where his ashes lie; a neglect, the shame of which his descendants and his countrymen must share between them.* His fame, however, is


* This neglect has, after the lapse of more than half a century, been very recently repaired, by the erection of a monument, which, in every thing but the inscription upon it, is said to be worthy of the poet's fame. A. S.
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.103
not wholly without some frail memorial, “raised by human hands.” In 1759, Sir James Clerk, the son of the poet's friend, Sir John Clerk,
[note] erected, at the family seat of Pennycuik, an elegant obelisk to his memory, with the following inscription:

Allano Ramsay, Poetae egregio
Qui Fatis concessit vii. Jan. mdcclviii.
Amico paterno et suo
Monumentum inscribi jussit
D. Jacobus Clerk
Anno mdcclix.
40

The late ingenious Lord Woodhouselee [note] has, also, erected, near the supposed scene of the Gentle Shepherd, [note] a rustic temple, which is thus elegantly dedicated to the memory of the poet:
Allano Ramsay, et Genio Loci.

41

The personal appearance and character of Ramsay have been described by himself, with a degree of truth and minuteness which leaves his biographer little to supply. The description occurs in one of his poems, addressed to “Mr. James Arbuckle,” [note] written to satisfy those who might “speer what like a carlie is he?”

Imprimis then for tallness, I
Am five feet and four inches high;
A black-a-vic'd, snod, dapper fellow,
Nor lean nor overlaid wi' tallow,
Wi' phiz of a Morocco cut,
Resembling a late man of wit;
104LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
Auld gabbet Spec, wha was sae cunning,
To be a dummie ten years running.
Then for the fabric of my mind,
'Tis mair to mirth than grief inclin'd;
I rather chuse to laugh at folly,
Than shew dislike by melancholy;
Weel judging, a sour heavy face
Is not the truest mark of grace.
I hate a drunkard or a glutton,
Yet I'm nae fae to wine and mutton:
Great tables ne'er engag'd my wishes
When crowded with o'er mony dishes;
A healthfu' stomach, sharply set,
Prefers a back-sey,* pipin het.
I never could imagin't vicious
Of a fair fame to be ambitious:
Proud to be thought a comic poet,
And let a judge of numbers know it;
I court occasion thus to shew it.
Second of thirdly—Pray take heed,
Ye's get a short swatch of my creed.
To follow method negatively
Ye ken takes place of positively:
Weel then, I'm neither Whig nor Tory,
Nor credit give to purgatory.
*    *    *    *    *    *
Know positively, I'm a Christian,
Believing truths, and thinking free,
Wishing thrawn parties wad agree.
Say wad ye ken my gate o' fending,
My income, management, and spending?

* Sirloin.
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.105
Born to nae lairdship, mair's the pity!
Yet denizen o' this fair city,
I mak what honest shift I can,
An' in my ain house am gudemnan.
*    *    *    *    *    *
Contented I hae sic a shair
As does my business to a hair,
An' fain wad prove to ilk a Scot,
That poortith's no the poet's lot.
42

The wish expressed in the concluding couplet, was amply realized in the history of Ramsay's life. He is one of the few poets who have thriven by poetry—who could combine poetic habits with those of ordinary business; nor can any name in literature be quoted, which may better serve to point the moral, that prudence is the way to wealth. Even at those periods of his life, when he might be supposed to be absorbed by literary labour, he never failed to bestow due attention on that unpoetical, but more surely productive object, the shop. His very poetry, indeed, Ramsay made a matter of business. Of this, the systematic discrimination with which he lavished his praises, and the skill with which, though really a man of strong party feelings, he contrived to steer through life, without incurring the dislike of any party, afford ample proof. Nor was Ramsay slow to avow the worldly wisdom which regulated the inspirations of his muse; as may be seen in his Answer to an Epistle on the Poverty of Poets, which begins with the following question:

Dear Allan, with your leave allow me
To ask you but one question, civil,
106LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
Why thou'rt a poet, pray thee, shew me,
And not as poor as any devil?
43

His answer overflows with sincerity:

That many a thriftless poet's poor
Is what they very weel deserve,
'Cause aft their muse turns common—
And flatters fools that let them starve.
44

That Ramsay's poetry gained any thing by this wondrous degree of discretion, it would be difficult in affirm. The boldest flight which his muse ever took was in his Vision, [note] when he penned what he dared not avow. Dr. Beattie, in writing of this poem at a time when the name of the author was as yet unknown, thus expresses his opinion of it: “ The best Scottish poem, of modern times, that I have seen (for though the title pretends that it was written four hundred years ago, I have reason to think that it was produced in this century) is called The Vision. I am inclined to think, that the author of it, whoever he was, must have read Arbuthnot's History of John Bull. But there are noble images in it, and a harmony of versification, superior to every thing I have seen of the kind. I suspect that it is the work of some friend of the family of Stuart, and that it must have been composed about the year 1715.” Some of the images are noble, indeed; his description of “Grit Caledon” may suffice for an example:

A man with aspeck kynd
Richt auld lyke, and bauld lyke,
With baird thre quarters skant,
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.107
Sae braif lyke, and graif lyke,
He seemt to be a sanct.
Grit daring dartit frae his ee,
A braird-sword schogled at his thie,
On his left arm a targe;
A shinnard speir flll'd his richt hand,
Of stalwart mak in bane and brawnd,
Of just proportions large;
A various rainbow-colourt plaid
Oure his left spaul he threw;
Down his braid-hack, frae his quhyte heid,
The silver wymplers grew;
Amaisit, I gaisit,
To se led at command,
A strampant and rampant
Ferss lyon in his hand.
45

In none of his other pieces has Ramsay reached the elevation displayed in this; although many incidental flights might be quoted, which shew that the vein in which he indulged, in this secret effusion, was that to which his poetic nature inclined more than to any other: take, for example, the following passages, which are quite captivating for the vigour and brilliancy of imagination which they display.

From two impassioned Lovers.
Sun, gallop down the westlin skies,
Gang soon to bed an' quickly rise;
O, lash your steeds, post time away,
An' haste about our bridal day!
108LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
An' if ye're wearied, honest light,
Sleep gin ye like a week that night.
Gentle Shepherd
Now Sol wi' his lang whip gae cracks
Upon his nichering cooser's backs,
To gar them tak th' Olympian brae
Wi' a cart lead o' bleezing day!
Tale of the Three Bonnets.
46

It is greatly to be regretted, though possibly less on the author's account, than that of the many who delight in genuine poetry, that Ramsay did not oftener revisit the regions of fancy. He has certainly left a great mass of indifferent poetry, which no one can doubt his ability to have supplanted by better. His love of pleasing, and of profiting by those he pleased, led him to make rather inordinate sacrifices; and has been the means of augmenting the volume of his works by a number of pieces, condolatory and complimentary, which add nothing to his fame.

47

The merits of the Gentle Shepherd [note] have been allowed, by all critics, to be of a very high order. It was Ramsay's own hope, that he might “be classed with Tasso [note] and Guarini;” [note] and the station is one which posterity has not denied him. In simplicity, that quality by which pastoral poetry ought to be must distinguished, he has strong claims to rank, even higher than either of the Italian bards. In the Gentle Shepherd, we find few such conceits and artifices as abound in the Aminta, but more especially in the Pastor Fido. The fable has a high degree of proba-
POETS — ALLAN RAMSAY.109
bility; the dialogue and sentiments are natural, and the language delightfully idiomatic.

48

His “Fables,” on which Ramsay himself justly set great store, are little, if at all, inferior to his comedy. They evince great skill in story-telling, and abound in point and humour. The “Three Bonnets” and the “Twa Cats and the Cheese” are among the best. The “Monk and the Miller's Wife” would perhaps deserve the first place, were it not so close a paraphrase of Dunbar's Freirs of Berwik.

49

As a song writer, Ramsay does not rank high. A want of soul-stirring energy is the great defect in all his productions of this class. Many of them, however, still retain their popularity; and this they could not have done, without possessing very considerable merit. The Lass of Patie's Mill, * the Yellow Haired Laddie, Farewell to Lochaber, Bessy Bell and Mary Gray, are among those which appear to stand the fairest chance of lengthened renown.

50

As a poet, generally, Ramsay had the great merit


* The parish of Keith Hall, in Aberdeenshire, disputes with that of Galston in Ayrshire the honour of giving birth to this song. In the Statistical Account [note] of Keith Hall, “The Lass's” father is said to have been proprietor of Patie's Mill in that parish. One Sangster, laird of Boddom, in New Machar parish, made an attempt to carry her off, but was interrupted by a dog, and very roughly handled by her father, who was called Black John Anderson.
Burns, on the other hand, in one of his letters to Mr. Thomson, [note] gives the following as the genuine history of the song. He says, he had it from Sir Wil-
110LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
of being the first to restore the Scottish Muse to her native garb, after a lapse of nearly a century, during which she had been wasting her strength in a dead language. Ever since the accession of
James VI. to the English throne, Scotsmen of talents had ceased to write in their native tongue, because it had ceased to be acceptable to the ear of their pedantic prince; and, as national prejudices made them averse to studying the niceties of the English, they had recourse to the Latin, which James affected to speak and write with great purity. Hence the quantity of exquisite poetic talent, which may be said to have been lost to its native country, in the Deliciæ Poetarum Scotorum, [note] or collection of the beauties of the Scottish Latin writers of this period. Ramsay, obliged by necessity to rely on the powers of his native tongue, shewed, by his signal success in it, how unwisely it had been abandoned; and drawing away all the popularity after him, was naturally the means of bringing back into the same course all who made the meed of fame the object of their ambition.

T. T.


liam Cunningham, of Robertland, who had it of John Earl of Loudoun. [note] “Allan Ramsay was residing at Loudoun Castle with the then Earl, father to Earl John; and one forenoon riding or walking out together, his lordship and Allan passed a sweet romantic spot on Irvine water, still called “Patie's Mill,” where a bonie lass was “tedding hay bareheaded on the green.” “My Lord observed to Allan, that it would be a fine theme for a song. Ramsay took the hint, and lingering behind, he composed the first sketch of it, which he produced at dinner.”
A. S.