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Oh Helen chaste, thou were modest ; Were I with thee I wad be blest, Where thou lies low and takes thy rest,
On fair Kirkconnell lee.
Then I'll be proud, since I have sworn
To ha'e a new cloak about me.
I wish I were where Helen lies,
On fair Kirkconnell lee.
TAK' YOUR AULD CLOAK
In days when our King Robert rang,
His trews they cost but half a croun ; He said they were a groat ower dear,
And ca'd the tailor thief and loon ; He was the king that wore a croun,
And thou'rt a man of laigh degree : It's pride puts a' the country doun;
Sae tak' your auld cloak about ye. Ilka land has its ain lauch,
Ilk kind o' corn has its ain hool; I think the world is a' gane wrang,
When ilka wife her man wad rule ; Do ye no see Rob, Jock, and Hab,
As they are girded gallantlie, While I sit hurklin i' the ase ?
I'll ha'e a new cloak about me.
In winter, when the rain rain'd cauld,
And frost and snaw on ilka hill, And Boreas, wi' his blasts sae bauld,
Was threatnin' a' our kye to kill : Then Bell, my wife, wha lo'es nae strife,
She said to me richt hastilie, Get up, gudeman, save Crummie's life,
And tak' your auld cloak about ye.
Gudeman, I wat 'tis thretty year
Sin' we did ane anither ken ; And we ha'e had atween us twa
Of lads and bonnie lasses ten : Now they are women grown and men,
I wish and pray weel may they be ; If you would prove a gude husband,
E'en tak' your auld cloak about ye.
My Crummie is a usefu' cow,
And she is come of a good kin'; Aft has she wet the bairns's mou',
And I am laith that she should tyne ; Get up, gudeman, it is fu' time,
The sun shines i' the lift sae hie ; Sloth never made a gracious end;
Gae tak' your auld cloak about ye. My cloak was ance a gude gray cloak,
When it was fitting for my wear ; But now it's scantly worth a groat,
For I have worn't this thretty year ; Let's spend the gear that we ha'e won,
We little ken the day we'll die ;
Bell, my wife, she lo'es nae ife,
But she would guide me if she can ; And to maintain an easy life,
I aft maun yield, though I'm gudeman: Nought's to be gain'd at woman's hand,
Unless ye gi'e her a' the plea; Then I'll leave aff where I began,
And tak' my auld cloak about me.
SCOTTISH POEMS AND POETS.
The first impulse to the revival of Scottish Poetry is due to Watson's Choice Collection of Comic and Serious Scots Poems, both Ancient and Modern, By Several Hands : Edinburgh, 1706-9-11. Ramsay acknowledges his indebtedness to this collection for having first awakened his ambition to write in his native dialect. Three or four others claim precedence of him on account of priority of birth; but their contributions are so few, and their contemporary effect upon the national literature was so insignificant, that, to begin the Modern Section with the real reviver of the Scottish Muse, we have placed them after him.
ALLAN RAMSA Y.
The position which Allan Ramsay good a claim to the honours which their occupies as the pioneer of the modern works confer as she has to the glory era of Scottish poetry, which culminated which accrues to her on account of the in Burns, gives his works and character contributions of Thomson, Hume, an interest additional to that which his Smith, Robertson, Macaulay, Hamilton, genius and personal history claim upon and Carlyle, to the noble structure of the attention of the student of Scottish English literature. This she is proud literature. The long interval between to own in common with her wealthier the time of Montgomery and that of sister, albeit cherishing a special fond. Ramsay, produced nothing that pre- ness for a homelier structure, all the sented any distinctively Scottish features; dearer that it is all her own. To this for the writings Alexander Earl of native structure Allan Ramsay has furStirling, Drummond of Hawthornden, nished so important and characteristic a and some others that claim to be contribution as gives an interest to the named in a history of English literature, homely, and apparently commonplace bear little or no impress of the Scottish incidents of his uneventful life. character. Scotland, for all this, has as The 15th October 1686 is given as his
birthday by Chalmers, the author of and force to those in whose veins they Caledonia, whose life of him, prefixed have mingled, justify the conclusion that to the London edition of his works Ramsay owes as much to his Bower (1800), is the basis of all subsequent descent, of which he takes no notice, as accounts. His father, Robert Ramsay, to the line of Douglas or Dalhousie. was manager of Lord Hopetoun's lead His father died before attaining his mines at Leadhills, an office in which he 25th year, when Allan was but an infant, succeeded his father, of the same name, and his mother soon afterwards married who was also a writer in Edinburgh. a Mr Crichton, a small landowner of The latter, the poet's grandfather, was the district. There is no direct account himself the grandson of Ramsay of of his boyhood, the extent of his eduCockpen, a brother of Ramsay of Dal- cation, or the nature of his youthful emhousie, the chief of the name, and whose ployments; and what these were have to representative Allan, with clannish and be gathered from such references in his pardonable vanity, addresses as
writings as bear on these points, and “ Dalhousie of an auld descent,
what a general survey of them leads to My chief, my stoup, my ornament." be inferred regarding them. He was named after his maternal grand- It may safely be assumed that, until father, a native of Derbyshire, whom the time of his mother's death, which Lord Hopetoun brought to Leadhills, to took place when he was but fifteen teach his miners their business, and to years of age, he attended the village superintend the working of the mines. school of Leadhills. Here he would Allan Bower (such was his name) mar- obtain a fair English education, and ried Janet Douglas, a daughter of some knowledge of Latin. He says Douglas of Muthill, and their daughter himself that his acquaintance with the Alice Bower was the poet's mother ; classics was too slight to admit of his which links in his pedigree afforded him enjoying them in the original ; yet his the satisfaction of recording that fondness for the use of classic mottoes “He was a poet sprung from a Douglas' loin.” and quotations shows that he devoted
The writer of the notice of Ramsay in some time to the study of Latin at least. Chambers' Cyclopædia observes, that for His enjoyment of classic authors, and the easy smoothness of his disposition familiarity with them through translahe was indebted to his English descent. tions, he frequently avows, and evinces And certainly the numerous instances, in his works. His native district, since the days of " King Bruce,” in though the most elevated inhabited spot which the coalescing streams of Saxon in Scotland, and perhaps the most isoand Celtic blood have given steadiness lated, has long held a high character
for the intelligence, industry, and The statement by Dr R. Chambers, that the sobriety of its inhabitants. It is quite first Ramsay of Cockpen was a brother of in keeping with the custom of the place, Ramsay of Dalhousie, who was knighted in 1424. makes it probable that some connecting and that of many more rural districts in links are wanting in the above genealogy. Scotland, that he remained in school
till his fifteenth year ; while, after the ing before 1711 ; indeed, he implies as age of ten or thereabouts, he may have much himself in his letter to his friend been employed looking after the sheep, Smibert, afterwards quoted. We have or assisting the shepherds, at those also his own authority for supposing his seasons that require extra attention on poetical emulation to have been first the part of their flocks. That he was awakened by reading Watson's Choice intimately familiar with every aspect of Collection of Scots Poems, published shepherd life before he left the scenes of in three parts, in 1706-9 and 11. His his boyhood is obvious ; yet this was reading in English was principally de. quite within the reach of an observant voted to the works of Dryden, Addison, boy in the circumstances assumed. Prior, and Pope; and when the transla
Allan, at the age of fifteen, was ap- tion of the Iliad appeared in 1718, he prenticed to an Edinburgh wigmaker in wrote Pope a congratulatory ode, in 1701; and no more is heard of him till, which he confesses to having read it in 1712, he marries Christian Ross, the three times, and each time with increased daughter of "an inferior lawyer in relish. Nor did he neglect the study Edinburgh.” It is not recorded when of the literature of his native country, he commenced business on his own within whose sphere he rightly deemed account, but it may be presumed to have his muse should chiefly confine her been some time before this. Neither fight. After the suppression the the responsibilities nor the attractions of “Easy Club”—the medium through the change in his domestic state prevent which he tested the effects of his earliest him this same year forming one of “a productions-he felt sufficient confidence band of young men of talent and viva in their popularity to have them pubcity,” who established the “Easy Club” lished in separate poems, in which form with the object of passing “stated even they became so much read by the ings in free conversation and social people of Edinburgh, that mothers were mirth.” He appears, from the minutes, accustomed to send their children with to have been very regular in his attend a penny to buy “Ramsay's last piece." ance at the meetings, and to have made His confidence grew with his success, them the arena on which to test the and in 1716 he took the bold step of acceptability of his earliest poetical adding a second canto to “Christ's Kirk ventures. Their reception may be on the Green,” the humorous poem of judged from the fact, that in 1715 he James I. of Scotland ; which ludicrous was made Poet-Laureate to the Club, but vigorous picture of low rural life and whose career was this year cut short on manners he issued with his own. His account of the Earl of Mar's rebellion, thorough acquaintance with the habits, and the anti-union leanings of its mem- language, and traditional customs of the bers. His earliest known production class of rustics which the royal poet had was written for this club, and its char sketched, enabled him to present a acter justifies the conjecture that he change of scene, in which the same made no serious attempt at verse writ. actors are made to maintain their respective characters so well as almost, first volume of the Tea-Table Misbut for the less antique phraseology, cellany, a “collection of songs, Scotish to conceal the difference of authorship. and English,” which he dedicated The reception of his first addition, “To ilka lovely British lass, Canto ii., induced him to add another, Frae Lady Charlotte, Anne, and Jean, Canto iii. ; and he published the whole
Down to ilk bonny singing Bess
Wha dances barefoot on the green." as a consecutive poem in 1718, under the old title of “ Christ's Kirk on the A third volume was issued in 1727, Green.”
and a fourth several years after, though His poems, published separately as whether compiled by Ramsay himself they were written, now amounted to so is doubtful. It was the first printed considerable a collection, that in 1721 collection of Scotch songs, and is still he published them in a quarto volume, a standard work of reference with and so well were they received in this students and collectors of that branch form that he made four hundred guineas of the national literature. by the venture. It is dedicated to In October 1724, The Evergreen, "The Most Beautiful the British “ being a collection of Scots Poems Ladies," at whose feet he begs to be wrote by the Ingenious before 1600," allowed to lay it “as a grateful return made its appearance.
It is a comof every thought happily expressed by pilation, chiefly derived from the me, they being less owing to my natural celebrated Bannatyne MS., lent to genius than to the inspiration of your him by the Honourable William Carcharms.” His purely English pieces michael, brother-german to the Earl show his obligations to the school of of Hyndford. Though with patriotic Pope for polishing his verse ; but his zeal he undertook the labour of editing genius was fortunately too natural, and and bringing within the reach of the its proper sphere too far removed from public several specimens of that valuthe influence of that school, to be able national treasure, yet it is agreed on injuriously affected by it.
all hands that the task was much beyond In 1722 and 1723 he produced his the range of his acquirements as an anti“Fables and Tales,” the Monk and quarian. His ideas, too, as a caterer the Miller's Wife of which, says for the general public, and as a success. Lord Woodhouselee, “would be of ful poet, unfitted him for the faithful itself his passport to immortality.” reproduction of a work which could be Of the “ Tale of the Three Bonnets,” appreciated only by the learned few who an anti-union satire, he did not ac- devote years to such studies. Nor can knowledge the authorship, and excluded he be acquitted from censure, even it afterwards from the collected edition though in keeping with the literary of his works. In 1724, appeared his canons of his time, for having intropoem on Health,” his only unexcep- duced, under the designation of pro. tionable English composition.
ductions of the ingenious before 1600, In January 1724, he published the poems of considerable length which