« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
For news, the manna of a day,
Sometimes I dress, with women sit,
Law, licensed breaking of the peace, To which vacation is disease; A gipsy diction scarce known well By the magi, who law-fortunes tell, I shun; nor let it breed within Anxiety, and that the spleen.
I never game, and rarely bet,
This view, profusely when inclined,
Happy the man, who, innocent, Grieves not at ills he can't prevent; His skiff does with the current glide, Not puffing pulled against the tide. He, paddling by the scuffling crowd, Sees unconcerned life's wager rowed, And when he can't prevent foul play, Enjoys the folly of the fray. Yet philosophic love of ease I suffer not to prove disease, But rise up in the virtuous cause Of a free press, and equal laws.
Since disappointment galls within, And subjugates the soul to spleen, Most schemes, as money snares, I hate, And bite not at projector's bait. Sufficient wrecks appear each day, And yet fresh fools are cast away. Ere well the bubbled can turn round, Their painted vessel runs aground; Or in deep seas it oversets By a fierce hurricane of debts; Or helm-directors in one trip, Freight first embezzled, sink the ship.
When Fancy tries her limning skill
I guard my heart, lest it should woo
Forced by soft violence of prayer,
And thus she models my desire:
A farm some twenty miles from town,
And woods impervious to the breeze,
Here stillness, height, and solemn shade,
Fresh pastures speckled o'er with sheep,
See faction, safe in low degree,
ANNE, COUNTESS OF WINCHELSEA.
'It is remarkable,' says Mr Wordsworth, that excepting The Nocturnal Reverie, and a passage or two in the Windsor Forest of Pope, the poetry of the period intervening between the publication of "Paradise Lost" and the "Seasons," does not contain a single new image of external nature.' The 'Nocturnal Reverie' was written by ANNE, COUNTESS OF WINCHELSEA, the daughter of Sir William Kingsmill, Southampton, who died in 1720. Her lines are smoothly versified, and possess a tone of calm and contemplative observation:
A Nocturnal Reverie.
In such a night, when every louder wind
While sunburnt hills their swarthy looks conceal,
When curlews cry beneath the village walls,
His estate lay in Warwickshire, and brought him in £1500 per annum. He was generous, but extrava gant, and died in distressed circumstances, plagued
In the rough bristly stubbles range unblamed;
Hail, gentle Dawn! mild, blushing goddess, hail! Rejoiced I see thy purple mantle spread O'er half the skies; gems pave thy radiant way, And orient pearls from every shrub depend. Farewell, Cleora; here deep sunk in down, Slumber secure, with happy dreams amused, Till grateful streams shall tempt thee to receive Thy early meal, or thy officious maids; The toilet placed shall urge thee to perform
The important work. Me other joys invite;
Somerville wrote a poetical address to Addison, on the latter purchasing an estate in Warwickshire. In his verses to Addison,' says Johnson, the couplet which mentions Clio is written with the most exquisite delicacy of praise; it exhibits one of those happy strokes that are seldom attained.' Addison, it is well-known, signed his papers in the 'Spectator' with the letters forming the name of Clio. The couplet which gratified Johnson so highly is as follows:
When panting virtue her last efforts made, You brought your Clio to the virgin's aid.
In welcoming Addison to the banks of Avon, Somerville does not scruple to place him above Shakspeare as a poet!
In heaven he sings; on earth your muse supplies
Gross as this misjudgment is, it should be remembered that Voltaire also fell into the same. The cold marble of Cato was preferred to the living and breathing creations of the myriad -minded' magician.
The Scottish muse had been silent for nearly a century, excepting when it found brief expression in some stray song of broad humour or simple pathos, chanted by the population of the hills and dales. The genius of the country was at length revived in all its force and nationality, its comic dialogue, Doric simplicity and tenderness, by ALLAN RAMSAY, whose very name is now an impersonation of Scottish scenery and manners. The religious austerity of the Covenanters still hung over Scotland, and damped the efforts of poets and dramatists; but a freer spirit found its way into the towns, along with the increase of trade and commerce. The higher classes were in the habit of visiting London, though the journey was still performed on horseback; and the writings of Pope and Swift were circulated over the North. Clubs and taverns were rife in Edinburgh, in which the assembled wits loved to indulge in a pleasantry that often degenerated to excess. Talent was readily known and appreciated; and when Ramsay appeared as an author, he found the nation ripe for his native humour, his mannerspainting strains,' and his lively original sketches
of Scottish life. Allan Ramsay was born in 1686, in the village of Leadhills, Lanarkshire, where his
To wade through glens wi' chorking feet,
enjoyed. Allan was admitted a member of this blythe society,' and became their poet laureate. He wrote various light pieces, chiefly of a local and humorous description, which were sold at a penny each, and became exceedingly popular. He also sedulously courted the patronage of the great, subduing his Jacobite feelings, and never selecting a fool for his patron. In this mingled spirit of prudence and poetry, he contrived
father held the situation of manager of Lord Hopeton's mines. When he became a poet, he boasted that he was of the auld descent' of the Dalhousie family, and also collaterally sprung from a Douglas loin.' His mother, Alice Bower, was of English parentage, her father having been brought from Derbyshire to instruct the Scottish miners in their art. Those who entertain the theory, that men of genius usually partake largely of the qualities and dispositions of their mother, may perhaps recognise some of the Derbyshire blood in Allan Ramsay's frankness and joviality of character. His father died while the poet was in his infancy; but his mother marrying again in the same district, Allan was brought up at Leadhills, and put to the village school, where he acquired learning enough to enable him, as he tells us, to read Horace faintly in the original.' His lot might have been a hard one, but it was fortunately spent in the country till he had reached his fifteenth year; and his lively temperament enabled him, with cheerfulness
At the age of fifteen, Allan was put apprentice to a wig-maker in Edinburgh-a light employment suited to his slender frame and boyish smartness, but not very congenial to his literary taste. His poetical talent, however, was more observant than creative, and he did not commence writing till he was about twenty-six years of age. He then penned an address to the Easy Club,' a convivial society of young men, tinctured with Jacobite predilections, which were also imbibed by Ramsay, and which probably formed an additional recommendation to the favour of Pope and Gay, a distinction that he afterwards
To theek the out, and line the inside,
In the year 1712 he married a writer's daughter, Christiana Ross, who was his faithful partner for more than thirty years. He greatly extended his reputation by writing a continuation to King James's Christ's Kirk on the Green,' executed with genuine humour, fancy, and a perfect mastery of the Scottish language. Nothing so rich had appeared since the strains of Dunbar or Lindsay. What an inimitable sketch of rustic life, coarse, but as true as any by Teniers or Hogarth, is presented in the first stanza of the third canto!
Now frae the east nook of Fife the dawn
Carles wha heard the cock had craw'n,
And greedy wives, wi' girning thrawn,
Dogs barked, and the lads frae hand
By break of day.
bookseller's shop, opposite to Niddry's Wynd.' Ramsay now left off wig-making, and set up a He next appeared as an editor, and published two works, The Tea Table Miscellany, being a collection of songs, partly his own; and The Evergreen, a collection of Scottish poems written before 1600. He of this kind, being deficient both in knowledge and was not well qualified for the task of editing works taste. In the Evergreen,' he published, as ancient poems, two pieces of his own, one of which, The Vision, exhibits high powers of poetry. The genius of Scotland is drawn with a touch of the old heroic Muse:
In 1725 appeared his celebrated pastoral drama, The Gentle Shepherd, of which two scenes had previously been published under the titles of Patie and Roger, and Jenny and Meggy. It was received with universal approbation, and was republished both in London and Dublin. When Gay visited Scotland in company with his patrons, the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry, he used to lounge in Allan Ramsay's shop, and obtain from him explanations of some of the Scottish expressions, that he might communicate them to Pope, who was a great admirer of the poem. This was a delicate and marked compliment, which Allan must have felt, though he
had previously represented himself as the vicegerent the Castle hill, which he called Ramsay Lodge, but of Apollo, and equal to Homer! He now removed which some of his waggish friends compared to a to a better shop, and instead of the Mercury's head which had graced his sign-board, he put up the presentment of two brothers' of the Muse, Ben Jonson and Drummond. He next established a circulating library, the first in Scotland. He associated on familiar terms with the leading nobility, lawyers, wits, and literati of Scotland, and was the Pope or Swift of the North. His son, afterwards a distinguished artist, he sent to Rome for instruction. But the prosperity of poets seems liable to an uncommon share of crosses. promptings of a taste then rare in Scotland to expend He was led by the his savings in the erection of a theatre, for the performance of the regular drama. He wished to keep his troop' together by the pith of reason;' but he did not calculate on the pith of an act of parliament in the hands of a hostile magistrate. The statute for licensing theatres prohibited all dramatic exhibitions without special license and the royal letters-patent; and on the strength of this enactment the magistrates of Edinburgh shut up Allan's theatre, leaving him without redress. To add to his mortification, the envious poetasters and strict religionists of the day attacked him with personal satires and lampoons, under such titles as-A Looking-Glass for Allan Ramsay;' The Dying Words of Allan Ramsay;' and 'The Flight of Religious Piety from Scotland, upon the account of Ramsay's lewd books, and the hell-bred playhouse comedians,' &c. Allan endeavoured to enlist Presi
dent Forbes and the judges on his side by a poetical address, in which he prays for compensation from the legislature
Syne, for amends for what I've lost,
His circumstances and wishes at this crisis are more particularly explained in a letter to the president, which now lies before us:'Will you,' he writes, give me something to do? Here I pass a sort of half idle scrimp life, tending a trifling trade, that scarce affords me the needful. Had I not got a parcel of guineas from you, and such as you, who were pleased to patronise my subscriptions, I should not have had a gray groat. I think shame (but why should I, when I open my mind to one of your goodness?) to hint that I want to have some small commission, when it happens to fall in your way to put me into it."*
It does not appear that he either got money or a post, but he applied himself attentively to his business, and soon recruited his purse. A citizen-like good sense regulated the life of Ramsay. He gave over poetry before,' he prudently says, 'the coolness of fancy that attends advanced years should make me risk the reputation I had acquired.'
Frae twenty-five to five-and-forty,
About the year 1743, his circumstances were sufficiently flourishing to enable him to build himself a small octagon-shaped house on the north side of
*From the manuscript collections in Culloden House.
goose pie. He told Lord Elibank one day of this ludicrous comparison. What,' said the witty peer, 'a goose pie! In good faith, Allan, now that I see you in it, I think the house is not ill named.' He lived in this singular-looking mansion (which has since been somewhat altered) twelve years, and died in the gums, on the 7th of January 1758, at the of a complaint that had long afflicted him, scurvy humour, and worldly enjoyment, is mixed up with age of seventy-two. So much of pleasantry, good the history of Allan Ramsay, that his life is one of the green and sunny spots' in literary biography. His genius was well rewarded; and he possessed that turn of mind which David Hume says it is more happy to possess than to be born to an estate of ten thousand a-year--a disposition always to see the favourable side of things.
Ramsay's poetical works are sufficiently various; under the heads of serious, elegiac, comic, satiric, and one of his editors has ambitiously classed them epigrammatical, pastoral, lyric, epistolary, fables and tales. He wrote trash in all departments, but failed in none. His tales are quaint and humorous, though, like those of Prior, they are too often indelicate. The Monk and Miller's Wife, founded on a poem of Dunbar, is as happy an adaptation of an old poet as any of Pope's or Dryden's from Chaucer. His lyrics want the grace, simplicity, and beauty which Burns breathed into these wood-notes wild,' designed alike for cottage and hall; yet some of those in the 'Gentle Shepherd' are delicate and tender; and others, such as The last time I came o'er the Moor, and The Yellow-haired Laddie, are still favourites with all lovers of Scottish song. least happy of the lyrics there occurs this beautiful In one of the image:
How joyfully my spirits rise,
When dancing she moves finely, O;
I guess what heaven is by her eyes,
His Lochaber no More is a strain of manly feeling