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Ramsay were undoubtedly the prototypes of those by Burns, and many of the stanzas may challenge comparison with them. He makes frequent classical allusions, especially to the works of Horace, with which he seems to have been well acquainted, and whose gay and easy turn of mind harmonised with his own. In an epistle to Mr James Arbuckle, the poet gives a characteristic and minute painting of himself:
Imprimis, then, for tallness, I
Am five foot and four inches high; A black-a-viced snod dapper fellow, Nor lean, nor overlaid wi' tallow; With phiz of a Morocco cut, Resembling a late man of wit, Auld gabbet Spec, who was sae cunning To be a dummie ten years running. Then for the fabric of my mind, "Tis mair to mirth than grief inclined: I rather choose to laugh at folly, Than show dislike by melancholy; Well 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 engaged my wishes, When crowded with o'er mony dishes; A healthfu' stomach, sharply set, Prefers a back-seyl piping het. I never could imagine '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 show it. Ramsay addressed epistles to Gay and Somerville, and the latter paid him in kind, in very flattering In one of Allan's answers is the following picturesque sketch, in illustration of his own contempt for the stated rules of art:
I love the garden wild and wide, Where oaks have plum trees by their side; Where woodbines and the twisting vine Clip round the pear tree and the pine; Where mixed jonquils and gowans grow, And roses 'midst rank clover blow Upon a bank of a clear strand, In wimplings led by nature's hand; Though docks and brambles here and there May sometimes cheat the gardener's care, Yet this to me's a paradise Compared with prime cut plots and nice, Where nature has to art resigned, Till all looks mean, stiff, and confined. Heaven Homer taught; the critic draws Only from him and such their laws: The native bards first plunge the deep Before the artful dare to leap.
The 'Gentle Shepherd' is the greatest of Ramsay's works, and perhaps the finest pastoral drama in the world. It possesses that air of primitive simplicity and seclusion which seems indispensable in compositions of this class, at the same time that its landscapes are filled with life-like beings, who interest us from their character, situation, and circumstances. It has none of that studied pruriency and unnatural artifice which are intruded into the Faithful Shepherdess' of Fletcher, and is equally free from the tedious allegory and forced conceits of most pastoral poems. It is a genuine picture of Scottish life, but of life passed in simple rural employments, apart from the guilt and fever of large towns, and reflecting only the pure and unsophisticated emotions of
1 A sirloin.
TO 1727. our nature. The affected sensibilities and feigned distresses of the Corydons and Delias find no place in Ramsay's clear and manly page. He drew his shepherds from the life, placed them in scenes which he actually saw, and made them speak the language which he every day heard-the free idiomatic speech of his native vales. His art lay in the beautiful selection of his materials-in the grouping of his well-defined characters-the invention of a plot, romantic yet natural-the delightful appropriateness of every speech and auxiliary incident, and in the tone of generous sentiment and true feeling which sanctifies this scene of humble virtue and happiness. The love of his gentle' rustics is at first artless and confiding, though partly disguised by maiden coyness and arch humour; and it is expressed in language and incidents alternately amusing and impassioned. At length the hero is elevated in station above his mistress, and their affection assumes a deeper character from the threatened dangers of a separation. Mutual distress and tenderness break down reserve. The simple heroine, without forgetting her natural dignity and modesty, lets out her whole soul to her early companion; and when assured of his unalterable attachment, she not only, like Miranda, weeps at what she is glad of,' but, with the true pride of a Scottish maiden, she resolves to study 'gentler charms,' and to educate herself to be worthy of her lover. Poetical justice is done to this faithful attachment, by both the characters being found equal in birth and station. The poet's taste and judgment are evinced in the superiority which he gives his hero and heroine, without debasing their associates below their proper level; while a ludicrous contrast to both is supplied by the underplot of Bauldy and his courtships. The elder characters in the piece afford a fine relief to the youthful pairs, besides completing the rustic picture. While one scene discloses the young shepherds by 'craigy bields' and 'crystal springs,' or presents Peggy and Jenny on the bleaching green
A trotting burnie wimpling through the groundanother shows us the snug thatched cottage, with its barn and peat-stack, or the interior of the house, with a clear ingle glancing on the floor, and its inmates happy with innocent mirth and rustic plenty. The drama altogether makes one proud of peasant life and the virtues of a Scottish cottage. By an ill-judged imitation of Gay, in his Beggar's Opera,' Ramsay interspersed songs throughout the Gentle Shepherd,' which interrupt the action of the piece, and too often merely repeat, in a diluted form, the sentiments of the dialogue. These should be removed to the end of the drama, leaving undisturbed the most perfect delineation of rural life and manners, without vulgar humility or affectation, that ever was drawn.
[Ode from Horace.]
Look up to Pentland's towering tap,
Driving their ba's frae whins or tee, There's no ae gowfer to be seen, Nor douser fowk wysing ajee
The biast bouls on Tamson's green.
Then fling on coals, and ripe the ribs,
And beek the house baith but and ben; That mutchkin stoup it hauds but dribs, Then let's get in the tappit hen.
Lochaber No More.
Farewell to Lochaber, and farewell my Jean, Where heartsome with thee I've mony day been; For Lochaber no more, Lochaber no more, We'll maybe return to Lochaber no more. These tears that I shed they are a' for my dear, And no for the dangers attending on wear; Though bore on rough seas to a far bloody shore, Maybe to return to Lochaber no more.
Though hurricanes rise, and rise every wind, They'll ne'er make a tempest like that in my mind; Though loudest of thunder on louder waves roar, That's naething like leaving my love on the shore. To leave thee behind me my heart is sair pained; By ease that's inglorious no fame can be gained; And beauty and love's the reward of the brave, And I must deserve it before I can crave.
Then glory, my Jeany, man plead my excuse; Since honour commands me, how can I refuse? Without it I ne'er can have merit for thee, And without thy favour I'd better not be. I gae then, my lass, to win honour and fame, And if I should luck to come gloriously hame, I'll bring a heart to thee with love running o'er, And then I'll leave thee and Lochaber no more.
[From the Gentle Shepherd.'-Act I.] Hear how I served my lass I love as well As ye do Jenny, and with heart as leal. Last morning I was gay and early out, Upon a dike I leaned, glowering about, I saw my Meg come linkin' o'er the lee; I saw my Meg, but Meggy saw na me; For yet the sun was wading through the mist, And she was close upon me e'er she wist; Her coats were kiltit, and did sweetly shaw Her straight bare legs that whiter were than snaw. Her cockernony snooded up fu' sleek, Her haffet locks hang waving on her cheek; Her cheeks sae ruddy, and her e'en sae clear; And oh her mouth's like ony hinny pear. Neat, neat she was, in bustine waistcoat clean, As she came skiffing o'er the dewy green. Blythsome I cried, My bonny Meg, come here, I ferly wherefore ye're so soon asteer But I can guess, ye're gaun to gather dew.' She scoured away, and said, 'What's that to you?' "Then, fare-ye-weel, Meg-dorts, and e'en's ye like,' I careless cried, and lap in o'er the dike. I trow, when that she saw, within a crack, She came with a right thieveless errand back. Misca'd me first; then bade me hound my dog, To wear up three waff ewes strayed on the bog. I leugh; and sae did she; then with great haste I clasped my arms about her neck and waist; About her yielding waist, and took a fouth Of sweetest kisses frae her glowing mouth. While hard and fast I held her in my grips, My very saul came louping to my lips. Sair, sair she flet wi' me 'tween ilka smack, But weel I kend she meant nae as she spak. Dear Roger, when your jo puts on her gloom, Do ye sae too, and never fash your thumb. Seem to forsake her, soon she'll change her mood; Gae woo anither, and she'll gang clean wud.
[Dialogue on Marriage.]
PEGGY and JENNY.
Jenny. Come, Meg, let's fa' to wark upon this green;
Peggy. Gae far'er up the burn to Habbie's How,
There wash oursells-'tis healthfu' now in May,
Jenny. Daft lassie, when we're naked, what'll ye say
Peggy. We're far frae ony road, and out o' sight; The lads they're feeding far beyont the height. But tell me, now, dear Jenny, we're our lane, What gars ye plague your wooer wi' disdain? The neebours a' tent this as weel as I, That Roger loes ye, yet ye carena by. What ails ye at him? Troth, between us twa, He's wordy you the best day e'er ye saw.
Jenny. I dinna like him, Peggy, there's an end; A herd mair sheepish yet I never kend. He kames his hair, indeed, and gaes right snug, Wi' ribbon knots at his blue bannet lug, Whilk pensily he wears a thought a-jee, And spreads his gartens diced beneath his knee; He falds his o'erlay down his breast wi' care, And few gang trigger to the kirk or fair: For a' that, he can neither sing nor say, Except, 'How d'ye?'-or, 'There's a bonny day.' Peggy. Ye dash the lad wi' constant slighting pride, Hatred for love is unco sair to bide: But ye'll repent ye, if his love grow cauldWhat like's a dorty maiden when she's auld? Like dawted wean, that tarrows at its meat, That for some feckless whim will orp and greet; The lave laugh at it, till the dinner's past, And syne the fool thing is obliged to fast, Or scart anither's leavings at the last. Fy! Jenny, think, and dinna sit your time.
Jenny. I never thought a single life a crime. Peggy. Nor I: but love in whispers lets us ken, That men were made for us, and we for men. Jenny. If Roger is my jo, he kens himsell, For sic a tale I never heard him tell. He glowrs and sighs, and I can guess the cause; But wha's obliged to spell his hums and haws? Whene'er he likes to tell his mind mair plain, I'se tell him frankly ne'er to do't again. They're fools that slavery like, and may be free; The chiels may a' knit up themsells for me.
Peggy. Be doing your wa's; for me, I hae a mind To be as yielding as my Patie's kind.
Jenny. Heh lass! how can ye loe that rattle-skull! A very deil, that aye maun hae his wull; We'll soon hear tell, what a poor fechting life You twa will lead, sae soon's ye're man and wife. Peggy. I'll rin the risk, nor hae I ony fear, But rather think ilk langsome day a year, Till I wi' pleasure mount my bridal-bed, Where on my Patie's breast I'll lean my head.
Jenny. He may, indeed, for ten or fifteen days,
Peggy. Sic coarse-spun thoughts as thae want pith
My settled mind; I'm ower far gane in love.
Ilk day that he's alane upon the hill,
The rest seem coofs compared wi' my dear Pate.
Then I'll employ wi' pleasure a' my art
| Ill-nature hefts in sauls that's weak and poor.
And serve him wi' the best we can afford;
Jenny. Hey, Bonny lass o' Branksome! or't be lang, Clean hag-a-bag I'll spread upon his board,
Jenny. A dish o' married love right soon grows cauld,
Peggy. Yes, it's a heartsome thing to be a wife,
Peggy. But we'll grow auld thegither, and ne'er find
Jenny. I've done-I yield, dear lassie; I maun yield;
Peggy. Alake, poor prisoner! Jenny, that's no fair,
Can there be toil in tenting day and night
Jenny. But poortith, Peggy, is the warst o' a';
Dear Meg, be wise, and live a single life;
Peggy. May sic ill luck befa' that silly she
Jenny. But what if some young giglet on the green,
Peggy. Nae mair o' that-Dear Jenny, to be free,
They'll reason calmly, and wi' kindness smile,
Jenny. Anither time's as good-for see, the sun
The dramatic literature of this period was, like its general poetry, polished and artificial. In tragedy, the highest name is that of Southerne, who may claim, with Otway, the power of touching the passions, yet his language is feeble compared with that of the great dramatists, and his general style low and unimpressive. Addison's Cato' is more properly a classical poem than a drama-as cold and less vigorous than the tragedies of Jonson. In comedy, the national taste is apparent in its faithful and witty delineations of polished life, of which Wycherley and Congreve had set the example, and which was well continued by Farquhar and Vanbrugh. Beaumont and Fletcher first introduced what may be called comedies of intrigue, borrowed from the Spanish drama; and the innovation appears to have been congenial to the English taste, for it still pervades our comic literature. The vigorous exposure of the immorality of the stage by Jeremy Collier, and the essays of Steele and Addison, improving the taste and moral feeling of the public, a partial reformation took place of those nuisances of the drama which the Restoration had introduced. The Master of the Revels, by whom all plays had to be licensed, also aided in this work of retrenchment; but a glance at even those improved plays of the reign of William III. and his successors, will show that ladies frequenting the theatres had still occasion to wear masks, which Colley Cibber says they usually did on the first days of acting of a new play.
THOMAS SOUTHERNE (1659-1746) may be classed either with the last or the present period. His life was long, extended, and prosperous. He was a native of Dublin, but came to England, and enrolled himself in the Middle Temple as a student of law. He afterwards entered the army, and held the rank of captain under the Duke of York, at the time of Monmouth's insurrection. His latter days were spent in retirement, and in the possession of a considerable fortune.
Southerne wrote ten plays, but only two exhibit his characteristic powers, namely, Isabella, or the Fatal Marriage, and Oroonoko. The latter is founded on an actual occurrence; Oroonoko, an African prince, having been stolen from his native kingdom of Angola, and carried to one of the West India islands. The impassioned grandeur of Oroonoko's sufferings, his bursts of horror and indignation at the slave trade, and his unhappy passion for Imoinda, are powerful and pathetic. In the following scene, the hero and heroine unexpectedly meet after a long
Oroo. My soul steals from my body through my eyes; All that is left of life I'll gaze away, And die upon the pleasure.
Lieut. This is strange!
Oroo. If you but mock me with her image here: If she be not Imoinda
What any man can say. But if I am To be deceived, there's something in that name, That voice, that face[Stares at him. Oh! if I know myself, I cannot be mistaken. [Embraces him.
Oroo. Never here:
You cannot be mistaken: I am yours,
Imo. All, indeed,
That I would have: my husband! then I am
Imo. Oh! I believe,
Oroo. Imoinda! Oh! this separation Has made you dearer, if it can be so, Than you were ever to me. You appear Like a kind star to my benighted steps, To guide me on my way to happiness:
And know you by myself. If these sad eyes,
I cannot miss it now. Governor, friend,
[Embraces her. Bland. Sir, we congratulate your happiness; I do most heartily.
Lieut. And all of us: but how it comes to pass-
More precious time than I can spare you now.
Oroo. Let the fools
Who follow fortune live upon her smiles;
Mr Hallam says that Southerne was the first English writer who denounced (in this play) the traffic in slaves and the cruelties of their West Indian bondage. This is an honour which should never be omitted in any mention of the dramatist. Isabella' is more correct and regular than Oroonoko,' and the part of the heroine affords scope for a tragic actress, scarcely inferior in pathos to Belvidera. Otway, however, has more depth of passion, and more The plot of vigorous delineation of character. Isabella' is simple. In abject distress, and believing her husband, Biron, to be dead, Isabella is hurried into a second marriage. Biron returns, and the distress of the heroine terminates in madness and death. Comic scenes are interspersed throughout Southerne's tragedies, which, though they relieve the sombre colouring of the main action and interest of the piece, are sometimes misplaced and unpleasant.
[Return of Biron.]
A Chamber-Enter ISABELLA.
Isa. I've heard of witches, magic spells, and charms, That have made nature start from her old course; The sun has been eclipsed, the moon drawn down From her career, still paler, and subdued To the abuses of this under world. Now I believe all possible. This ring, This little ring, with necromantic force, Has raised the ghost of pleasure to my fears; Conjured the sense of honour and of love Into such shapes, they fright me from myself! I dare not think of them.
Nurse. Madam, the gentleman's below. Isa. I had forgot; pray, let me speak with him; [Exit Nurs.
This ring was the first present of my love To Biron, my first husband; I must blush To think I have a second. Biron died