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century what Tottel's Miscellany was to the English poetry of the sixteenth, only much more powerful in its influence, owing to the fact that fewer influences were at work in the field. Ramsay carried out on a larger scale and with more abundant resources the plan adopted by this pioneer, collecting, adapting, and publishing 'ancient' poems, and getting 'ingenious' friends to assist him in the production of modern'


His shop at the sign of the Mercury in the High Street of Edinburgh, thus became the headquarters of a school, in which he was the acknowledged master, and the productions of this school, written in the dialect of a peasantry among whom it was a disgrace not to be able to read, and coming home to their ‘business and bosoms,' were popular as no literature had ever been before. It was not without some reason that austere moralists lamented the flight of godliness from the land before Ramsay's ‘licentious muse.' The Gentle Shepherd, with its pagan summons to lads and lasses to 'pu the gowan in its prime,' found its way into the cottages, though as forbidden fruit wherever the authority of the Kirk was respected, almost as freely as the Bible.

To get a correct conception of the general character of Ramsay's poems, we must look at the audience for whom they were written. They were read by peasants, by shepherds, ploughboys, and milkmaids, but they had first passed under the critical eyes of a more lettered circle. It may seem a paradox to call Ramsay's poems vers de société, yet such in effect they were, though the society for which they were written had not much of the culture which we now associate with the name. Ramsay was a convivial soul-he has been called a 'convivial buffoon' and he and his friends had formed themselves into an 'Easy Club,' in imitation of the famous literary clubs of the London coffee-houses. It was for this society that he began to write verses, for a knot of young lawyers, doctors, lairds, and tradesmen, who had a liking for literature and goodfellowship, who read the Spectator, Pope, Dryden, and the poets of the Restoration, and met of an evening to sup, crack jokes, and exchange literary essays and small talk. Ramsay's poems smack of this convivial atmosphere. Through the medium of the 'Easy Club,' with such admixture as it could not fail to receive from the vigorous individuality of the members, the spirit of the Restoration passed to do battle among the Scotch peasantry with the austere spirit of the Kirk. The rugged passion and rude pathos, the intense sympathy with the joys and sorrows of a hard existence, which found voice among a people awakened to the charm of song, did not come from 'renowned Allan,' the 'canty callan’ who was the laureate of the Easy Club. Broad fun, sly touches of satire at the expense of local fashions and local characters, compli. ments to reigning beauties, humorous descriptions of local life, were the subjects with which Ramsay sought the applause of his boon-companions, and appealed with success to a wider public.

The Lass o' Patie's Mill, and Bessie Bell and Mary Gray, are examples of the light lyric in which the genial mirth-loving poet was at his ease. When he tried serious themes he soon got beyond his depth. Farewell to Lochaber is the only serious lyric of his that has kept its hold, and even that is not without traces of artificiality of sentiment, such as the departing warrior's explanation that he weeps not because he is going to battle, but because he is leaving his sweetheart.

*These tears that I shed they are a' for my dear,

Aid no for the dangers attending on weir.' The humorous imp that was Ramsay's true familiar must have guided his pen when he wrote these lines. The lover's agonies were not within reach of his art, although he could paint the lover's delights with genuine lyric rapture ; his gay science was summed up in the lines :

• Then I'll draw cuts and take my fate

And be wi' ane contented.' It is as a painter of manners with keen, sly, humorous observation, and not as a lyrist, that Ramsay deserves to be remembered. We can well understand Hogarth's admiration for him. His elegies on Maggie Fohnstone and Lucky Wood, and his anticipation of the Road to Ruin' in the Three Bonnets were after Hogarth's own heart. But the life that he painted in the Scotch capital as he saw it with his twinkling eye, broad sense of fun, and 'pawky'humour, was too coarse to have much interest for any but his own time. In a happy hour for his memory, he conceived the idea of describing the life which he had known in his youth in the country. From writing pastoral dialogues after the manner of Spenser, such as that in which Pope and Stee'e, as Sandy and Richie, are made to lament the death of Adie in broad Scotch, he took to making real Scotch shepherds and shepherdesses discuss in verse their loves and all the concerns of their daily life. In The Gentle Shepherd, Ramsay brought back real pastoral poetry to



literature. The Scotch critics of the last century delighted in comparing Ramsay's masterpiece with the pastorals of the Italian masters, and giving him the palm over these competitors. But the kind of composition is so different that a fair basis of comparison can hardly be said to exist. The Gentle Shepherd must be judged on its merits as a picture of real rustic life. Its fidelity to nature is attested by the welcome it received from the people whose life it described, and who saw themselves reflected there as they wished that others should see them—the harshness of their struggle for existence forgotten, and all their simple joys gathered up in the poet's imagination.


[From The Gentle Shepherd.]

But, poortith', Peggy is the warst of a',
Gif o'er your heads ill chance should beggary draw;
There little love or canty? cheer can come
Frae duddy3 doublets and a pantry toom.
Your nowtó may die; the spate may bear away
Frae aff the howms & your dainty rucks of hay ;
The thick-blawn wreaths of snaw, or blashy thows',
May smoor your wethers and may rot your ewes ;
A dyvour' buys your butter, woo, and cheese,
But or the day of payment breaks and flees.
With glooman brow the laird seeks in his rent,-
'Tis no to gie : your merchant's to the bent 10:
His honour maunna want, he poinds" your gear ;
Syne driven frae house and hold, where will ye steer?
Dear Meg, be wise, and lead a single life;
Troth, it's nae mows 13 to be a married wife.

May sic ill luck befa' that silly she
Wha has sic fears, for that was never me.
Let fowk bode weel, and strive to do their best ;
Nae mair's requir'd—let heaven make out the rest.
I've heard my honest uncle often say
That lads should a' for wives that's virtuous pray;
For the maist thrifty man could never get
A well-stor'd room unless his wife wad let.
Wherefore nocht shall be wanting on my part
To gather wealth to raise my shepherd's heart.
Whate'er he wins I'll guide my canny care,
And win the vogue at market, tron, or fair,
For halesome, clean, cheap and sufficient ware.
A flock of lambs, cheese, butter and some woo,
Shall first be sold to pay the laird his due ;
poverty. ? cheerful. 3 ragged.

o cattle. 6 river-flats. 8 smother. • bankrupt.



11 impounds. 12 joke.

? thaws.

10 off.

Syne a' behind's our ain. Thus without fear,
With love and rowth? we thro' the warld will steer ;
And when my Pate in bairns and gear grow rife,
He'll bless the day he gat me for his wife.

But what if some young giglit on the green
With dimpled cheek and twa bewitching een,
Should gar your Patie think his half worn Meg
And her ken'd kisses, hardly worth a feg?

Nae mair of that. Dear Jenny, to be free,
There's some men constanter in love than we
Nor is the ferly? great, when nature kind
Has blest them with solidity of mind ;
They'll reason calmly and with kindness smile,
When our short passions wad our peace beguile.
Sae, whensoe'er they slight their maiks: at hame,
'Tis ten to ane their wives are maist to blame.
Then I'll employ with pleasure a' my art
To keep him cheerfu', and secure his heart.
At e'en, when he comes weary frae the hill,
I'll have a' things made ready to his will ;
In winter, when he toils thro’ wind and rain,
A bleezing-ingle and a clean hearth-stane ;
And soon as he flings by his plaid and staff,
The seething pots be ready to take aff;
Clean hagabago I'll spread upon his board,
And serve him with the best we can afford ;
Good-humour and white bigonets shall be
Guards to my face, to keep his love for me.

A dish of married love right soon grows cauld,
And dosens 6 down to nane, as fowk grow auld.

Peggy. But we'll grow auld together, and ne'er find The loss of youth, where love grows on the mind. Bairns and their bairns make sure a firmer tie Than aught in love the like of us can spy. plenty 2 wonder.


4 huckaback. 6 dwindles

3 mates.

6 linen cap.

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