Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

here and there some beautiful gems. He is mainly successful in Scottish verse. His imitations of the English poets are rather poor. "The Vision" is one of his ablest productions. The Genius of Scotland is painted "with a touch of the old heroic Muse:"

"Great daring darted frae his ee,
A braid sword shaggled at his knee,
On his left arm a targe;

A shining spear filled his right hand,
Of stalwart make in bane and brawnd,
Of just proportions large;

A various rainbow colored plaid

Owre his left spault he threw,

Down his braid back, frae his white head

The silver wimplers‡ grew.

Amazed, I gazed

To see, led at command,

A stampant and rampant

Fierce lion in his hand."

But his most popular production is the "Gentle Shepherd" which appeared in 1725-and was received with enthusiasm, not only in Scotland, but in England and Ireland. It was much admired by Pope and Gay, the latter of whom, when on a visit to Scotland, with the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry, used to lounge in Allan Ramsay's shop, and obtain from him explanations of the Scottish expressions that he might communicate them to Pope.

Allan uniformly had an eye to the "main chance." He sedulously courted the great, and

* Dangled. † Shoulder.

Tassels or dangles.

managed to accumulate a good many pennies. "In the mingled spirit of prudence and poetry," he contrived

"To theek* the out and line the inside
Of many a douce and witty pash,t
And baith ways gathered in the cash."

He was foolish enough however to lay out his gains in the erection of a theatre which was prohibited by the magistrates, as an injury to good morals. So that Allan lost his cash and his pains together, and not only so, but his good temper. This exposed him to much obloquy, in part perhaps deserved. He was somewhat Jacobinical in his views, and hated the Presbyterian clergy, who were afraid of him, as a half papist," and a some what licentious writer. Hence he lampooned them with great severity, in consequence of which he was pretty well lampooned in his turn.

66

After all Allan was a true poet, and by no means a bad man. He was honest, kind-hearted and cheerful. Some of his poetical strains indicate much elevation and tenderness of spirit.

In personal appearance he was somewhat peculiar. The following amusing description he has given 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,

*Thatch. † Head.

Of a dark complexion.

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 faef to wine and mutton:
Great tables ne'er engaged my wishes
When crowded with o'er many dishes;
A healthfu' stomach, sharply set,
Prefers a back-say,‡ 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."

Allan never suffered his poetry to interfere with his business. Indeed he abandoned verse altogether in the latter part of his life, rightly judging that he might not equal his earlier productions, and feeling moreover that other and more serious engagements demanded his attention. The following epistle to Mr. Smibert, an eminent painter and intimate friend, dated Edinburgh, 10th May, 1736, is highly characteristic ;

"MY DEAR OLD FRIEND :

Your health and happiness are ever ane addition to my satisfaction. God make your life ever easy and pleasant. Half a century of years have now row'd oe'r my brow, that begins now to be

* Does this mean Spectator?

† Foe.

Sirloin.

*

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 formerly, yet here and there are to be found good and worthy men, who are ane honor to human life. We have small hopes of seeing you again in our world; then let us be virtuous and hope to meet in heaven. My good auld wife is still my bedfellow; my son Allan has been pursuing your science since he was a dozen years auld-was with Mr. Hyffidg, 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, in a month hence-to be away about two years. I'm sweer 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 of old, and no rewayled dragle§ among them, all fine girls. These six or seven years past I have not written a line of poetry. 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.

Frae twenty-five to five and forty,

My muse was neither sweer|| nor dorty,¶
My Pegasus wad break her tether,**

E'en at the shagging of a feather;

* Wrinkled.

Il Reluctant.

† Since. + Loth. ¶ Proud or stiff.

§ Uncouth sloven.

** Halter.

And throw ideas scour like drift,
Streaking his wings up to the lift;
Then when my soul was in a lowt
That gart‡ my numbers safely row ;§
But eild and judgment gin¶ to say,
Let be your sangs and learn to pray.

I am, Sir, your friend and servant,
ALLAN RAMSAY."

In 1743 his circumstances were such as enabled him to build a small octagon shaped house on the north side of the Calton Hill, which he named Ramsay Lodge, but which some of his witty friends compared to a goose pie. He told Lord Elibank one day of this ungracious 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 oddlooking edifice till the day of his death, enjoying the society of his friends, and cracking his jokes with perhaps greater quietness, but with as much gust and hilarity as ever. He was a man of

genius, and has exerted great lighter literature of Scotland.

influence on the He was an im

mense favorite with Burns, his equal in genius, his superior in depth of feeling, in tenderness and beauty of expression. But Burns doubtless owed something to the "wood notes wild," of his illustrious predecessor. Both have done much to illustrate and beautify their native land.

Next morning at early dawn we are rambling in

* Through. † Blaze. Caused. § Roll. Age. ¶ Begin.

« AnteriorContinuar »